Since the 2017 Open The Gates’ International Christmas Celebration (ICC), which helps Syrian Refugees in San Diego, we’ve been giving away bread to needy people. Once a week one of our helpful volunteers has picked up bread through the generous donation of Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough-Nation program and given it away. Here are a few images from our donations through the non-profit Open The Gates.
It seems all of us have more time to get projects around the house done that we’ve been putting off. The laundry pile might be lower, the house possibly a bit cleaner, more books have been read and you’ve tried that homemade recipe you’ve been meaning to get to. But once all those chores are done, now what can you do to make a difference in other people’s lives?
1. Connect with family and friends. Now that we have more time, why not connect with family and friends we haven’t spoken to in a while? You can call them on the phone. Or, use one of the video meeting sites through zoom or google. You can also send letters or postcards to friends and family far away. The Sincerely app has a goal to send one million Americans a free postcard in 30 days. Just use the Ink Cards app on your mobile device.
2. Network with your neighbors. Most of us get too busy with our lives to even say hello to our neighbors. A wave is the most common expression. But what if one of our neighbors is struggling but doesn’t want to let people know? Tell them you care by dropping them a note, or a gift basket with supplies, or an offer to connect remotely.
3. Donate your time or money. If you have extra resources of time or money, find charities in your area that are helping people in this time of crisis. If you’re healthy, help pass out food to needy people. Contact churches or non-profits in your area. Places to consider are Meals on Wheels or Save the Children.
4. Support small businesses. As the economy takes a hit, small business owners and their employees are some of the first to struggle. You can purchase gift cards or items online to support your favorite small business.
5. Focus on love. Instead of watching news reports all day long which can cause you to focus on fear, why not spend time considering that love conquers fear? Stay up-to-date on what is happening but spend the rest of your time being productive and taking care of yourself and your family members in your household. Pray, make healthy meals, get enough sleep and exercise. There are many good online exercise programs on video sites like YouTube and Vimeo.
Finally, be grateful for your health and the health of your loved ones. You are making a difference.
I couldn’t figure out why for a time a still small voice kept repeating this phrase to me, “There’s no room for hate, only love.”
It was at a time when it seemed like hate was thrown at me in a lot of places I went to–sometimes in a big way, but most often in small ways–like underhanded comments meant to harm in a passive aggressive manner. It was very sneaky and there was really no way to put a finger on the person or the culprit, like a snake slithering along and biting you, then weaving back into its hole.
My husband and I would go visit Syrian refugees who had pretty much lost everything and had to flee their countries for their lives. They would feed us large helpings of elaborate displays of homemade food from their country and the love poured out of them despite our differences in faith.
I did my best to ignore the attacks, but that seemed to only grow the problem bigger. Sometimes I made the mistake of fighting back. I confess it wasn’t always a Godly response in the midst of constant pressure. At the time, I had also been rejected by many people. When I tried to address the issue with them, they most often would just ignore my attempt at discussions so I would have to guess at what was going on.
While in the midst of these attacks, my husband and I were invited to churches and many church members hosted us at their homes. We were blessed not only in getting to know other believers in Christ, but also with tours of their cities, beds to sleep in, and meals where we fellowshipped with each other. At the church services we were able to encourage people and see new people get to know Christ.
However, I was still dealing with many difficult situations in my life. Most aspects of my life had just caved in on me and I had been asking for help. At the same time, I was fighting an onslaught of more problems being thrown at me. I thought my attempts at getting help would do good but more often it caused more problems. I was looking for a love response but I often got hate instead.
In order to feel better, I would seek out people who were struggling more than I was. I was able to encourage many homeless people on the streets of San Diego. My tears turned into joy when I visibly watched people being healed by prayers. Then, we started to get bread donations through my husband’s non-profit. We would walk the streets with these donations and give out the bread and pray to help alleviate some of their struggles. Friends affiliated with other groups wanted to participate, so we increased the bread outreach to many people and groups in San Diego.
However, I had been sharing honestly, maybe too honestly, with some people about my struggles–Instead of growing closer to people, as I had hoped, my sharing pushed people away. I learned that most people don’t really want to hear about your problems. It’s easier just to say “things are fine,” smile and move on. But I wasn’t fine, my life was falling apart. People wanted a smiling person not a hurting person. So my phone stopped ringing. Few people sent personal texts and I was mostly on my own except for a few friends who walked this strange journey with me and who I am very grateful for.
I found joy in going to worship services and singing, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10. Also, it was at this time that I really felt the Lord’s closeness like never before and understood that He truly is our personal friend.
I was reading an article on church discipline at bible.org that referenced the verse Hebrews 12:6-10. “Sin always destroys people and relationships. So to be indifferent toward a sinning brother or sister is to hate, not love that person.” Here in the verse was the small voice reference I kept hearing, “there’s no room for hate, only love.”
