Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Journal

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

Dear Journal,

Ok, so today I am tired. But you know what? I am not the only one, right? You're right! Today I realize that so many things have gone wrong because I allowed the circumstances to blindside me and what a hard time it has been to recover from those dark moments in my life. But, I worried. And the moment I worried, I was really declaring, (although everything inside me screams "I'm a woman of faith!) that I panicked and when I did, I was stating I didn't trust you enough to deal with my situation, with my circumstances, and with my problems at the time. Worry is a lack of faith and trust. I blew it a while back. I know I did! Today confirms that I acknowledge so many foolish moments where I cringed and hid behind the pillows, when I, (YES I) I knew the truth of who you are and what you could do, but I allowed the defeat of my pain and my hurt to take over. 

I was supposed to rise to the occasion and be stronger than strong. Instead I became powerless, stripping you of authority and power in my life, and thus dragging my children along for the treacherous ride of defeat. Oh, Lord, how horrible to look back and see the errors I can't take back. I can't walk back into yesterday and mend the broken times of my life or the hurts my children have lived through.

Journal, I had to write it all down because I need to remind myself that when that worry comes again, I have to snatch it out, push it away, and never, ever let it get me down again. Faith. My walk is based on faith. My next breath is based in knowing that You are able Lord to take care of me and I doubted that. Me. The one that saw you provide for me in every way, began to see it all in shadows because although I said I trusted, the hurt in me blinded me to the truth that I was relying on my emotions and not on your power. 

I write because it frees me to think and it enables me to rise up with conviction to know that even when I've allowed myself to fall flat on my face and end up on the dirt ground, God in his mercy, has picked me up again. I may not be where I used to be in a time when I prospered in all I did, but I've had to learn the lessons of life and trusting God. I'm in the school of life. And oh sometimes it hurts! 

But, Lord, no more worries. I will rise to do what you've given me to do. In the little and in the much I want you to trust me again. I've lost it all and it seems that I am starting all over again, but I will trust you like never before. You are the healer of my children's lives. Forgive me for my times of weakness before my children. Forgive me for thinking I was strong when I should have been stronger. Forgive me for not fighting harder and for giving up. Oh, I said I would never surrender but in my mind I did, so many times. 

I just wanted to say that to you before I fell asleep. It's good to have a journal to write on. I journal and write my thoughts, and my prayers,and I write to encourage myself in the Lord. For if it had not been for the Lord, I don't know where I would be today.

                                                                                                                                                Sincerely,
                                                                                                                                                Angie

WHEN THE RAIN RAGES ON

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

I think of that someone you and I know. She had just started to walk down the slippery stairs. The pouring rain has failed to cease since the night before and even the handle bars going downward into the streets are filled with raindrops. She tries to hold on with one hand, while the other is attempting to open her umbrella. Funny, how, she struggles to open it for a few minutes, and still, even with her new raincoat, the power of the downpour is so stubborn, she is soaked, almost completely as she walks away and down the street. She faces home and begins the journey, with a heavy heart and heavy footsteps, but she pushes through the raging rain, and walks on. Yes, she is still holding on the useless umbrella, and the rain has soaked her face, but she faces home and walks on.

The squeak in her walk signals soaked feet because the puddles are so many it is impossible to walk around them or ignore them. Her pant legs hug her calves and she shivers. Spring has pretended to show up, but the cold drops falling on her back, shout at Spring, "Liar!" and she walks on. She is tired. Work was not that difficult, but she is tired. 

Thoughts of what awaits her in her humble cottage make her heart ache. Wondering if the dishes were done, the meal started, or maybe just placed aside, she wonders how much more work awaits her when she walks through her home. Hungry bodies welcome her and the first question is, "When will dinner be ready?" Exhaustion wants to embrace her but she has overcome this routine, and enters the kitchen like a champion to begin what must be done, dinner. Her soaked clothes, remind her shivering flesh, get out of your drenched apparel and put on your cooking get up.

At another time, dinner would have been ready earlier. Sure, she had a different job and got home earlier. Times have changed, life changed, got a little harder, and well, here we are, seven o'clock in the evening and boiling water in the pot for some rice. She begins the meal confident it will be done quickly. Happy it is all coming along well, she walks away to sit down for a few minutes.

I can tell you this story ends well. It is played out daily. Some days with rain and some days with sunshine lighting the way home. I'll tell you a little bit more. Dinner is ready, served and enjoyed and this woman sits down to watch either TV or her kids play games. She joins at times, and laughs. You see, at the end of the day, the smiles on her kids and her family make all the efforts and sacrifice of the day worth it. Somehow, there was enough strength for the day, there was enough umph to get through and that's when she smiles a smile only Heaven understands.

Somehow, she gets it. God has made a way once more. God has provided. God had given her the ability to get things done. She reminisces about the time just today as she waited for the bus, as she sang out her prayer, without fear or shame. When the rain rages on, pouring with fierce determination, she sang, she prayed, she thanked God, she praised and surrendered herself and her heart there on the street while the cars swooshed by and the puddles splashed upon her pants and jacket. The rain fell like claws on soft skin, but still, even when her heart was heavy, she sang a song of trust, hope and faith.

Lord, I know there are many moms, and even dads, that work all day and still go home to help their kids with homework, get dinner ready, buy groceries, and hopefully find some time to just relax. I know there are parents that are stay at home mom and dads, and their job at home with the house and the kids is over bearing, exhausting, and just overtakes them. I ask tonight that as the rain pours heavily as if the ground is desperately crying out from thirst to be quenched, that tonight you would send a downpour of rain that powerfully falls non-stop upon tired moms and dads that have not mouthed their needs today, but need you.

