Saturday, August 31, 2013

Free Gift With No Purchase

I was talking to my new found sushi happy hour friend yesterday – the nice guy who gives out free sushi at the train station on Thursday and Friday evenings when people are getting off the train during rush hour. It’s a promotion they’re doing from one of the restaurants a block away from the station – I wrote about it before in the post titled Sushi Happy Hour. I didn’t have to go into the city yesterday, but I headed on down to the train station anyway for the free sushi. It’s really good sushi, and the nice guy who gives it out is generous and gives people as much as they want. He’s gotten to know me and how much I like sushi, and so he lets me stand there and eat as long as I want to. I’m always careful to let other people come by and get theirs too, but for some reason not that many people stop by so I always end up helping him out so that he can finish up the tray before another one comes over from the restaurant. He likes sushi as much as I do, and it always amazes us that so many people come off the train every few minutes and many of them don’t even stop by for one piece.

At the restaurant they have half price sushi on Thursday nights and free sushi on Fridays. You have to order drinks, but the area has other bars that are usually packed on Thursdays and Fridays and for some reason that one stays fairly empty. The nice guy who gives out the sushi said that business has started to pick up on Thursday nights, but for some reason Fridays are still empty. We were talking about that last night, why it would be that people don’t seem to want the free sushi he hands out and they might go for half price, but when it’s free at the restaurant they don’t want it either. We’ve talked about it a few times because we’re always surprised. It’s really good sushi and they bring it out in a beautiful presentation. He’s standing there in a chef’s uniform wearing gloves, and everything comes right from the restaurant a block away so it stays fresh and cold. It’s like having it delivered to your own personal outdoor table, and one that you don’t have to buy a drink or pay any kind of tip for. It kind of makes sense in a way that people might be suspicious of free sushi on the street, but why would they go to the restaurant for half price and not for free? It just doesn’t make sense to us, and since it’s something of shared curiosity, we talk about it as I eat lots of delicious sushi and enjoy the beautiful day.
When I asked the Lord what I should write about this time, He brought that to mind, and compared it to the way that people often don’t trust or accept the idea of His free gift of salvation. It just doesn’t make sense to anyone who has enjoyed it why it is that anyone would say no, but that’s very often the reaction of many people when they hear about Jesus. I know I was that way for years – people tried to tell me in so many ways and every time I’d think to myself what weirdos they were and that I couldn’t believe they believed in that nonsense. I remember friends of mine who had been friends before they were saved talking to me about this wonderful relationship with Jesus they had, and me thinking, oh brother, now I have to stop talking to this one too. I was very kind to them, or so I thought, in a very condescending way, letting them know that I just wasn’t interested but if they wanted to talk to me again one day when they had come to their senses I’d always be their friend. And then there was my college roommate who I completely rejected who used to pray over me as I slept late from being out all night – I’ve written about her before and how 20 years later I called her up and apologized, telling her that she had been right and that I had been very very wrong. And these people, God bless them, were still ready to be my friends, when I finally came to my senses and understood what I’d been missing all along.

God’s gift to us is a free gift. The gift of His mercy and His love, the gift of Jesus going to the cross for our sins – we didn’t pay any price for that gift and He doesn’t ask us to, all He asks us to do is to accept it and run with it. And when we accept that free gift we gain our freedom, something that no other gift I know of can do. We gain a new life, one that is full of mercy and grace and love, and we lose those things that were harmful to us from the life that we lived before. We lose our past mistakes and our unhappiness and grief, our jealousy, anger, rage, unforgiveness, low self-esteem, shame and guilt. We lose addictions and bad habits and destructive behavior and thinking. Those things will try to creep back into our lives, but the power of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross is much more powerful, and when we receive the gift of His sacrifice, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to help us move forward and not go back.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” And we are not alone in shedding that sin from our lives, the Holy Spirit is our helper, our guide, our comforter and our teacher, and the Holy Spirit comes to us as a gift from God when we accept the gift of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Jesus Himself says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The gift of the Holy Spirit brings power into our lives. A power that is greater than anything else, including our own fear and guilt and sins of the past that would try to hold us back.

One thing that I’ve gotten to know as I think about my own past and the way I finally accepted the gift that God had been trying to give me for so many years is that for each of us there is a time and place of Divine Appointment. Each one of us has our own personal moment of salvation. Once that has happened, there’s no turning back, even when we ourselves may think that we want to because the going got a bit rougher than we were expecting it to be. And until that happens, we can be offered as many free trays of sushi as a nice guy wants to give us, but we’ll still be wondering what’s the catch and keep on walking by. But when we finally have that moment when we say yes, we wonder ever after why it took us so long to accept a gift that is so wonderfully good.

Jannie Susan

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Life Changer

I found a listing online last night for the September 11 Photo Project. I was looking up something else under my name and that came up. I don’t know how to describe the way I felt when I started to look at that website. Some photographs of mine were in the original exhibit. I had lived at the time right around the corner from the building where the exhibit originally was. I don’t even remember how I got involved with it. I think maybe the people who started collecting the images may have put signs up on the streets, the way people do when they want to advertise for a yard sale out in the area where I live now. I say that because that was the kind of time we lived in during those days. Suddenly the big city became a very small one if you lived downtown. We had all been through something together that we will never forget, and during those first days and weeks and months, somehow we all felt like we were connected and related in a way that never happens in a city the size of New York.

The photos I submitted were of a view straight down West Broadway in the middle of the street looking in the direction of the two towers, a kind of before and after taken only a few years apart, but the feeling is that of a lifetime away. The first photo was taken right after a blizzard that shut down the streets and subways. It was a really joyous time, even though the day was still gray from the storm, and when I took the photo it was later in the day when I’d come home from work. People were out walking in the middle of the streets, and I took my camera and stood right in the middle of West Broadway, something that would never be possible any other time I thought, and snapped a picture of the two towers, two buildings that to me always looked so powerful and elegant, a true symbol of New York City, and that view was a perfect one, one that normally would not be possible to see from that angle. West Broadway was a busy street, with traffic coming from uptown and downtown and across Canal Street from the East and West sides and the Holland Tunnel traffic funneling in and out as well. In those days it had just become one of the hottest streets in Manhattan, something that’s only continued as time has gone on. But for that one day, when the blizzard shut down the streets, I could stand in the middle of West Broadway and take a picture of a lifetime.
On the day after September 11, when I woke up in the morning, everything was eerily quiet. I hadn’t really slept – the day before had been a nightmare of a day even for those of us who were far enough away to have not been physically touched. We could smell the smell of the burning buildings and we didn’t know what was happening in our world. Anything could happen because something unimaginable already had. When I woke up that morning, something told me to get my camera and walk out into the middle of the street again. This time the day was so beautiful – a perfectly beautiful blue sky, with that perfect golden early autumn light, but the acrid smell of burning metal and cables and wires and God only knows what else was still in the air – that smell would last for months, and there are times when I still imagine I can smell it now. When I got out into the middle of the empty and deserted street and raised my camera, all I saw was an empty skyline full of the bluest blue of the sky. There’s a puff of what looks to be a white cloud, but strangely is lower in the sky. It’s really the smoke of the fires that continued to burn for many, many days.

I had seen the towers fall, and had heard the first plane fly over my apartment building and crash. At first I thought it was a smaller prop plane that had an accident on a much smaller building and I thought, wow, those poor people, but then I heard some men working on a building next door start screaming – nothing phases those guys, so I knew something much bigger had happened. I went up on my roof and I saw the whole thing unfold. A neighbor of mine later gave me a photo he’d taken from his roof just behind mine. You can see me standing there, and I look frozen in shock. You can’t see my face, you just see my back, and though I am very small in the image, the terror is clear in the rigid lines of my body.
At the time I was nowhere near born again, but I remember saying to people that out of something so bad something really good must come. I remember having this idea that where there was great evil, that great good would come because of it. That great good would have to come from it, because the evil could not be the last word. It would be five years later when I’d learn the scripture, “Where sin abounded, grace did abound much more.” (Romans 5:20) It was the scripture that the name of the first church I attended was based on, the church where I was baptized and where I began to learn what it meant to walk with God.

