What do you call the stuff you pull out of the dryer vent, the stuff that collects in your belly button, or the stubborn fiber that covers your favorite black pants which only comes off with a lint brush…or duck tape? Lint, right? Not to be confused with Lent – the religious observance that covers about 6 weeks of time leading up to Resurrection Sunday (Easter Day) (beginning with Ash Wednesday). I knew a whole lota nuttin’ about Lent up until about 7 years ago. According to Wikipedia (not my usual source when I have questions on religious practices, but it worked this time…), “The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.” A time for fasting. Normally, a Lent Observer will pick one thing to fast from… I have heard of everything from chocolate, sodas, social media, TV, alcohol, and more. I have been guilty of picking something just for the sake of saying I was doing it, because others were. Not a really solid motive, right?
4 years ago, this blog was started as a Lenten project. I wrote every day…telling my story, specifically how I moved into the inner-city of RVA, just a short 1/2 mile from the largest public housing complex between Baltimore and Atlanta and how I met Louis. Since then, I also write about our everyday life, what I have learned about God, about myself and about others. This was a time of sacrifice – because it took time to write EVERY day, and as I recalled the stories, I was regularly reminded about how much God loves me, how he works within the details of my life, how I have grown and changed through the process, and how others are much different than I thought.
This year, I’ve given thought to how I might observe Lent this year. This isn’t a ‘got-to’ but a ‘WANT to’. I’m not approaching it from a legalistic point of view. In the last few months, God has really been teaching me a lot about me…my sin, my trust issues, my fears, and more! Then, this morning, I read this post… 20 Things to Give Up for Lent. Go ahead and take time to read it!
I thought I would list what I’m giving up, but then I thought, everything I would give up is already on his list.
Being critical versus critical thinking…
Lack of trust…
These ring particularly true with me, and something God has already been working with me. I love how the article wraps it up…
“God has so much more in store for you. But so many of these things above are holding you back from walking in the full destiny he has laid out for you. Today is a new day.”
Just like lint clings to my favorite black pants – making them yucky. Just like lint can clog up a clothes dryer, these things…these sins can clog up my life…making things really ugly. They keep me from my destiny. As I reflect on the season we are approaching, I don’t think Jesus died on the cross for me to spend time worrying, comparing, impatient, full of doubt. He died so I can live life…and live it more abundantly! To the fullest!
So, I’m not waiting until Ash Wednesday to give them up.
I’m starting today!
Who else wants to live in freedom?
There seems to be a theme. This is a summary of what the Lord has been speaking to me at the end of Lent…
Thursday night…Maundy Thursday…Joe Torrence from Embrace Richmond spoke at Commonwealth Chapel on the scriptures around Luke 22 specifically ~ Do this in Remembrance of Me.” What are we suppose to remember? Remembering requires ACTION! Then, He washes their nasty, gnarly, yucky, dirty, stinky feet! Even to the point of washing the feet of the guy who He knows is going to betray him. He models for us what to do…and how to serve. So the question is…WHO are you going to serve and how? John 5 speaks directly to this…v.20 – For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. So, we are to do what Jesus has done…which is what the Father has done….think about the adulterous woman, the lepers, the Samaritan woman, the prostitutes, the thieves, etc.
So, how do we respond to that? In John 13:34-35 Jesus states that our new mandate/commandment to love one another as HE has loved us. So that all will know we are HIS disciples.
A Call to ACTION…Love
So…I’m thinking…who do I love on and why? What is my motive? What am I remembering? Do people know that I am HIS disciple?
Louis and I started our retreat day Friday…rushing around trying to be “on-time” for our retreat. Although we decided that we’d aim to be at Richmond Hill @ 9am, it didn’t take long for us to chill. It wasn’t an appointment we were late for…it was a Sabbath Day….a getaway. So, we slowed down and took our time. The Lord obviously was still going to be there if we were an hour later than what we had planned, right?
At the corner of Broad and 18th there is a Mickey D’s where we stopped for a breakfast sandwich. You wonder WHY things happen like they do. Why we run late….and why the line was long. And why Louis just ran inside instead of waiting in the drive-thru line. On his way out, a 54 year old veteran man (who looked about 70) asked Louis for some money to get something to eat. Most of us are like…yeah right…..and look the other way and ignore the person. Roll the window up. Pretend like we don’t see or hear him. Whatever. But, on this day….this Good Friday…we took the time. Louis explained that we don’t give money out, but we’d be happy to buy him something to eat. Louis and Jerry Lewis (or wonder if it was Louis?) Martin (yes…that is his real name) were able to chat a few minutes.
