Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Angels and Demons, part two

My last post ended with me in a state of near hopelessness, for the first time ever. Roma seemed to be lost in a haze of evil. I couldn't reach him. He didn't want to be reached. I went to bed Sunday night despondent and crying over my lost boy.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." –Psalms 30:5

Monday morning, June 23, when I woke up, the world seemed much brighter than the night before. I reread Roma's texts. "You need to reconnect my phone, I have to be able to contact Markus."

Who was Markus? Did he mean Mark? Mark was the man who wanted to take Roma and other young men to his ranch in Idaho for a week. The mere suggestion of the trip had "irritated" Roma two days earlier. He had said, vehemently that he was NOT going. But Nancy was so sure Mark was the "real deal" from her first meeting on Saturday. I totally trusted Nancy!

I turned his phone back on. I texted, (even though I had been instructed to stop responding to him), "if you want to go to Idaho, we will pay."

"Yessssss" he texted back. I knew whatever his reason for deciding to go, God wanted him there.
Our texts through the morning revealed a hurt boy. We "made up," and I offered grace to a boy who needed my love like never before. He needed mercy so much more than the world's view of "justice" at the moment!

I had spent Saturday afternoon, before all Hell broke loose, literally, reading the long, detailed, articulated email and information Mark had sent me after he met with Nancy and husband that afternoon. His testimony and career credentials were impressive, and Sacred Echoes rang throughout. His recorded testimony included his unexpected Call to mission work in Russia, much like mine to adoption. The God-you-have-got-to-be-kidding feelings, the provisions supernaturally supplied for the Call. And, "coincidentally" (I think not), he mentioned in his email the name of only one young man who was a past ranch visitor. Mark had no way of knowing that I just happened to know this young man's mom on Facebook. I live in Maryland, and Beth, in Atlanta. As Facebook friends-you-don't-actually-know go, Beth is closer than most. We were connected by a mutual friend, adoption, and my book. We have even spoken on the phone a couple of times, and prayed together for our boys!

Sunday I sent Mark an email informing him of Roma's arrest. Would that preclude him from going, and could the trip help him if he didn't think he needed help?

Mark said that Disorderly Conduct was a misdemeanor, and he had met much tougher cases than Roma. He was hopeful. No, he changed his word to "confident."

I asked the price of such a week. Only his plane fare. Mark said he and his wife had been blessed with this mission and would provide for all his needs for the week.

Too good to be true?

Beth, my facebook friend who had prayed with me for our boys was learning the same time I was that her son and Roma had been invited by Mark to dinner! She was speechless on how it had all happened. She called me and we marveled at God's work in the lives of our two boys. She echoed Nancy's sentiment that Mark was the real deal! She said that whatever Mark suggested, do it.

Mark called on Monday evening and patiently answered our many questions. He had had an experience with God many years ago. He had been an addict and almost at the point of death when God came to him. He spoke of the demon who had lived in him, causing depression and addiction. He said as soon as he saw Roma, God told him that Roma was the one he was supposed to take to Idaho. That many of these boys adopted from Russia had a foul spirit attached to them.

Nancy messaged me on Monday morning to say Mark had just called her husband. Remember, Nancy and her husband had not met Mark before Saturday, less than 48 hours earlier. Mark asked if they could pick Roma up from his hotel room that he would soon be checking out of, and bring him to their house. Could he stay with them for one night? He would keep him until Thursday, June26, when he would fly out with Mark instead of waiting until Saturday, June 28, with the other boy, Roma would fly with Mark. Mark was afraid to leave Roma unattended until they got on the plane. He didn't want anything to happen to Roma to prevent him from going. He said that Roma's demon was fighting for his life, and would try to stop him from going to Idaho. I looked back over the past few days and saw it was true.

This was starting to sound like a Frank Peritti novel!

Before this experience, I have talked about "spiritual warfare" in abstract terms. But now I have witnessed it, and felt it, and Nancy was constantly validating my suspicions through the weeks of our close communications. And now a man God so clearly led into our lives is talking about casting off demons? This man who is a lawyer and scientist by profession?

