Since moving to Southern Barton Heights, I have more anniversaries than I ever thought I could. So many memories. So many reasons to PRAISE GOD!
So many reminders that…
- God protects us.
- God is in control.
- there’s power in the name of Jesus.
- there’s healing in the name of Jesus.
- God cares for every. living. soul.
- obedience is key.
- Jesus is the Word that became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) and…
- as Jesus Followers, Louis and I are called to our neighborhood.
- being a Jesus Follower isn’t the safest place to be on earth and IS absolutely the safest place to be…all at the same time!
- and…it’s totally worth it!
This week is another ‘anniversary’ that I will never forget! This time 6 years ago, Louis and I had been out like maybe 5 times in 4 weeks. So, we barely knew each other, and I wasn’t quite sure that I liked him…until January 26th – the date when I met Louis’ friends. That’s the night I decided I liked him. It was following weeks that I learned I really needed to consider him seriously. The next night, Frank got shot 9 times outside my back door and a bullet came in the house. Much to the surprise of everyone, Louis came back! Never hear this story? or want to hear it again, keep reading and check out the links below. If you are wondering where we got the name of our ministry Into The Neighborhood, read these links for that story, too!
This is the first song I heard this morning, while I was busy cooking breakfast for Louis and me. I was reminded again, that Frank is only alive today because he called on the GREAT NAME OF JESUS. As tears rolled down and dripped in the bacon, I praised God for his goodness, his healing, his tender loving care. It took me back to that night…. January 27, 2008 at 8:30pm when Frank was shot 9 times – right chest, left shoulder, left thigh, right hand and 5 times to the gut. The night that Louis and I met Frank we also gave him first aid. By the time the paramedics arrived that night, Frank was only breathing once a minute and had no pulse. I assured him that we weren’t leaving him. I prayed with him and shared that there was power in the name of Jesus. And if he called on Jesus’ name, he would be healed. Frank couldn’t talk at that point, but he did grab my thigh. I knew he was all good. Just as the lyrics say….”Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name” (Rest of the lyrics are at the bottom of this post.)
This is what Louis and I were doing 6 years ago this week. Happy Reading!
Your Great Name Lyrics
Performed by Natalie Grant
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your Great Name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of Your Great Name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your Great Name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and man you are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise Your Great Name
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your Great Name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your Great Name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your Great Name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb; that was slain for us
Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up
that all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name.
Redeemer, my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
Redeemer; my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
“There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.”
Elisabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot, missionary to Waodani people of Ecuador
I moved to SBH almost 7 years ago. I had no idea what God was going to do, or why I was called to live here. In the first few years, a few things went awry…small items stolen from the yard, neighborhood kids presented minor challenges, etc. However some more challenging things occurred as well, like my car being stolen – what the police suspected was gang initiation because a bunch of Altimas got stolen that night and car windows being shot out on another occasion when kids were having a bit too much fun with a bee-bee gun. During these times, friends and family challenged me about my decision to move here. Others asked if I was moving out. Of course, there wasn’t a chance I was leaving. The good outweighs the bad.
Nothing was more challenging than the night a man got shot 9 times outside my back door…on my 4th date with Louis. I didn’t know him, but after the scene was clear, Louis and I responded with first aid, encouragement, prayers and the gift of presence. I am happy to say that Frank didn’t die in the street that night, but lived. That was 4 years ago to the day….January 27, 2008 at 8:30pm. I am sorry that Frank was shot that day. But, grateful that we were there and sooo appreciate the friendship we have developed since. I can now say we are family.
While still in the hospital, Frank asked me if I was going to move. He reminded me that not only was he shot 9 times, but that a bullet also went into my home. The hole is still in the wall actually. I’m not sure why we don’t fix it. It’s like this constant reminder at the bottom of our steps. If we had moved, who would have been there the night that Frank got shot? Who would have given him First Aid when everyone else ran? It reminds me that we do make a difference, even when things seem hard. God loves Frank so much that we found ourselves cooking on the grill that night instead of going out. He loves this community so much that the neighborhood kids were safely in the house that night, instead of being dropped off after Youth Group at 8:30, their normal time. God is in the midst. Even when I may doubt, there is no doubt.