John 1:1-5 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I remember thinking when I was first born again that now everything would be light and life all the time. That there would be no darkness any more in my life. And in a way that’s true, but not in the way that I expected it to be. There will always be darkness, but when we know Him who is the light, His light will always be able to shine through the darkest of darkness, and bring our focus back to that place of light. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” He says this right after the Sermon on the Mount, where He has turned the whole reasoning of human beings upside down. “Blessed are the poor of spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12) How can we rejoice and be glad in times where it seems that evil abounds? How can we feel blessed when we are mourning, or persecuted or feeling weak in our spirit? It makes no sense in an earthly way, but the way of God is not the way of the world.

Jesus has a way of turning our world upside down. Just as I knew at the time when the buildings fell on September 11 that something of great good must come from that, that is exactly what did happen. In the days and months after those first terrible hours, there were such outpourings of love and mercy and kindness in New York City, an outpouring that I had never seen or thought possible. On a personal level, that was the beginning of my beginning to search for meaning in my life, a search that led me finally to know that Jesus Christ is Lord. Out of that great darkness of those terrible hours, I began to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and I was filled, and all of the rest has followed.
My world was turned upside down by Jesus, in a way that I can’t even recognize the past any more as my own. I look back on things I wrote and things I thought and things I did, and I don’t know who that person was. It is very strange because there are times now when I’m not sure who this person that I am is either, because I am constantly being changed and renewed and healed. When we are born again we begin the process of living life anew. It is like being a baby all over again, and going through stages of growth and learning and changing. But just as dogs and cats have a different way of counting years than humans do, when we are born again, the years of growth are exponential in comparison to actual years. When I look back to seven years ago, there is a big difference in the way that I walk now. And even a year ago I know that I was very different than I am today. That is one of the miracles of our walk with God. He makes those changes without our knowing it, but then shows us when we’ve grown just how much we have.

Jannie Susan

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Love Passion and Courage

Last night when I was on my way home I found two garbage cans full of potted tomato plants and herbs in full bloom. I have no idea why they were being thrown away – maybe someone moved out of an apartment and couldn’t take them with them – that happened to me once many years ago. I had to leave an entire fire escape full of plants, but that’s another story. The tomato plants I found last night were so big that I couldn’t carry them, but the smaller potted herbs I managed to get into some extra bags I always carry and I took them home.

As I walked with the bags of plants, I thanked God for them because I knew they were a gift from Him. I always ask Him which way to walk, and He led me down a street I don’t usually walk on and there the plants were. I love plants, and this year the annual herbs I had planted fresh from seed like basil did not come up, and some of the perennial ones that thrived last year didn’t come back. Some did, but the summer has been so hot and dry that some of them didn’t survive. I was able to bring home basil and tarragon and mint. I love all herbs, but those are three that I love to have and try to grow all the time.
I had just been at a meeting with one of the sites where I teach my nutrition and wellness classes, and it’s also a site where I have been incorporating their rooftop garden into the classes I teach. Earlier in the day I’d been at another meeting with an organization that helped fund the first year of that garden and I had recently been introduced to another site they funded for this current year. Gardening and nutrition and wellness go hand in hand in my opinion. I love gardening and to incorporate it into nutrition and wellness workshops is something that works beautifully. I started doing the work that I do in nutrition and wellness because of a community garden the Lord had me start at the after school program I used to work with, and they just naturally flow together for me. Finding the herbs on my way home was a little thank you gift from my Father in heaven, encouragement to me that I am walking in the way He wants me to walk.

Being a Christian is not easy. I had been talking to a man I know who has been going through some tough times. When I met him, he was at the point in his life when he was returning to the Lord, or maybe even turning to Him for the first time. The first time I met him he was in a very bad mood, and after talking to him for a while, he started to smile. I hadn’t seen him in a few months, and when I last saw him things were getting much better. When I started talking to him this time around, he’d had some disappointments and setbacks and he said he didn’t want to talk about God right now because he was so mad at Him. I understand where he’s coming from, and I told him that it’s ok to be angry with God, just as long as we talk to Him about it. But he said he was so angry that he didn’t want to talk to Him at all. I talked to him about what was going on, and he’d lost a job that he’d thought was a good one because someone had lied about him to save their own job, and he'd lost the opportunity to date a woman because when he lost the job she wasn’t interested any more. I found out that the job had been a dangerous one, working in security, and that he could have been seriously hurt at some point or worse. The woman of course from my perspective was better off lost because if all she was interested in was his money, who needs her anyway? But of course from where he was sitting, that wasn’t going to fly. I did my best to encourage him that when God allows things to happen to us, there is always a good reason even when we don’t see it ourselves, and I did see a smile start to come on his face again after a while of talking. When I said I saw a smile he said, “That’s for you and not for Him," and I told him it was the same thing. The words I had spoken, and even the fact that I had run into him just at this right time, were all things that were coming from the heart of God so that he could be encouraged and keep walking.
It is so hard sometimes to walk with God that I sometimes wonder myself why it has to be so hard. Sometimes when I am going through it I forget all the things that I was telling this man, things that I know are true, like trials only come when we are truly walking with Him, or that He always turns things around for our best good, or that when something is taken away from us He always returns it to us in double and triple amounts of what we had lost. But then someone is going through something and I start to talk them through it, and I hear the words that I need to hear myself coming out of my own mouth to encourage them.

When I got home last night I thanked the Lord for a good day. I said, “This was a good day, thank You.” And He replied something that I know but that I had forgotten, “Every day can be a good day, it’s really just up to you.” When we know who God is and when we trust Him to do what He promises to do, there is nothing that can ruin our day ever. We have it in our power to speak His word over our lives no matter what comes at us and to have His peace in the middle of every storm. Over and over the Lord tells us not to fear. It’s all over the Old and the New Testament. Jesus tells us, “Fear not, I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33), He asks His disciples when they panic during a storm on the water, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 14:31), and He tells them when He comes to them walking on the water and they are terrified, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord tells us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold you with my righteous right hand.” And there are so many more times that we are encouraged to have no fear, to have courage because He Himself is walking with us. But somehow, when the storms come, when things happen that don’t seem at all like they are right or fair or that anything good could come of them, no matter what we know that God promises to us, it is very easy to stop trusting in His word.
It’s at times like that when we must draw closer to Him rather than pulling away. It is only through bringing our doubts and fears and worries, and yes, our anger too – our anger and bitterness and hurt and weakness and disappointment – it is only through bringing all of our emotions of loss and grief and pain to Him that He can start to take us through it to the other side. If we turn away, the bitterness and anger and all the other negative emotions start to eat away at us inside, and the place they start to eat into first is our heart. Courage comes from a heart that is strong and whole and healed. A heart that has holes in it from anger and sorrow and bitterness cannot have the courage to love and to trust and to have faith. If we continue to live our lives with those holes in our heart, they will continue to grow larger without our even knowing it until there is an empty place where our heart is supposed to be.

In the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man wanted a heart, and at the end of the movie, after he has gotten his heart from the Wizard, and he has to say goodbye to Dorothy, he says, “Sometimes you don’t know that you have a heart until it’s broken.” When we don’t bring our broken hearts to God, we can end up with no heart at all.
It’s not easy walking with God, because He wants us to have whole hearts that feel love and passion and courage. He wants us to be alive in a complete and full way, to feel deeply and love deeply and care for people in the way that He does. It’s much easier to have a heart that does not feel, or to not allow ourselves to get involved in situations where we will have to feel anything at all. It’s much easier to go through life not feeling anything. But that’s not really living, is it? God doesn’t want us to just go through the motions, He doesn’t want that in our Christian walk in any way. He wants us to be the real deal in all that we do, to mean what we say, to care what we mean, to do things because we care about what we do. It’s not easy, but for me it’s the only way to truly live, it’s the only way to be fully alive, and I’ve learned that I can trust God to help me through those tougher times so I can still be standing when the blessing comes.

