“Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. I fear nothing because the promises of heaven.” – St. PatrickWho reportedly performed thousands of miracles. Raised as many as 39 people from the dead. One was dead for years, and he had the grave dug up!
About two years ago I was at a conference where the glory of the Lord was ever so present. On my way out of a presentation a trusted friend said to me, “Lisa, how we doing?” With tears in my eyes, I said back “I have a fear of the cross”, and “I know it”.
Now, I know what you are thinking. What is to fear? Jesus on the cross is the foundation to our Christian faith. So what’s the problem? That is absolutely true. My fear didn’t come from a fear of death, but a place of knowing the pain, agony, and betrayal of the cross, and a desire to avoid that pain again at all cost. You see I’ve been on the cross, and had no desire to go back for a visit.
Ask yourself what cost are you willing to pay for Jesus? If God asked you to take a “stand” could you? Would you? Would you go to the cross if God asked you to? Could you walk straight into the cross? (Luke 14:25–33)
Before I purchased my plane ticket to Peru this trip a different another friend asked, “Lisa, are you sure you aren’t just running away?” What they didn’t know is that on my first trip 15 years ago I was running away, but I encountered Jesus. This trip I knew without a doubt I was running directly toward an encounter with Jesus. I knew without a doubt I was running straight into his arm. To crawl up on the altar, and die alongside Him. To become the woman God created me to be, and not one masked by the world.
There is a great story in the book of Daniel about three friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnego. During the time of Babylon these three friends refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar in any form. Nebuchadnezzar built a ninety foot tall, and ninety foot wide gold statue of himself, and commanded all to worship him.
“A herald cried out: “Nations and peoples of every language, when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, double-flute, and all the other musical instruments, you must fall down and worship the golden statue which King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace.”Daniel 3:4-6
Shadrack, Meschack, and Abendengo had four things in common we can learn from today. One – they had faith in God. Two, they had difficult lives. Three – they made a choice to not compromise, and four – they choose to hold on to their faith. Therefore, they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar, and got thrown into the fiery furnace in which Nebuchadnezzar requested be turned up seven times hotter than normal.
I can only imagine that when these three men got tossed in the fiery furnace with the heat turned up that they looked at each other and yelled “I’m on a fire!” “I’m on fire.” “I’m burning up!”
Now, in the story Nebuchadnezzar saw four men standing in the furnace not three, and when the three men came out of the furnace “not even a hair on their heads was singed.” Dn 3:26
Can you imagine that kind of heat, fire, torture, pain, agony? The kind of purification they endured in the fire? Fire purifies everything. The item in the fire loses the resemblance of what it once was after its’ out. (Zec 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7, Is 48;10, Mal 3:3… so many more passages).
When the King looked into the furnace he expected to see these men burning up, but instead he saw them unbound, walking around in a blazing inferno. What an image! Can you imagine the King’s suprise?
Now if these three bowed to an idol, to King Nebuchadnezzar, and if they never ended up in the fiery furnace. Then the King would have never seen the fourth man in the furnace – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Where or what is your line of comprise? What would you go into the fiery furnace for? Who would see Jesus if you went? What would you give up for the faith? Here are a few items that we think bring us safety; security in finances, employment, reputation, the opinions of others, relationships of friends, and family, those in which you deeply, and affectingly love, and care about, but may never see, or talk to again.
Could you do it? Could you stand alone? Would you do it for Jesus?
Could you trust Jesus? Would you pay such a cost for Him?
So it’s one thing to be betrayed, and find yourself on the cross. It’s a whole another journey to walk straight into the cross in a form of martyrdom, white or red. To die for the faith, and die for Christ. To die to self.
The past two years of the pandemic have been a time of exposure in the lives of many. An opportunity for self-awareness, and reflection. The things we fear, and the things we don’t fear, all speaks to us, and others. Have you been paying attention to your fears? The news pedals it like a endless Pez dispenser.
Fear never comes from God. Yet, I think God knew we would have a lot to fear in life. You read 365 times in scripture fear not, or be not afraid. A message for every day of the year. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
When you hear the word death what stirs in your soul? What comes to mind? Fear, anxiety, worry, pain, agony? Transcendence, or peace?
Death has a way of shaking us, and rattling the things, or relationships in our lives that are not on solid ground. Things built on sand, and not the person, and foundation of Jesus – the rock. (Mt 7:24-27) Death can tremble us to our core, as death comes unexpectedly, and sometimes in comes in waiting. We serve a God of suddenly, and a God of waiting. However, it’s never our choice nor should it be. That would be us playing God.