If it’s not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for. There are a lot of other things we could be doing, a lot of other places we could live. But, this is where God has called us, and this is where we shall stay until God calls us some place else.
Especially after the last week, I am reminded again of how we are being used by God. I am thankful for the many opportunities we have had to love and be loved. I wouldn’t trade ANYthing for the last 7 years! In the meantime, my prayer is that we will follow the advice of Jim Elliot…
Wherever you are – be all there.
WOW! It’s been a while since I have allowed myself to think about the night 3 years ago when Frank was shot outside my back door in Southern Barton Heights! If you are new to the blog, or haven’t heard the story before…take a look at this string of posts telling the story of Frank (click his name…then scroll to the bottom and click “older entries” to go to the first blog post. Be sure to go back to the first post…and read backwards so you get the story in order.) I take a few moments each year on January 27th to really think through the events leading up to that night and the events following it. This is the first year, however, that I can read back through it on y blog.
Can I just say it?…GOD IS GOOD!!! Respond with me… ALL THE TIME, GOD IS GOOD! Vicky and I had a short conversation on FB a few minutes ago where she said…”That story still makes me cry.” You know…it makes me cry, too. Tons of emotion going on. I don’t even know where to start! And…I cried. I give glory to God. I’m humbled. I’m grateful. I’m amazed. I’m encouraged.
Tonight, we had our weekly Missional Community where we studied the story of the Fishes and the Loaves. One of the things I really get from that miracle is how Jesus took something really small…a boy’s basket of 5 loaves and 2 fishes…and fed over 5000 hungry people!!!! Is that not crazy? That the Lord could take something so small…and perform a miracle? He just needed a willing participant, the boy offering his bread and fish. That’s the way I feel about the night Frank got shot. Louis and I had little-to-no first aid training. Little-to-no experience in treating traumas. But, you know….we didn’t need it. We had the Holy Spirit…and that is all we needed….and a willingness to go. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
So now, I wonder…what “fishes and loaves” am I holding on to and not sharing? What am I NOT willing to offer up to the Lord to use to bring Him glory because I think that I don’t have enough experience, enough education/knowledge, enough money, enough time, enough training, enough…fill in the blank with any obstacle/excuse you can think of? It’s time to step out in trust and faith and let God be God…because I can NEVER have enough of anything. The best thing I can do is get out of the way. Zechariah 4:6b says, “…‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” I can’t work hard enough, smart enough, efficient enough. I can’t get enough education, time, money, etc. to do what God does. It is NOT by my might, power, brains, money, common sense, education, scheduling, etc. but by HIS Spirit!
Louis and I could NOT have arranged that night even if we had tried, but God knew where we needed to be and when. So…I’m going to step out in that faith, trust and obedience. Give what I have. Give what He has given me. I’ll do it from one-day to the next and let God be God…and give HIM all the glory! Amen?
So, Happy 3rd Anniversary, Frank! To new beginnings! To your new life! Love you and thankful that God brought us together! Can’t wait to see your face again! To God Almighty be the glory!
We are studying the book of Revelation for the Youth and Young Adult Retreat for Louis’ Church this weekend. In prepping for this study, I have learned much. This is a book of the Bible is most people stay away from….even Pastors don’t preach on it much….because it can be confusing and controversial. I look forward to diving into it some more.
The biggest thing I have learned during studying it so far is to “live like you were dying!” I know it is a morbid subject to think about…but what would you do if you thought you were dying? How would you live? What would you change? Would you be willing to face your maker and answer for your decisions and your life?
Recently, I thought about Frank….dying on the street outside my house. He didn’t know what was coming. But, God has given him another chance to live in a way that brings Him glory. Unfortunately, even after EVERYTHING that he and his family went through…the pull of the street was too strong. He went back to his old life and landed himself in prison for about 10-11 years. So far…it’s 1 year down…10 to go! I pray that he meets Jesus in a powerful way and is changed…for good! Jesus makes ALL things new!
