November 27, 2016
Volume 8, Issue 3
A View From The Porch
So many thoughts fill my mind in this season closing out the year as we chart it on our calendars, here in America. The fires in Israel, consuming land, trees, homes and dreams. The political fires that continue in the wake of the Presidential election, here in the U.S. And then there are the battles within I come up against day-to-day, sometimes moment-to-moment.
It is hard to understand what it means when Paul talks about peace: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6-7) And of course, immediately, I try to grasp intellectually what Scripture has told me quite definitively I will not be able to understand. It is a gift. Something to receive. Nothing I can create in myself, earn, strive for, or control—definitely not dependent on my circumstances, and decidedly not something I will ever comprehend in this life.
A good friend of mine often teases me about my struggle to receive that elusive peace Jesus has promised. But even I, angst queen of North Hollywood, am sometimes gentled and tamed momentarily, and able to abide temporarily in that amazing place of His peace for a breath or two.
Sometime ago I was clearing out the clutter in a friend’s garage because she was moving. I came across an old folded up beach chair and asked if I could have it. She needed to cut down on her inventory, so to speak, so she was happy for me to take one more thing off her hands. I set the beach chair out on our very small and limited, cracking and peeling red porch as a reminder to come out from our very blue house and sit a while with my King.
Early mornings, and as the sun sets, are my favorite times to sit. Often my head is swirling with everything and everyone needing my attention. But I park myself anyway in the cool of the afternoon, as the light ebbs and the shadows increase. And there, if I am able to stay long enough, the greater reality slowly and subtly seeps through the temporal, and I sense the Kingdom near. I can feel a shift in my body and spirit as I connect to the nearness of Him who called everything and everyone into being.
The world may appear to be spinning off its axis at times, but I have not entrusted my heart and life to the world. Instead I have given all that I am over to Jesus who came into this world in another time and place when everything was in upheaval. Born in an unseemly environment to an unwed mother, the least of the least, poorest of the poor. He is the promised Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace. And only in Him can we find our rest and that amazing peace that exceeds all our attempts to understand.
Lord, help us in this difficult season to remember You are our refuge, our sanctuary, our peace. In You we are secure. Our foundation is sure.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.." —Isaiah 9:6
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—Michael & Sally
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Heavenly-Minded In Toxic Times
by Sally Klein O'Connor
Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…
Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips…
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:1-2, 5-8, 12-13)
This is a portion of the scripture our Senior Pastor, Bill Dwyer, suggested we read and memorize during this past summer. It was one of many suggestions for a themed set of messages he called The Summer of Living Dangerously. And I think it was prophetic in light of all that has happened since.
Early in my walk with the Lord I was working for a Hebrew Christian ministry. One of the leaders cautioned me saying, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” I understood the practical aspect of what he was communicating at the time. But now, as I look at what is happening in the aftermath of the Presidential election, I can’t help but think if more of the Body of Christ were heavenly minded, some of toxic aftermath would not be occurring.
The fear, anger, devastation and vitriol in some of the posts I read just on Facebook, from believers, was astonishing. I usually don’t engage in the whole political realm but I felt it necessary to respond to what was going on. Below is my post, dated November 9th:
Personally, I was unable to bring myself to vote for any of the presidential candidates in this election. The corruption in both the main candidates was overwhelming. And the idea that I should vote for one so that the other would not prevail was incredibly disheartening. I voted on almost everything else. And now the decision has been made. It's amazing to me how many people who profess to be followers of Jesus/Yeshua as Lord have chosen to indulge their flesh in this election—and its aftermath. I have seen a lot of petty, ugly words flying around Facebook. And there are people reading and listening who are sucking in all the darkness and doom and negativity and losing heart...
We who are believers need to remember that God is still on the throne. He is Sovereign. He's got this!! And you know, the funny thing is, so much of the Bible is about God using people who are unpolished, raw, murderers, tax collectors, womanizers, even pagan kings for His greater purpose and glory—and for our good.
If God is able to make donkeys talk and turn serious sinners into saints, why are we freaking out? We should be light in this darkness. We should be love to those who are afraid. We are the people who know the Healer. We know where we came from and where we are going. What have we to fear? Who knows, but into this season in the world revival may come. Lift your eyes to heaven...that's where your help comes from!!
As I see it, this is a time to shine. To be light in the darkness, to be love and mercy to those who are in pain, to be heavenly minded. We don’t have to agree with each other in order to be kind. And no one man is going to thwart the will of God. It’s not as if He doesn’t see ahead of us.
