“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”
–Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

Brenda’s sleep was fitful that night. While she had tried to turn her mind off, nothing helped. The events from the day before were an enigma, and her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling like a rubber ball. Counting sheep and listening to music hadn’t done a thing for her either.
Blossom’s letter was in sharp contrast to the rest of the day’s events, and that drove her to her knees. After reading it, she had still rushed to the bank to make sure that the check it contained was good. It was, and intellectually Brenda knew she should be thankful. But maybe everything that had happened afterwards was just a bad dream. Knowing she wasn’t that lucky, however, she had begun to lose hope. Brenda wanted to collapse, and her head pounded. In spite of these feelings, though, she knew that people were counting on her, and she had to get up.
Rubbing her eyes, she stretched and thought, “maybe a cup of coffee would help. That’s one thing I haven’t tried.”
Stumbling into the kitchen, ignoring the jackhammer-like rhythm that plagued her, Brenda got out the jar of instant. She had no intention of waiting for the pot this morning. She popped the powder-filled mug into the microwave, slamming the door in exasperation.
As the microwave hummed, she began to pace back and forth in a daze. Suddenly, the acrid smell of smoke jerked her from her reverie. She had forgotten to add water to her coffee!
Almost losing her balance, she rushed back to the microwave. The shrill beep-beep-beep of the smoke alarm filled the air. She finally opened the door, but the noise made her headache worse.
Brenda sigh, repressing the urge to throw something. After cleaning up the mess, she carried a fresh cup of coffee to the table. As she sat down forlornly, thoughts of yesterday’s call continued to fill her head. Brenda took a sip and replayed the call reflectively.
Brenda had just stepped out of the bank when her cell phone rang. She knew the number belonged to the church, but the voice on the line sounded foreign and ominous. It turned out to be Pastor John, who had asked her if they could speak privately.
“What’s this about?” Brenda asked as she walked to her car. “I don’t have a lot of time to talk. I’m getting things ready for tonight’s meeting.”
“I know. That’s why I had to talk now. Something very important has happened.”
Getting into the car impatiently, Brenda let the door slam behind her. Sighing, she thought, “I wish he’d just get this over with.” But she had to admit that she also felt a strong sense of foreboding. She drummed her fingers on the dash in anticipation.
John began haltingly, but soon the words began to flow nonstop, as though a dam had broken in his heart.
“Brenda, I really hate to tell you this, but … Will was shot and killed at the motel this afternoon. They think it was the same drug dealer who tried to kill him and Ellie a few days ago.”
“Oh, no!” gasped Brenda, after a stunned silence. “I thought he was out of town.”
“We all did,” sighed the pastor, “but apparently he came back early. One of his buddies who worked on the force with him got a call. Will said he was 5 minutes away from the motel, and he wanted to do some checking around. The officer tried to talk some sense into his head. But you had to know Will like I did. once he made up his mind, there was no changing it.”
“So where do we go from here?” Brenda asked.
“Well,” the pastor groaned, “once the board members were notified, they canceled tonight’s meeting. For all intents and purposes, the street ministry was Will’s baby. Of course, since he was under my supervision, I had to sign any permits and such, but Will had the actual gift. Because of his death, the board has put a freze on all finances pertaining to street meetings and related activities. I hate to tell you this, but unfortunately that includes the shelter.”
Brenda groaned out loud. “It looks like Austin and I are back to square one.”
“Not necessarily,” the Pastor said, sounding tired. “I feel just as sad and discouraged as you do, but we have to remind ourselves that there’s a board meeting going on in heaven.”
“Just exactly what do you mean by that?” Brenda couldn’t help getting angry because of her assumptions, so she went on remembering the long nights they had spent together in prayer. “You seem to be suggesting that Austin and I acted on our own, but we prayed about everything.”
“Now don’t get your hackles up,” John soothed. “I’m simply sharing a truth I’ve learned over the years. God often has other plans in mind, and we need to listen to Him. If I were you, I’d call for an emergency prayer meeting now, so we can seek His guidance. Then, after things settle down, we’ll call another meeting of the board.”
“Meetings!” Brenda screamed to herself. “I’m sick of them! What do they really accomplish?
Trying to remain respectful, she said aloud, “There’s only one problem with that.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“The deadline from the city will have expired by then, and we won’t get the money. I’m not suggesting that prayer isn’t important, but there is a time for action.”
“I see your point, Brenda, but we need to look to God with every step.”
“Yes, we do,” she retorted, “but we also need to march around Jericho. Austin and I have prayed and prayed without receiving any further direction.”
“Okay, but let me ask you one question. Are you a kingdom builder, or a kingdom seeker?”
Brenda always did her best thinking at the table, and today was no different. Reflecting on what the pastor said, she decided to have one more cup of coffee. But all at once, she had an idea, and she decided to put the rest in a travel mug.
Grabbing her keys, she hurried out the door and headed towards the mission. She arrived early, so she went to the chapel where she would have some quiet time with God.
She meant what she had prayed the day before, but she still didn’t feel quite right. “Maybe the pastor had been right about some things,” she thought, but she realized they needed marching orders. While she still didn’t think a physical meeting was the answer, she would set up a group on Facebook later.

