Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shana Tova ~ Have A Good Year

As I was sitting on my porch having coffee this morning my attention was drawn to my "garden" which consist of 3 "plants."

From a distance they all look real and serve the purpose of adding some pretend beauty to my outdoor living area. But at a closer look you will see the one on the right and left are actually fake. A dead give away is the one in the center has new growth on the bottom and dead petals in the middle. It is also reaching to the left. Why? Because it is gravitating toward the sun.
This of course began a jewel in my mind about how we are very much like those plants.

The one on the right is So perfect it makes you take a second look to see if it's for real. Like that plant, some of us live a life that looks so perfect it makes others wonder if we have any faults, flaws or failures? We need people to think we are all together all the time because we are perfectionist and care more about what people think of us than our Creator. The roses on that plant have no thorns to keep you from getting too close or pleasant scent to draw you near. It can't really live or die, it just sits pretty and kind of makes those around it feel inferior. 

Now the one on the left is a little better off.  This plant looks more real because it has some imperfections we can see.  It appears to be reaching for the sun however, it will look however you want it to because people can manipulate its movement, turning it to the left or right, it has no roots.

This plant is more pleasing to the fake garden and still   requires no real investment. I don't have to water it or add fertilizer or make sure it's not getting too much sun.  My only real commitment is to dust off the leaves from time to time  or replace it when it begins to fade.

The bottom line is this plant like the first will end up in the trash when we are done with it because it has no real value. There are no emotional ties and it can be replaced by a quick trip to the Dollar Store. 

Then there's our third plant.  This guy is the real deal. It needs to be taken care of. It requires water and fertilizer. It needs the weeds, that even a store bought plant on the 2nd floor seems to get, pulled out. It requires the old petals be removed to allow new growth and to be turned occasionally so it doesn't lean one way or the other. This plant I give special care to because it's really alive and I feel more responsible for it. I want to see it grow and blossom and I check the soil to make sure it's not too dry or wet. When the sun is too hot I move it to the shade so it doesn't burn up.  I admire it with all it's flaws because I'm part of helping it grow and I take a bit of pride in the fact that I'm a part of something organic.
All of these thoughts reminded me of The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree.

Luke 13: 6 And He (Jesus) told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vine dresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him,Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

In this parable the vineyard owner represents God. God is the creator of the tree and He expects us to seek relationship with Him which in turn will allow us to grow fruit. Fruit He expects to see.
The gardener who cares for the tree would represent Jesus who feeds His children the word of God and gives them living water, The Holy Spirit. The tree itself in the parable is symbolic of us as individuals. 

The lesson for the individual is that borrowed time is not permanent. God's patience has a limit. In the parable, the vineyard owner grants another year of life to the tree. In the same way, God in His mercy grants us another day, another hour, another breath. Christ stands at the door of each man’s heart knocking and seeking to gain entrance and requiring repentance from sin. But if there is no fruit, no repentance, His patience will come to an end, and the fruitless, unrepentant individual will be cut down. We all live on borrowed time; judgment is near. That is why the prophet Isaiah wrote, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."
(From Got Questions)

As we prepare for the Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, Head of Year, also known as Yom Teruah which means; shouting, a blast.  It's a good time to take a look at ourselves and what kind of plant we are because I promise you Gems God will know the real from the fake.

Leviticus 23:23 again theLord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 

Prophetically, Yom Teruah could be related to our Messiah's return in which we are called to be ready in repentance, to experience the joy of His return and to give praise back to our Creator.

Like those plants He will be looking for the ones He planted, watered, fed, and promised to come back for. The ones that have strong roots in His word and give a pleasing aroma to Him for our obedience to His commands. Those who have had thorns cut off to love our neighbor and shouting praise for our very existence.  All other plants, like my fake ones, will be thrown away.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 

Gems between Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy Day of Day Of Atonement will be 10 days called "days of awe." During this time we are to reflect on who we were the last season of our life and who we would like to become in the next season. It's a time to reflect on our soil to make sure it's well watered and fed. It's a time to repent of all our sins and know the Lord is faithful to forgive. It's a time to listen for the trumpet blast of Christ return! 