 I pray for this rain to be the rain of your presence, your glory, your strength, falling passionately and without end upon them as they ready their kids for bed, and as they find the way to get to sleep themselves. I pray for parents that stay at home and take care of their children. Bless them. Let the rains of your presence break through the ceilings of their homes, and let your power pour down.  Lord, I ask that the rains of your encouragement, strength and love drench grandparents that care for and help raise their grandchildren while their grown children go to work. Bless these grandparents who need your strength physically and mentally. Provide what they need, in Jesus name, Amen.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Train Prophet

Jenna rested her tired body against the post as she looked out into the dark tunnel, wondering when the M train would finally appear. Tired. No, more like exhausted. Her brain began to think of what she would prepare for dinner when she got home. She usually prepared meals in advance, but this week, time had evaporated from her hands and she had not been able to keep up with her usual weekend routines. Rice and chicken would have to do for tonight. 

A dim light broke through the dark tunnel, swelling her heart with joy, signaling the train running her way to take her home. Home. The thought of a warm room, a cozy sofa and a cup of coffee before bedtime soothed her and made the long ride home bearable. 

Heavy eyelids began to close as she held on to the pole. All the seats were burdened with tired bodies and heavy minds. Some, going home after a long, busy day at work or school. Others, on their way to their night shift. And, a few who were probably on their way to no where in particular, but still with a heavy heart and mind, wishing for home.

Unable to find a seat, Jenna used her strength to hold on as more people pushed their way on to the train when they got to Myrtle Avenue. "Lord, have mercy." she prayed, and then realized this was the perfect time to begin to lift up her children and family in prayer to the Lord. Eyes closing, she prayed in her heart and asked God's blessing on each one of them, referring to promises in God's word and reminding the Lord she was waiting on His promises for each and everyone of the persons she prayed for. As she prayed, a loud voice boomed into the train as they neared the next stop. The over packed train hid the body trying to push her way through the glued trail of passengers. 

"Who could be speaking so loudly at this time of the day?"
Jenna wondered as she tried to turn her neck to get a peak at the person shouting. As they neared the next station, those of us left on the train now faced the small woman with the powerful voice. With a voice that needed no amplification, she produced words of encouragement and a challenge to turn our eyes to the Savior. The hairs on her arms rose as she neared her and looked into her soul. She proclaimed God's good news of love, life and hope with a fearless determination. She shared verses she had commited to memory and boldly spoke to people about God's plan of salvation as the majority of those present laughed, ridiculed or ignored. 

Jenna's stop was coming up soon but she didn't want to leave. She knew there was something wonderful about what she was doing and wanted to protect her. Yet, not once had God asked Jenna to shield her, for He is her shield. Jenna wanted to hush the mockers, awaken those who were not acknowledging her message, and shake those who found her foolish. Once more, God had not commanded her to do any such thing. This was His moment through her and He was all she needed. He moved in her, giving her words of hope for those who said they would never be hopeless. She moved on and her heart ached as she saw the train getting closer to the upcoming place of exit.

As the train slowly swerved to the left, slowing it's pace, she could see her time on the train was coming to an end. She quickly prayed God's protection over this woman as the train screeched to a stop. As the doors opened and those in front of her began to walk out of the train, she began to walk away and out into the station, I dared to look once more and the woman who had bravely become a prophet for this generation. She smiled and as I turned to walk away she pressed forward and reached out to me, placing her hand on my shoulder. Like liquid fire, a warm splash of peace flooded me as I walked away, no longer worried about what I would cook for dinner, or how quickly supper would be ready. 

Walking down the steps and out into the walkway, the fire once more made its way through Jenna's spirit and without a warning, or the opportunity to change her mind, Jenna's mouth opened and out came the words of encouragement, love, and hope for this generation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

COFFEE ON BROADWAY'S CORNER (PART TWO)

Fictional Short Story Written by Angeline M Duran Santiago

PART TWO
                       
The following week Roberto was no where to be seen. My heart pounded as I imagines only the worse. I began to pray as I sat there. I couldn't have my cup of coffee. I had to have faith, enough faith to know he would show up. My time was up and I had to go home. Like cement on my chest, the heaviness was hard and I wanted to run through Broadway and look for Roberto.

"Be patient." My husband said, "God will take care of him." 
Two weeks went by and no sign of my friend. My funny, high spirited friend, who was dying, yet inspired wanting to live. The next Thursday I went by slowly, afraid to walk near the Dunkin Donut Shop on Broadway. I saw the usual groups of people that let you know the wrong activities were going on. Night life, drugs, prostitution, and perdition. Enough words for a sad song, any day.

There in the corner, I spotted him. If barely skin was what I saw before, there was less now but I knew it was him. He was bruised again. On the floor and shaking.

"Roberto, Roberto! ?Que pasa? Muchacho de Dios, "?Que paso con tigo? What happened" With swollen eyes, he looked up and recognized me, smiling he said, "I didn't want to dance for the demons anymore." I took out my cell phone and called my husband who helped me take him to the Emergency Room. It was there I was able to get some details from Roberto. I was able to find an old contact number of his family. I reached out to them. His uncle, a mean, stubborn piece of work, came up to me and told me I should never have called them. "His mother thought he was dead and now you, look, what you have done. You are messing things all up!" Roberto's cousin came yelling as if the world had ended, "Roberto, my primo!" 