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Putting On The Garment Of Praise

I was working with a group yesterday at a Harm Reduction Center, and some of the people had been in different classes in the workshop series I teach and so I asked if they could share with each other some of the things they’d learned in the classes they‘d been in. It’s a way of reviewing material that I like to use because it gives the people in the class the opportunity to be the teacher – to share their knowledge in their own words and ways. I never know how much people are really getting from the classes – many of the people I work with have so many things they’re dealing with in their lives that I often wonder if nutrition is really something that they feel is worth their time. But when they got started talking, I heard how much they’d learned and they were so excited to share it – it’s times like that when I feel like it’s all worth it.

In the morning when I was on the subway a woman with a cane had started looking at the electronic subway map they’ve put in some of the subway cars now. They’re great except for the times like that one when the subway map and the actual subway we’re on are two different things. The subway map was for the #2 train, and we were on the #5. Very different lines in parts of the city, and although they overlap in some places it can really mess you up if you don’t know the routes. When I saw the woman looking at the map, I said, “That’s the wrong one,” and asked her where she was going. She told me the stop she wanted, and another woman in the car said she was going there too, that they’d have to switch in another two stops and that she’d help her because she was going to the same place. When the woman with the cane sat back down, I smiled at her, and she looked at me and said, “You have love in your heart.” I said, “Praise God,” and she said, “Thank you Jesus, yes, praise Him.”
In the morning when I had been on my way walking to the train that takes me into the city, I’d felt such a feeling of heaviness. I didn’t want to go into work at all – I’ve been dealing with so many stressful things that I really just wanted to call in and say I couldn’t do it today. But I don’t do things like that – even before I was born again I always had a thing about going into work or school no matter what – and so I kept going, and the Lord put a song on my heart that was written by Robin Mark, “Put on a garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness. Let the oil of gladness flow down from your throne. Put on a garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness. Your joy is my strength O Lord, my strength O Lord. Let these broken weary bones learn to dance again. Wet this dry and thirsty land with a river. O Lord our eyes are fixed on you, we are waiting, for your garment of praise, as we bless your name.” The phrase "garment of praise" is from Isaiah 61:3, though I didn’t know that while I was singing it, but when I got onto my train and opened up my little red leather bound New King James Bible, that’s where the Lord took me to.

There are times when we are going through it when we just have to praise. No matter what we feel like, no matter what is going on in the environment around us, no matter if we don’t see any reason for praising and when we actually feel like complaining and giving up and saying we’re done for, that’s the time when if we can start to praise that we can actually start to see and feel God moving. It’s not that He hasn’t been moving all along, but when we praise in those times when we don’t feel like praising at all, God will start to answer in ways that we can know it could only be Him.
Isaiah 61 is probably one of the most beautiful passages of the Bible, at least in my opinion. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.” Those are verses 1-3, and it only continues to get better, “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” (verse 4) “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.” (verse 7) And it continues on with such power and beauty. Read it for yourself – it will always speak of wondrous things.

I had my glimpse yesterday of the beauty the Lord promises us. In the midst of the ashes I have been walking around in for months, in the midst of the confusion of the subway and the sites where I work I found I could rejoice in my portion. And it all started with praise. It started with my asking Him to help me put on that garment of praise because I know it’s a promise of God that He will give it to us instead of the spirit of heaviness. It started with me saying I want to believe in your promises. I want to claim them because I’m trusting in your word. It started with me saying your joy is my strength, and it is not what I can’t do but what you can.

Jannie Susan

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

You Need A New Muffler

There’s a kind of one stop shopping area that I pass on my way to and from one of the sites that I’m working with in the Bronx when I’m on the bus. On one side of the block there’s a big sign for a “Redemption Center,” a place where people can bring their bottles and cans that have deposits, and on the other there’s a car repair place that has signs for new mufflers. Smack in the middle of the two is a “Ministerio De Reconciliacion,” and even if you don’t know Spanish, the English and Spanish are nearly identical. It’s a church, a Ministry of Reconciliation, and it also has another sign on the side closest to the Redemption Center that says, “Centro de Alabanza,” which can be loosely translated to Worship Center, but Alabanza really means so much more. It’s the highest praise, it’s saying, “Glory and honor and power to Him who sits on the throne!” (Revelation 5:13) It's worship that is sung in adoration to glorify and honor God. It’s an outpouring of a heart that has been redeemed.

I love seeing those buildings all together like that. I have a kind of fantasy that they’re all owned by the same person. You can drop your car off to get a new muffler and whatever other overhaul it needs, then go to the Redemption Center to redeem your cans and bottles and then to the Ministerio De Reconciliacion to get yourself redeemed. I also love it that they’re all together because everyone who has been born again is part of the Ministry of Reconciliation. We have been called by God to help show the way to His blessing and grace, much in the way a good mechanic would look at your car and show you the way to fix it. You might not be able to fix it yourself, but the mechanic can take a look and let you know what you need. Anyone in the Ministry of Reconciliation can do that for any one else. When we see that someone is as lost as we once were we can point the way to healing because we've been there ourselves.
When I was little there was a family joke that I don’t know how it got started, but it went on for as long as I can remember and we still laugh about it now. For some reason whenever you’d be out and you’d hear some noise in your car, or in someone else’s, you’d say, “You need a new muffler.” I don’t know why, but my brother used to say that all the time and it always cracked us all up. Maybe it was just the way he said it, or maybe there was a long ago now forgotten way that it got started, but whatever or whoever or however it started, it’s something that any of us can say to anyone else about anything – it doesn’t have to be about a car any more – if there’s any question about anything all we need to do is say, “You need a new muffler,” and we’ll all crack up.

So of course when I saw that Ministry of Reconciliation and the muffler store and the redemption center all in one, it made such perfect and logical sense to me that they must all somehow be part of the same whole. Whatever may be bothering you, you need a new muffler, and of course that’s ludicrous, but maybe if I just start there I’ll find my way to the Redemption Center and then finally walk next door into the doors of the Centro De Alabanza and know I’ve finally found my way home. Maybe if I just accept that I need that new muffler, if I start to see that everything is not as perfect in my life as I’d like to pretend, maybe, just maybe, I can find a way to open my heart up to be reconciled to God.

Jannie Susan

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Walking Talking Miracle

I Googled myself last night, something I do on occasion to see what’s online. There are times that people post things that I didn’t know they posted and it’s always fun to find them. I was an actress and writer for many years in NYC, and it’s always fun to see what shows up. Last night I found a short story I’d written that was published in 2004, and along with that was an interview. I hadn’t even remembered the interview and the short story I hadn’t read in years. It was a real blast from the past because my life is so much different now, and it was fun to read them and to see who I was and who I’ve become and to recognize the miracle of what God has done in my life.

There are all kinds of things that I used to do that I just don’t do any more. It amazes me because I know I’m still basically the same person. I still have fun, I still enjoy theater and film and fashion, but they are not the focus of my life the way they used to be, even though the Lord has been taking me thrift store shopping and making me a fashionista again, actually more of one than I was before because I could never have afforded what He’s been finding me at the thrift stores these days. But when I think of the life I lived and the things that used to take my time and energy, it seems like I was a completely different person, and I know that in some ways I was, because there was something missing from my life, a purpose, a reason for living, and even though I don’t understand how or when the change happened, suddenly I find myself reading this story I wrote a year before I was born again and wondering who that person was.
It’s also something that is surprising because the gift of writing was something that I had back then. I’ve written before that God gives us our gifts without repentance (Romans 11:29), and I had a gift and His help in writing even when I was writing about things that were from a life that was unredeemed. I used to always say that when I started to write it was as if something else took over, and it’s true. Sometimes the stories I’d write were true stories, but many times they weren’t, and people would always think they were because they seemed to flow so effortlessly. The story I read last night was beautiful, and it had never happened. It was a story about a relationship that I had never had and that no one I knew had either. It came entirely from my imagination – or from someone or something else that took over when I wrote it. An angel maybe, the Holy Spirit of course, the power of God in all its fullness.