Nancy successfully handed Roma over into Mark's care on Tuesday, June 24. Tonight, June 25, Nancy is picking him up to take him to his last, for a while, Wednesday night service at her church. She asked me if it was okay. I messaged back, " BE VERY CAREFUL WITH HIM! Haha! I feel like you will be in possession of the box that holds the Hope Diamond. The box doesn't look like it, but Satan wants to steal it, and God has gone to amazing lengths to protect it! Please keep him on a leash and in ankle cuffs!"

She wrote right back, "I will protect it with my life!"

What are the chances all these connections would have happened without Divine Help? Zero!

Had I continued along my stubborn path, having once said that if a child of mine was ever arrested, I would let him sit in jail a couple of days to learn a lesson. Satan was counting on that. I am thankful for Nancy's gentle nudge that we needed to get him out. The window of time was so small, to get him off to Idaho. Had I been firm about my earlier conviction that Roma needed to learn the hard way was exactly that, MY convictions. I had not consulted God about it. And the Enemy didn't want Roma to get out. He wanted Roma to miss this trip that God so clearly was lining up.
The timing, the circumstances, when I look at the bigger picture, were uncanny. Roma meets a man on Saturday, and by Tuesday, is staying at his family's home. On Thursday he will be flying off to a new opportunity. Had I listened to MY conviction to turn his phone off forever, this opportunity would be lost.

So many pieces of a enormous puzzle. Every piece has it place, and its purpose. During this season of testing, I have learned so much about God, and the Enemy. God's love is incomprehensible. His mercies are brand new every day! My life is enriched by a new, improved prayer life. Never before have I spent so much time on my knees or on my face, pleading my case, and Roma's, before the throne of God. And God showed up! Another layer of scales have fallen from my eyes. I also have a new, dear Sister, Nancy. We will meet one day, hopefully before Heaven! I have a new peace, that He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds. None of us do. But today brings great JOY! And I will embrace it!

Thanks for your continued prayers.

To the Glory of God! Amen!

Next post, Building a Palace

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Angels and Demons, part one

Continued from Trying to outrun the Hound, but steadily losing ground.   

I had a dream several weeks ago in which I was sharing some "Roma stories" with a group of friends. Since he arrived in our family at age seven, Roma has supplied us with ample entertaining, funny stories to share.

As I turned to leave, a close friend of mine was standing near the door. She said slowly and deliberately, "Write all this down." That was the end of the short dream.

After the past week, the dream makes perfect sense, so I am writing it all down.

If you don't know who Roma is, and are unfamiliar with the events leading up to this post, you will not want to miss the prior posts, The Hound of Heaven Winks, and next Trying to Outrun the Hound, But Steadily Losing Ground about this incredible Odyssey with God. To start at the the beginning of the Odyssey, read my book, But the Greatest of These is Love!

I have met, up close and personal, a loving God who relentlessly pursues us. I have seen an illustration on a grand scale, of the Powers of Heaven fighting the dark powers for the soul of one lost and loved young man, my son, Roma

Roma has been in the Atlanta area since May 6 after he walked away from his halfway house in Florida. At that time, I sprayed prayer requests in all directions. One happened to hit my new best friend, Nancy, within reach of Roma, in Georgia. I live in Maryland. I only knew Nancy from a Facebook adoption group. Almost immediately Roma and this sweet family bonded. Since then, they have gone out of their way, and way out of their comfort zone, to reach Roma. They have taken him to church on Sundays and mid-week services, and even had him over for dinner, and eventually had him spend the night.

He has had no job and has no (legitimate?) source of income, but seemed to be satisfied just coasting along. Pot and alcohol are regular pastimes. I work at a high school, and I understand that this is not unusual activity, Have I needlessly created a pathology? Maybe, but raising a child sent by God is not to be taken lightly! (And they are ALL sent by God!)

Nancy's and my desperate prayers started to include that Roma and his roommate would part ways. We both kept getting dark vibes about his living situation.  She had even graciously offered to give him a room at her house, but my memory of living with this lovable, but often difficult young man was too fresh! I would NOT impose the experience on anyone else. Especially people I was just beginning to love! And Nancy has a beautiful young daughter, and Roma is a hopeless romantic!