Yeah right, now she appears and knows him. (I thought to myself) I wanted to mush her, You're probably the one that took him to that home to get all drugged up in the first place. Some of his family came and most of them insulted me for meddling. Funny, I knew Roberto was in his last days and I just believed seeing his family could have give him some peace. I wanted to reach out to the them and help them see there was still hope. God never ends it the way we expect things to end. He is always up to something, in order to meet us where we are. 

Roberto's condition had worsened throughout the night and I called some of my family member to pray with me for his time to be extended enough for him to open up his heart to God's love and gift of life. By morning, I was allowed to see him because he asked for me. I was escorted, against his family's wishes, into the ICU. 


"You're still here? I knew it! I knew you wouldn't leave me. Tell me. Did you see them? How are they?" he asked.

"Look Roberto, I'm sorry for contacting your family. I thought they had a right to see you  and help you. I am so sorry, I didn't know they'd act this way!" I felt so bad, really I did.

"I told you they are disgusted with me. Look at me. I was their soon to be college graduate and now, I'm what they call less than a man, un pato sucio because I've done what I've done to live. I had to mami. I had to change my life and do what I had to do. Maybe I was born this way like the song says or maybe I just said, freak it, I don't care!"

Roberto looked away and said, " I told you God isn't going to want me. But, I know you were praying for me last night. I know you were because it wasn't no Chango or demon spirits over me, I saw them. Did you see them?" The joy in Roberto's weakened form was beyond words and then I understood God had sent angels to visit him and strengthen him through the night. 


"Mami, when it's over, I just want you and your family. Don't invite these damn people because I swear to you, I'll get up from the coffin and smack the hell out of each one of them before I go ten feet under."

I told you Roberto was funny. He always made me smile even when he was at his last moment. The funny thing though is, while we were waiting to say good bye to him, God had other plans. A week later, he had gained weight, had been given his treatment, and had been given an apartment and it seemed his life was about to change. 


Click Here to Return to Part One

Click Here to Go to Part Three ~ The Ending

COFFEE ON BROADWAY'S CORNER (PART THREE/ THE ENDING)

Fictional Short Story Written by Angeline M Duran Santiago


Part Three ~ The Ending

I had a lot of things at home I could share with him for his new apartment. As I gave him some quilts and home supplies, he smiled. "I started reading that book you gave me. Ah, ok, ok, I know it's a bible. Just kidding! Ok, see, I'm reading it and I'm going to believe in you."

"Not in me, Roberto, in the Lord. He gave His life for you and me, and my kids, all of us, even the people we don't like. Remember, He still sees that little precious baby he created. He still gets upset when he sees that sin and all the wrong choices we keep making and that we continue to pull away from him. He can't force us to embrace Him and accept His love. It's up to us. To me. To you. Whenever you're ready man." 


We both laughed. Roberto entered a program to help with his drug addiction and a few times visited church with me. God was working here and I was following God's instructions. Yes, Roberto had been heavily into drug addiction and male prostitution. That is all you need to know in order to imagine what his life was like. Many groups fighting for equal rights will deny his story, but his journey is one of many. Roberto was someone's baby at one time. He had been gently created by a loving God who had died on a cross for him, too. All he had ever wanted was to enjoy life and the wrong crowd during a wrong choice shook his world completely. 

It doesn't mean life is completely over. Yes, reality check, you're right. He had HIV, but I assure you, his life was not yet over.

Time passed. Roberto entered different programs, and had been sent upstate for some time. We couldn't visit, as rules were that way, and we remained in communication by letters. Funny, in a world of texts and emails, our letters became treasures to me of God's greatness.

Almost two years have gone, and I haven't heard or seen him. The hospital and rehab center won't give me details about what has happened because I'm not his relative. He is forever in my prayers and I know God is with him no matter what. 

I walk down Broadway, cold, tired after a long day's work. I still remember God gently leading me to buy a cup of coffee and just sit there. I still remember God telling me to listen and speak as little as possible, just listen. I decide I should walk inside in honor of my old friend and treat myself to a warm cup of coffee. As I sit there, a young woman approaches me. "You're her. You're the one who used to sit here with Roberto. You know he told us all about you. We loved hearing his stories about you and your family."
As I sat there and listened, I couldn't understand because I know the one thing I tried to do was listen. Somehow my silence had made all the difference. I'll never know how.
"So, have you even seen him again or hear from him?" I asked her. "Haven't you heart? He's gone all Jesus. Oh, yeah, and a whole bunch of the girls out here have been up to see him and he's helped a lot of them get into some program to get off the streets. I can't believe it either. Can you?" 
Oh, thank you, Lord, for letting me come inside once more.

Roberto, preaching God's word and reaching out to others, even in his weakened condition, he had been made super strong. This young woman, who later told me her name was Celia, told me he usually stood somewhere near Dekalb Ave, 
with a microphone in his hand, and a Bible on a speaker. Roberto. Filled with God's love, grace and forgiveness. 

Roberto. Shining the Light of the gospel on the very corner he was abused, hurt, sold and paid for. I imagine it all as she tells me the story. I imagine myself praising the Lord with him and when he is done, he asks if anyone would like prayer. A young woman stands next to him and holds his hand as a homeless man draws near to him and bows his head. Together they begin to pray for him, thanking Jesus and calling on God's power to deliver him and heal him.