Without input from others, I went to the Holy Spirit in prayer to seek wisdom. Was I the one hating or was it the other people around me? Were people judging me for a perceived sin they thought I was doing? If so, why weren’t they directly talking to me about it as the Bible demands in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you, if they listen to you, you have won them over.” No one had confronted me about a problem.
Because I was getting so much clobbering in the world, I started to focus too much on what was happening and trying to figure it out. But we are called “to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Through it all though, I found ways to encourage other people to focus on the Lord and pray for them. This would turn my discouragement into love and an outward focus helped to keep me from worrying too much. This life can seem like one of contrasts but I believe we can always overcome, “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:4-5
I still don’t have all the answers, and have a lot of work to forgive people. It’s not easy to love your enemies. My initial response to hate is not always the right response but ultimately in the end I choose that still small voice that says “there is no room for hate, only love.” And once you’ve met the one true source of love, Christ, there really is no other option.
I thought it was just a small diversion to explore a new city after driving for four hours from North Carolina toward Philadelphia as we prepared for a church meeting my husband had been invited to. I told him, “let’s take this exit and see what’s there.”
The city looked inviting after driving through woodlands. It would be something different. We exited and noticed that there were very few cars in the area even though it was just past the drive time hour. Strange, I thought as we looked for a parking space. We spotted a beautiful white building that was surrounded by construction and detour signs. “This would be a nice place to walk around,” I said to my husband. He has slowly learned to give in to my detour requests as many times what happens afterward ends up in his sermons. He’s an evangelist.
We stopped the car and asked a mom and her two kids for directions to a restaurant. It was dinner time. Nothing seemed strange about the request. The mom pointed to a couple of restaurants. After, we found a parking space and noted, again, that it was weird that there were so few people walking on the streets.
“I’m not sure it’s safe to walk here,” I commented as I spotted a few people on the streets. There were unkempt looking skater men and homeless people. Please note that I love talking to homeless people in downtown San Diego where we live, it was just that this place seemed different. My husband didn’t say much as he parked the car. We found our sneakers and put them on. We needed a bathroom so we headed toward a 7-11 and CVS but when we got there both of their doors were locked. Weird, again as it was only about 6:30 p.m. when places like that are normally open.
We peered down the street and looked for open doors. At about the same time one man started walking in back of us and another joined up with him shortly after walking dangerously close to us. They were the only other people on the street. I started to look behind me but my husband told me not to look back as he grabbed my hand. We found a waffle and chicken place that was thankfully open and walked inside, glad to lose the men trailing behind us.
My husband asked the young guy behind the counter, who appeared nervous, why the streets were so empty. He said a big storm had just passed through and everything had closed early.
From WBBT’s website
It was sunny with just a few clouds by the time we arrived in the city. We decided to eat at the small restaurant and prayed about what to do next. I wanted to see the old architecture of the city but it didn’t seem safe with so few people around. We decided to walk back to our car and drive around before heading back on the road.
As we were driving I decided to do a google search on the area. We had dropped into Richmond, Virginia, a place I had never visited before. I found that the city has the highest crime rate in the country, and there had been three separate shootings in the area over the previous weekend.
“Just this past weekend eight people were shot in about a 12-hour span,” noted a segment from an article posted on the area’s CBS 6 website.
We gave a sigh of relief as we drove onto the freeway leaving the deserted city behind us. We gave thanks to God for protecting us in the middle of the storm.
1 Thessalonians 2:2-We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.
We decided to celebrate the first day of summer 2019 by having an English Tea Party at a cute Tea House in La Mesa called Aubrey Rose Tea Room. The event was exciting because we introduced the English Tea tradition to some of the Syrian Refugees in our community. Most of them speak Arabic and just a little bit of English, but the universal language of love cut through the language barrier and luckily one of them was able to translate.
The history of how English Tea got started is interesting. Here is a brief discussion of it.
Afternoon Tea History
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, according to Lifestyle Lounge. The origin of tea can be traced back to the year 2737 BC when people boiled water for health reasons. A Chinese Emperor named Shen Nun was drinking a cup of hot water. The wind blew some dried leaves into his cup. He fell in love with the smell and taste. British afternoon tea became popular in England in the 1880’s. At that time Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, became hungry at around four o’clock. The evening meal was usually served at eight o’clock. So, she would order a tray of tea, bread and butter and she would invite friends to join her. Anna’s tea with friends started in her private living quarters in the summer and she would include a walk in the fields. After Anna started afternoon tea it became fashionable with the upper-class women. They would dress up in gowns, hats and gloves. Later tea ended up taking place primarily in drawing rooms–rooms in a house where visitors are entertained. The popularity of tea coincided with the Enlightenment period when intellectual and creative thoughts were pursued. Some people also believe that it played a part in the British Industrial Revolution by giving people an extra energy boost from the stimulants in tea.
