Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is Part 2 of Wrestling Match, read Part 1 here.

My mind is in a daze. Like being suddenly awakened from a dreamless slumber.

I try getting my bearings…

After a wasted morning spent playing on my computer instead of seeking God, my mind feels cloudy. Sitting across from me is a 55-year-old looking man. Silver hair and glasses balanced on the bridge of his nose. Before him is an open Bible and it almost feels like he can read me like an open book. In fact, he think he can.

“I’m Brother Dan,” he says. “I’m a prophet.”

Wow. What do you say to someone who introduces himself like that?

“Hi, I’m Anh,” I say, trying not to look rattled.

“Prophet is the best way I can describe myself,” Dan says, gesturing with open hands, palms toward the ceiling. “That’s what I am and I’m not ashamed of it.”

I look at my Bible student Donna and her face gives no inkling of what she thinks of Dan’s statement. Donna knows Dan from her neighborhood. He takes his dog for walks every morning. It just so happened that this morning they stopped and chatted about the Bible studies they’ve been having.

“Donna was telling me how much she enjoyed your Bible studies,” Dan said to me. “I just had to come and she invited me.”

Please God, I say silently, forgive me for not spending time with you, for not properly preparing. For Donna’s sake, give me the words you want spoken now.

“Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Mark,” I say. Dan smiles…or is it a smirk? It isn’t disarming. He quickly flips to Mark.

This isn’t going to be easy…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wrestling Match

It's one of those mornings where my thoughts are a jumbled mess. No good since the first thing I need to do is spend time with God. I try praying, praising, and reading the Bible. Nothing is sticking. The only thing going through my mind:

sadlkj43...bills....98rdf sajj93q48u carf...hungry...8q9v3mv89awe u08...errands need running...cuwN4R WLIEA C9843QN 9QXWUEM 9832 CDJKXNNUQOIYR 983PJDC N8 9C2AJEWA8V 3AC4WUND 9C8UY3W CSXOJ C8EWU E9N X32 98EWJ X832RUN 98EW 83.

I think you get the picture. I can't be still.

After 15 minutes, I'm like forget it. I'm going to surf the web...yeah that sounds good. Then play some computer games...sounds even better! I spend the next couple of hours surfing and blowing things up. Ha ha...fun fun.

Now it's time for soul winning...anyone sense trouble here?

My Bible student Donna calls and says someone will be joining us for Bible study today. Fine with me...the more the merrier. In the back of my mind I get a nagging, uneasy feeling. That I didn't do something important. Forget it, I say to myself. I got this. I drive up to Donna's house.

The moment I walk through the door my heart sinks. Sitting at Donna's dining room table I see a 55-year-old man. He's got silver hair, glasses balanced on the tip of his nose. He's evaluating me like a hawk before it snatches his prey.

Holy Spirit is telling me RED ALERT! Right now I wish I had a proper devotion this morning.

"I'm Brother Dan," the man says, extending his hand towards me. "I'm a prophet."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Uninvited Guests

Hands on their guns, the police interrupted my Bible study in the living room of a dank apartment in the projects.

My Bible open and eyes wide, I didn't move a muscle on the couch as an officer looked me in the eye while his hand held his weapon in its holster. Another two officers crept past him and started searching the apartment. He glanced at me, dressed in a tie and slacks, Bible in hand and judged that I wasn't a threat. He shifted his glare at my Bible student Christine.

"Where's your brother?" he asked, an edge in his voice.

"I don't know," Christine said. "He don't live here."

"You gonna talk?" he barked, holding out a black and white copied photo of a man in a prison uniform. "Is he here?"

"He don't live here," Christine said. "I haven't seen him."

"You gonna talk?" he repeated.

"I don't know where he at," she said in a quiet voice. "I haven't seen him in a long time."

After a couple of minutes the other officers came back in the living room. Satisfied that the brother wasn't there they left.

"What was that about?" I said. Finally moving now that the threat of being shot was over.

Yesterday, there had been a shooting outside the apartment, Christine said. An argument and fisticuffs broke out between two women, perhaps fighting over a man. Someone fired a gun in the air to break up the fracas. A day later the police were rounding up the usual suspects. She really hadn't seen her brother in a while. But it wasn't uncommon for the police to show up unannounced, looking for someone.

"They do it all the time," she said.

I'm always on edge when I visit Christine. It's one of the most dangerous housing projects in downtown Augusta. I've been there during police raids and other crime busts. Hard to fathom that colporteurs canvassed this area with nothing more for protection than a bag of books and a guardian angel. Praise God they were faithful in coming. They're the ones that found Christine and signed her up for Bible studies.

I always park as close as possible to Christine's apartment, right outside the entrance. But I didn't that day because four rough looking teenagers were milling around, strutting with an animalistic intensity. Like lions on the prowl.

I parked my Honda Accord in the next lot. Waited until they looked distracted and I silently crept in the front door. After the police came and the Bible study concluded, I walked outside and saw officers arresting the four teenagers.

I looked away and quickly walked by, avoiding the sidewalk and cutting across the lawn. One by one the teenagers were forced into a waiting squad car, idling where I normally park my Honda.

One of the teenagers protested.

"Officer, I didn't do anything," he said as he began nodding his head in a direction of a woman. "My mother's right over there."

From the safety of my car I took a photo with my cell phone.

"I didn't do anything," he said as they closed the car door on him.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not Doing Enough for Salvation

Watching less TV and reading the Bible more was my 60-year-old friend's plan for obtaining salvation.