I lost my dad five years ago to lung cancer. It was a nine month journey to his final breath. Therefore, I experienced a time of waiting. Yet, another person I know here in Piura, shared how their father died at the age of 38 yrs old suddenly of a heart attack while riding their bike. This friend experienced a suddenly. We serve a God of suddenly, and a God of waiting, both are despairing without faith. Therefore, faith in Christ makes all the difference.
Now I’ve experienced death several times here in Piura. Moments of God moving both slowly, and suddenly. The first death I experienced here was delivering food in a village in which a baby died. Suddenly, I heard “Lisa, a baby died, you must come pray.” https://holyfireperu.com/2018/08/04/my-little-valentino/
The second time, I was asked to do a home visit, and pray with a woman dying of cancer. I remember she was so afraid, but peace came over here when I said “Do not be afraid.” She died a month or so later. https://holyfireperu.com/2018/09/05/redemptive-servant/
During this trip I experienced a third death. God works powerfully in the number three. A woman younger than myself passed away after a short illness. I was ask to pray for this person a week before, but never told a name. To most people here it was a suddenly, and came as a shock. To me, I knew it was the person I’d been holding in pray who was not healed through my prayers.
She was a principal of a large school and beloved by many; family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, and missionaries. First there was the news she passed, and the witness of tears by many. Then going to receive her body near the airport with prayers, and following the funeral car to the school. Then a school mass, a procession around the school, a rosary, and final procession out of the school for her funeral mass the next day. Lots of music, and the tossing of flowers over her coffin. It was a beautiful celebration of a beautiful life.
In the midst of the tears during the rosary, and beautiful music I had a flash of thoughts. A revelation that went something like this…
It was as if God had parted the red (Ex 14:21) sea of lies, and falsehoods in my mind in an instant. It was clear as crystal. No longer areas of gray concerning these concepts. It all became so concrete. I had a choice to make. How will I choose to live the one life God has given me?
The very next day was the funeral mass in her village. Directly after the mass was a funeral procession to her final resting place at the cemetery. She would be placed with her papa who passed several years ago.
Now I’ve attended many funerals in the states, and driven in many processions from the funeral home to the church, to the cemetery etc. However, a walking procession is profoundly different than driving in a car. It’s a prophetic act in so many ways. It’s the walk of one’s Calvary. A way to grieve. It’s waking out our goodbye. It’s holding hope, and looking toward eternal life in heaven.
Prophetic acts are so powerful when inspired by the Holy Spirit. I pray with folks regularly for healing, and deliverance. I often have them do some sort of prophetic action/act; cough, take a step forward, break a chain that’s holding them back etc. Now that may sound strange, but it’s actually biblical.
In the bible some of the Old Testament prophets are known for their strange, and prophetic acts! Isaiah for one went naked (Is 20), Hosea married a prostitute (Hosea 1:2), and Ezekiel laid on one side for 390 days (Ez 45)!
Then in the New Testament we see Agabus who tied his own hands, and feet up with the Apostle Paul’s belt, as the Spirit warned him of a coming arrest and imprisonment (Acts 21:10-12). Therefore, prophetic acts are not new to the life of a disciple so why we find them odd is foreign to me.
Back to the funeral procession. As you walk, you put one foot in front of the other, and quickly realize you are walking to your own death, as much as you are walking out the death of this friend. Tears stream down your face in the reality of your own death. What once was, and can no longer be. God is moving things around, certain relationships must go, and so many other movements in your life are shifting too.
As your feet hit the sand, you wonder if this is what it was like for those who walked the way of the cross 2,000 years ago. In tears, in awe, and in wonder, you feel as though maybe, just maybe your feet are in the sandals of Jesus in this prophetic act of death, and dying. Walking just as Jesus did in union with the Father in love, but agony too.
There are so many sights, and sounds to take in. The constant honking of taxi horns, the chipping of birds. The conversation among friends, and the silence too. The sun is hot, and no longer hiding behind the clouds. It is beating down on your face, and you can feel the heat coming up from the street, and the sand, but you keep moving. You wished you wore your hat, but since a baseball cap seemed inappropriate for a funeral you left it behind. You find yourself enviousness of those with a sombrero and umbrella. At times you walk with a friend under her umbrella.
In the two mile walk you find yourself lost in many thoughts, memories, and feelings. A small percussion band following the coffin is playing over, and over again the same song that begins to change the closer you get to the final resting place.
At times you find yourself walking with those you know, and at other times you are completely alone in the crowd. You wonder if this is how it was for Jesus too?