But, we are not to judge! Every day…we go back to our lives as we knew them. It’s that constant struggle that Paul referred to. While we are on this earth…there will always be the struggle. But, there will come a day when we will struggle no more. Like Francis Chan’s wife said in the Surrender video…I want to hear him say “Well done, Marti!! Well done!” I WANT to hear…
Well done, Marti! You listened to me…you didn’t move to St Louis even though you don’t know what is next.
Well done, Marti! You obeyed Me. You moved into SBH and stayed even after some really crazy and scary things occurred…because I called you there.
Well done, Marti! You lived on mission with me in spite of what others thought and said.
Well done, Marti! You take my commandments seriously. To love God and love your neighbor. Your neighbors are everyone you meet…at work, at home, in the grocery store, at church, on the corner filled with drug dealers and prostitutes.
Well done, Marti!!! Come on in!
But, I must confess…there are many days that I do NOT rise to that challenge. There are days that I want to pack up and move. There are days that I fail miserably in my marriage and not love Louis like I should. There are days when I just don’t feel like stopping to fix Everett a sandwich because he is hungry. There are days when I’m “too busy” to hang with the kids and listen to them. There are days when I don’t spend time in the Word and in prayer like I should. There are days of being a “pastor’s wife” that are a little too much to ask! (Just to name a few of my many, many faults!!! Don’t see this as me “beating myself up”. This is just the plain reality of it…..life here on earth. I am sinful…)
I am so thankful God knows my HEART! That He doesn’t have a checklist of aaaallll the things we on earth call religion that are not Biblical. The long list of man-made “do’s and don’ts” that so many of us think we won’t and can’t live up to….so we stop trying.
I appreciate that I am Saved by Grace and NOT by works. I could NEVER do enough good works to earn his forgiveness and salvation!
I am grateful for a loving, merciful, holy God who loved me way before I loved Him and just wants a relationship with me…not that routine checklist surface relationship….but an intimate, deep, close relationship.
And, you know what?!?!?!? IT’S FREE!!!!!
Come…all who are thirsty….
Take a long deep drink of God’s Perfect Love….
For the last few months, I have been attending my church and Louis’ church. This morning was my first Sunday off from church since Lent started. It really got me thinking about the meaning of taking a Sabbath. Although I am so glad I went to church with Louis each Sunday, I learned that I missed my Sunday Sabbath tremendously.
When Louis and I first started dating, I did not start attending his church. As we got more serious, we also talked about what would happen once we got engaged and got married. The last thing I would want to do is offend him or his congregation. I was (and am) heavily involved in my church, Commonwealth Chapel. In addition, they have a Saturday night service. Since this service started, I quickly drew fond of the time and it became my regular worship time. It was the beginning of my Sabbath. My Sunday mornings became a precious time between me and the Lord.
After much discussion and prayer, Louis and I decided that I would continue to take Sunday’s off of traditional church. I know many of you might judge me saying…”You don’t go to church with your husband?” and “You’re a pastor’s wife?” “Bad wife!” That’s ok…judge away! :o) But, my Sunday mornings were a form of worship, not just in the way most people would look at it. I am so grateful for our church family at Louis’ church for understanding!! And, we get to see each other about once a month when I attend there and we often do visitation together.
Knowing that I am home on Sunday mornings, Everett (the Gardna) started to visit with me as well. We would cook breakfast together, read the word and watch some Bobby Jones Gospel together on TV. We had “church” together just about every Sunday morning. (I am NOT advocating doing this as the only form of worship for any length of time. Yes…you CAN meet with the Lord any time…day, night, weekend, but there is nothing that replaces the fellowship of gathering together for worship!) Everett would eventually fall asleep on the couch, and the Lord and I continued on together. Sunday’s totally rocked! A true day of rest. In retrospect, it reminds me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd left the other 99 to go after the 1. I was going after my 1….Everett. Then, my Sunday’s changed.