It puzzles me why God would bother to give us our gifts without repentance. I don’t understand why He would bother. If our gifts aren’t doing anything to further the Kingdom of God, if they’re not helping anyone to know Him more then why would He give them to us to waste on our own pursuits. But that’s just the wonder of God – He is overflowing with creativity and He shares it with us so that we can share it with others, and He also knows that eventually we’ll start to use our gifts in ways that really are fruitful. While He is waiting for us to get into His groove, He lets us do things the way that we understand best at that time, and then later on when we figure it out, we’re even more ready to do the work that He has for us to do. It’s as if all that time that I was writing and acting was preparing me for the real work He had for me to do, it was a rehearsal, undergraduate and graduate school, preparation for the day that would come when I’d truly let Him lead the way so that everything that I did would lead the way to Him.
That’s really always the message of Christ. He wants us to show others the way to find Him, and to show them how good He is, how loving, how kind and how much help in every area of our lives. He wants our message to be clear, and one of the ways He can do that is to show us so that we can show others. I know what He’s done in my life, and the writing I did before is proof. It is there in black and white to let people know the person that I was so there is no way I can pretend that I was all holy and perfect. Jesus didn’t save me because I was a good person, He saved me because He wants to save everyone. He is not willing that even one should perish (2 Peter 3:9). As he says, He came to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and I was certainly lost.

We do others a disservice when we don’t tell them what God has done in our lives. When we try to pretend that we were always the way that we are after He comes into our lives other people can’t know what He can do for them. When we show them the before and after pictures, it’s better than any beauty treatment ad, because it’s really real and it’s not just retouched photos. I know who I was, and I know who I am now, and the only difference is Jesus.

Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Perfect Timing

I received an email about a month ago letting me know that the rewards points for the vitamins I buy would be expiring yesterday if I didn’t purchase more vitamins and log into the website to put in the codes. I don’t use vitamins as a rule, but I do buy cod liver oil in gel capsule form because someone who used to cut my hair who was a long hair care specialist told me that was one way to grow healthy hair. Back then my hair and skin tended to be dry and my hair tended to be very hard to grow, and he recommended cod liver oil as a way of helping to make my hair and skin healthier. It definitely worked, and I also discovered the benefits to my digestive system and my overall health and well being. In addition to the healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acids, there is also Vitamin D that many people are deficient in, and having that extra boost can mean the difference in energy levels, sleep quality and a stronger immune system. I don’t take several a day as the bottle recommends, just one because I don’t want to overdo anything, and that one has been all I’ve needed.

I’m always looking for sales on everything, and so I had been buying the store brand at one of my local pharmacies, but then about a year and a half ago I started finding sales on another brand that also had an online rewards system that gave you points every time you bought a container. The points add up to coupons, and it takes a lot of points to get the coupons, but every time I found a sale I’d buy some and it started adding up. I got up to the level of a $3 coupon, and I only needed three more bottles to get to the $7 level, but then I stopped finding the sales and I didn’t need any more anyway, so I just let the points sit there, not realizing they’d be expiring if I didn’t buy any on a regular basis. But then I got the email and I started to look around for sales, and suddenly I couldn’t find cod liver oil anywhere. All of the other vitamins are much more expensive – that was one reason the man who did my hair recommended the cod liver oil to begin with. It’s a much cheaper version of fish oil and it actually has lots of Vitamin D which the fish oil doesn’t have. So I figured I’d just have to accept the $3 coupon and let the rest of the points expire, but the Lord started to tell me that I needed to wait. It seemed such a silly thing to wait on the Lord for, but I’ve gotten used to listening to Him even when I don’t understand Him at all, and He just kept saying to wait even though the day was getting closer and closer to when the points would expire and although I kept looking in every store, no one had cod liver oil anywhere.
Then on Friday I received another email that they were giving me a grace period of another two days, and so I went back out looking when I was on my way shopping on Saturday. But still no cod liver oil and I was beginning to think that maybe the Lord wanted me to stop buying that brand or something – maybe He didn’t want me to get any coupons. But close to the end of the day, when I was on my way home from the last place where I was shopping, He sent me into a pharmacy, the only one I hadn’t checked in yet and one that is only a few blocks away from where I live, and they were having a buy one get one for half off sale, and if you bought $20 worth you’d get a coupon for $5 loaded onto your shopper’s rewards card for anything in the store. In order to get to the $7 coupon level I needed to buy at least three bottles and there were four bottles of cod liver oil left. The price with the sale came to $20.96, so I had my coupon for the store and enough bottles to get the coupon online when I got home and entered my codes.

Earlier in the day I’d gone to one of my favorite thrift stores, and when I walked in the door there was a dress waiting for me. I’d been planning to go to the train station first to put more money on my Metrocard, but the Lord told me to go to the thrift store first. When I walked in the door and saw the dress I knew why. The store had just opened, and the dress was so amazing it would have been gone in a second if I hadn’t gone in when the Lord told me to. It was hanging in a prominent place right as I came in, so it was the first thing I saw and I knew it was for me without even trying it on. I did some more shopping and found some really great things as I always do, but I knew that dress was what I’d really been sent in there for. When I got home I looked up the store where the dress came from online and found out that it’s a very chic bridal store that also carries dresses for the wedding party and special events. The dress is not a long one, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. Very understated chic and very well made. It looked brand new and it’s got to be at least a $500 dress and the woman at the thrift store sold it to me for $6. If I hadn’t been listening to the Lord I simply would not have gotten it. As it is, He told me that it’s the dress I’m going to wear to the wedding of someone I love dearly, someone He gave me a word for back in March that she was going to be married this year. He keeps arranging things about that wedding, though neither of us has seen hide nor hair of the man, but He’s arranged everything including her entire trousseau, and He’s had me be the one to find every piece and bring it to her. I’d been wondering what I was going to wear – I have lots of beautiful things now that He’s been taking me thrift store shopping – but there was nothing that seemed just right. The dress that I bought yesterday is perfect, and it was just another way that He was saying, “Now are you going to trust me?”
God is a God of the details as well as the big picture. He’s a God that cares about the smallest things in our lives as well as the really big ones. He’s also a God of perfect timing. When we wait on Him we will never be disappointed. (Isaiah 49:23) It’s hard waiting sometimes – I know it can seem very frustrating and almost nerve wracking at times because I’ve been there when He’s been saying, “Just wait,” and I have wanted to scream and cry and yell and run around the neighborhood like a crazy person because I was so stressed out and worried and anxious. But every time when He says wait, I understand when what He has promised does happen that there was a reason for the wait. That there was something or many somethings that had to be put into place before everything was ready and the story could be completed. I’m always saying, “But I’m ready now!” But He really knows best – He always does.  There’s a saying we have in church, “God’s never late, He’s always right on time,” and that saying is true.  Just at that final moment when you think maybe He’s forgotten, just at the end of the day when you’re starting to think He doesn’t want you to do what you thought He wanted you to do, just at that moment when you’ve come to the end of your own understanding of how things could actually happen, that’s when things happen, that’s when your miracle comes, that’s when the doors open and the blessing falls. And when we can wait for His blessing, He always makes it an even bigger one than we could imagine. A double blessing, a double portion, four instead of two with 50% off and a two coupons instead of one, the most perfectly beautiful dress, one that you would never have imagined but one that you know is exactly what you would have wanted if you ever thought you could afford it, the answer to your prayer that answered even more than your heart dared to ask for.

Jannie Susan

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Showers of Righteousness

I had a very strange dream last night. There was someone I used to know who had a lot of power in the world that I was living in back then. He was a powerful person physically – had been a professional fighter and had killed someone outside of the boxing ring when he was in a personal fight and had to stop his professional work because of it. He was the heir in line to a family business and he held the reins over lots of people’s lives in many ways, financially, emotionally and physically. He had wanted to date me once and though I did find him very attractive, even back then, before I knew his history or had any history with him myself, I knew there was something off about him, something abusive and dangerous to the well being of others. I was in his social circle, and over the years he was the cause of much pain and heartache for me. If he couldn’t have me, no one else could, and he spread a lot of rumors that ruined my reputation and made men who I cared for and who had cared for me turn away. I forgave him after I was born again, because the Lord asked me to and showed me how, and that is why the dream I had was so strange last night, because I was back in those old days, but I was who I am now.

