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The IPM Newsletter

December 28, 2015

Volume 7, Issue 4

Circulation: 372

Former Things

As we approach the end of an eventful year (aren't they all?) I am reminded of a chorus we used to sing in our church. The song was so meaningful to Sally and me we included it as featured music in our wedding ceremony.

It started:

"Think not on the former things
Remember not the past
For I will do a new thing
And I will make it last."

It spoke to us of the need to understand whatever baggage we carried with us up the aisle that we were permitted and  encouraged to set it down before we reached the altar; to give ourselves permission to not define ourselves by who we were but, rather, by who we were becoming in God and in doing so we were inviting Him to transform us into the vision He had for us.

It was as powerful a lesson then as it is today. As we welcome in 2016 let us embrace those changes God has for us, even if they are a little scary. Change often appears as a formidable wall until we realize, with God's help, the wall can be breached.

For His ways are always good and His desire is to see us blossom as His children. We are as much at the center of His heart as the well-being of our own kids is to us.

Let us look ahead, then, in wonderment at the plans our God has made for us in the coming new year.


             —Michael O'Connor

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! "
                      —Isaiah 43 18-19


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Thank you.

                     —Michael & Sally


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Peace On Earth,

Good Will To All Men

by Sally Klein O'Connor

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all men.” (Luke 2:14)
For the last year or two I have taken to blessing people in stores where I shop after I check out—be it groceries, clothing, even over-priced chocolate coffees I am especially fond of. I didn’t originally think of it as a blessing.

I grew weary of people saying, Have a nice day,” or It’s all good,” Happy Holidays or my favorite—“Have a good one!
Have a good what???
Chemotherapy treatment? 

It seems to me people try to be nice without genuinely engaging the individual in front of them and offering them something real—if more brief and to the point—like Thanksor Goodbye.” Why would someone say Happy Holidays to someone who seems on the verge of crying? But people do. I’ve been there and I know. We can be oblivious. We look and don’t see.

So, I have found my own words to leave with the person I transacted whatever business I transacted… Hope you have a peaceful day.
It’s interesting how many people, their ears attuned to the expectation of a final familiar prefab statement, ask me to repeat what I said. When I do, they are surprised. And usually they smile. Sometimes there is a trace of wonder in their eyes. It was when a few said thank you that I realized it was a kind of blessing or benediction.
I haven’t always pronounced it as a blessing. Sometimes it runs out of my mouth the same way people say, Have a good one!” Necessary to say somehow, but disconnected at the same time. But I am beginning to realize it is important how I say it as much as the words themselves. You see, I am equally guilty of not inhabiting the expressions that issue from my lips, as if the words themselves had all the power needed to communicate.
God is in His words. That’s why the Bible is so powerful. That’s why Jesus is the Word made flesh. We are so dissociative with what we say at times. We communicate the most difficult or precious thoughts on occasion with such indifference. It’s almost as if we are afraid to invest our hearts in anything—including our words—because we may get hurt or be misunderstood. The world can be a cruel place.
I have watched through our middle daughter’s eyes as she diligently seeks a job in this season of high unemployment, just how unkind people can be without a second thought.

The other day Bonnie asked me to drive her to a job interview at a nice chain restaurant that advertised open interviews between 3:30 and 6PM. Bonnie walked through their doors about 4:30, just in time for them to say they closed their interviewing process 2 minutes before. She offered to fill out an application but they don’t do applications. She explained that she had come a bit of a distance and the ad mentioned interviews were anytime between 3:30 and 6.

No one batted an eye. My daughter was almost in tears. In other situations people promised to call her back and let her know if she had the job or not—either way—and then never picked up the phone. It’s hard for Bonnie, who is still more black and white than grey in her thinking, to understand. Why promise what you don’t intend to deliver??  The scripture is pretty clear about this kind of stuff…
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12 – ESV)

As many people were, Michael and I were shocked out of our comfortable routines by the shooting in San Bernardino. I don’t usually follow the news very closely, but I couldn’t help reading some of the articles issuing fast and furious in the wake of this evil event.