What a joyous moment. God. You're an awesome God!
I am in awe at what you have done! I've searched for Roberto since then. Ten years I've searched. They say Roberto was healed from HIV and even married. Others say, he died from Pneumonia. I don't know what happened, as we moved away for a few years, and we lost contact. I do know this. No matter what you've done, where you've been, how messed up your life is, or how complicated things have become, God is able to do great things in your life and change the darkness into light!

This story is fictional. in other words, I made it up but I made it up from memories I had forgotten, people I had spoken to years ago and people I was privileged to make friends with before the passed away. I will tell you that some parts are real. They are pieces of moments I shared with people on the street when I was younger and spoke to prostitutes and drug addicts about hope in Christ. Roberto is made up, but his situation is real. His character is a like someone I truly met and spent time with. 

I've spoken with many like Roberto, lost in so many ways, afraid and filled with shame, thinking God can't look their way. The devil is a liar! God cares for everyone. We just have to draw closer to the Lord and He will heal, change, and show us the truth of his glorious message. It's in His word. Pick it up and read it. You never know what great things you'll discover when you read!

Return to Part One of Story

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COFFEE ON BROADWAY'S CORNER (PART ONE)

Fictional Short Story Written by Angeline M Duran Santiago


PART ONE

For days, the feeling in my heart pushed me to follow it and just go and sit there, inside the Dunkin Donut shop on Broadway Avenue's corner and wait. Oh, and it had to be on a Thursday. My dream kept showing up with a receipt that always fell on a Thursday.



Well, today would be the day, or maybe not. Here I sat once more, the third week in a row, just sitting here for a while and then making the move to buy, you got it, a cup of coffee. Decaf with cream and one sugar. Funny thing was, I'd finish it, although I sipped its warmth slowly, because I was in expectation of something, you know, but nothing happened. So, once more, my third week, just waiting and nothing out of this world had happened. 

I grabbed the empty cup and napkins to throw them in the garbage. To my left, a handsome, Hispanic young man, no more than thirty years old had somehow silently made his way to sit besides me. He had been silent. His skin pushed against his bones as they showed more than his flesh and the scars on his arms and legs told the story of multiple times dosing himself, perhaps with heroine. The dark circles under his eyes let me know he was tired, hungry, lonely and maybe even one of the many who walked the streets at night seeking to do what had to be done to make enough money for the next fix, the next dose of dark medicine.

"Mami, comprame un cafe." His deep, almost lifeless eyes peered right into mine and asked me for a cup of coffee. As if on cue, I smiled and said, "Of course, how would you like it?" "You know, mami, regular, cream, and lots of sugar." He smiled and I smiled as something in my heart said, "This is what you have been waiting for on Thursdays. Sit and listen much but be slow to speak." I went to the front to order a coffee for Roberto and prayed that the Lord would guide her and have his way. Roberto. You're right. He hasn't said his name yet. But, I need you to meet him before we keep going.
Roberto didn't want me to tell you where he's from. As you can tell by the way he spoke to me he's Hispanic. I'm not going to signal him out and tell you he's from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or Spain. All I can tell you is this, he said, "It's not where we come from that matters, but where we end up in life and how we finish it in the end." Ironic to hear him say this when one look at him and I didn't need a PHD to predict his destiny. Yet, here we were, Roberto and I, sitting here. 


I could have walked away, but I knew I had to sit down. That was my destiny. I had been sent here to listen, and listen I would.
Roberto had been brought to Brooklyn, New York at a very young age. His accent was still pretty strong and his dark sun tanned skin made him look like someone that could have been a model. He spoke like someone that had been educated and was filled with so much information.
"Mami, I wasn't always like this, you know. Dirty and all messed up." I can't write the words he used when he spoke to me for he cursed at least once in every sentence, but many times he stopped and said, "Sorry for that. I am just so used to talking like that."

Roberto grew up in a happy family that loved to dance and party. They had pushed him to go to college and he had begun his first year with great hopes. His cousins were older and loved to party like crazy, taking Roberto, an amazing dancer, with them to all the best clubs in the city. 
"I would take her and we would dance all night. Mira muchachita! When that merengue started, oh yeah, I was the king of the dance floor. And poor girl if the DJ mixed it up with salsa or bachata or lo que sea. Mami, I made the music dance around me like I owned it, all night!"

http://ublushmagazine.com/
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Roberto was lost in a far away place as he relived his moments on the dance floor. Perhaps moments not too long ago. Again, he didn't look more than thirty years old. Yet here he was, lost, forgotten by his family and unwanted. 
"My friends from uptown, they said we were going to a friend's house for some drinks, and man, it was crazy there. People were doing stuff I wasn't used to seeing, except you know, mami, we do that stuff in private, right?"

"But, anyway, then they started taking out the smokes, then the dope and by the end of the night, I didn't know where the hell I was or what I had done. Man, I tell you, they tell me I was locked up in that apartment for four days. You know what that's like? Blown out of my mind and not even know I was gone."

I wanted to ask questions but I remembered the words to listen. "Mami, what about something to eat. Mira, linda, I have two dollars, help me to get a sandwich."
"Ok, here," I gave him three more, "You go get it and I'll stay here waiting for you to come back. I want to here the rest of your story."