In the dream this man was trying his same manipulations, but nothing could harm me. He had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. He tried to charm me as he always did, and that didn’t work as it didn’t back then, but then he tried to threaten and I felt no fear, something that I had felt from time to time when he was around. He reminded me of what he had been able to do with his gossip and lies, and that didn’t work either. I was able to stand my ground, but not to be angry at all. I just kept telling him that I wasn’t interested in having a relationship with him, that I wasn’t attracted to him, but that I was praying for him, something of course I never did back then, and when I said that he mocked me, but that didn’t matter either. He threatened to ruin any relationship that I currently had or would have, the same way he had done in the past, but I knew that was impossible and I told him so. The reason for my confidence was of course because I know now something that I never knew then, that God is the only one who has control of any one of our lives. We may think we have control over our own life, or like this man we may think we can manipulate and lie to get our own way over someone else’s life, but God always has the last word, and there is nothing that anyone can do to change what He has planned.
I read an amazing verse today that I had not read in the same way before. I was reading a devotional by Annie Downs on a blog on, and there was a link to a short video about a verse she was thinking about and trying to understand in 2013, The verse she chose is Hosea 10:12, “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” The blog post I had been reading was titled, “Words that Kill . . . and Heal,” and was about a situation she overheard in a coffee shop with young women talking and one of the young women spoke about something she’d done to hurt another young woman because she hated her so much. In the article, Annie Downs talks about how the word of God can help us to heal from the pain that has been caused by others, and also to find compassion for those that have hurt us and others so that we can help be messengers of His healing. There are so many things that people do to each other because of hate or jealousy, and reading this article after having that dream, and reflecting on a situation that I have been dealing with recently with someone who has been doing similar things as that man did in the past although it is in a very different situation, then reading that passage from Hosea, suddenly there was something in my Spirit that took a breath and released a fear and a doubt and a feeling of weakness and oppression that had been covering me over for too long a time.

When we are born again, when we accept Christ into our lives, we become heirs by faith to the promises God gave to Abraham. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29). “Understand then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:7-9) One of the promises that God gave to Abraham that He gives to us is that we will be blessed and that He will bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us. (Genesis 12:3). If we are walking under the blessing of God, there is nothing that can come against us that He will not put down.
I just saw that a friend had sent me a Bible verse of the day. He is such a sweetheart – he texts people a verse every day, and I don’t have texting on my phone, so he takes the extra time to email me. He sent me Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” I wrote back to my friend that this passage fits perfectly into what I am writing today because of its own words, but also because “The righteous shall live by faith,” is from Habbakuk 2:4, and the book of Habbakuk is a beautiful example of how we can trust that no matter what situation we are dealing with the Lord will bring justice and mercy to His children because that is our inheritance.

The scripture that Annie Downs wrote about from Hosea 10:12 is one that will be in my heart for a long time now that I have seen it for what seems to be the first time. God will do that with us, no matter how  many times we may read a passage, one day we see it and it is completely new. “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” As Annie Downs spoke about, I will be meditating on this verse and trying to understand it deep in my own spirit, because I knew when I read it that it was a word He wanted me to know in a way that was deeper and more personal than it had ever been before. As Annie Downs said, I will be seeking the Lord to find out what my own unplowed ground is. I will be seeking Him in a new way to know how He wishes me to seek Him. Seeking Him to show me the way to sow righteousness and to reap the fruit of His unfailing love, and seeking Him until and beyond the shower of righteousness He promises.

Jannie Susan

Friday, August 23, 2013

When Your Heart Leaps

Yesterday when I was on the subway I saw a Pastor I hadn’t seen in five years. The first time she met me, she said, “My heart leapt when I saw you, the way the baby jumped in Elizabeth’s womb when she saw Mary when she was pregnant with the baby Jesus.” (Luke 1:44) I was only recently born again, not even a year, maybe six or seven months, and I had only just started to read a Bible that someone had given to me, but I already knew the story. That is how God works – how He speaks to us – He’ll make sure we know what He’s talking about and then He’ll send someone to confirm something He wants us to know.

Another Pastor who I met about another six or seven months later told me how amazed He was at how mature a Christian I was in so short a time. I’d had other people say that to me, and one of them had said, “He sure worked fast!” My answer was, “He had to. It was a long time coming.” I was 39 years old when I was born again – notice I didn’t say years young – I’d wasted a lot of years walking around in darkness, and He had to work fast or I wouldn’t have been ready for the work He had planned for me. He was sending me into urban ministry, straight into some of the places where the devil has his biggest strongholds, and I’d have to know how to stand my ground and not back down when all the forces of hell were coming against me.
Standing our ground with Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with personal courage – if I had my way I’d be sitting on my favorite beach year round not doing anything much at all. I hate confrontation, and even though it doesn’t feel good, I’d rather just let people steam roll over me than try to stand up for myself. But there’s something that happens when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you – you just can’t do the same old things any more.

And you don’t see people or things the same way any more. There’s something called discernment that all of a sudden we start to have. We start seeing who people really are, what they’re really like, and it can be very surprising sometimes. There will be a person who everyone thinks is just great, but you’ll meet them and it will seem like there’s just something not right to you. You might even get taken in because everyone else is telling you how great they are, but there’s something nagging at you that something just isn’t right. You might justify it to yourself, thinking, oh, they’re just having a bad day, or maybe there’s something going on in their personal life, but no matter how you try to justify, you still have that nagging feeling that there’s something you’re not seeing. It will even jump out at you sometimes, and then they’ll put it quickly back under cover, a flash of the eye, a sharp word, a word of judgment or gossip about someone else, maybe even a seemingly small lie, but it’s there all the same, something that doesn’t come from the Spirit of God, and still you keep thinking they must be ok because everyone else says they are and they seem to have everything in its right Christian order. But then one day you see them for who they really are, and you wonder why you didn’t see it all along, and then the Lord shows you that you did.
But then there are times when we meet someone and our heart leaps. The Spirit in us sees the Spirit in them and they both jump up and down for joy. Those are the best times, the times when we know we have found our way to a place that feels like home. When the Pastor said that to me, it was to let me know what she saw in me so that I’d have no doubt that what I was calling the Spirit of God was real. It was also to let me know that other people would see it too – sometimes they’d leap for joy, but sometimes the spirits in them would get angry or hostile or try to go after me because that’s what evil spirits do. When she said that to me, it was to let me know who I belonged to, so I’d know no matter what anyone said that I was a child of God.

Seeing that Pastor yesterday brought back that time and her words so strongly. I needed that reminder because of some things I’ve been dealing with for such a long time that I have grown weary with trying to stand under the burden. I’ve had moments of peace, but it has been such a difficult time that it can be easy to forget that He who lives in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), because I can forget that I have the Spirit of God living in me at all. It’s been a time of constant attack, an attack on my faith and my own person, a time that I should be able to say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) and yet instead I do fear and I do feel afraid and I do doubt and worry and all of the other things that Jesus tells us we don’t need to do.
There are times when we need a word from God and He’ll give it to us in a simple and straightforward way, one that we are not expecting, and one that we can understand in the depth of our spirit immediately. Seeing that Pastor was one of those times. Just seeing her made me think of the first time we met and the words she had said to me, and all of the other things she had shared with me, and where we both have been and gone in our lives. Seeing her reminded me of who I was and who I am and let me know that who I become is all in the Lord’s hands and not anyone else’s.

Jannie Susan

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I heard someone call my name yesterday, and when I turned to look I saw a young woman who I recognized immediately. She had grown so much since I last saw her more than four years ago when I was still working with an after school program that she attended, but the way she smiled at me was the same smile and it brought back the memories so strongly that I knew who she was. I had been thinking I would walk a different way, to go by one of the sites where I often work to say hello, but I felt a strong pull by the Spirit to walk another way, and then I heard a voice call my name. When I worked in an after school program, I loved all of the young people who the Lord put into my care. When I see them my heart still feels a strong love for them, and at the time that I left the Lord had told me that I had to go, or else I would never have been able to leave them.