Michael updated me as more information was available in the days following. But it was several posts and comments on Facebook that really bothered me. There was such anger in response from believers, people who profess to follow Jesus as Lord, in a season where we remember and celebrate His light and life. It was almost as if some of us forgot who we were in the bald face of such evil. It was once again Bonnie Joy who posted on her Facebook page something I think only she could post as purely and simply:

 God has His ways with all of us, and if we are willing to listen we all have a place in His plan…
I was praying with our morning group in the Fellowship Hall Sunday after the shooting. Each of us offered up our petitions. What surfaced in my heart and prayers was the realization of how tramatized the fellow workers who survived must feel. As I prayed I felt a question rise like a small cloud in the back of my mind… What about roses?”

It might surprise people who don’t know me well that I am often reluctant in my response to those kind of ideas which suddenly appear on my interior horizon, and I am always surprised. It’s more than occasionally hard for me to adapt to what I perceive as a change of course. Immediately I realized how right it could be, just as I felt how strongly I did not want to intrude or trample on people’s grief and pain. I was sure it would be quite impossible to give out roses to the actual workers who had attended the party—who were not hospitalized or dead. But I was wrong…
It all came together in the blink of an eye—ok, maybe a week. A few friends prayed. A few friends agreed to go with me—even took off from work. I found the roses. Our friend, Tony Berru, printed the cards. It was truly amazing!

During my morning time of prayer on the day we went to San Bernardino I felt the Lord whisper to my spirit that He would “part the waters”—and He did! I can’t even begin to tell you the favor God gave the whole team in an impossible situation. The day before President Obama visited San Bernardino, when national security was descending in this area, some of our team was not only welcomed, but actually escorted in and out of two of the buildings where some of the workers and co-workers were, to give them roses.

No pictures were snapped, but hugs, tears, smiles, gratitude and amazement, and for a brief moment Love, Joy, and Peace visited a people wrapped in fear and grief, reminding them that Hope is always near.
As I was considering participating in this sudden unexpected invitation to join God in what He was already doing, all my human sensibilities cringed at the idea of intruding on their grief and pain. Who did I think I was? What business did I have invading their world with something as impotent as roses? But I know better, for I’ve seen what God does with what may seem foolish to some. And I am responsible for what I have witnessed.



Much too soon I expect to board a plane with a team of people flying to Israel to bring roses to Jerusalem and Bethlehem at a time of great unrest. Never have I prayed so much for any single project as this one. Never have I had to surrender as many times to God for any other A Tour of Roses, and never have I heard God quite so clearly as I have in preparing for this project.
Out of concern for me, especially in light of the current situation, people have asked me at different points during this year: Am I sure I heard God? Am I sure this is the right timing? Am I still going? The answer to all of the above is yes, as much as I can possibly know, understand, or discern I believe this is the will of God.

Could I be mistaken? Certainly. I am convinced we all see through a glass darkly. But I am equally persuaded God is greater than my denseness—and even unwillingness—which I especially have had to process in prayer. I am aware of the circumstances and most of the news being reported in a general sense, and even in some instances more specifically. But what remains uppermost in my heart is obedience. If I love Him, I will obey Him.

And, as He did in San Bernardino, on the Sunset Strip on October 31st, and in Budapest this last summer, and all the places before, He will make a way as only He can. He will part the waters.
Some people marvel at the miracle of A Tour of Roses because it’s quite an impossible project run by highly improbable (and quite often dysfunctional) people. But it’s not our gig. It’s God’s. We are only stepping into one of those “…good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). We could not even begin to walk in it apart from God and the community of believers who feel called upon to pray and support this project.
All of us have the same opportunity to step into those good works God prepared in advance for us to do. Sometimes we are confused by our feelings and what we see happening, but I tell you with all my heart, as the world grows darker the Light of the world who lives in us will shine even more brightly. And we are called to be revealers of that Light.

