Our monthly letter writing has been delayed recently due to much-needed home renovations.

Thanks to generous gifts from you, our friends, our twenty-five-year-old carpeting, stained and fraying, is almost all out.  Most will be replaced with bamboo flooring.  Two walls have been removed.  Popcorn came off and the ceilings have been smoothed and painted.  The 1970’s tile in the kitchen, dining room, and entry is gone.  Linoleum from the laundry room and powder room is removed.  Two and a half tons of debris was loaded out.  Over a ton and a half of new bamboo flooring and porcelain tile was purchased and unloaded.

Most of the tile is now installed.  The bamboo flooring is still sitting in the garage waiting to be installed.

The wait is due to repairs that were needed because of the mess left over from a party.

… A party the builders must have been having forty years ago when they poured the concrete slab. One inch difference — from highest to lowest spot — on our dining floor room alone!  All imperfections had been hidden by walls and layers of leveling compound (revealed when it came up as the old tile was removed).

Oh, I forgot to tell you… to get the most bang for the buck, we chose to do the work ourselves!

I learned how to find the most common flooring level through four rooms without a laser level.  And then learned how to grind to one-sixteenth inch tolerance with a ten-inch electric floor grinder connected to a water hose and 120 volts in the house. All while using my home-made leveling system and a wet-dry shop vac. What a mess!

After all that I learned how “self-leveling-compound” should actually be called “sort-of-self-leveling.”  Which then required, even more, hand grinding.

Thankfully it is beginning to come together.  All because of the time spent on my knees.  Yes, installing tile… and soon bamboo flooring!  But also praying right along with working.

“Lord, help me not to mess anything up too badly.”  “And, Lord, help me to get this sore, old body out of bed in the morning, ’cause we have other work to do.”

The other work?   It’s the work you and I and God are doing.  The following is a little example of how God has been working with us — after He got me out of bed each morning!

At Brookdale:  A few minutes before music and devotions most of the regulars were already seated.  Finally, Jim came in.  Jim is a graduate of my college alma mater, BIOLA.  Or, perhaps I should say:  I am a graduate of his.  Jim graduated in 1951; I graduated in 1981.

Normally five foot six Jim is now closer to four feet.  Bent over his walker and face toward the ground as he walks, Jim always appears to be searching for something on the floor just ahead.

I was seated at my usual place near the door. This made Jim’s downward-looking face visible to me as he passed by.  I could see he had something to say.

“Before you start, I need to share something with the group,” Jim spoke as he carefully  maneuvered, backing into an empty chair on my right.  “We need to pray for our community.  So many of our people are in such great need of prayer.”  Jim mentioned the time and day he and others meet for prayer each week. Then he said, “I have the lyrics of a song I would like to read to you about the importance of prayer.”

“What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!”

“We need others to join us in prayer this week,” Jim invited.

A big smile was already on my face as Jim looked toward me for the first time since being seated.  Jim had no idea what the lesson was to be about this week.  I pointed him to the banner hanging from my music stand.  It had our theme for that week:  a picture of a person kneeling in prayer. The caption read:  “Pray Without Ceasing.”

Then I held up our song-sheet for this week; Jim had not yet looked at it.  Pointing to the first song, Jim and I grinned at each other and shared a moment of joy in the Lord!

We sang the first song with the group:  “What a Friend we have in Jesus….”

God was at work with us!

At Auburn Oaks Senior Living:   “He is amazing!  God is amazing!”  Richard confessed with an enthusiastic whisper.

It was Monday afternoon at the independent living residence for low-income seniors.  There, in the small group studying through the book of Matthew, Richard, had again discovered how awesome his God is!

We had just read Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:22, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Normally Richard kept his eyes down (on his Bible) through much of the Bible study.  This time, I could see Richard was paying close attention.  He looked up at me, waiting to hear what I had to say.

I could see Richard was challenged by this verse.  I know because at one time I too had been challenged by it.  I believed God, yet many times I had prayed and had not received.

I learned God does not contradict Himself.  Neither does His word.  I explained:

“Scripture must be understood in the context of other Scripture.  We cannot take one passage and ignore what the rest of the Bible has to say on the subject.  Jesus trusted (believed) the Father.  Twice at Gethsemane Jesus asked the Father to take away the cup He was about to drink (His death as our “sin-bearer”).  Jesus knew His request was not the Father’s will, so He appended it: “yet not as I will, but as You will.”