Along the way the procession starts, stops, and stalls. Your first thought is that the stall is due to traffic, which literally is halted for this very large procession (hundreds of people). As you get closer to the front of the procession you realize the stall is due to people being switched in, and out to carry the coffin. Watching the coffin stop, and start again, and again is its’ own prophetic act. You are reminded of when Jesus fell, and those who came in to help him carry the cross. You wonder if the human side of Jesus was surprised to see who helped him, who wiped his tears, and who hid in the crowd, and whispered among themselves.
As you walk the procession you see many carry the coffin including many women which is unusual here. The sight moves you, it changes you, and it transforms your heart. You begin to understand the mystery of the cross in new ways, as you walk toward the gates to the cemetery.
This is now my 10th trip to Piura, and in the last four years I’ve spent over nine months living here doing mission work (over three months in the pandemic). In this time, I have never once experienced fear or being afraid. That includes walking over a 100 miles around the city, shopping at the open market alone, and all the local bodegas. Both eating, and drinking off the street, and in the open market. Including eating all the exotic fruits most of my Peruvian friends who live here never tried.
I’ve dined in restaurants alone, and in homes in La Legua, Monte Castillo, San Jacinto, San Juan, San Patricio, and Piura over 20 times. I have drank their homemade Chi Cha, Passion Fruit, and Chia Morda. I’ve eaten their chicken, hen, turkey, and ceviche. If I am invited in, and a plate of food is set before me I dine with them. (Rev 3:20)
I’ve rode the bus, a moto taxi, on the back a few motorcycles, once getting a flat tire at night, and even back from Monte Castillo alone in a taxi. I’ve traveled, and hiked in Ecuador with a friend.
I’ve laid hands on hundreds, if not thousands of people now for healing, including many homeless/refugees who are mask less & unvaccinated on the street. I have shook their hands, hugged them, and lavished their children with kisses.
Through all of this I had no fear. I have on occasion felt tired with another’s plans that were not my own, but I’ve had no fear in missioning in Peru until approaching the cemetery gates.
I wondered if Mary Magdalen had the same fear in following Jesus?
Did you know the only figure to show up in all four gospels both at the death, and resurrection of Jesus is Mary Magdalen? Did you ever wonder why Jesus chose her? What was it about her? What did she know? What did she carry inside?
Did you ever wonder what it was about her that gave her the strength to endure such a journey with her friend Jesus? To watch, and wait for impending death, and what appeared to be doom at the cross. Did you ever wonder why Jesus first appeared to her at the resurrection in the garden? Gardens are beautiful places for making all things new. They are for growth, and securing deep roots. It’s in the garden maturity, and purity happens, and good fruit is produced.
Let’s be honest God could of chose so many others, why Mary? After all, he gave the keys to Peter. He transfigured on the mountain to Peter, James, and John, but he appeared to Mary. The one freed from seven demons. (Lk 8:2)
I’d like to think that he appeared to the one who was now free from the demonic. The one living in freedom, and faith – not fear. The one with the renewed mind. The one who knew Jesus’ power. The one who knew His authority. The one who not only saw miracles, but knew she was a miracle herself. The one who would have no fear in telling the world – He is risen. He is the Savior of the World!
How could she deny this truth? I imagine much like the prophet Jeremiah, Mary could not hold back for she too had fire in her bones to say only you Jesus, have the words of eternal life. (John 6)
What does it mean to put your trust in Jesus like Mary did? To have no fear? To leave her life behind and follow him? To experience the cross, and the resurrection? To see it all, and to see Jesus himself risen. To then know, that you know this is the will of the Lord. To know you must tell the world, and not hold back for what they might say about you.
I wondered if Mary had a moment of fear, before she said yes to follow Jesus? Was it when he was mocked, whipped, on the cross, at his last breath, or his death? We don’t know, as scripture never says.
In approaching the gates of the cemetery the atmosphere shifted. The gates were locked so we had to wait a while for the gate to be opened. When the guard arrived, and opened the gate. The very large crowd had to narrow to enter the cemetery. Quickly, something strange began to happen. A once somber, and respectful population of people, suddenly became a desperate, and angry mob. There was pushing, shouting, and yelling. There was a new intensity in the air, and it became a form of ciaos.
“Enter through the narrow gate.”Matthew 7:13
Suddenly, the pushing increased, and I was getting crushed in the middle of this mob of people. I had no idea where any of my friends were at this point. I was alone in the crowd once again. In that moment I got scared for the first time ever here in Peru. A spirit of fright hit me! I was getting pressed from all sides, with no place to go. There was no way out. No escape! Out of my mouth came a very loud scream!!