Matthew 24:31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His ]elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Appear Whiter

I was in the middle of prayer and worship this morning enjoying my time with the Lord and I felt the Holy Spirit say "go the laundromat." 
I have learned that nothing is weird with the Lord.

I have been wanting to wash my comforter and it's too big for my washer so being the genius I am, I put the 2 together, laundromat & comforter= God's plan.
I grabbed my soap and bleach and headed to my car. I put "laundromat close to me" into my phone and this one came up.

Sounded like a happy place so I headed that way. 

I awkwardly pulled my comforter out of the front seat of my car and made my way to the door.  I noticed an elderly woman smoking a cigarette by the front door and honestly my first reaction was REALLY why are you smoking at the entrance.

Of course it wasn't this bad but I was being dramatic and when I got over myself I realized the woman got up from her chair. You know why?? Because she saw me trying to keep my rolled up comforter in my arms and off the ground so she held the door open for me!

I knew at that moment she was the woman I was going to chat with. 

After stuffing my comforter in what I thought was still too small a wash machine, I added my soap and bleach and turned to look for the woman. 
I didn't see her so I left for a while as I had a 30 minute wash cycle.

I put a timer on my phone for 30 minutes and went to a near by thrift store. Oddly enough when the timer went off and I arrived back at the laundromat there were still 9 minutes left on the cycle. Hmmmmmm  
As always God's timing is perfect and He must have decided 9 minutes was all He needed because there she was, my lady, sitting by herself against the wall. 
I sat next to her and decided not to speak right away because I learned something from a movie I watched the night before.  In the movie a woman is allowed to meet a group of Indians and she tries to start a conversation. When no one responds her guide tells her that the people don't speak when they first meet someone so they can get a chance to know them before conversation gets in the way. 
I thought that was a profound statement so I decided to try it out. 
I tried to "see" her without it being too weird. I could tell she has lived a hard life by the chiseled lines on her face. Her small amount of laundry implied she was on her own and as she shuffled to the washer I could tell she was in pain. 

When she sat back next to me I asked how her day was going.  She made an uncomfortable face and I asked if she was having a bad day. She went on to tell me she suffers from arthritis and she was in a lot of pain today. She said she thought it was the weather and I shared I battled some headaches and we got to talking about home remedies. 
She mentioned something her mother used to do when she was a little girl. Her facial features changed as she spoke, she suddenly had a lighter, happier expression as she relived the memory of her mother. Gems I felt something in my own heart move as I watched and listened to this sweet woman.

I then asked her if I could pray for her. The first thing she said was "I don't think it will help." I told her we had a pretty big God and nothing was impossible for Him.
She looked at me then turned away quickly, as if she wasn't worthy of the rest of the conversation. Then she said, without looking at me, "well you can if you really want to."
I asked her name and she said Sally.  I said "yes, I would like to."
I began to pray, using her name, I think it's important to say someone's name when you pray for them. We both kept our eyes open and looked at each other the whole time. 

I prayed and reminded Sally that our Father loved her and I asked Him to remove her pain. I could see Sally's eyes begin to fill with tears. 
Gems it always amazes me that people, believers or not, can be so affected by prayer to the Father.  His presence always changes the atmosphere.  
Before I ended I thanked God for sending me to the laundromat as I felt He wanted me to meet Sally. Sally's eyes lit up and mid prayer she smiled and said "Yes I do think you were suppose to meet me!"

We said our goodbyes and I headed home with my wet comforter.  As I laid it out over some chairs to dry I noticed it was 2 tones of white. The machine obviously was too small and I guess bleach hit more places than others. 
My first thought was the comforter was ruined but then it made me think of my day. 
I pray Sally's life was a little brighter after we met and my comforter will remind me, wherever we are touched by the Holy Spirit we will appear whiter.

Psalm 51:7-15 The Message (MSG)

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Abortion Where Is The Church

 It’s July 19th 2007 4:50 a.m. and I just woke from a dream.  I was working at an abortion clinic!!  I was working in the waiting room and when I realized where I was I wondered how I got there, how was I working here.  Then the reality hit and people were buzzing around inside with me and outside the door some people began meeting and walking around the entrance.  My manager told me that they were the “protesters”  I realized this was the “religious” people and suddenly felt very uncomfortable, what if they saw me,  I felt a sense of guilt.