The word that the Lord gave me when He told me I had to go was John 12:24. At the time I was sitting on a bus, arguing with Him, asking Him why I had to go, and He gave me the verse, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much grain.” In this passage, Christ is referring to His own death on the Cross and His resurrection that will produce a rich harvest both in the numbers of people who will be saved through His death and resurrection and in the way that He will become the bread of life to those people. But when He gave it to me that day on the bus, He meant something very personal to me and that situation. He wanted me to know that I had to leave that place – that my presence there and that season of my life needed to die, to come to an end – so that the youth that I worked with could move on to their new places in life and so that I could move onto mine. He also promised me that I wouldn’t be leaving them forever – that He was expanding my territory as Jabez in his prayer asked the Lord to do. (1 Chronicles 4:10) Since that time I have seen those same young people, as they are growing, at different times, and each time I see them it is the same, I hear someone call my name, and then I see the smile, and I am amazed at what God has done in their life.
The Lord has been speaking to me that there is another change coming, and yesterday morning that same verse was in the Voice Verse of the Day that I get through Here it is in the Voice translation, “I tell you the truth: unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it remains a solitary seed. But when it is planted, it produces in death a great harvest.” I was running late yesterday morning and I didn’t have time to look at my emails before I left home. And that of course was in the Lord’s plan. The young woman I saw yesterday is proof of what He told me more than four years ago, and then when I got home and saw the verse I knew that though I am unsure of what will come next during this time, I can trust Him that He will work it all out for the good because I have always been able to trust Him to do that.

After I saw the beautiful young woman, as I continued on my way the scripture the Lord gave me the day before that I had written about in yesterday’s blog came into my mind and the tears started to come, “Lift up your eyes, look around and see; all these gather together and come to you. As I live, says the Lord, ‘you shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does.’” (Isaiah 49:18). In different translations I think that passage is even more beautiful, and it speaks even more clearly to me, “Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the Lord, ‘they will be like jewels or like bridal ornaments for you to display.’” (New Living Translation), “Lift up your eyes and look around. All of them gather together and come to you. As I live,” says the Lord, ‘you will put them on like objects of beauty. You will tie them on as a bride does.’” (New Life Version), “Look up and look around you. All your children are gathering to return to you.’ The Lord says, ‘As surely as I live, your children will be like jewels that a bride wears proudly.’” (New Century Version). Each translation has its own beauty and meaning to me. These beautiful children that I did not want to leave, the Lord made a promise to me that they would be returned to me, and now He is fulfilling that promise with bright and shining jewels of grace and beauty.
I was talking to a friend of mine about the uncertainty we both feel for the future, because we know that God has been speaking to us that things will be changing in our lives and we don’t know exactly how or when. But I said something to her that I know is a message for myself from the Spirit, and that is that life is never certain. We can make our plans and think that we know what we’re doing and what will happen, but then something can happen that can change it all in a moment. The only thing that is certain is that we can trust in God, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and He never changes. (Hebrews 13:8) James 4:13-14 tells us, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

The book of James can seem harsh at times in comparison with some of the other writers in the New Testament. But when you look back in the Old Testament, there are those  prophets who wrote beautifully and those who were more harsh. The Bible catches us like that, God draws us in and makes His points to us when we most need to hear them. Sometimes they are not things that we want to hear, and so He draws us in with sweetness and love, and then speaks that word that helps to cleanse us from the way our own minds can think. James 4:11-12 tells us, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” When I was talking to my friend about uncertainty, we were also talking about people who we could not trust, people who had hurt us and who it was hard to forgive, and I said to her that one of the hardest things about being a Christian is that we do need to forgive and not judge. It is so hard to do that, but it is so necessary, because when we are able to forgive and pray for someone who has wronged us or who has done wrong to others, we are opening up the possibility that God could and does forgive that person just as He can and does forgive us, and that means that person could actually be redeemed. They could actually change for the better, miraculously, just as God has changed us.
We can’t ever know what tomorrow will bring – we can’t even know, really, from one moment to the next. But if we trust in God and try our best to live by His word, then whatever tomorrow or the next moment brings, we can know He will bring us through it and show us the best way to walk.

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Word That Sustains The Weary

A while back the Lord was giving me chapters from Isaiah over and over again. It started sometime in the Spring of 2012 and continued on for months and months. He had made a promise to me, had spoken a word that was something I needed to believe in faith, and when He first spoke it, He used Isaiah 54. After that He gave me Isaiah 43, and then He kept giving me other passages from Isaiah, sometimes bringing  me back to those original two and then bringing me into other chapters again. One of the chapters He gave me several times during that time was Isaiah 49, and another was Isaiah 51, and yesterday, He gave them to me again.

I am still waiting on the promise He made with Isaiah 54 and 43, and then, just at the time that it seemed that promise was being stopped – at the time it seemed like the forces of hell were stopping it, but I do know that God overrules even those – just at that time when I saw the promises that seemed so close come to a screeching halt, some other things started to rise up in my life that made me glad in a way that I had to wait on the Lord. The other things I have been dealing with have been sapping my strength and stealing my joy. It’s been so hard to keep going every day. But thank God for His faithfulness because He keeps me going, and just when I got to another place of feeling completely overcome yesterday, He gave me those chapters from Isaiah once again, to remind me that He had given them before and that those promises still hold. Reading those two chapters again helped me know deep in my spirit that the promises He made last year will come to pass and the things I am dealing with now will come to a close.
Isaiah 49:14-18 reads, “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me. Your sons shall make haste; your destroyers and those who laid you waste shall go away from you. Lift up your eyes, look around and see; all these gather together and come to you. ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does.’”

There have been times since I was born again that the Lord spoke to me about my past – that He has forgiven and forgotten it in the way that only He can, but that the things that have happened to me were the product of poor choices I’d made. He understands that I didn’t know Him and that is why I made those choices, but there is always a choice involved in the choices that we make. God does make His voice clear to us, and we can choose to listen or not. I chose for many years not to listen, and that was what He would talk to me about. When He spoke to me about those times, He would use passages of scripture that talked about the prophets warning Zion, and He would always share with me that my past was no different than the past that the children of Israel had. They ignored Him and did things their own way, but He was always there to forgive and give them a fresh start. When I read Isaiah 49:14 yesterday and I saw the words, “But Zion said . . .” I knew He was talking to me. And then when I read further, the word filled my spirit, and right where I was on the train going home, I had to take a moment to thank Him. If I could have gotten down on my face in the train car I would have, and He knows that was what was in my heart. Once when I was in a church I used to attend and everyone had gone up for an altar call, I felt it on my heart so strong to go down on my face on the floor, but there was no room. I remember talking to God, saying, “I want to kneel before you,” and He answered the most hilarious thing in a moment like that, “What are you going to do, push someone over?” I almost laughed aloud, and then He said, “It doesn’t matter if you kneel or not, because I know what’s in your heart.”
The thing that I’ve been dealing with lately that has been so difficult is that I’m dealing with someone who I thought was a strong Christian who I could trust and I found out that they’re not and I can’t. It’s not my place to judge, but I do know that they’ve started to lie about things, and the things they’re doing are hurting other people and are meant to hurt other people, including me. It wouldn’t be so hurtful if it wasn’t someone who walked and talked the talk of Jesus, but when people use His name and stand under His banner with lies, it is the closest thing that I can think of to the abomination that causes desolation that the Angel Gabriel speaks of in Daniel 9:27. I know that when that time comes for that thing to happen, it will be much, much worse than what I am dealing with now, but what I have been dealing with, a person who lies and does hurtful things to other people while saying they are a Christian and is so loud and proud about their Christianity, that is the root of what will bring that other and much larger abomination to pass.

As I read Isaiah 49 and 51 yesterday, the Lord sent me back to Isaiah 50. Verse 4 begins, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” Thank you Jesus, because that is true.  The verse continues, “He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” Verse 7 says, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”
As I have gone through these months of this difficult trial, the Lord keeps telling me that I don’t need to worry at all, that these things this person is saying and doing will disappear and mean nothing. That the change that’s coming will come suddenly – that is so often the way that the Lord moves. He is always working and busy behind the scenes, so when He acts we think it’s out of the blue, but it’s not really. He’s given His warning, He’s spoken to us and given us the ears to hear and a well-instructed tongue. Isaiah 50:10 tells us, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”

And then we get to Isaiah 51. Verses 7-8 read, “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instructions to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But My righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.” Verses 11-16 continue, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. I, even I am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is His name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth. And who say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
These words are not just for me. These words are for you too. The Lord speaks His word to us all, and all we have to do is listen and say yes.