In Britain today, afternoon tea is a luxury for the residents. They will indulge for a birthday, a special event or when they are out shopping with friends.
Did you know that…
Tea first became available in London coffeehouses in the year 1647.
Tea rooms may have helped women win the privilege to vote as they had a place to talk about politics in a neutral setting.
The Twinings Tea Shop is the first known tea shop and opened in 1706. It has been at the same location since its opening; 216 Strand, London.
Sometimes tea or lunch breaks for British workers are called “elevenses” because 11 a.m. is a good time for them to take a break before their traditional lunch time of 1 p.m.
Britains like to dunk biscuits in a “cuppa” (cup of tea) and this custom is now in many parts of the world.
References: History of Tea, Retrieved from http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/history-of-tea-1842.html; Johnson B. Afternoon Tea Retrieved from https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Afternoon-Tea/; 10 Fascinating Facts about the History of Tea in Britain. Retrieved from http://britainandbritishness.com/?s=history+of+tea.
الشاي يعتبر ثاني اشهر مشروب في العالم بعد الماء بناء على مجلد الحياة لقد اكتشف الشاي في عام 2737 قبل الميلاد عندما كان الناس يغلون الماء لكي يصحوا . و يحكي أن امبراطور ياباني اسمه شان نن كان يغلي ماء في كأس والرياح اطاحت ببعض الأعشاب اليابسة في كأس الماء المغلي فاعجبتة راءحة الأعشاب جدا في الماء وشربه.
إن الشاي الإنجليزي في الظهيرة من اشهر ما يعمل في إنجلترا نحو ١٨٨٠ . في مثل هذا الوقت الملكة أنا ملكة اليونان شعرت بالجوع نحو الساعة 4:00 مساء . وكانت من عادتها ان تأكل العشاء نحوالساعة 8:00 مساء. فكانت تطلب صنية فيها كوب شاي وخبز وزبدة وتدعو صديقاتها للحديث معا في بداية الصيف في وقت الظهيرة. منذ ذلك الوقت صارت العادة وكانت تدعو صديقاتها في منزلها الخاص وصارت موضة بين الاغنياء
اللذين كانوا يجتمعون ويلبسون أفخم الثياب والقبعة على رؤوسهم وجونتي في اياديهم. وتطورت العادة وصار الشاي جزءا من الحياة اليومية في المنازل من خلالها يدعونه أصدقائهم في البيوت ويتكلمون معا.
وانتشرت العدة بشرب الشاي في أوساط المفكرين والباحثين عندما يجتمعون معا والبعض يؤمنون انه جزء من البيئة الإنجليزية الذي يعطي الناس دفعة وطاقة من خلال مكونات الشاي.
وانت شاب العادة بالشغل بشاهي في أوساط المفكرين والباحثين عندما يجتمعون معا والبعض يؤمنون انه جزء أن من البيئة الإنجليزية لي أعطي الناس دفعة أولى دفعة وطاقة لهم طوال اليوم .
في إنجلترا اليوم شرب الشاي في الظهيرة من الامور الراقية جدا في المجتمع وصار جزء أن من أعياد الميلاد والمناسبات الخاصة أو في التسوق .
هل تعلم هذه الحقائق عن الشاي:
الحقيقة الأولى : ان شرب الشاي سار متداول في إنجلترا نحو عام 1747
الحقيقة الثانية : التفاف النساء حول الشاي ساعدهم جدا في دخولهم السلك السياسي للحكومة ومجالات الانتخابات لان التفافهم حول الشاي ساعد الكثيرين يجتمعون ويتكلمون في السياسة
الحقيقة الثالثة : أول محل لبيع الشاي افتتح في عام 1756 وما زال هناك بالرغم من وجود 216 فرع لي الشاي في لندن
الحقيقة الرابعة: صارت العادة في إنجلترا ان الناس يشربون الشاي الساعة 11:00 ظهرا وفي هذا الوقت يستريح الناس والعمال والموظفين من اعمالهم وخلالها يشربون الشاي وياكلون الطعام
الحقيقة الخامسة الإنجليز يحبون شرب الشاي مع الحلويات الكعك وأصناف أخرى من البسكويت.
My husband and I have been traveling on the East Coast spreading the gospel to many churches and people we meet outside of churches. Our most dramatic experiences with people have been while we were traveling and taking what we thought were little off the road side tours to see sights but we realized later were divine appointments.
We have seen many salvations, healings and deliverances during these times. Mark 16:18. We are thankful the Holy Spirit is with us as we meet these people. We are also very grateful for the many churches who have hosted us along the way.