Things started getting heated and two of the employees went outside with them under the guise of having a cigarette to see what they were saying.  The manager came over to me and said “aren’t you one of those Christian people? Maybe you could go out there and settle things down.”  Before I could do anything the door bust open and in came some of the protesters. 
  The first two I encountered were men.  The first man was Hispanic, dark hair and a goatee, not that it matters but I vividly remember what he looked like.  He was wearing a leather jacket and jeans and was very angry.  He got in my face and started blaming me for killing his child.  I assumed he didn’t know his partner had an abortion and started to tell him I understood that many men don’t know when their baby’s life is being taken.  Then to my surprise he got in my face and told me NO they were both in college and she got pregnant and they had an abortion.
  I remember being confused that he was mad at me and then the second guy came behind me he was African American in his 20s’ and now I was sandwiched between the two of them.  He looked like he was going to hit me and I said wait a minute, if I worked for this man (I pointed to the man on the other side of me) and he told me to slap you and I did what I was told, which one of us would you be mad at.
  I have no idea where that analogy came from and as I write it it sounds lame but that’s what came out of my mouth.  He seemed to understand this chain of thought and stopped to think about it.  Actually they both stopped to think about it and I woke up.

 After I went over the dream in my head I realized I was more upset with the Christian people outside the clinic then I was with the people working in the clinic, was I confused?   I asked the Lord “where the heck did that come from?”  This began my memory of the Life’s Choices Pregnancy Center journey.

I started thinking about when I was on the board for Life’s Choices a Crisis Pregnancy Center.  When we first started trying to raise money and awareness in Lake County we naturally figured the “churches” would be the ones who would be the most help.  They are Christians after all so this need for healing women who have had abortions and trying to prevent more abortions from happening would surely be something they, our church family, would jump right on board with.  Well let me enlighten you dear reader they were not.  To our utter surprise we couldn’t believe how many churches would not respond to our plea to visit their church and speak to “our” family.   As a matter of fact a prayer meeting was scheduled for 7/7/07 to pray about ending abortion and 65 pastors were invited and 0 came.  It’s not just Pastors there are 365 people on the mailing list and only 12 showed up!

 We realized that abortion was a huge issue and apparently the ultimate sin but NO ONE wants to talk about it.  It was not being brought up from the pulpit in any church we found and when it was mentioned it was a condemning message and NOTHING about healing!!!  

Next we started fund raising and once again not much help from the “Christian community.”  The truth is it was the business community that was the most supportive financially, praise God for them.    I was on a fund raiser committee for an auction and I was also the only person on that committee that actually went to church.  I was also one of the few on the committee that was pro life.  Chew on that for a moment will you. The words of one of the volunteers at a committee meeting have penetrated my thoughts and are the same words that God reminded me of this morning.  She said to me “have you contacted the churches?  Isn’t this a church issue?  I would have assumed they would have helped you.”  I responded quite disappointingly that not many of the churches would even talk to us.  I went on to tell her that abortion wasn’t a church issue it was a society issue.  She seemed content with that answer but I wasn’t.

 At the auction, once again there were not a lot of “church” people there it was more the community and get this the two people that gave the most items to auction and the same two people that spent the most money were both pro choice!!!!  Even as I’m writing this I’m asking myself how can this be??  Well I’ll tell you what I think and you can do with it what you want.