I did mention to Nancy that she might put the word out, if there might be a family man who had a passion for boys like Roma. Surely there were lots of people just waiting to take on lazy, pot smokers as projects! We continued to pray for a change in Roma's living arrangements. It did not seem to be a good match for either boy. Along with my daily nagging about getting a job, I added that a new roommate would be in his favor, maybe he could make some good friends at his new church. Roma flipped out, saying that his roommate was his good friend. They had been through a lot together. I was told to back off.

Friday morning, June 20, I got a phone call from Roma that began, "Mom . . . okay . . . I have to tell you something. But it isn't my fault." Oh my God (meant as a prayer!) He's in jail!

But no, he and his roommate had had a fight and since it was his friend's apartment first, Roma was out. I almost laughed at our blessing of having a homeless son! He was with Nancy, always the angel, who he called first. She picked him up at another friend's house where he went after the fist fight! Roma is many things, but not a fighter! He is 5'9', 145 pounds, in heels and soaking wet! His friend, a former football teammate is 6"5' and weighs a lot. But Roma assured me he was okay, but added that his roommate could seriously use a detox program. Nancy set him up through Sunday in a hotel room near her family's home.

Later when we spoke, Nancy mentioned that someone had told her there was a man who had a calling to work with young men in addiction. She would find out more.

Nancy and I frantically messaged, trying to decide what was in store on Sunday when he was out of his hotel room. I looked into homeless shelters, Job Corps, anything. I checked into flights for me to go down, and other flights for him to come home. I felt strongly it was not time for him to come home.

At 3:30 that afternoon, Nancy messaged me that her husband had talked with the man her friend told her about, who had a heart for young addicts. Roma had agreed to go with them to meet with him the next afternoon. I was humbled that Nancy and her husband were willing to spend their Saturday afternoon with my son. She wrote, "And wait till you hear this–God is in this BIG time–Not only does he have a heart for teen/young addicts–he particularly has a deep passion for helping boys from RUSSIA!!!"

You can't make this stuff up!

Saturday, June 21. I prayed that Roma would be interested in what the man had to say, and thanked God over and over for sending Roma straight into Nancy's heart! What are the chances that I would ask for prayers in a secret Facebook Adoption group and a woman I had never met would respond who would develop such a heart for my boy. And have the time to devote to his various and extensive needs!

She reported later that he had been very interested to learn that his man took young men on retreats to his ranch in Idaho for a week, if God pointed them out to him. This man, Mark, said that God had clearly said to him that Roma was to be one of these young men when he met him. Roma was all in for another new adventure, until Mark started talking about addiction and recovery. I can imaging Roma writhing with his demons over such talk. Roma texted me that he was irritated. He was NOT going.

Nancy messaged me later. This Mark was the real deal. We needed to persuade Roma to get on that plane next Saturday. Nancy was certain it would be a good opportunity for Roma.

Sunday morning, June 22, the phone woke us at 6:00 am. I handed the phone to Bruce, the strong one–I sensed bad news. His strong "Hello" soon gave way to a quiet, shaky voice. The hospital? The morgue? I ruled at the morgue with his comments. The hospital? My imagination filled in every question I had. I got up to look for insurance information. Then I could hear a woman's voice. A familiar woman's voice. I had only talked to Nancy a few times, but I recognized her voice. Bruce was grabbing a paper and pen from his desk,

"Dekalb County Jail."

@#$%!!! Then, "Thank you, Lord!" I said. I was thankful my son was in jail! When had I lowered the bar so low on my expectations! But he was not dead! He was very much alive!  Until I could get my hands on him!

Poor Nancy had to be the stand-in mom with my son in jail for the charge of Disorderly Conduct!

The next few hours went very fast. I spent five hours trying get through to the jail. Unsuccessfully. When I did finally reach a warm body, I was going to pay his bail with my credit card. No, the bail has to be paid in person and $350, exact cash. I explained to the disinterested woman that I lived in Maryland, 13 hours away, and I was satisfied to leave him in jail for the WEEK, but Nancy assured me that jail in Decatur, Georgia, or any jail, I'm sure, could be an institution of higher learning ("high," being the operative word!)! The hook for me was getting him out to go to church with this family at their 5:00 pm service at Passion City Church where they had taken him for the past three Sundays. We worked all day trying to reach the right number that would unlock the door, literally. Nancy's husband went to his ATM for get the $350 bail money to take to the arresting police department, then back to church, because this Sunday was very busy Sunday,  being Generosity Sunday! No Kidding! The police station told him it could be up to five hours before they could release my son, who by that time might be a hardened criminal! So he would miss church after all. They would go pick him at after church, around 7:30.