This was the beginning of many weeks, spent on Broadway's corner, Roberto and I, as he poured out his heart, his sadness and his moments of glory. I wanted to share God's love with him, but I knew he needed more than an invitation to church. Roberto really needed God to touch and change his heart. He was broken, hurting, and in need of God's love. "How Lord, how do I reach out to someone I can't help the way I wish I could? He's on the street and look at him. Tonight his eyes were all bruised from a beating. Sure, he said it was some guys that didn't want to pay him, but we had spent enough nights here in this table that I now knew he had turned to prostituting himself in order to meet his needs. God, help me! I feel inadequate! Make a way. Please."
Three months had now passed and my get away time with Roberto had not stopped. 

Tonight I had promised to introduce my family. So, it was off for donuts and coffee with my new friend. He didn't speak much except tell me I had a beautiful family. My husband got the hint and they took off for a walk, leaving us alone for the next half hour. 

"Look mami, I know about family. Mine hates me. When they saw how I messed up, they said I belong to el diablo now and to get the hell out of their house. It's true, my grandfather is into all the brujeria crap and my mother she's always praying to the saints. I know about God. What? You think I don't?"

Funny, I hadn't imagined he'd say any of these things. But, here we were and God was opening the door to share about Him.


"God don't want me, mami. He wants you and your family. Look at me! Basura! You gonna tell me God is going to look at me? Do you know what I do to get money to buy my fix? God doesn't love me! He doesn't even stop them from coming after me. Mami, I like talking to you but I know you want to tell me I need God. Sweetie, what I need is a funeral home to give them my information because hell is waiting for me. With HIV positive all over this beautiful body, baby, not even God is going to think twice about letting me in to His heaven."

If you know me, you know I smiled and laughed a bit. He had a way of talking with his accent that made me laugh.
"Roberto, let me tell you something. When God looks at you and me, he sees two things. He sees the amazing and perfect person He carefully created and then He sees the mess, the sin and all the craziness in our lives that separates us from Him. And you know what? Not one moment does He decide to stop loving us, or reaching out to us."

"Maybe with you, sweetie, but not with me. You don't know what I've done and where I've been. I've been to bed with the devil, mami, and I've doped myself to fly away for days, only to come down and sit with the demons themselves as they laugh at me and ask me to dance, "Dance for me, Roberto, Dance!" They say, until I hurt all over and can't any more."

"God is greater than those demons that haunt you and push you to hurt yourself." I shared. "God is greater than Satan himself. But, you are the only one that can use your mouth to say it and tell him to leave you alone. You alone can return to being the wonderful child God created you to be or you can continue to be the person sin and Satan have helped you become."

I saw my family walk by and knew it was time to go away. I reached inside my bag and pulled out an old bible I always carried. Inside I placed my family photo with my phone number on the back. "I'm not here to preach to you, Roberto, I just hope you will read it when you can because deep down I think you know God is calling out to you. He loves you and so do I." My heart ached for him so much. Before walking away I prayed in my heart for Roberto. "Next week, amigo."
"Dios te bendiga mija. Til next week."

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Click here to Go to Part Three


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

HE WILL CARRY YOU....

By Angeline M Duran Santiago




How are you today? I hope you're doing well. Personally, I'm tired. Getting over being sick. Sort of doesn't want to go away. Ever feel that way? Like it all falls on top of you all at once, "WHAM!" and then it slowly goes away, and just as you start to feel confident and ready to set out again, "KABOINK!" You get slammed dunked down again, either with sickness, or some difficulty that throws you right back at Mercy's Seat. 





Isn't it great, though, that regardless of where we find ourselves, we have a place to run to? If I were honest, I shouldn't be thankful for the way I'm feeling, (sort of horrible) or the unanswered prayers still on my lips (waiting for healing for my kids and family members) and well, the list goes on. But imagine I lived with that kind of attitude....feeling and believing as if I have nothing to be grateful for? I've read God's word and know I'd be a great fool not to know God's not at fault when it comes to how poorly I'm feeling or what I've not received from the Lord as of yet. 

I've learned, from the very beginning, He will carry me through the most difficult moments of my life. His arms are stronger than mine. He not only holds eternity in his palm, but He speaks to those things that move nature and things unseen. He will carry me through sickness. Yes! Believe it! Whether I am healed today or tomorrow, His strength and His grace will continue to carry me, and Hey, He will carry you, too. Yes, you! He will carry you through the pain in your bones, your joints, your knees and elbows, He will carry you. 


Am I ever angry at God? There was a time I felt disappointed. I can share that the moment my little one was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I felt as if all the time I had lived serving God and believing in Him had suddenly been placed on a "THIS IS A CHALLENGE OF YOUR FAITH" game show moment. I refused to accept for a long time what doctors had said. I held on to God's promises and wished it all away. But, here it all was before me and I couldn't make it go away. And that's where I learned that God wasn't making my baby sick, but that this world, the stress, the wrong and mess of this life can bring upon sickness. God has provided healing and it's up to me to grab it and believe it. It's my choice. He will carry my son through the hardest times. He will carry my family through the nightmares of sickness. 

My dear friend, you are not alone in your pain, and I mean physical pain. That sickness that torments your body and your mind is powerless in the name of Jesus. Lay it at the cross and trust for His provision of health. As you and I wait, allow yourself to fall, blindly, backwards as in a trust fall, into the arms of a God who will carry you. 

I have no choice but to trust him to carry me and my family today. Will you trust Him as well. Will you allow Him to carry your pain, your burden, your cares and fears. I'm telling you, His hands are pretty darn humongous. 

No kidding! Well, I pray you have a restful sleep and that somehow, someway, tonight you may sleep knowing, He will carry you, no matter what you may be going through.