So I put my heart and life in God’s hands, along with the hopes and dreams I have for myself, our family, ministry—and for our country. And as I do so I find strength and focus to move forward with those things He has called me to do. Because whenever it’s time for me to go home, or the Lord returns I want to be found abiding in His love, doing His will.
And it would seem that much of the context for walking out His will has been through the ministry God gave us over 25 years ago, Improbable People Ministries. So, what follows are the projects the Lord has put on our hearts in the near future. Our hope is that as we share each of these plans you would join us in prayer as we go forward.
BEAUTY IN THE BEAST:
Even as I am writing up this newsletter I am volleying emails back and forth with Nadine Erickson, a friend who is designing the new cover for our re-release of Beauty in the Beast. My book, originally published by Broadman and Holman in 2005, never received much exposure because of upheaval in the company. The editor for my project quit after 20-something years, just as my book was ready to be published. So it wasn’t until a month or two after the official release of Beauty in the Beast that I finally did some radio interviews and bookstore signings.
Original cover for Beauty In The Beast
But B&H very quickly let it go out of print. However, they were kind enough to release all rights back to me during this last summer. Since then, our oldest daughter, Dusty and I have each read through the final manuscript making updates and edits as needed. We are publishing Beauty in the Beast in paperback and e-book through the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com, Create Space. It should be available sometime in late December and we are taking pre-orders. (See Dear Friends).
DECEMBER 30TH SPECIAL CONCERT EVENT @ KULAK’S WOODSHED & CAMPAIGN:
Sally at Kulak's in 2015
This event has been percolating in my thinking for over a year. My good friend and producer, Chad Watson, put me onto Kulak’s Woodshed, a little hole-in-the-wall venue that has some wonderful video and sound recording equipment and engineers. It boasts a funky, come-as-you-are atmosphere with throw pillows and chairs that don’t match, a bed, anything and everything to sit on. They charge a very accessible price for recording a 2-hour video/sound recording of the concert, which is of professional quality. They have a wonderful grand piano I have quite enjoyed playing and a very supportive staff. Because Kulak’s only seats 49 people, this event has to be on an invitation basis only.
However, for those friends who can’t make it, or whom we are not able to invite, and for those friends all over the world, there will also be live-streaming where people can see and hear the concert, and also comment via text. Michael will be sending out further details as the date approaches.
In preparing for this particular presentation the challenge has been to dig deep into the archives of songs Michael and I have written—some which have seldom seen performance—and find those we both feel strongly should have an opportunity to be heard, along with the stories surrounding them.
This project is very much like an updated Storyteller, the live concert album we released on CD in 1996. But the plan is to release this performance on DVD. We are running a special campaign on Indiegogo.com for those interested in helping us with the editing, packaging, and manufacturing of the DVD. (See “Dear Friends”).
SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMEONE BEAUTIFUL:
One of the encounters I found most compelling during our A Tour of Roses outreach in Israel (March 2016) was at the Arabic Mother’s Day Brunch. I felt many of the women had not experienced the love Jesus has for them in a deeper and more transformational way. If I were to sum up in one word, His tenderness was not evident among them. It impacted me deeply.
Something Beautiful Conference flyer
As I thought about these women I felt the Lord moving on my heart to put together a conference. We are giving this conference a trial-run at the Valley Vineyard Christian Fellowship on January 14, 2017, 9-5. I am calling it Something Beautiful for Someone Beautiful after our ATOR outreach during Halloween 2015 on the Sunset Strip. I think of it as a kind of “spiritual spa day” for women. But don’t let that idea fool you. We will be digging into some profound issues: Loving God, Loving Ourselves, and Loving Others. All of these are intrinsic to our walk with Jesus, even as they are also challenging for those of us who have struggled in any of those areas. For more information and registration please follow this link.
A TOUR OF ROSES – BRUSSELS – APRIL 2017:
This will be the 10th international A Tour of Roses project since we began in 2009. The tentative dates for this project are: April 6 – 17, 2017. I plan to hold an information meeting on December 4th at 12:30 PM, Room 12, Valley Vineyard 6642 Reseda Blvd, Reseda, CA 91335.