Roma entered jail and 3 am and was released about 8 pm, seventeen hours later. Nancy wrote that, if we didn't mind, she and her husband would like to take Roma out for a bite to eat and have a long, honest talk with him.

Where do we find friends like this, except for God connecting us? I headed to my prayer closet to pray for what I hoped would be their meeting with a contrite, humble, sniveling mass of repentance.

my sweet boy, age seven
Nancy's message revealed my unrealistic optimism.  I called him. My young jail bird was cocky and totally unrepentant. "Mom, it was nothing, It probably won't be on my record since I've never been arrested before." He laughed.

"Roma, being arrested IS a big deal!" Our conversation went from that high point and plummeted to him dismissing us as parents and telling us to have a nice life!  He HUNG UP ON US! In my frustration and anger, I suspended his phone service. He continued to text saying "you need to reconnect my phone, I have to be able to call Markus." But then the arrogant lad texted "Stop responding to me!" So I did!

I was defeated. There was no hope in the foreseeable future. I started to worry, for the first time. I believed the lies the enemy told me! My last message to Nancy that night was "In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father does not go after the son. He lets him go.

That might be true for the earthly father. But not so for the Heavenly Father!

This seems to be a good place to take a breath and rest my speeding fingers. I will try to post the rest of the story tomorrow, or rather the next installment of the ongoing story of our Amazing God who promises to never leave or forsake us!

God bless! Please pray for Roma!

Next post, Angels and Demons part two

Friday, June 6, 2014

Trying to outrun the Hound, but steadily losing ground

Continued from The Hound of Heaven Winks

It is easy to overlook miracles, until you've experienced one from a front row seat! Once you have eyes to see the evidence of God, His involvement is hard to miss! 

I have these front-row seat experiences at such a regularity, I call them Sacred Echoes, borrowing Margaret Feinburg's title of her book by that name. They have a repetitive nature, in case I miss the Message the first time!  People always tell me I have the most amazing stories. I can't deny it. But I believe we all live amazing Moments of God's extravagant Presence, if we have eyes to see the miracles that we too often miss.

Readers obviously like a feel-good story. My last post, The Hound of Heaven Winks racked up page views, comments, and shares, and initiated emails, phone calls, and community chats more than any other post to date, blowing past long time front runner, Celebrating Mediocrity.

My last post ended with Roma, my son, adopted at age seven, now nineteen, heading to Georgia after trying to give God the slip as he left the halfway house in Florida. If you didn't read The Hound of Heaven Winks, you must go back and read about our awesome God. (And if you didn't read But the Greatest of These is Love, the story full of miracles about our adoption, again, you must read about our awesome God!)

After Roma had been in a suburb of Atlanta for almost three weeks without a job, I started to wonder how he had money to eat. The possibilities were troubling. We kept open the lines of communication, "speaking" daily, mostly by texts.

I am part of a private, supportive adoption group on Facebook. I posted, on Sunday, May 24, asking for prayers for my lost boy. One member, Nancy, messaged me to ask how she could  help. She lives near Atlanta too. I mentioned that I hoped Roma's thirst for God would drive him back to church one day soon. She graciously offered to invite him to her church, Passion City Church where Louie Giglio preaches. I knew of Giglio from a video, but all I could remember about it was the amazing universe God has created and big suns! I did't know much more about him other than he knows a lot about outer space!

On Wednesday Roma shared that he had had nightmares the previous night. I have never know him to have trouble sleeping, even when he first joined us at age seven. I interpret the nightmares as confusion and spiritual warfare. There is a battle raging against terrifying enemies!

On Thursday Nancy messaged again, asking if her daughter, close to Roma's age (wise woman!) could call him and invite him to church on Sunday evening, to a service that attracts many young people in the congregation. I was pretty confident Roma would go. He is an extreme extrovert, and has probably been spending too much time alone, in front of a screen of some kind. His soul is dry from pursuing the world and trying to elude God. I know this because another Facebook sister has told me that is what she is praying for my boy—that he becomes thirsty for relationship with God. I gave Nancy Roma's number.