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He Will Carry You~ Gaither Vocal Band ~You Tube Video/Song



Monday, April 14, 2014

DANCE IN THE FIRE

Inspirational Fiction by Angeline M Duran Santiago

(I love to write stories. They just come into my head and I have to write them down. Today this scene came into my mind as I thought about our future as people of faith. I don't know what tomorrow holds. One thing I ask the Lord. Help me dance in the fire until my dance takes me into your presence.)



I remember getting ready to go to work. Friday was finally here and I was looking forward to meeting with my family after work and enjoying a night out together. Truth was, it had been a long time since we'd plan and actually went through with the plans. You know how it is. We get caught up with work and all of a sudden, all our energy and thought is taken away by our work and somehow, without wanting to, family takes second place. But, I knew in my heart that God had blessed me with a family and I had to make time to nurture them and care for them. After all, God had trusted me with them if only for a while. 

So, as I finished picking out my favorite gold hoop earrings, a loud knock came to the door. I'm being nice when I say, loud, it was in deed a horrible banging as if someone was desperately trying to get my attention because their life depended on it. My heart began to beat as if wanting to push through my skin and run out of me. My mind raced to the countless families in other parts of the world that had been signaled out for their faith and had been taken away. Detained, was the word, for security reasons. Detained? Who would ever think of detaining a family solely based on their faith? I turned quickly to face my kids who were getting ready for school, and my eyes locked with my husband's eyes. We knew.

The unjustified knock became angrier and more intense, now accompanied by voices. "Open up in the name of the Global government. We are here to take you to a public hearing to decide if you have willingly and unlawfully served in criminal activities against our world. My husband had spoken the what if's of this kind of day coming, but we'd thought maybe God would have allowed His Son to come forth and take all of us away before anything this cruel and unthinkable could really happen. I just thought of my kids. "Lord, what will we do?"

With fainting hands, my husband opened the door to find armed and uniformed men pushing through before he could finish opening the door. With military artilery pushed into our faces, we were told to gather our identification and anything we felt we needed to prove who we were, and to prepare to leave immediately. The look on my children's faces tormented me and pushed deep into my stomach. "God, what now? Will you come to our rescue. We have placed our hope in you." I began to pray, "Lord, save my children. Hide them under the shadow of your wings." The silenced ride didn't stop tears from rolling down our cheeks. I wanted to hide my children far away and keep them sheltered from what was to come but I was powerless to do anything to protect them. I was powerless within my hands, but in my heart, the power of the name of Jesus resounded in me as I called upon Him to come and cover my children and my family.

We were taken to a holding area where many more families, people of faith, the Christian faith, had been brought to await a trial for invisible crimes that had labeled them guilty. Faith.These few stood here, their day interrupted because they had been numbered with those who had said, "I believe what the Bible says." or "My Savior lives and He will return for me one day." of "God is greater!" Their testimony had become a threat to the new systems of justice and order in place.  These believers of the way, had been gathered to use as an example to the world, to prove that anyone not willing to be tolerant of the new world's order's viewpoint, was no longer worthy to be part of a good life, but only worthy of death.


The trial took place behind doors. I cannot tell you what happened as we were all separated and the walls were think and heavy and voices were lost within them. I couldn't see my children any longer. I was lost in a room of faces that were suddenly discouraged, broken and lost. I decided to speak and remind them we were here because we had chosen to stand and trust in our King. Many smiled and nodded, uniting with me and refilling themselves with hope. "Pray my brothers and sisters. Pray right now for God's covering and protection. Do not faint. Greater is he that is with us, in us and holding us right now, than he that is in the world against us."

With rifles I'd never seen before pushed against our backs, we were pushed forward and into a courtyard. We were pushed into small rooms where we were forced to remove our clothes and put on itchy, burlap gowns of brown, beige and white. Many were told to remove their shoes and others were allowed to keep them. I never stopped scanning the crowds to look for my children. My heart prayed without stopping for my children. "Lord, remove them from here. As you did with Elijah, send your chariot of fire and take them up into your throne room and hide them." I searched for my husband but I couldn't find him. Around me were people of faith who began to weep and lose hope. Some prayed but many were sad and this saddened me because it was now that we needed to take courage, fill ourselves with hope and hold on to what we had professed for so many years as our hope.

As night time came, we were commanded to enter small boxed homes, like dorms, with cold beds. Once more, my family was no where in sight. I ached for them but I knew that I had to trust in my Savior. He would not let me down. For days in and days out, before the sun rose, we were called out into the outer court by a loud siren and made to stand in the sun or rain, quietly, unable to move, unable to eat or drink, and unable to leave for the privacy of using the rest room. We were humiliated and forced to relieve ourselves where we stood. We were made to remain there, in the midst of human waste filling the air and causing many to become nauseous or vomit. For days, weeks, or time I do not know, we were made to do the same thing, day after day. Until one day, the rooftops were filled with armed soldiers, and we were called outside. A man came and stood in the middle of the courtyard, as we all remained by the entrance of our now homes. He began to offer those who were here in this camp, freedom. He spoke of a better life, a new world, a system that would take care of our health needs, our sickness, our financial burdens, and all we had to do was put away our foolishness, our beliefs, deny this Messiah we spoke of, and take an oath of allegiance to the new establishment leader and amended constitutions. 