 We have no idea how much abortion is affecting our walk with the Lord.  I’m not just talking about the act of abortion I’m talking about the ignoring of it.  We keep talking about healing in our land and we don’t even have healing in our churches.  Statistics say that one out of every THREE (it used to be four) women/girls, I was a girl when I had an abortion, have had an abortion.  Wake up Christians that number applies to your church too.  It is the ultimate best kept secret in the world!!!  Guess what Christians, men and women who know the Lord and go to church have had or are still having abortions.  Why?  Ill tell you my thoughts, since your this far into this you might as well keep reading.
First let me tell you a few of the goals of Life’s Choices Crisis Pregnancy Center and my personal goal. We want to give free pregnancy tests in a non combative environment to girls and women and their partners.  You see many people still think abortion is a woman’s issue but it affects men too, they also are losing a child and some of the time they don’t even know about it until it’s over.  Our goal is for the person to know that we love them and care about them no matter what the result of the pregnancy test.  If the test was positive, and they were indeed pregnant, we would give alternatives to abortion like keeping their baby, in which case we would help them evey step of the way.   If they (in most cases both parents decide) choose adoption we have attorneys that are willing to help. If they choose abortion we do not refer them to an abortion clinic because we believe Jesus tells us to choose life, however we would be there for both individuals should they decide to come back and need to talk about it, which they will! You see we think getting rid of the pregnancy will solve the problem, the truth is it only starts a much bigger problem but that is not the case I want to focus on right now.
I want to go to the healing part.  How can we as a church body help our community heal if we the church aren’t healed or even seeking the great physician on our illness. We have this imaginary list of the worst sins and abortion is close to the top.  As if God were saying if you just lied or committed adultery I can help you but if you had an abortion you’re on your own.  It carries such guilt and shame and robs you of having a life of abundance the life the Lord promises.  And the worst part is the enemy is thrilled and he NEVER even has to deal with sending his evil spirits on you because we are doing it for him.  This frees them up to rob you of something else.  Am I getting a little “freaky” on you?  It is freaky going places your not comfortable with but I pray you will continue on this journey with me.

Why is it that women won’t tell their very own church family that they need healing from an abortion.  I don’t think I have to answer that, unfortunately we all know why.  I’m not here to slam the church or the members of it please hear my heart, I’m here to wake us up together to allow women and men to start the healing process.

When we did get into a church to share our mission, and there are churches involved, we were overwhelmed by how many men and women shared with us about their abortion.  We just sobbed with them and most all of them had taken place over 20 years ago.  Sisters and brothers that’s way too long to carry such a burden.  It’s not even that most of them didn’t think God might not forgive them as much as they couldn’t forgive themselves and had NO ONE to talk about it to.  Let me ask you if there were an alter call at your church this Sunday and the pastor said if you or your partner now, or from the past, has ever had an abortion please come down the center isle to the front of the church so I can pray for you.  How many do you see running to the front?

 Well I want to tell you Jesus is calling out right now He is standing with open arms and a loving forgiving heart and He wants you to run to him so together you can be healed and set free.  Churches, Pastors, Priest, congregations let’s get on board with Jesus.  Let’s start talking about abortion from the pulpit and allow freedom to begin.   Let’s let people know that God still loves them and have healing programs in place for us to go to for counseling.  Let’s get rid of the stigma of the “Scarlet Letter” and start embracing our wounded so we can then go into the “un-churched” community and begin the society healing we so desperately need.

We cannot be effective if we are in chains and holding such heavy guilt I’m speaking from experience.  It took me years to even say the word abortion never less publicly speak about it.   It took years before I allowed the Lord into this “highly restricted” area so I could receive His forgiveness.  Receive is the key word here. People can’t receive the Lord’s precious forgiveness if we don’t let them know it’s available to them. Jesus died on the cross for ALL our sins!  Please get involved and lets get the revival started!

My role as a board member of Life’s Choices Crisis Pregnancy Center has ended but my battle for freedom has just begun.
Gena  Duran
Forgiven and set Free       

This is a personal letter and not written on behalf of Life’s Choices of Lake Co. or any other organization.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Burning Ship

A friend came to visit me recently and as we were catching up, she shared she was going to a church that we worshiped at together many years ago. She was updating me on mutual friends who were still there and then she said something that has been an ongoing struggle in my life.
She said, when people ask her, "what is Gena up to?" she then looked at me and said, “trying to answer that is always tricky, saying you are waiting on God is never an acceptable answer.”

A few days later I was at an event and ran into a woman who used to attend one of my bible studies. We too were catching up and the same question arose “what have you been doing?” Again, always tricky to answer, so I give a few cliff notes about my life to which she responds “you should be missionary” I replied, “I am” and went on my way.