So, our day started with me thinking about…Matthew 25:31-46…the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats…specifically when Jesus says…
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
A Call to ACTION…provide food and drink, invite the strangers in, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the prisoners.
THIRD > (but not the last, I am sure!)
Then, we found ourselves sitting in the Garden of Richmond Hill.
We started our day with reading Jude. Specifically, vs. 17-23 – A Call to Persevere.
17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Call to ACTION…Persevere
Jude also refers to Enoch in v. 14. There’s not a lot in the Bible on Enoch, but I sure do like the sound of him. Genesis 5 reviews the long lineage of Enoch. The only other scripture I can find other than is lineage is in what is known as the Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11.
5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Now imagine that…the only thing you were known for…the only thing that truly ever mattered was “he was commended as one who pleased God.” It really puts it all in perspective.
Call to ACTION…Please God.
It begs answers to the following questions…
Can this be said of me? What in my life is pleasing to God? What am I willing to do to please God? Am I ready to go ALL out? Am I ready to accept the Call to Action?
These are the feet of Jesus…belonging to a pastor and his wife…willing to serve…willing (and WANTING) to please God.
As most of you know, I started this blog in obedience to the Lord for Lent 2010. Although there are different durations of Lent, depending on…on…well a lot of things. This is what www.wikipedia.com has to say on the topic of Lent…
Most followers of Western Catholicism observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday (midday, 40 days to Palm Sunday) and concluding at the Ninth Hour of Holy Thursday (44 days in the Catholic Church) or on Holy Saturday (46 days).
One notable exception is the Archdiocese of Milan which follows the Ambrosian Rite and observes Lent starting exactly 6 weeks before Easter. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. When Lent is to continue until Holy Saturday, this leaves exactly forty days of fasting……
And there was more! So, since I am not Catholic and no one really agrees on the length, I’m going to call it until Easter! I committed to posting daily through Lent (or now I will say until Easter) and then, I will reassess the frequency at which I will post. So, now….I guess it is Holy Week posts!
There is still so much to tell…and I KNOW I have left you hanging with Frank. And, you already know that Louis and I got married…so there is no big surprise there. But, there are many good pictures to share!
I will keep on going for now!
I have learned much during this Lenten Season….about me, about God and about others. This has been a sacrifice of time. It has taken a lot more time to write then I originally thought it would. There have been many late nights and early mornings to complete each day. So, sleep is lacking. I have learned that I don’t function well without proper sleep. Reliving some of these stories have been difficult in some ways and absolutely wonderful in others.
Difficult…because of the pain, loneliness and fear that was sometimes involved. Growth is painful and tearful. During these times, I have learned to rely on the Lord. I have been reminded of staying strong through regular prayer and reading of God’s Word. I continue to learn (over and over!!! one day i pray i will finally get it!!) that my identity comes from who I am in Jesus and not from my job, my husband, my ministry, my friends or family, my community or my church.
Joy…because God has been sooo faithful through all of it. It’s been awesome to really see just how much God has been moving and working in my life. It is a pleasure to be used by the Lord in so many ways.
God isn’t done with me yet this season…so I will continue to write daily through the end of the week until Resurrection Day! When I pray that I, too, will be more FREE and ALIVE.
“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”
Mid January of 2007, I was sitting in church on Saturday night. During our closing reflection time, God told me to read Luke 10 again. I was stunned. I asked God, “what in the world for? I have read it umpteen times. What more could I glean from this passage? I had already gotten so much out of it.” But, I had learned the importance of obedience and sat down and read it again. This time, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” jumped right off the page at me. “Why are you showing me this? I am safe in my neighborhood. Nothing has happened to me.” I had this sense of security in my neighborhood. I was confident…possibly over confident.
Even Everett, one of my new-found friends, assured me that I was safe.