Jannie Susan

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Up Close And Personal

I was having another difficult day yesterday, with a long day and a late evening class and knowing that I had to get up early in the morning and start all over again, and I was talking to the Lord on my way home, needing a word of encouragement. He kept talking to me and saying everything that I wanted to hear, but for some reason I couldn’t believe that it was really Him talking to me. I kept saying, “Of course that’s what I want to hear, but is it really you saying it?” and “I trust you, but I don’t trust that I can really believe it’s you talking!” It was really ridiculous I know, but that’s the way I was feeling, and thank God for His faithfulness because when I got home and checked my emails, there were two encouraging words for me from unexpected places. I hadn’t even had the energy to read my emails, and I didn’t even want to write my blog post, but after I read the emails I got the strength to keep going.

One email was from a friend who was forwarding me an encouraging word she’d gotten that day from an online service that sends out those kinds of things daily. I’d forwarded the information to her a while back about how to get on that email list, and I receive the same encouraging word, but when I’d read it in the morning, even though it made me smile, I didn’t “get it” until my friend sent it to me. She pointed out a word that spoke clearly to her and a situation she’s dealing with, and that same word meant a great deal to me but in a very different way. That’s how the Holy Spirit works – we each may hear the same thing, but it means a world of difference to everyone who hears it, and it speaks worlds of difference to each one of us.
The second email was a Verse of the Day that I get through and this one is from the Voice translation. It was Isaiah 25:5, “Because You stand up for the poor and weak, You comfort and empower them in their distress, giving them safe harbor and cool shade when it’s hot; You shelter them from their oppressors’ blows as a strong wall holds back the driving rain.” I can’t even begin to tell you what reading that meant to me. All I can say is that it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Verses 6-9 continue, “The Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, is preparing a feast, a feast for everyone on this mystical mountain, with aged wine and good food, the finest wine and choicest meat. And God will swallow up the oppression that weighs us down. He will take away the heavy shroud that is draped over all people of the world. God will swallow up death forever. The Lord, the Eternal, will wipe away the tears from each and every face and deflect the scorn and shame His people endure from the whole world, for the Eternal determined that it should be so. And in that moment, at that glorious time, people will say, (People): ‘This is our God! We put our hope in Him. We knew that He would save us! This is our God, the Eternal for whom we waited. Let us rejoice and celebrate in His liberation.”
When I read those verses, there really is nothing that I have to say except thank you Lord. On my way home, as I spoke with Him, the cry of my heart was to ask why it was that I face situations that bring me feelings of scorn and shame from the actions and words of others. And it has always been like that – even before I was born again – there have always been people who have tried to bring me down, to crush my spirit, to oppress the love that I have inside of me, to oppress my own self, who I am and my beliefs. This has always happened, and the cry of my heart to Him was, “Why?” And His answer came back that I have always been His, and because of that, even when I didn’t know it myself, other people knew it, because spirits recognize each other. The difference is that now that I am born again, I have His strength to call on, I have His word to build me up, I have His faithfulness to lead me through and out.

“This is our God! We put our hope in Him. We knew that He would save us! This is our God, the Eternal for whom we waited. Let us rejoice and celebrate in His liberation.” It is powerful to say those words thinking of all of the people that we are saying those words with, because there is always a group of people who truly to follow the ways of the Lord. But it is also powerful to think of those verses very personally, “This is my God! I put my hope in Him. I knew that He would save me! This is my God, the Eternal for whom I waited. Let me rejoice and celebrate in His liberation.” He is the God of all, but He is also our own personal Savior, our own best friend, “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) We can know Him as Lord of all, and we can also know Him as our Lord, we can know that He hears our prayers, and that He is there for each and every one of us, up close and personal, which means that there is nothing that we can’t bring to Him and nothing that He will ignore that concerns us. He is our God – all of ours – and also mine and also yours. He is all things to all people, and He is exactly what we individually need when we individually need it.

Jannie Susan

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking Through

A few months ago I bought an electric espresso maker at the Salvation Army thrift store near where I live. It’s a small individual one, and it has the side arm attachment to make steamed milk. When I got it home and started to clean it to set it up, I realized that it was missing the basket part that holds the espresso grounds in the place where you put the coffee – if you don’t have that part, the coffee will just go right into the place where the brewed coffee ends up because the basket keeps the grounds from sifting out into the water. I don’t know if I’m describing that correctly so that it’s understandable, but let’s just say that I was at a loss how I could make coffee with this maker.

I went back to the store the next time I had time and I asked the man who works there as a manager if there was anything still left around from that maker. He said he’d keep an eye out for it, and he was really extra helpful by looking up the part online for me. He found some listed on different websites, and gave me the name of the part so I could do my own searching. It’s called a porta filter, and so I started looking online for those. I found a few for different products, but not the maker that I had. I contacted the company that made my maker, and they no longer made that model and they tried to sell me a new maker. They offered me a discount on a new one, but their makers cost upwards of $100, so that wasn’t going to happen. I had bought mine at the Salvation Army for $9.99, and I was going to figure this out somehow because I had asked God before I bought it and the answer came back to go ahead, so I knew there was a solution coming from somewhere.
There’s an online group I belong to that asks me questions about different technology and gadgets, which is very funny in and of itself because I had to qualify to belong to this group and I was honest in my answers to their questionnaire. I am so not into technology – I appreciate it, but I like to keep things simple. I don’t own a tv, my cell phone makes and takes calls and that’s it. I still have a land line, I don’t have an air conditioner, my stove is an old one and I like it that way. But for some reason this online forum invited me to join their group, and every week I answer questions about new technology, and for the time that I spend which is minimal, they give me a $15 gift card from Amazon every month. So I went on Amazon to search for the part for my espresso maker, and I found one for another brand that was not mine. It’s hard to know if any of these things would work together because the dimensions are often not given. So I went to a few stores and looked at makers, brought the part that needed to have the porta filter fit into it, made a few tests and it seemed like they’re pretty interchangeable so I took a chance and ordered the one from Amazon and it worked.

When I first made my coffee in the maker, and tried to steam the milk, not much of anything happened. A little steam came out, but not enough to make it frothy or even warm. That happens sometimes with makers like that – that’s often why people get rid of them – so I figured that maybe I’d just have to be happy with having the espresso maker part working. I didn’t use it all the time anyway – I’ve made espresso for years in a stainless steel stove top maker I have – but I’d use this electric one on weekends and days off for a treat. I don’t always have milk either because prices have gone so high and I don’t buy it unless I find it on a really good sale, so steaming the milk wasn’t really an issue, though in the back of my mind I kept thinking that if God told me to go ahead and buy this thing, there must be something He was planning to do.
Last week I found some really good organic milk on sale – I don’t always buy organic, but if it’s on a great sale like this one I will. When I was making my coffee in the electric maker one day, I tried to steam the milk and all of a sudden the steamer attachment was working. I hadn’t done anything special and I hadn’t changed anything. I just tried it one day and the blockage or whatever was holding it back was gone.