“God’s will is always best! Jesus knew that.

“The apostle Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (disease) that He asked the Lord three times to remove (2 Corinthians 12).  The Lord answered, ‘My grace is sufficient for you….’  Which in other words means: ‘I won’t give you what you ask because I have given you something better.’

“God’s will is always best!  Paul knew that. This is why Paul responded to what the Lord told him about the sufficiency of His grace, with: ‘Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake.’ (2 Corinthians 12:10)

“God’s will is always best!  We say ‘We know God’s will is best’ every time we pray as the Jesus taught the disciples to pray:  ‘…Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.’  We desire Your will, God!

“So, is it true? ‘…All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive’?

“Yes!  We want His will!  And He gives us what we ask — or something even BETTER!  ALWAYS His will!  This is what Paul tells us in Romans 8:26-27:

“‘In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’

“We don’t always know how to pray.  We don’t always know what is best. Yet God wants us always to pray… to depend on Him… to ‘in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.’

“The promise of God is that the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer — steps in — every time we pray — and He turns our prayer into a prayer that fulfills God’s will.  The Spirit bridges the gap between our human shortcomings, sin, and ignorance… and God’s best: God’s will.

“How does the Holy Spirit do it?  ‘He intercedes for the saints… .’ For US! On our behalf — to the Father — according to the will of God.’

“The Spirit prays on our behalf — WHAT we would pray if we knew what God’s will was in that which we are praying about.  So why does God tell us to pray?

“So that we share with Him the work of preparing for the coming Kingdom!

“This is blessing upon blessing! God tells us to pray for His will.  And He helps us to pray His will.  THEN He rewards us for praying:  ‘…when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:6)!”

To which Richard confessed,  He is amazing!  God is amazing!”

At Eskaton:  Alice has sat in front every Wednesday since 2013.  She is 96 yet appears 20 years younger.  And she loves hymn singing and used to play the piano.  She played for our Wednesday ministry for a few months at the start until the shaking in her hands became too much.

She readily confesses not knowing much about the Bible.  Often, after our ministry, she tells me, “I never heard that before, but you taught that so well.  I can hear your passion.”  Or, “I was never taught that at Sunday School.  That is so hard to understand.”

Alice very seldom speaks or asks questions during our study, yet she still communicates well in her silence.

Hearing me say, “the Pharisees were aggressively looking for a way to legally kill Jesus” may cause Alice to tilt her head and furrow her brow as if to say, “What?”

When I say something like “Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan from the beginning” Alice might be seen with a serious look on her face and shaking her head as if to say “No.”

Once when the lesson brought up the historical difference between the doctrine of eternal salvation and the opposing belief that one can lose salvation I mentioned “Calvinism” and “Arminianism.”

Alice spoke up, “What did you say about Armenians? I am Armenian.”  I took the time to explain that Arminianism named after Jacobus Arminius from the sixteenth century has nothing to do with the Armenian race or culture.

This began a regular time of talking with Alice about her family and history.  Her parents emigrated from the area of Turkey in 1915, the year of the Armenian genocide that killed 1.5 million.  Many of her extended family were killed.  Alice was born a few years later in America.

She said her parents regularly went to the Armenian Church in America and sent her to Sunday School, but her family never talked about the bible or faith at home.

She told me more than once, “This is my church.”  She was talking about our weekly hymn singing and bible study.

Two weeks ago Alice was the last resident in the room after our service.  She remained seated, talking as I put away the guitar and as Fred, a retired pastor, and my ministry partner at the Wednesday evening meeting, picked up the song-sheets.

Alice began to tell me how much she appreciated us coming each week; even when often there were just a handful of people present.  I asked her, “Did you understand the lesson tonight?”  Alice responded, “No, not really well.”

Prompted by the Spirit I asked, “Alice, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

“No,” she responded.

“Have you ever told Jesus ‘Thank you for dying for your sin and for giving you His life?'”

“No, I don’t think I ever have.”

“Would you like for me to pray with you so you can tell Jesus ‘Thank you’ tonight?”

“Why, yes, I would.”

I prayed.  Alice prayed.  God worked.  The Angels rejoiced.

 

Working with God,

–Chaplain Jim