"I hope I'm ready when Jesus comes," Donna said while sitting across from me at her dining room table. "I just don't think I do enough."

"You mean you don't think you're always saved?" I asked.

"I don't know if I am," she said. "I watch too much TV, I have a temper when it comes to my sons, and I know I could spend more time with God."

This coming from a woman who prays daily, attends church every Sunday, participates in two weekly Bible studies, and always completes the Bible lessons I leave with her each week.

I shared with her Luke 23:39-43, an account that describes how a criminal dying on a cross next to Jesus realized he was a sinner, feared God, and gave his life to Christ.

"Now what did he do in his short, Christian life after coming to Jesus?" I asked. "What did he do to earn salvation?"

"Nothing," Donna said. "He died."

"The criminal on the cross was promised paradise with Jesus," I said. "Our salvation is not dependent on what we do. We don't need to be Jesus, we need to believe in Jesus."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thoughts of Losing Jesus

A church member called me Sunday afternoon and she began crying.

For some time she had been having thoughts and more recently nightmares that she had lost her salvation.

"I can't even read the Bible without having these thoughts telling me I've lost Jesus," she said between sobs. "I have dreams where a voice tells me I've lost Him."

They began after she began taking anti-depressant medication, she said. However, when she stopped taking the pills the thoughts didn't leave with them.

I began praying with her, thanking God for his never-ending love and free gift of salvation. I asked God for his promised gift of wisdom in our lives.

I told the woman the of the story of the two criminals that hung with Jesus at his crucifixion. Both criminals were deserving of death, as all sinners are, but yet the profound difference between the two men was that one knew and admitted he was a sinner, feared God, and recognized Jesus as the savior.

"Remember me," the repentant criminal said to Jesus. "When you come in your kingdom."

Truly I say to you today," Jesus replied. "You shall be with Me in Paradise."

In Acts 16:25-31, the Apostle Paul and Silas encounter a jailer who comes trembling to them asking them the simple question: What must I do to be saved?

They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Often in the Christian experience, we feel that something more must be added to our belief in Jesus, whether that be more good works, evangelistic effort, or piety so God will feel better about us and grant us salvation. But that is untrue.

Because when we look at the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Paul and Silas, all that matters is our belief and not performance. John 6:28-29 tells of a group of people asking Jesus what they needed in order to do God's work and Jesus gave a short reply.

"The work of God is this," Jesus said. "To believe in the one he has sent."

My friend on the phone stopped crying and began praising God.

"I'm a sinner," she said. "And I need and believe in Jesus."

"And," I said, before I began praying with her again. "Jesus will remember you in paradise."

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I was standing in the church foyer before the worship service when my 50-year-old friend Roland trudged towards me, taking ragged breaths.

"I'm having pain in my chest," he said.

I got him a chair and he sat down. I remembered him telling me he was scheduled for surgery later in November. A pacemaker would be installed.

"Let me call my doctor," he said. "Would you dial for me?"

I entered in the number and handed him my cell phone.

After a minute he gave back my phone.

"The doctor wants me to go to the ER," he said.

"I'll take you," I said.

I drove my Chevy Cobalt over to where he sat and helped him in my car, putting his seatbelt on for him as his hands struggled with it.

"If you don't mind hurrying..." he said.

I put my emergency lights on and floored it. I was carefully not to cut people off or do anything that might cause an accident. Whenever I saw a clear straightaway on the highway I would speed up to 85-90 mph. I figured if the police pulled me over I could show them my friend and ask for an escort to the ER.

"If you see an ambulance, see if you can flag them down," he said.

"'K," I said, eyes focused on the road as I flew past a semi-truck.

We arrived at the ER in record time. From our church to downtown Augusta, a trip that normally takes 25 minutes took about 13. The ER immediately admitted him and laid him on a bed in a small room. After a few minutes of examines by a nurse, paperwork, and blood samples the nurse looked over at Roland and said everything appeared normal now.

Roland's three daughters arrived and were relieved he was resting comfortably. Early in October they were with him when he spent a week in the hospital's heart unit, getting checked out. It had been a long stay and he didn't care for the hospital cafeteria.

"This time," his oldest daughter said with a smirk. "We're not sneaking you any food from Burger King."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

-Theodore Roethke, "The Waking"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Writer's Block

Since I left Southern last May, I've suffered an acute case of writer's block. Writing has always been a stiff struggle for me because I want to craft the perfect piece that makes people laugh out loud or cry with a torrent of tears.

I was able to write with regularity at Southern because I had to for my job in Southern's marketing department and as the school's opinion page editor of the Accent. In short, I did it for the money. Filthy lucre! But it killed me to write those boring, trite adverts for marketing, and those opinion pieces just to fill space in the Accent. I found that my creativity was replenished when I blogged. Blogging gave me a chance to cut loose without having to worry (too much) about style or substance (although I still want it to be perfect).

My favorite blogs always had to do with either making fun of my friends (especially Thomson, Christy, and Jeff) or some video that caught my attention on Youtube.

But after I left Southern, I started working as a Bible worker and I just didn't have time for anything else. When I did feel like blogging, again I found that pressure for publishing the perfect post and I have over two dozen blogs that are still in the draft stage.

Finally, at the behest of Thomson I've written this.

And for that, my many readers (i.e. all 2 or 3) may find themselves the subject of my poisonous pen.

Hope you're happy Thomson.

Yours Truly,