After Frank progressed out of ICU, Frank and I mainly spent Sunday mornings together. This allowed Vicky a morning off and Geraldine could worship at her church. Thankfully, Commonwealth Chapel has Saturday evening services. But, even if they didn’t…I wouldn’t have changed these moments with Frank for anything! It was just the 2 of us…no distractions. The first morning I went, Frank said something like it’s Sunday, are we doin’ church or what? So, each Sunday morning, Frank and I would spend time reading the Bible and discussing what it meant. Sometimes he would ask me to help him bathe, clean the blood out from under his nails, assist him in going to the bathroom….all kinds of personal stuff.
For some reason, he would rather me assist him than his nurse. Although it was awkward for me at first and I would resist big-time, the Lord would hear NONE of my excuses (and neither would Frank for, that matter), and I was reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I learned to perform these tasks with joy and love, and it became an intimate and bonding time for us. I learned what the Lord was modeling that day….service.
We talked about all kinds of things…getting real. Our pasts. Our lives. Our hopes. Our dreams. It wasn’t long before Frank was asking me about what was going on with Louis and me. I often wonder if he just wanted to get the subject and focus off of him and onto someone or something else. So, he too could see that Louis and I were “meant to be”. He also came up with my nickname…”Angel”, short for Guardian Angel. Through our talks and his conversations with others, Frank began to learn what God had done for him….how much God loved him and had a plan for his life.
As much as Frank understood and had truly accepted what the Lord had done for him, we talked about how life outside of the hospital would not be easy. When Frank finally got out, the pull of the street and his past and the realities and struggles of living a righteous life was strong. I have heard time and time again, that if you want to make a change…then you have to change your people, places and things. If you don’t…it is nearly impossible.
Well, we would learn what would happen when Frank didn’t change his people, places and things…
Louis and I continued to get to know one another. Our relationship with Frank, Geraldine, Vicky, the kids and the rest of the family continued to grow as well. Frank graduated from the Trauma ICU to a progressive care unit and eventually to the rehab unit where he would spend most of the day in physical therapy to gain his strength and use of his legs.
One of my favorite memories was celebrating Vicky’s birthday just a little over a month after the shooting! This was a great time of fellowship….and danger! Admittedly, we didn’t think about the potential hazards of having a birthday cake with a bunch (I won’t say how many, Vicky!!!) of lit candles on the cake, when Frank’s roommate had oxygen going. Note to self….NOT A GOOD IDEA! Let’s just say that the smell of smoke got the nurses a jumpin’. <:) But, the Lord spared us of all danger that evening and the staff was full of grace! Thanks for not kicking us out, MCV!!!
As you know, Louis and I had only known each other about 5 weeks at this point. I went from “not sure if I like him” to “when are you all getting married?” in a little over a month! We went from seeing each other weekly to every day. I had prayed for the other ½ of my pair as told in Luke 10:1-7, and it looked like that God had just maybe provided that answer. But, we know that when you are walking in the will of God and He is using you mightily, Satan is not going to take kindly to that at all.
Word about what had happened and what we were doing was making its way through the Christian community in and around Metro Richmond. Again, we are so thankful for the many, many prayers that those communications and emails brought our way. It didn’t take long for Satan to raise his ugly head in the form of a character attack. For a short period of time, this attack distracted us from serving and loving on Frank and his family like we had been called to do and discouraged us a bit. But, Louis and I worked through that…through the grace of God, a lot of prayer and the love of some trusted friends. We are better for having gone through that challenge.
Know that Satan and his army will go ALL OUT to tear us down and to keep us from walking in Truth. Today, I was reading John 10:1-21 and was reminded that Jesus is the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Satan may seek to steal, kill and destroy, but, my Jesus says…
9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 …My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” He also says…18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
As I reflect, this Holy Week…on this Maundy Thursday (the day of Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples)…the day before Jesus was hung on that cross, that I am so thankful for His voluntary sacrifice. But, as we approach resurrection, I have JOY!!! JOY!!! JOY!!! that He has the authority to lay down His life, but He also took it back up again!!! He died for me…O’ wretched sinner that I am. So, that in his resurrection I can live a “rich and satisfying life” where I am alive, free, and forgiven.