I was walking home one night from Cindy and Billy’s house, just a short 2 blocks away, when Everett snuck up on me on his bike. I gave a quiet scream…and fussed at him, “You nearly scared me to death! Don’t ever do that again.” Everett quickly said, “No one is going to mess with you. You’re a child of God.” You see, Everett and I had never talked about the Lord. Everett was my handyman. He was the one who cut my grass, shoveled my snow, raked my leaves. Everett is a guy who chose to live in a make-shift shed between 2 bushes behind someone’s house. He picks up odd jobs to help pay for batteries, kerosene, candles, and meals. (Side note, Everett now not only completes odd jobs for me, he is also my friend and brother in Christ. We often share breakfast together on Saturday or Sunday mornings. All the while, talking about the goodness of God and listening to Bobby Jones Gospel. He’ll come over and watch a football game with me and the kids…and now Louis. It serves a two-fold purpose. He’s warm…and he gets to watch the game. He still struggles with what life on the street brings, as he was stabbed in 2007 and spent weeks recovering. But, he continues to Praise the Lord. You will hear more about Everett in the future.)
OK…back to that January night at church. Amazing…that is all I can say. I was on my way home from church that night after reading Luke 10 again, and I decided to check my voicemail. I had several messages, as it turned out, from my neighbors. The messages came at the very time the Lord told me to read Luke 10…again. I had finally gotten a ‘new to me’ car, and my old car sat on the street while I waited for a copy of the title. Four windows of this car, which was sitting by my house, had been shot out. God had prepared me for the news. Praise God! As I listened to the messages…I just laughed. Normally, I would have been angry or scared. But, I knew that God was in control. My reaction was so much different from it would normally be. My neighbors were at my house when I got there. Everett quickly volunteered to sweep up the glass (for free, this time!) We believe that it wasn’t an intentional attack, but more than likely kids playing. But, it was still a bit unsettling.
I had not yet told my parents about my car, because I didn’t want them to worry. About a week or so later, I was visiting Mom and we were chatting in the bedroom. Mom began to cry as she shared with me her worried for my safety. That Micah (one of the pastors at her church) had preached a sermon a few weeks earlier where she became overwhelming concerned for me.
In Matthew 14:22-36…Jesus MADE the disciples get on the boat…and go ahead of him…knowing that rough seas…rough times were ahead. And that He would be glorified. That Peter’s faith (and all who watched!) would be increased. Mom cried as she shared this Word with me. That…the Lord would PUSH me on to the “boat”…my faith and others’ faith would be increased! That God would be glorified in the end. Mom had shared…that as my mom she wanted me to move out the neighborhood, but as my sister in Christ…she encouraged me to stay because she knew that God was in control and He would be glorified.
But, I am getting a little ahead of myself. I knew that Satan didn’t like what was happening in SBH, when the ongoing attacks started in late December of 2006. It was a good Word of encouragement from my Mom. I am thankful that she loves Jesus and brought me up in the ways of the Lord.
I’ve been doing a lot of the talking….now it is your turn. It’s been one week since Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent. Although we can fast at any time..what are you fasting from for Lent? No pressure/guilt intended if you don’t observe Lent. Just curious for those who did….
Take this poll by clicking the link below.
1. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Hold on? What does ‘hold on’ mean in your spiritual life? For your safety….hold on means…reading the Bible, praying, and surrounding yourself with people who are going to love, support and hold you accountable. I knew I was going to need to ‘hold on’ when the neighborhood kids descended on my new home the FIRST weekend that I moved in.
Anthony (who quickly elevated me to ‘white mama’ status) was the first kid I met. From the middle of the intersection……at my ELEVATED CORNER LOT…Anthony and some of his friends (all boys!) were riding their bikes. Anthony’s first words were ’Howdy Neighbor! Welcome to the Neighborhood!’ Then….he wanted to know if I had any kids that could come out and play. He looked completely dejected when I told him that I didn’t. But, the disappointment didn’t last long, when I shared with him that I could make a ‘mean’ cookie! When the kids came a’ knockin’ 30 minutes later, I was forced into baking some that night. It was awesome! Since that time, many of the neighborhood kids hang at “Miss Marti’s House” causing me to ‘hold on’ more than ever before! You will hear much more about Miss Marti’s Kids in future posts. They all totally ROCK!!!
As part of moving into the house where I had so much more room, I wanted a chair…a space….dedicated to reading the Word and spending quiet time with the Lord. I moved in mid-August and had that space by mid September. As I began to take my quiet time with the Lord more and more seriously, the Lord was revealing more and more to me…about Him…and about me. I spent every morning in that chair…sometimes it was just a minute or 2, sometimes it was 30! Regardless, I knew it had to become a discipline…a habit. Not just a ‘crash course’ to prepare for my Tuesday Night Bible study.