The Lord started speaking to me then, about why that happened. I know it may sound strange that He’d use this experience to talk to me about something much more profound, but He does that all the time with me. He’ll use the most ordinary things to reveal the extraordinary. What He started talking to me about is that the espresso maker represented some other areas in my life where I had been experiencing blocks and frustrations, that when we give up when those blocks and frustrations come, we are not allowing for the miracle of what He can do to break through those blocks and release the blessing. He spoke to me about what He had led me to do through the months since I bought the maker. When I discovered that the filter basket was missing I tried one thing and then another, going where He led me to go to do the things He led me to do, not giving up but continuing to rely on Him for the solution. Then when the steamer didn’t work, I went about my business, enjoyed the coffee as I could, but didn’t stop trying to use the steamer whenever I had the milk to use with it. And then one day all of a sudden the blockage was gone and now I can have steamed milk for my espresso. It was as simple and profound as that – one day it was blocked and the next day the block was gone. I never would have known if I had given up and stopped trying.
I knew there was a scripture about the Lord of the Breakthrough, and when I looked up those words, I found a sermon by Philip Harrelson on 2 Samuel 5:17-21, He speaks about the anointing on David’s life to be King of Israel and he has many great things to say, but the one that I heard most clearly in my own spirit was this, “But often after that first anointing, we have to plod the weary path of preparation for God to use us in His Kingdom. Time spent waiting for advancement or deliverance often seems like lost time. Men forget that preparation is demanded for all promotions.” He talks about the trials David faced, and uses 2 Samuel 5:10 to tell us “the answer to what made David successful is found in verse 10. ‘And David went on and grew great, and the Lord God of Hosts was with him.’” Philip Harrelson continues, “Those words are short but the meaning is without limit. David was a persistent man . . . . . He went on. It is the man who steadfastly goes on, who enters a city and clears a space for himself. Great men are defined by: Walking the paths of righteousness. The strength of their prayers. Commitment to serving others. Stumbling blocks becoming stepping stones. Gaining power from seeming set-backs. Seeking God rather than position. There is something about a man who just “goes on.” He “goes on” despite his circumstances. He “goes on” despite his trials. He “goes on” despite being in the minority.”

Earlier in the sermon, Philip Harrelson wrote, “Has the world mocked you? Has the world hurled defiance at the way you live? Has the world said that men cannot serve God in modern times? Has the devil not whispered in your ear to give up and quit?” The answer to those questions is a big yes every day of my life. There are times that it seems impossible to go on because there are always those things and people that rise up to oppose my living my life and doing those things in the way that I know God has called me to. There are blocks to so much that God has called me to do, sometimes in the form of other people, sometimes in the form of my own weaknesses and emotions and feelings of lack. But what God was speaking to me through an espresso maker of all things is that those blocks can be released in a moment of time. They are there one moment and gone the next, and the only difference is in going on and continuing in spite of the blocks.
There is often a feeling that God has forgotten about us when we are experiencing times when we feel blocked, but what Philip Harrelson reminded me of is that it is in those times that God is preparing us for our victory. Instead of being a time of wasted time, it is a time of preparation, a time when we can seek God more because it is only with His help and strength and sustenance that we can keep going on. And it is in that act of going on that the anointing comes. Philip Harrelson writes, “Too often we want the anointing but no battle. Or we want the battle without the anointing, but we must understand that both of them must come together and work together.”

A few years ago a man I met told me he had a word for me from Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” He wanted me to know that it is only in that time of struggle and trial that the anointing comes. It is when we are in the presence of our enemies – those people and things that rise against the will of God in our lives to try to make us back down and give up and give in – it is in the presence of those things and people where we feel the weakest that the power and anointing of God can fill our lives to overflowing. It is in those times when we feel that we cannot go on, when everything around us including own emotions is telling us to quit, it is then that we can see the glory of God and watch the Lord of the Breakthrough make a way where there was none before.

Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 18, 2013


When I went shopping at the green market I like to go to for produce yesterday, I bought a basket of yellow plums for $1.99. They have discounted baskets and bags and boxes all the time, and that’s what I usually buy unless there really isn’t anything that looks good which is rare. And there are times when I’m making a specific recipe so I have to buy something that’s specific, but even then sometimes I can find that specific something in a bag or basket or box. Most often I just buy whatever looks good that’s discounted, and then I start to plan my menu from there.

The yellow plums looked good, and when I got them home I realized that they were something that I’ve had before called a Dinosaur plum. Sometimes the Dinosaur plums are purplish, but these were yellow, and I know from seeing them in some of the fancier stores that they’re usually really expensive. I don’t know how many were in the basket I bought, but there were several pounds of them, and when I tasted them they were some of the most delicious fruit I’ve had in a while and I always get great fruit at that market. Plums are something that I really love anyway, and these were so good I could have eaten the whole basket. As it was I ate two of the yellow and one of the purple ones that I had bought another basket of. The purple weren’t the dinosaur plums, they were just regular really delicious dark purple plums, but the yellow ones were so good that the regular purple ones paled in comparison. I’ll still eat the purple ones and enjoy them and I’m not sorry that I bought them, but the yellow plums are the stuff that dreams are made of. Pure ambrosia.
When I looked up the word ambrosia, I found references to the food of the gods in Greek mythology. There’s also a fruit salad with coconut, pineapple, mandarin oranges, marshmallows, pecans and fruit cocktail. How the “food of the gods” got to be a fruit salad with marshmallows in it is really beyond my scope of understanding. I tend to be a purist when it comes to food, and if fruit is good and fresh, I like it just like that. Marshmallows are something that I used to eat when I was much younger, but all they are is pure sugar. Fruit is high in sugar already, and if you add fruit cocktail, that’s got syrup in it. Then add marshmallows and it’s a syrupy and in my opinion sickeningly sweet mess. I love a good sweet desert, but again even then I’m a purist. Ice cream sundaes are about as decadent as I get or maybe chocolate ice cream on a good chocolate cake or a brownie. Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of having ice cream with a chocolate hazelnut spread on it. It’s like Nutella but it’s the store brand from one of my local stores so it was much cheaper and it’s really good.

Another listing under the word ambrosia is the band from the 70’s. I remembered the name but couldn’t remember any songs, but there they were listed on Wikipedia, bringing me memories from when I was a teenager listening to the Top 40 every Saturday morning. My favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings was to have bacon and eggs and potatoes fried in the bacon fat while I listened to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Yes, everyone who knows me as the nutrition lady, I said bacon fat, and yes, everyone who knows me as a rock chick, I said American Top 40.
I still like bacon fat, though I don’t have it very often, and there’s still a soft spot in my heart for groups like Ambrosia, even though I never even really liked them back when I was listening to the Top 40. There are memories that I have of times and places that are based in certain music and food. Some of it was good and some not so good, but if the memories are good, then the food and the music seem a little sweeter. Lobster rolls never taste as good as when I’m on the beach in my favorite place in Rhode Island because that’s where I had them the first time I ever had them, and when I do have one and I’m not there I find myself thinking of that place. Thai food will always be romantic for me because I had Thai food for the first time when I was visiting someone I loved in Hawaii, and he took me to a restaurant that was full of orchids. No matter where I have Thai food now, even when I make it myself, I always think of that dinner and I’m right back to being 19 again. There was a song I loved from that time, “The Boys of Summer,” and every time I hear it, I smile. Play me anything by the Who with Roger Daltrey singing lead and I want to put on my fringed jacket. Play me Bob Marley and the Wailers and I’m in my brother’s truck, and he’s driving me back to college after summer break. Play Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” and I think of my brother back in the days before either of us knew the Lord.

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’, you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’, you don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”
In the last years of his life, my brother got to know the Lord, and he said at that time that the worst thing that had ever happened to him, and he’d been through a lot of bad stuff in his life, but the worst thing he felt was not having had faith. I remember at the time thinking either he was crazy or there must be something to faith and God that I needed to find out for myself. Two years later I was born again, and I understand what he meant. All you need is faith to get on board, you can leave your baggage behind, and you don’t need a ticket, you just thank the Lord.

I thank the Lord every day, even in my troubles and doubts, even when I’m complaining, no matter what is going on it always comes back to thank you Lord. Because I know, no matter what, that the life I lived before was not the life I have now. It pales in comparison. You could say it was a perfectly good life – there were some very good things in it, some very bad things too, but even now there are both good and bad mixed together. But it’s me that’s different, what’s inside of me, the way I think, the way I talk, the way I feel.
1 John 4:12-13 tells us, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit,” and verse 4 tells us, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” It is the Spirit of God that makes all the difference. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” When life is sweet, we can enjoy it, and when it's not so sweet, we can still have peace. When we have faith, we can take heart, because we know that what we cannot do, He can, and that is food from God.

Jannie Susan