Do you see what I see?

One Christmas Eve back in the mid-90′s I headed out to Kensington Avenue with my good friend, Shirley. She had called me a few days earlier to invite me on a very special mission. So, I said yes, as I was always ready for a bit of intrigue.

Packed in her trunk were about twenty gift bags filled with toiletries like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc. Shirley had prepared each bag with loving care and a silent, yet thoughtful, prayer went up as every one was completely filled.

Kensington Avenue is located in one of the ugliest areas of North Philadelphia known as the “Badlands”. I used to live and work just five minutes from the strip. After dark, and after most of the shops along this street (covered by the Elevated Train track overhead) were closed, out of the shadows crept the prostitutes who were ready to begin their workday. Dressed in dingy, skimpy clothing, with tired and vacant eyes and slouching shoulders, each girl began her silent sales pitch.

As we began our journey down this dimly lit avenue, bundled up and tucked safely in Shirley’s car, I could recall the words she spoke to me over the phone. It went something like this: “These girls just need to be touched with God’s love. Who else is going to do it? We’re His hands, Summer. I just want to make sure they know that God knows who and where they are, and that He loves them.” How could I resist?

One by one, as we inched along the street, we gave the bags away with a few words of hope. I wish I could say that they all responded with immense gratitude and that many decided to walk away from their lifestyle. But, no miracle happened that night. None that I could see anyway.

But, the memory of that evening is branded in my mind. And I thank Shirley for the invitation.

In 2002, I helped start a ministry to prostitutes along the railroad tracks in Zone One of Guatemala City. I’m no longer with that ministry, but my husband and I have maintained a relationship with one of the ex-hookers I’d met there. Her name is Sheny, and she’s HIV positive. She’s got three kids and we help them throughout the year with food, clothes, school supplies, etc. Sheny’s got a job, but only earns the equivalent of $200 a month, which barely provides for the rent, food and medication she needs to keep from dying too soon.

She’s got quite the story, Sheny does. Her life history makes mine seem like a fairy tail – and I didn’t have it easy.

I’m not tooting my own horn or patting myself on the back by sharing this with you. The truth is, it’s a sacrifice for me to give of my money, time and energy. Oftentimes, I’d rather stay inside my cozy home and enjoy being with my husband and son. But, I’m always haunted by the fact that there are millions of people hurting in this world.
So I give.

I wish I could give more. I wish I could do more.

We have gifts nicely wrapped under the tree for Sheny and her kids this year. Nothing fancy, really. Just blankets and some toiletries. But, we’re happy to give, because we know that through giving God’s love is communicated.

Shirely’s still living in Philly, giving of herself constantly.

How will you spend your Christmas? Will you give to someone in need? Who do you know that’s hurting?

It’s a challenge.

Don’t do it to make yourself feel good or to ease your conscience. Give because you know someone needs it. Open up your heart and life and pour out kindness and gentleness and mercy.

Don’t think you have anything to give? Everyone has something.

Our budget was extremely tight this year, what with the newborn baby and all. But, It’s worth it to love someone else, no matter what the cost. So we’ll be in debt for a couple of months. So what.

Give.
Help.
Love.

Merry Christmas!
Summer

(Originally written December, 2007)

Jesus Is Coming Soon!

 

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (New International Version, ©2011)

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

 I have a favorite expression. Every time I am preparing to leave from work or when ever I am about to go anywhere, as I am saying my goodbyes, I like to say,”See you tomorrow (or next time), unless the LORD comes before then!” You see, for me this is extremely exciting! However, I have learned that not everyone gets excited about the thought of Jesus coming. I also mention Jesus coming often because it is a great source of hope for me and to all of us that wait for Him to return. I can always tell when someone is not ready to meet Jesus, should He come. When I say, “Jesus could come any second now” the people that are not ready will usually let me know right away. They usually reply,”Oh, I hope not because I’ve got to do x and o”, or “I don’t really want to go anywhere yet”,or “I have too much life left to live!” This concerns me and I pray for them.

Are you ready? If Jesus came right now, even before you had a chance to think about it, would you be going with Him or would you be staying behind? Are you too bogged down with work and your earthly goals, dreams and ambitions?  Are there things that you have become attached to?  You see there will be no time to look back, and we will not have time to load up a moving truck with our big screen TVs, or material things. We won’t have time to stop and get a cup of coffee, or grab that last bite or say those last words. We have to be ready then and there. We will not even be taking the clothes on our backs. Jesus will come and when that trumpet call of God sounds, it will be too late to even change your mind. Ready or not Jesus is coming soon. 

 

We will be blessed with wonderful and unimaginable, new gifts from God. We will have a glorious new home in heaven with God and all of our loved ones, friends and Christian family. We will be given new adornments and a new white robes. Everything we could possibly want or need is all ready provided for us in advance. Isn’t that Super?