In December of 2005, I was reading John. It’s awesome how God works. We got an early snow. I went outside to start the car…’to let it warm up’ and was too lazy to go back upstairs to ‘the chair’. So, I sat downstairs and flipped through another Bible to find where I left off and read John… where Jesus speaks about praying in His name. The next day…I am pulled to that same verse again. For the first time…I prayed about my singleness in Jesus name. I told the Lord…”just throw me a bone…give me a sign. If you plan on me getting married one day…just throw me a bone. Let me know you haven’t forgotten about me.”
My friend Riste said….after hearing the rest of this short story… “imagine what He would have done if you had asked for the man…instead of the bone?!??!?”
…as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.
So…we walked the few blocks to the address… This is what I found! THE house…God’s House…the color, the existing neighborhood, the floor plan…and the bonus GWP (gift with purchase). It wasn’t just a corner lot….but an ELEVATED corner lot. (For those of you who live in the city…or on a corner…you know how desirable it is to have an ELEVATED corner lot!!!) Needless to say, God wasn’t messing around! I put the down payment on the house that very day! The Lord had gotten my attention.
There were sooo many details that led to this moment. I have so many people to thank! Specifically…Marc…wow….what would I have done without him!?!? He was a new co-worker that I had prayed into my life that year…and he would go with me at all times of day and night into the neighborhood…encouraging me and praying with and for me! Reminding me…that God has my back…that I COULD in fact do this. That I was being called. I thank God for friends who encourage and pray!!!
Time went by quickly, but it seemed like it was forever. God was on the move…that is for sure. During the time between putting the contract on the house and moving in…I changed churches. For close to a year, God had been preparing me for a move that I didn’t know I was going to make. I had been fully involved in a large church in the West End of Richmond, although I had lived in the city of Richmond, not in suburbia for years. I had been feeling a bit restless. Looking back at it, God prepared me mentally and spiritually for this change. Slowly, the Lord pulled me out of most of my volunteer responsibilities. By the time that Rob Rhoden made the announcement that he was moving to Commonwealth Chapel (an inner-city church) as the pastor, I was ready to go. There was really nothing to hold me back. No transition of anything. It was amazing!
For the first time, I walked into church that first day, and Sister Chappell greeted me at the door. I felt right at home! You see, my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was one of the founding members of Bethel Assembly of God, now known as Commonwealth Chapel. My grandmother died when I was just 2 years old. Sister Chappell remembered “Holzbach”, as people called my grandmother back then. On a side note, Mom was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit as a child in that building. Mom and Dad and my Uncle and his wife all got married at Bethel. Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2007. It was like coming home.
SPOILER ALERT!!!!! More on this later….but 51+ years later, I also got married in that church. But, I am getting ahead of myself!
I found 2 homes the year of 2005. My church home….and my new home. I remember sitting on the front porch with Justin – one of my youth kids (then, college kid…now college grad…about to get married!!!!) that I had shared life with for several years. Wondering why I wasn’t more excited about moving into the new house…why it didn’t seem more surreal. He wisely responded, “Because it’s right. God wanted you here.” God brought me to Commonwealth Chapel and to Southern Barton Heights. Why? I wasn’t sure….but, I would soon find out.
I always considered my house…God’s house…not mine. It’s amazing what will happen when you not only dedicate your life…but your house, your job, your whatever to the Lord. He will use it! Be sure that your seat belts are buckled and your lap trays are in the upright position. Keep your hands and arms inside the ride.
In other words….Hold on! You are in for the ride of your life.
4. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
5. guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
I began looking in the North Side of Richmond…specifically in the Battery Park, Barton Heights and Highland Park area. Ginter Park, the Fan, and other areas of the city that were deemed by many as ‘more acceptable’ for a single, white woman from the West End of Richmond, were just out of my price range. I just couldn’t see spending that much money on a house! My friends, both African-American/Black and white, were discouraging me from looking in that part of Northside…because of the crime…and because I am white and would be considered a ‘target’. So I stopped looking in that area.
God had something else in mind. That’s when my good friend Cindy Mims talked me into coming back to the area to look. You see, she and her husband Billy just purchased a home that was under renovation in Southern Barton Heights. She shared with me the story behind the area and the work that was taking place to revitalize it. After a tour one day, Cindy gave me a packet of information that explained the Neighborhood in Blooms program and offered floor plans of 3 different models of a new development that was being built around the corner from her house. An open house was scheduled in the upcoming weeks. So…I agreed to go.