Then I contacted Roma and asked permission to give a stranger his number, in case he needs anyone down there, and oh, by the way, she might invite him to her church. We texted back and forth and finally he said "sure, whatever," which I interpreted as an enthusiastic "YES!" (Well, it definitely was not a "No!")

Nancy and I frantically messaged back and forth. Her daughter called Roma. She reported that he was "very pleasant." He would consider the invitation, and call her back in a day or two.

Often I decide to drive in silence on my 15-minute commute to my part-time job, in order to "Be still and know that God is God." But on Friday morning, May 30, I decided to tune in to my Christian radio station, WAVA, in case God had a message for me. Focus on the Family was beginning, and the morning's guest was none other than Louie Giglio. I just shake my head sometimes and marvel at God's creative provision. I almost felt Him smiling and asking from the passenger seat, "Are you paying attention, dear one?"

"Examining My Past for a Better Future" was the title of Giglio's message that morning—exactly what Roma needs to hear. Older adopted kids carry heavy baggage of grief, loss, and abandonment from their  past that is too bulky for ill-equipped young souls to carry alone.

After work, I contacted Nancy again, a woman I have never met in flesh and blood, but who is suddenly my sister. God, Himself has introduced us! I messaged her to share about the Holy time with Louie and God in my car.

Nancy reported on Saturday that Roma had called and wasn't available to attend church this Sunday, but maybe next Sunday. A little later, Roma called me to say he wanted to come home to Maryland. He was restless and disillusioned in Georgia. I reminded him it was not our idea for him to go to Georgia, but he shouldn't bail out again when things get difficult, but stay and learn the lesson! I was secretly happy he was experiencing that dryness that my friend was visualizing for him. I suggested he accept the church invitation. Without a job, what could he be doing of any importance on Sunday evening?

Later Nancy messaged to say Roma had called and had changed his mind about attending church with them.

Nancy's family picked Roma up on Sunday at 3:30, and spent some family time with my lonely boy, until the service started at 5:00 pm. As they were picking him up, I headed into my newly requisitioned prayer closet that I have utilized since Roma went AWOL in Florida. After spending silent time in the dark and praying, I headed to my favorite chair and opened the Bible for the next phase of the battle. God led me to Psalms. I "randomly" (right!) began in chapter 139.  I was struck in verse 5 by the image of "hemming in" which had been the words of yet another Facebook sister. Then by the time I was at verse seven, I had the image of the Hound of Heaven again: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"
Verse 13-14: "You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

I read to the end of Psalms and stopped to eat. I checked my email, and another new sister had sent me a link to a Louie Giglio video. It just happened to be the one I have seen, about the universe, "How Great is Our God." I sat and watched all 40 minutes of it. When he started quoting the same verses I had just read, in Psalms 139, around the 19 minute mark, again I smiled, acknowledging God's presence, and His question, "Are you paying attention, dear one? Don't miss the Miracle of My Presence!"

Monday's report brings news that Roma is actively looking for a job, and plans to return to church next Sunday. His new "extended" family in Georgia has displayed the love of Christ to my spiritually parched boy. Love like that is hard to refuse!  

Thanks to all who have entered the Pursuit on Roma's behalf with your prayers and answering the still small Voice to respond to Roma and me. I am comforted and awestruck as I imagine God's earthy creatures joining the Heavenly realm in the pursuit of one lost soul.  

Try as we might, we can never elude God. The best we can do is deceive ourselves that we have hidden from Him.  Perhaps, like Saint Augustine, we pray for God to take away our lust for worldly things. And like Saint Augustine, we add, "but don't do it just yet." We don't understand that only Living Water can satisfy this hunger and thirst.  Like it or not, we are made for God.

It is impossible to grasp the depth of God's love for us. "What are humans that You are mindful of him?," David asks in Psalm 8. I ask too. But I am reminded by God, who is always nearby, that Roma is a treasured child of the most High God. So am I. So are you. 

Why do we want to hide from that kind of Love?

Continue this story with Angels and Demons, part one