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Facebook was all well and good, but Brenda felt restless, knowing there had to be something else she could do. Looking around, a plaque on the wall beckoned to her. “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with your whole heart.”
With new determination filling her, Brenda made up her mind to seek God in that way. But in order to carry this out, she needed a plan.
Brenda grabbed a piece of scratch paper she had brought with her. Didn’t the Bible say to cast all your cares on Him? Yes, she reasoned, so she wrote down the word “cast”, as her starting point. Telling Him about her anxieties for the first time in a long time, she thought deeply about what God was telling her. Sinking to her knees, she gave all her disappointments, frustrations, and ambitions over to Him.
The next step was confession, but what did that mean? Brenda thought about fellowship, and wrote down the words “agreement” and “harmony”. Before she could continue writing, she broke down and wept.
“God, yesterday I told you that my plans weren’t enough, but I still tenaciously cling to my self-reliance. I know I am wrong, and I want to make changes with Your help, so please give me the power to overcome this self-reliance. I also ask You to search my heart, and cleanse me of my secret faults. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Thinking about the dark times in her life, she marveled at God’s absolute faithfulness. How could she have ever doubted Him? After all, He had delivered her from a life of crime and poverty.
The haze started to lift, and a new confidence began to fill her heart. Yet she still couldn’t bring herself to get up, so she reached for her pencil and wrote down the word “listen”.
As Brenda and her crew were almost down to the wire, listening to God was especially important. Thinking about the scripture that told her to “be still and know that I am God,” Brenda began to quiet herself in His presence. Yet, there was still a question on her lips, which she could only articulate haltingly.
“Father,” she prayed, “I’m confused. Does waiting on You mean being passive? What do You want me to do? I have a responsibility here.”
Though no voices came to her, she knew there were principles in God’s Word that would guide her. She opened her Bible, but not knowing where to start, she decided to search on Google.
Glancing at her phone, though, her eye fell on that day’s scripture as it popped up on the screen. It read, “They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. They will walk and not faint.”
“The idea of walking, running, and flying certainly doesn’t sound passive to me, Lord,” Brenda thought. “Where did I come up with that idea?”
Still wondering, Brenda turned to the story of Joseph. Once there, she was amazed to see how the natural and the supernatural fit together, for there were things that she had never noticed before in that story.
Of course, there were the supernatural elements, such as God giving Joseph the dream in the first place, but you could also see the natural. One example occurred when Joseph used his head to advise Pharoh.
Meditating on this still further, Brenda thought about the advance planning required to feed Egypt during the famine. This definitely wasn’t passive, she thought, but one dilemma still plagued her.
“How are you speaking to me, God? I haven’t had any startling revelations, and the Bible certainly doesn’t talk about homeless shelters.”
Then a verse that she had memorized in her childhood came to her from Proverbs. It said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Pondering this, Brenda knew she had to combine her actions, without getting ahead of God. She needed to get both the pastor and Austin on the phone. But how would they feel about that?
“Well, I can’t help that,” Brenda muttered to herself. “Austin and I have both talked a lot about our faith, but now it’s time to listen. First we need to pay attention to God, and then to those He has raised up to lead us. Well, here goes,” she thought, clenching her teeth as she pushed speed dial, and prayed.
“Hello, Brenda,” Austin answered absently, “you’re just the person I wanted to talk to.”
“Oh, did you have an idea?”
“No, quite the contrary. I think it’s about time we called it quits. We’ve tried everything, and we’re not getting anywhere.”
“Wait just a minute,” Brenda snapped. “That’s not the Austin I know.”
“Well, do you have a better idea?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do.”
“What’s that?” Austin barked. “I’ve given my life away for years, and for what? I’ve tried to serve others like Jesus said, but I’ve lost something along the way.”
“I know,” Brenda went on in a softer tone, “because I felt the same way until this morning. Don’t you see? We’ve let the city frustrate us so much that we’ve forgotten our priorities. What I mean is, as our problems loomed larger, we forgot that God is in control.”
Without taking a breath she continued, “We might have prayed, but we didn’t sit and listen to what God had to say.”
“So what are you saying?” Austin snorted. “Should we just sit there and wait for a blueprint to fall from the sky? The God I serve is a God of action!”
“You’ve got me all wrong. I agree that God would have us serve, but our service needs to be tempered with guidance from Him. In other words, we can’t make our own plans, and then ask Him for His seal of approval. Don’t you see that’s what we’ve been doing” I’d like to share two ideas with you.”
“Okay,” Austin grunted, “go ahead.”
“We should get pastor John on the phone and ask him for help getting back on track. Then we should pray and do some scriptural brainstorming. We had our sights set on that motel, when God might have had a better plan all along.”
Finally relenting, Austin grumbled hesitantly, “Okay, we’ll try your idea. I admit that patience has never been my strong point, but I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall everywhere I turn. I’ll tell you right now, though–if something doesn’t happen soon, I’m throing in the towel.”

To Be Continued …

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