We have been invited to collaborate with Operation Mobilization in Brussels, as well as Serve the City and The Well (a group of House churches in community). The project will take place during Passover and Easter week, and we are looking at the possibility of putting on a special Passover Seder during the week leading up to Easter. If anyone is interested in receiving more information about this project in order to pray for, or participate on the team, please contact me at
sallykleinoconnor @ sbcglobal.net
A Tour of Roses is a ministry of reconciliation and healing, reaching out into broken communities with the tenderness and mercy of God.
AN EVENING OF ROSES MARCH 4, 2017:
An Evening Of Roses dinner 2015
Once again we will be hosting a fundraising dinner to benefit Improbable People Ministries and our special project, A Tour of Roses. The evening will include worship and a complimentary dinner served up by our good friend and brother, Chef Juan San Martin, and testimonies from different projects. Michael will once again oversee the event as Master of Ceremonies and there will be a special offering taken to help benefit IPM for both A Tour of Roses projects for 2017: Brussels – April 6-17 and Israel (Jericho/Bethlehem) – December 2017.
Improbable People Ministries (IPM) is an independent ministry of music and healing that has been in existence for over 25 years now. Only by God’s grace have we continued to move forward over all these years. A Tour of Roses is kind of a miraculous project. We come to each new venture trusting God to provide according to His will. There are no large corporations or grants backing this project. It is solely reliant on how God leads His people to give. This dinner is both a thank you to those who have previously invested in IPM and/or ATOR, as well as an invitation to help us move forward in the upward calling of God.
Please keep us in prayer as we discuss and plan the elements for the upcoming dinner in March with our friend and fellow board member, Elaine Stover.
As we enter this holiday season with all its bells and whistles may we be extra vigilant in prayer even as we rejoice in the goodness of God in our lives. Change is in the air—in the White House, and all throughout our country and the world. There are many things we don’t have any power over, but we do have the power to choose how we will live our lives, day by day, moment by moment. We have power in the Holy Spirit to live a life of love, even as the climate of hate increases in our country—and throughout the world. We are called to express His love wherever we are, whatever we do, and to whomever we may encounter. May God give us all the strength and courage to choose His love in the face of anger and hate. To shine with His light and be so much more than His hands and feet—His very heart!
Improbable People Ministries
Beauty in the Beast is my personal story of the long journey from self-hatred to self-acceptance. Bitten by a dog on my face when I was just 8 years old, I was bullied and teased by my peers in such a way that the scar inside became much deeper than the mark on my face.
Prospective new cover for Beauty in the Beast
“From time to time, I still wrestle with the face I see in the mirror, its consequences in my soul, and my link in the chain of generations of darkness and disparagement... There are days when I can’t find any grace or kindness for myself or the world around me. But, there is a break in my chain, which grows larger with each step in knowing and believing in my Lord. I don’t have to live my earthbound legacy anymore. The blood of Christ has broken the spell and I am free. I have only to believe in God, to unwind these age-old grave clothes from my body and soul and begin to live.”
Our friend, Nadine Erickson, has done a beautiful job designing the cover for the book. (see above) And Create Space, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com, has put together the formatting for all the text in a simple but engaging way. We are hoping to have copies available before Christmas. In January we will also be releasing it as an e-book on Amazon. It would be a great help for those of you interested in the book to consider pre-ordering it with us for yourself—and others. We are offering books at a $5 discount until January 31. The pre-order form is available here. Just mail it to us and we will send yours out as soon as we receive our copies.
Music is always the focus at Kulak's
The next item on the agenda is Sally's live concert video being filmed and recorded at at Kulak's Woodshed, an eclectic venue in North Hollywood, CA. The concert will take place on December 30, 2016 at 8:00 PM Pacific Time. While the 49 seats limit the guest list to "By Invitation Only" we are excited there will also be a live stream to the event so that anyone anywhere in the world with a broadband connection will be able to attend our special evening.
We are also putting together a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo.com that will help us finance the production of the DVD that will emerge from the evening's festivities. We will be announcing details on Facebook and to our newsletter readers shortly on how to help with the campaign and join the streaming concert for FREE on December 30.
We have a busy few months ahead with all these new opportunities to get our songs, words, and the message of a loving and merciful Savior out beyond the edges our voices normally are able to reach. Please pray for the work ahead, that it may be of a quality worthy of a King who longs to reach his wayward children with the Good News that He has sent His only Son to bring salvation and peace to the heart of mankind. A peace that passes all understanding. May our hearts be filled with His love in this season, and may His grace and mercy be extended through all our words and ways to friends and strangers.
—Michael & Sally O'Connor