It may be something small and momentary like buying someone a cup of coffee or helping an older person step down from the curb. It might even be your greeting to the countless faces serving you and me as we shop, eat, go out to be entertained. Maybe we can find a blessing of our own to speak over them as the angels did the shepherds on that night so long ago in Bethlehem.
May the Lord give us courage to stand in the darkness and not only speak with conviction—but be His word to the lost and lonely, to the cold and hardened hearts, and even to those deceived by evil, locked in its grip.
As I turn my face toward Jerusalem I must admit, alongside the anticipation there are moments when I feel a degree of trepidation and uncertainty. But with every rose I know we too are part of the angels’ proclamation in an uncertain time, to proclaim His peace and good will toward all men. It is then I hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)


©Copyright 2015 
Improbable People Ministries



Dear Friends

Just a few weeks back in our last issue we let a few of our ministry needs be known as we have been asked to do by our Board of Directors from time to time.

We printed the following needs:

1. Financial gifts of any size to help fill general ministry needs until concerts begin again in 2016. 

2. 2 of Sally's CDs that were currently out of print due to lack of funds to reproduce. 

3. A "gently used" vehicle to replace the 1999 car Sally  has used on California road trips.

We were greatly encouraged with the following responses:

1. There were several financial gifts in the mail and from online giving that have helped us toward the modest goals of finishing 2015 with the bills paid . 

2. A family who has followed IPM for many years wrote and asked if anyone had yet "adopted" one of the CDs to bring it back into print. As a result of that note this generous family has made it possible to reproduce 1,000 new copies of Sally's latest CD, Soul Arise, which will finish production the first week of January. 

3. This one is a little more involved in the telling. We were at a church gathering and a couple we know asked Sally if they could come over the morning before Christmas as they had something they wanted to talk with us about. Sally said we would be happy to have them over Christmas Eve morning, and we made a date to have breakfast.

Just a few minutes later as we were listening to one of the speakers Sally believed she heard the following from the Lord:

They are going to give you a car.

It was startling to Sally and she whispered to me what she believed she had just heard. I didn't know what to make of her revelation, so I just thought to myself, "Well, ummmmmm . . . that's nice."

The morning arrived and we had a great time of food and fellowship. Finally, our friends got down to business. They invited us outside and Sally became very tense. We saw they had driven two cars over and one of them had a large, beautiful red bow draped on the hood.

Sally was handed the keys and we were told by the woman the car was now ours and that--get this--the Lord told the woman to give her vehicle to Improbable People Ministries. 

By this time Sally was crying. She couldn't help revealing to our friends what the Lord had told her only a week before in the church Fellowship Hall. When she heard this confirmation of the Lord speaking to each of them the woman burst into tears herself. The men, of course, stood by stoically as our wives blubbered and hugged, knowing this was so very much a "God thing."

There is a surprising  post script to this story. I mentioned to the couple the many responses from our newsletter needs we had made known. I thanked them for their faithful response to that newsletter. 

So here's the kicker: This couple, appreciative of IPM as they are, do not receive our online newsletter. They never saw the requests we assumed they had seen. They acted solely from the prodding of our Father and not from a mention of need in a newsletter.

At that point I started to tear up as well. We serve a very good and faithful God. 

I share this and the previous story not to boast in ourselves. I promise you Sally and I did not expect the responses that came in from the newsletter and otherwise. I share it to encourage those of you who pray for needs that seem impossible--be they for good health, a new job, or even a "gently used" car filled with 1,000 newly-shrink wrapped CDs. 

Take heart in knowing, as we have been recently reminded, that God wants to give us the desires of our hearts if we first seek Him.

Thank you all for your gifts of treasure and prayer in 2015. We know they are intended for God and we are merely the stewards. May the Lord  be glorified as He continues to be the source  of all provision in our lives. May He bless each of you as richly as you have blessed this small ministry.

                                                    Michael O'Connor 



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