I hear the screams and cries of many who pulled at their spouses or children, "No!' as they watched them walk away from the homes and walk towards this man who offered them a new life. He called them to come. Many left. They could not endure. They had forgotten the God who would be with them in the wilderness, in the valley and in the storm. As I watched them, I heard a voice in my heart. "Do what you used to do." I thought of so many things that I used to do and I wanted clarity. "Lord, what are you asking me to do?" A vision of slaves clapping their hands, and dancing consumed my thoughts. I saw them singing and in a dance as if battling, fighting, and using their hands and feet for war. I heard the voices singing a song I didn't understand. I heard the hands clapping and I felt a rush of strength overwhelm me. In the midst of the fire, they danced. In the midst of their captors, they worshiped. In the midst of the fire, they praised with their songs, their movements, and their hearts.

As the guards escorted those who had decided to leave out of the courtyard, I heard the voice once more and knew God's Spirit was in this place, calling me out to do the unexpected. With my heart dying within me, fear almost gripping me, and my weakened body trembling, I began to move gracefully, as a dancer would do as she walks on to the stage preparing to wait for the music to begin. I made my head straight, stretching my neck and pushing my shoulders back in sign of readiness. I moved to the center of the court yard and with the music of praise and worship from days of my youth engraved within me, I began to dance for the audience of One. I moved in dance, declaring praise to the One who had died for my sins, to give me life and hope. I twirled in honor of the One who was crucified. I moved from side to side and lifted my hands to worship the One who had removed all the hurt from my life and filled me with joy and a reason to live. I danced as one who remembered those who had been placed into the fire for refusing to bow down to idols when they music was played and I knew that that same Son of God would be with me in the fiery furnace.


"Dance!" I heard the Spirit of the Lord in the wind over and over saying, "Dance!" As I danced and moved as one who was fearless, my movements changed into interpretive movements of warfare, declaring to the presence of darkness holding us in that place that their power was being destroyed as I danced. I moved my arms and feet in motion declaring all works of the enemy against my family and those present to be disarmed. The soldiers just watched, and laughed at me. They ridiculed and some began to spit towards me. I looked around me at other believers watching me and an anger arose within me. I reached my hands towards them and invited them to come and join me in a dance of freedom, a dance of releasing God's presence into the darkness and breaking every chain. With my eyes focused on God's presence, I saw angelic beings enter the courtyard and stand around those believers that had remained. My courage was fueled as I knew God was here with me. 

As I danced in a circle by myself, I saw when a few women and some men slowly began to walk towards me. I found myself surrounded by a large circle of worshippers no longer afraid. We united our hands and without words or music began to move in a circle, as prayer filled our lips and worship filled our hearts. Our hands let go as we felt a mighty release of God's Spirit join us and we began to dance, the dance of warfare against things unseen, only felt by those who have God's presence. Angels began to move around us as we worshiped and danced. We could feel the wind caused by their wings as they danced around us. Armed soldiers began to fall off the rooftops with no one touching them. This made them upset and those still standing assembled against us, calling for back up.

The soldiers began to gather and question what to do. They began to run out and try to stop others from joining the dance. Soldiers began to call for more soldiers as they could feel a change in the atmosphere and began to feel a riot coming on. How could we riot? We were barely able to dance. We had not been fed or taken care of but, God's power had filled us in ways they could not understand. Armed soldiers with shields arrived and began to push believers back into their temporary homes. They began to hit those of us dancing. I felt the sharp pain of something cold upon my back and head, and then my legs. My world went dark.

Around me, shadows danced and fell to the ground. Voices cried out. A breeze came and began to shake the courtyard sending soldier's armed vehicles twirling away. I wanted to rise, but I couldn't. I felt my cold body being carried and then thrown into a pile of what seemed other bodies. My life had ended somehow, but I was fully aware of what was taking place below me as I felt myself being pulled away, flying away, lifted away into a dance of victory, into the presence of the One who I had lived for. As I entered the heavens, I rejoiced and saw my children sitting in the company of beautiful angels. God had hidden them, protected them, removed them. I searched for my family and my husband. I couldn't find them. As I turned to look behind me, an angel said, "Don't worry. They too will be with us shortly." They too would have their dance come to an end, but they would soon be here before the King of Kings.

I began to run towards my children to embrace them and hold them. The sound of many shofars filled the heavens and I knew the Lord would be before us soon. As I reached out to them, the brilliance of a thousand lights surrounded me, blinding me and allowing me to fall down on my knees. I reached out trying to hold my children, but only felt my blanket and my husband's arms softly patting me on the shoulders, "Honey, wake up, you're having a bad dream. Wake up." I opened my eyes and began to cry from joy as all kinds of emotions overcame me. I wanted to share my dream but I couldn't stop crying. "Oh the dream that I've just had. We have to pray. We have to prepare our family to believe and hold on to God no matter what comes or what happens. We need to make sure they have a relationship with Jesus and are not afraid." I was so thankful it had all been a dream. 

Rising from bed, I went to my children's bedsides, hugged and kissed them awake. "Oh mom." They were upset as they wished for more time to sleep. But, how could I not hug them or kiss them after such a dream. I walked to the bathroom to wash up, clean my tear stained face and get ready for work. As I grabbed the towel to rinse my face, the most hateful banging crashed against my door.



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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THIS BOOK IS INCOMPLETE

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

As I sit here and glue the scenes twirling in my head, I have one specific person in every picture. He may not know it is him I am thinking of as I write, but I know that his story is not one that stands alone. He is but the representation of many, many stories, many books with blank pages, incomplete.