I pondered those floor plans….and prayed to God for guidance, again. Is this where He wanted me to live? A lot of street crime – mainly prostitution and drug dealing were taking place on the corners. There was virtually no diversity at all…everyone seemed to be African-American/Black. Much different from the life I had lived up to now. After hours reviewing the floor plans and praying, I (and God with me!) pictured THE house…down to the color, corner lot, floor plan, exterior, etc. but in the existing neighborhood. I said…if THIS house is on the market, I will take it. Considering it almost a dare to God….just knowing that there wouldn’t be a house to match it. These houses were in a new neighborhood!
What little did I know! Cindy and I went on the tour. The ‘model home’ was the floor plan I was most interested in. Falling in love with it from the minute I walked in…I began to almost whine internally. Why did this house need to be in this neighborhood? Cindy and I went on the walking tour, ending back at the model home. While speaking with the real estate agent, I expressed my interest… ‘If only this house was in the existing neighborhood…’ I dared the Lord, as I was secretly relieved. I was walking away when Graham (the real estate agent) stated….’take a look at 2101 Barton Ave”….
This is my story. But, really it is HIS story. God’s story. He wrote it, but allowed me to live it…and to tell it. He is the author of my life. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me as I try to put words to my experiences over the last few years. My success can only be measured by my obedience to the Lord. Where do I begin? There’s so much I want to share as an inspiration and encouragement.
It started in May of 1963 when I was born to Alvinia and Milton Michalec. I am the youngest of four children born between 1958 and 1963. Mom and Dad raised us in the church. Sunday morning and night, Wednesday night, youth functions, church friends to the house, trips cross-country for Teen Talent, and Summer Camp in Buckingham. If there was something going on in the church, the Michalec’s were there! But, there was a secret that remained at home. Mom, a daughter of an alcoholic father, also married an anxiety ridden man, Dad, who also turned to the bottle to escape the physical and emotional pain of life. Happy memories are hard to resurrect and it seems that the pain sometimes remains in the forefront. I am happy to report that Dad, by the Grace of God, has been “on the wagon” for decades now, and our family continues to work toward healing and reconciliation. I am working on replacing those painful memories with new and positive ones with my Dad. Mom and Dad worked hard to provide for the family, but it was often tough to “make ends meet”. But, in spite of all of that, the four of us, to quote Dad, “never caused him a bit of trouble”…meaning that we did well in school and never ended up in jail.
I am a white woman, who was raised in the white-West End, a suburb of a racially divided Richmond, VA…in America…growing up watching the Brady Bunch, Archie Bunker, I Dream of Jeanie, Sanford and Sons, and the Jeffersons. Oh yeah…and Hee Haw! It wasn’t until I went to VA Tech that my eyes were opened to the beauty of diversity that different races have to offer. My high school graduating class had no more than 10-20 non-whites in a class of about 525.
My journey had only just begun. Now, 4 decades later, is where I pick up the story. It’s the early 2000’s and we made it through y2k. (Does anyone even remember what y2k was all about anyway?) I began to take my relationship with the Lord a lot more seriously than I ever had before. I grew up expected to follow a long list of do’s and don’ts…almost a checklist religion. Can’t wear jewelry, no pants for quite a while, painted nails were considered to be Jezebel-like….just to name a few. Now, I was experiencing and learning about what it was like to have a relationship with the Lord.
I began attending a Tuesday Night Bible study, where women of all races, ages, and backgrounds gathered to spend time in the Word and in fellowship. Unlike the years of Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Ten Commandments, etc. that you learned in Sunday School, I was now experiencing what it meant to really study the Bible…not just learn it. It became alive for me…like never before. I was participating in our Youth Group as a youth leader and was mentoring a high school student. I shared with one of the break-out groups about my desire to do more. Not sure what that looked like.
In 2004-2005, I started looking to purchase my first home. The housing market in Richmond was a bit out of control…and costly. I had been looking throughout the Richmond area, placing bids on houses…with escalating clauses up to 9%, but someone always out bid me. I was beginning to get really frustrated.
I prayed for guidance from the Lord. My small group of women prayed right along with me.
i have often been told that i should document the many stories of life since i first moved into Southern Barton Heights. this is going to be my attempt at doing that. it will probably be a mix of old stories….and new. or i might try to go back and review the last 5 years of journals and do it that way….who knows. let me know what you think! how would you want to read it? a mix of old and new…or in chrono order?