If you do not have a relationship with Jesus and have not yet accepted Him as your Savior, please do so right away. Pray from your heart of hearts and ask Him to forgive you of all your sins and come into your heart. Ask Jesus to wipe your slate clean and give you a whole new life. He will, because He has been waiting patiently for you. He loves you and wants to give you eternal life and all the wonderful blessings that come as priceless gifts upon believing in Jesus and calling upon His matchless name.

So please don’t allow anything to keep you from being ready should the LORD JESUS come today. Jesus is coming soon! Be looking for His return and waiting for this wonderful day. Be excited in the promise that He will return for us and we will be with Him forever.

John 14:2 (New International Version, ©2011)

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

John 14:3 (New International Version, ©2011)

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Praise God! Jesus went to prepare a place for you and me. He will come back and take us with Him so we can be with Him and remain with Him forever. What an exhilarating promise. I can hardly wait! Hope to see you in that meeting in the air!

Yours In Christ Jesus,

Pam Shekailo

The real reason for the season

Remember the reason for the season

The world has so changed Christmas. They have it as just a day of celebration. Sure, some might know generally what it means. But, they don’t realize the true meaning. And, it’s not just what the song say, “The giving of love every day.” Although that is a start.

Ttrue love is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what you do, God loves you. A person who has not received Christ’s forgiveness has chosen to go his or her own way. Isaiah 53: 6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned each one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

This is the time of year when we should celebrate the fact that God gave that love to us. He did so by giving Jesus to us. And, Jesus being God the Son, it also means that God came for us. He gave of Himself.

See, it’s all about giving, but not the way the world thinks. The world tries to get you to spend money to buy things for others. But, we give things because it’s symbolic of what God gave us. We don’t have to give gifts at Christmas. We could give gifts anytime. If you give gifts, that’s fine. Romans 14 teaches that we shouldn’t judge someone because they choose to celebrate a certain day, as long as they are honoring God. But don’t let that draw you into the world’s view of Christmas. Remember to keep Jesus first.

Second, quite a few families – especially with children – remember the meaning by singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. That’s great; especially if you make a cake since you can eat it. Seriously, though, it’s great to remember Jesus’ birthday. But, while we’re on the subject of giving, birthdays are another time when we give gifts, right?

So, what are you giving Jesus?

We can give Him our time, our commitment, our love, our devotion. We can give Him praise and glory through how we treat others and tell others about Him. We can give Him so much. So, my second reminder to you is, as you remember the true meaning of Christmas – that Jesus came to die for our sins and rise from the dead – don’t just say “Happy birthday” and forget about Him. Give Him a gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, to tie these 2 thoughts together, remember how great that gift is that God gave.

People can give great things. I have a great uncle who remembers the Great Depression. His dad, my great grandfather, was going to lose the family’s home, which he’d built about 7 years earlier. He tells the story of how Pop went to see a great aunt who was quite rich for that time. She gave them the money to save their house, and then some left over. My great uncle says they felt like they were rich.

That was a great gift their Aunt Kate gave. Except for organ/bone marrow donations, it’s probably among the greatest gifts a person can give. Still, it is nothing when compared to the fact Jesus came to become sin for us. (2 Cor. 5: 21) He came to save us from the penalty of hell, which each of us deserves because of our sin. However, those of us who have trusted in Him to save us are not under that penalty anymore. We are passed from death unto life. (John 5:24, 1 John 3:14)

Think about that. Even someone who donates an organ, or bone marrow, can only give someone a normal healthy life span at best. (And that isn’t always a guarantee.) But, God’s gift to us makes sure that all who receive it have everlasting life in God’s perfect heaven, and relationship with Him on earth.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

Think of the certainty that gives. That last part – Jesus Himself guarantees that that believer will have everlasting life. But, later we read that those who do not believe (that is, heart knowledge, not just head knowledge) will not see life.

Thus, we must make it our goal to tell others. And, to show Christ’s love to others through our actions as well as our words.

“The giving of love every day,” as the song says? Only because Christ’s followers are to be known by their love. We must show Christ, and tell others about Him, in this lost and dying world.

He Who Fails to Plan…

Most people you know would not come right out and say that they are planning to fail in all they do today, but according to the old proverb, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” How many of us actually have a plan for our spiritual lives today? If you are serious about your future, you should have a plan which includes a personal mission statement. It can even be written in the form of a letter to God, if you prefer. Your personal mission statement may include any or all of the following items:

– a declaration of your goals and objectives for your life

– a vision of what you would like to be doing in the future

– a statement of who you would like to become.

Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook gives these pointers for shaping your mission statement in her book,  Live Like You’re Blessed,

1. Make it holy; use the letters in BLESSED to remind yourself what you want your life to contain B-balance L-love E-energy S-spirit S-success E-encouragement and D-devotion to the Lord

2. Stress the positive; note what you desire in an affirmative manner and don’t dwell on the negative experiences in your life

3. Recognize your gifts and how you can use them to accomplish your mission

4. Give yourself a reasonable time limit; 2 to 5 years is acceptable

5. Use inspirational quotes to remind yourself of who you want to become.

As you work on your mission statement keep these words in mind from Jemiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.