To look at him, one would say, "Aw, I feel so bad for him." You'd think his life was over the moment the world came crashing down on him and the planets whirled out of control. (Yes, I can be a bit of an exaggerator-but, you get what I'm trying to say, right?) To look at his past, just a few years ago, you'd probably see his life walking out the door, done deal, over and good bye. The scars on his skin are a reminder of death coming to visit as a spectator for days, weeks, and even months. The vivid reminders of a pain that is indescribable, a journey into the darkness where he cried out for death, and yet, in the midst of asking the very constellations to come crashing down upon him and finish him off, somewhere, the fire of his faith remained lit.

His book is incomplete. His story is not over. The results of his past are not the predictors of his present and most definitely no indicator of his future. His story is still being written each time he wakes up and steps into his new beginning. Each day he embraces his destiny and purpose in the middle of dealing with the effects of sickness striking him down, depression pushing him down, and every presence of hell itself challenging him to believe, one more day.




This is not only his story I see. I walk into different stores and walk towards the notebooks, the journals, the diaries and drawing pads, all blank, all empty, all calling out to me. They're not asking me to write my story, but they each have someone's name on them and it's their story that is incomplete. Someone forgot to write victory. Someone forgot to write healed. Someone forgot to write stronger than before. 

I cover my ears and want to run out, but I don't want anyone to think I've stolen all those empty pages calling out to me. I walk away and see the faces of those who have over come, those who have made it through the battles of overcoming surgeries, cancer treatments, organ transplants, waking from comas, and still staring the grave down with an attitude, "Yeah, right, death, where is your sting?"


This book is incomplete. You have to finish it. Maybe it's sharing with someone or just writing it down through a song. Perhaps there's a poem waiting to be released or a piece of artwork waiting to be painted as you begin to find the way to express and share your life.


It is not over. Just because you can't get up to do what you used to do or what you want to do doesn't define infertility or paralysis. Just because your life hasn't turned out the way you dreamed it would when you were younger doesn't mean you have to believe there's only one way your life could have turned out. God is a God of the unexpected, of glorious miracles happening every day. You are that miracle. Your life is a miracle. You are the miracle I see in my mind when I write, always.

My heart is filled with joy when I see you take your place and rise to be what no one expected you to be. I'm so glad your book is incomplete, because the world needs to see what God is doing in you, what God has done, and what God is getting ready to do! (Exciting!) So  go ahead, live life full of expectation because your life matters. It does, it does!

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Angie Duran loves encouraging and writing to remind you of your purpose and that your life is a gift to this world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE EMPTY ROOM

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

Dedicated to my mother, Maria, with all my love. May we always have a reason to dance and rejoice!

Today, like so many other mornings, they began to walk towards the room that had for so many months been the cocoon that hid the weakening form they'd know before as their example of strength. They slowly ventured into the room, reaching for the door, already replaying in their minds the translucent hands no longer able to reach out and caress their faces. They envisioned the breathless shell of the tower of encouragement she had always been, but had lately wasted away before them. Tears slowly fell upon each cheek as they looked at one another, imagining they had not been able to speak one last good bye, feel one last kiss, give one last embrace.

Trying not to make unnecessary sounds, they painfully opened the door without any, only to find the once dark room, filled with light. The layers of down comforters had been replaced by an old favorite, making the room appear as a bride would ready her bed for her coming event.   "Where is she? Who has taken her? Where has she gone?" They asked themselves in whispers, unable to barely speak as the drumming of their hearts took away their courage to say the words banging away in their thoughts. Sunlight behind the cotton curtains, spoke of life still reaching out, inviting them to look beyond the veil, beyond their fears, and beyond their doubts. The once covered room had lost all the windows and now bathed in the sunlight and the aroma of grass freshly rinsed in early morning rain.

Running to the edge of the curtains, they extended their necks to look out into the fields. Amazed at the sight, they leaped over the wooden balcony and ran to the sight before them. There she was, hands raised to the heavens, bathing in the glorious light of something greater than the sun, someone greater than all the infirmities and afflictions that had bound her to the bed for so long. They froze for a moment as they watched her rejoice, dance and embrace the newness of another day. She, the one who had seemed ready to leave this world and meet another. But, how?

She turned to see her children standing in awe, faces saturated in tears, and she smiled. She laughed and she allowed the laughter to come with all her strength from deep inside. She moved her hands and motioned them to come closer. "Yes, it is me! Come, and see what the Lord has done! For I was dead and He has given me life!" As they ran to their mother and embraced her, they realized what God had done. So many times they had prayed for healing, but really more accepting death and not life. So many times they had said they trusted God but they had only trusted that He would take her into his presence when the time was right.

 All the while, she had held on to His promises, regardless she had believed. The room of sadness had become the room of light. The room where death waited, was now the room that reminded all of life still promised for times of rejoicing. The room of disappointment, pain, and discouragement, was now an invitation for joy, hoping again, and believing in prayer. God had healed! God had restored! God had answered!

The three grown children, along with their aging, vibrant and gloriously radiant mother, accepted the hands that reached out to them. And, as if on cue, the heavens thundered with applause, causing rain to gently fall upon them as they joined their mother in the dance of praise unto the One who had found delight in giving life for many more seasons to come.

How often times we pray, yet, surrendering ourselves to an outcome completely the opposite of what we supposedly are praying and believing for. God is still in the business of miracles. I just wonder, if we are.


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