We helped the Father’s Heart Ministries in Rochester, New York with their food ministry for the needy on one of the worst streets in the Rochester area. We met many wonderful people who were open to the gospel and welcomed prayer and ministry. The food they give out to the needy is restaurant quality. We were served a delicious pasta dinner for helping out! www.thefathersheartroc.org
Tammy was sitting down near the fence of the downtown San Diego Salvation Army. My husband and I had decided to walk to breakfast when we first spotted her. I wondered out loud if they were feeding the homeless that day and if anyone was praying for them. I had spent a little time praying for people at a food and prayer time at one of the local churches and thought it would be a good idea. Before I could finish my thought Tammy seemed to be reaching out to me. I asked her if she wanted prayer. She did.
Eventually we found out what her name was as we were praying. She had spent a lot of time on the streets of San Diego and her face and hands were littered with tumors. She did her best to hide the ones on her face with a scarf. I asked her if she could stand up. She said it was too painful but with encouragement, prayer and our hands helping, she lifted her body up from her squatted position.
Tammy had multiple strokes and heart attacks. I was amazed she was still alive. She was hard to understand, possibly from all the strokes. More prayers and she started to sing old gospel songs. She said she knew God and she believed He was with her on the streets. Another man came by with a bible and he started to pray with us too. We all ended up at breakfast together. She said the women’s shelter wouldn’t house her the night before because she wasn’t complying with some of their rules. I wanted her to go to the hospital but she said most who did that from the streets didn’t come out alive.
After we left we promised Tammy we’d bring some clothes and blankets to her that night but when we went back we couldn’t find her. She seemed to be popular with the homeless crowd but no one knew where she was.
Sometimes I still look for her in the faces of other homeless people downtown and wonder if she’s doing OK. Homelessness is a big problem, but maybe that day we gave Tammy just a little bit of hope in a dark place.
What do you do in the face of adversity? Do you run and hide, clench your fists, get upset, shut down or become discouraged? I confess I’ve done all these when crushing circumstances, events and people rained down more than I could bear. For a while I couldn’t understand how my God, the one I submitted to again and again, could allow so many disappointments and pain all at once. I kept searching my heart and posing questions in prayer–Have I done something awful that I’m not even aware of to cause this? Sometimes I would be shown what I needed to work through and that was the easy part because I could work on my own stuff. But the hard part was dealing with what others had done against me. I didn’t know how to handle the wisdom while the offenders showed no sign of repentance or responsibility. I had to ask in prayer so many times to please help me forgive because I knew I wouldn’t be able to on my own. I was assured that God was there to help but there were times the adversity was so intense that the only way to handle it all was to pray sorrowfully–sometimes for hours.
Eventually, I started to learn to be thankful even in the midst of the pain. I’d sing and give praises looking for anything small that I could be grateful for–A bird singing, a new bud on a rose bush or a summer rain storm.
There are many good biblical examples of a single person overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, like Queen Esther, Daniel, and David, but when your story steps into that picture of odds stacked against you it’s not easy to walk through it all. We are told that God is with us though and that’s where the comfort comes from. His presence of peace is worth more than any human can offer. And, what or who can stand against the great I Am? That knowledge alone can make us courageous in the face of adversity.
“Sing to the Lord! For though I was poor and needy he rescued me from my oppressors.” Jeremiah 20:13
Have you ever read What Color is Your Parachute? It’s the book they recommend you read after high school or college to figure out how to get a job.
I hadn’t read it until recently I decided to pick it up at the library after being stumped as to why I was having difficulty finding more work projects.
One of the chapters in the latest version talks about how Google is your new resume. So I naturally did a Google search on my name and found an article I had written just a year before saying the salvation prayer at a Joel Osteen event. I had forgotten I wrote it as a guest blogger on a friend’s blog. After reading the article I began thinking, uh, oh this is one of those things the book is talking about scrubbing.
My first instinct was to contact my friend and ask that he remove the article or at least take my name off it, but as I was brushing my teeth this morning a new thought came to me. What if that article shows the power of the cross and how it can change people’s lives? I could hide from it by asking that he remove it. But was the better response to keep it as a way to show how I’ve changed to someone who is continually changing? Could it also reveal the beauty of how Christ, in his kindness, showed reasons for that behavior? We are told that he doesn’t leave us half finished but carries us all the way through. I decided that’s the better story and made a decision to keep it out there.
Matthew 10:26 says “Do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
So I guess it comes down to this. Will the person who is googling my name really believe 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Or will I be judged as if I am still that old person? The chapter in the book I’m just starting to read is titled “You Need to Understand More Fully Who You Are” based on the author’s idea that rather than finding a job that you can change for, you match a job to who you are. That sounds like a great plan and one we were told about in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”
So I’m going to make a bold statement. Why not display some of the things you aren’t proud of doing before you became a Christian to show people how far you’ve come? It can be dangerous. People may mock you, scold you or make you an outcast but at least unbelievers will have a harder time using that word that keeps them away from us “hypocrites”.