Then out of no where a man whom I’ve seen before from the school saw me. We made eye contact, and he reached in, grabbed my arm, and pull me out toward himself to safety. If ever I saw Jesus in the sand in Peru, it was in this moment. I do now know what made him do what he did. I wondered since then.
Did he see the only pasty, white American in the crowd? Did he pull me to safely because I was a woman? Did he hear my cry? Did an angel guide him to help me? I have no idea, but I was grateful beyond words.
I thanked him, and hugged him with tears in my eyes. Later on, I wept in the arms of a trusted friend for a good five minutes. I was visibly shaken up from this moment. What was it about this moment that shook me? Why was I so afraid? Where was my trust? I wondered.
After the funeral I found myself alone in a church in front of the tabernacle. Boy, did I let Jesus have it! I told him all about the things I wanted to bring through the narrow gate, but then said “Ok, we will do it your way. I lay it all down.”
I got down on the floor in a prophetic act. I laid prostrate right there for all see, and wept with Jesus. I mean I wept. With tears in my eyes, I said “Forgive them all Lord, they know not what they do.” I forgive them too.
Then in more tears I said, “Lord the grace you gave the thief on the cross, I need that too”. “Grant me that grace because I can’t do this life without you”. “There is no one but you Lord, who have the words of eternal life. (Jn 6). You are my bread from heaven. I will trust in you, and you alone”.
Scripture says, the gate is narrow. Scripture also says, not everyone gets to heaven. You can ask any hospice nurse and they will tell you those with faith in God go peacefully, and those with no faith, no belief, and unforgivness, and bitterness on their hearts struggle, and fight to their last breath. As we entered the gate, I wondered if that is what it feels like for many who are not fully surrendered to God – fright. Maybe this is why scripture says, die to self twenty-five times. The more you die in this life, the easy it becomes when your time of waiting, or suddenly comes at your last breath.
I’ve been told by a reliable source that not long before my friend died her words were, “The Lord’s will. The Lord’s will.”
They say the safest place is to be in the Lord’s will, and yet at times it is a place of suffering, and pain, but it can also a time peace, and surrender. A redemptive place when you unite yourself to the one who has the words of eternal life. When you put trust in the Father, as Jesus did, and not in the natural of this world.
Could you, or would you suffer for him? Could or would you surrender, and go all in for Jesus even when it cost? (Luke 14:25–33)
It’s been interesting to me that the place I first encountered Christ almost 15 years ago, would also be the place God would send me to die. To lay it all down, and say, “Jesus I trust in you.”
To die to the fear of man, the opinions, and critique of others. To die to the persecutions, the slander, the gossip, the judgements, offense, and all the false accusations, and say “forgive them Lord they know not what they do”. (Lk 22:34)
The truth is I took a stand for God. I took a stand to the first commandment. I took a stand to not bow to the Nebuchadnezzar of our times, and stand for Christ. I took a stand to the mandates, and chose to put my faith in God like Shadrack, Meschack, and Abendengo. Therefore, one week before Christmas I was terminated from my parish job, as the Director of Evangelization & Youth Faith by the Archdiocese of Chicago. One of a handful of dioceses in the entire country to have mandates. Less than a month after my termination a significant part of the mandate was removed.
As I said earlier we serve a God of waiting, and a God of suddenly. We do not get to choose, but one thing is for certain God is always on time. His timing is perfect! Jesus was in no rush in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:38-44), and he was in no rush in the raising of Jairus’ daughter. (Mk 5:21-43. Mt 9:18-26, Lk 8:40-56). Therefore, He’s also in no hurry to send me home. Additionally, I’m perfectly safe here because I’m in His will.
People often ask me, “Is it safe to mission in Peru?” It’s only my opinion, but I believe a better question to ask is, “Lord what is your will for my life?” It’s only in His will that you are truly safe, whether at home, or in Peru as a missionary.
In the end I know graceful fire, but I do not know a graceful fiat.
Lord, grant us all a graceful fiat during these turbulent times.
I believe Christ is saying too many in this season “Talitha koum”. (Mk 5:41)
Little girl, Arise!
Thank you Fanny Lourdes for showing me a graceful fiat! I’ve heard many stories, and been told numerous times that Fanny had a special grace. A grace that gave her the ability, and virtue to respond to very difficult situations, and difficult people with charity. Fanny Lourdes Nizama Sandoval of San Jacinto, Peru pray for us! I do believe you were a saint among us.