Gems, telling you God stories and giving testimonies of the miracles God has done in my life is the easy part. Bragging on the goodness of God is simple, people want to hear the supernatural stories, it’s silent times they have trouble with. It's here, waiting on God some how is not an acceptable answer.
Ironically when I’m working for the world and life is “easier” as far as pulling into a gas station and putting fuel in my car just because I can or buying groceries or a  shirt I like that’s on sale that I feel the furthest away from God.

I long for times of “normal” then beg Him for more intimacy. As I shared in my last jewel, I was working with Beverly Bakalyar for about 6 weeks and truly thought the job would last at least 6 months. The Lord gave me a sweet apartment and although all my bills were being paid it was nice not to have to wait til the 9th hour for that to happen. 
I was enjoying simple things like setting up my new home. I was moved in, had a bit of a “normal” routine and while enjoying my days with a sweet group of women I was also receiving a paycheck!  
Close to the end of the 6 week mark I began to feel the familiar stirring in my Spirit that my time was coming to an end with faux painting. Not gonna lie a bit of dread came upon me.
I knew this wasn’t the end all job for me, as much as I appreciated the opportunity, I know it’s not my calling. However, jumping back into the unknown so soon was a bit of a surprise.

God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began

I’m going to be real honest here, I was angry. You see my sister Mindy was coming to visit me from New York in a few weeks and I had such great plans for us. My sister ALWAYS blesses me. She is so generous to me and my children and for the first time in a VERY LONG time I was in a financial place to spoil the heck out of her. I couldn’t wait! I was going to buy her gifts she didn’t need, take her out to eat, plan day trips whatever she wanted, I wasn’t going to let her pay for a thing. 
But as the days drew closer so did the looming realization that my employment would end before my visionary plan.

WHY GOD? Why won’t you let me have this just one time!!!

A flood of questions once again filled my mind, where are we going, when will we get there, how long is the layover, can I keep my stuff, where should I look, how do I explain????

Sure enough the job ended, my sister came, we still had a sweet time without all my grand plans and days turned into weeks. I did a few jobs on the side, had the privilege of doing some counseling and gave a word at a local church but still no clear destination.

I have some powerful prayer warriors in my life and the word from all of them was, the Lord said clearly “Gena, Gena, Gena WAIT” not like wait your turn but WAIT!! Like don’t step off the curb or you will be hit by a truck kind of wait.

A part of me just wants to scream at the message and slap the messenger (no offense messenger.)

Trust me in the flesh I’m awesome 😊 I’m a great sales person, I have phenomenal outcome with difficult customer service, I’m efficient to a fault and apparently I can paint and do home improvements. My qualifications are endless, I wouldn’t believe my resume if I didn’t know me, but it all means nothing if I’m not following the word in 2nd Timothy.

I like you have a holy calling for God’s own purpose which He gave me in Christ before time began. No matter the circumstances, disappointment, long suffering or being misunderstood I refuse to move without the fire before me.

My daughter Amanda told me she heard in a sermon if you hear God calling you by name, like when Jesus called Zacchaeus, it means He is personally inviting you into something He is getting ready to do. A few days later my sweet son-in-love Claver gave me a Spirit filled word, he said the Lord is getting ready to use you in a supernatural way.

Gems, it’s hard to hear those words when you are in need of the supernatural in your own life!

In the waiting I have sweet time with the Lord in prayer and worship, I have time to devour the word, I can write a jewel not knowing if it will help anyone, but it appears to be good therapy. Other than having to use a dinosaur computer that takes 3x as long to work as a new one I’m blessed to share my words.

I have to be intentional about waking up with a purpose and thanking God for another opportunity to be in His presence and make myself ready for my marching orders.

I will to do it pushing back negative thoughts or giving into depression. I will to do it choosing not to be offended with outside comments on how much better my life could be or how I wasted such talent and opportunity. I will do it in isolation or surrounded by men. I will do it because there is no other option.

In 1519 Cortes set sail for battle to Mexico with his crew. When he got there Cortes men understandably became weary and scared wishing they could go back home to their old life. Legend has it Cortez had the men burn their ships leaving no option but to press on! The option of retreat or comfort of a safety net was removed.

This move forced them to not only complete the mission, it allowed them to become something greater than themselves.

I want to be part of something bigger than myself, don't you?

I guess the best answer to the looming question is this, If you want to know what I'm up to just look for the fire.