Linda's Cozy Mysteries

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Makeover Your Kitchen Table With Chalk Paint--By Linda Kozar

Linda Kozar striking a crafty pose
Wait, this is a blog for women of faith, isn't it? Sure it is! But this blog is also about three things Faith, Family and Fun. Hopefully, this project falls into the last category.

Here's the before picture of my kitchen table. Not bad, right? I bought this hand-crafted table years ago and fell in love with it. But over the years, the tabletop began to feel rough and uneven, staining easily from coffee mugs and spaghetti sauce. My husband and I didn't know that the top was finished with paste wax and just needed another coat from time to time.

So, after a light sanding, my husband painted a coat of Polyurethane on the table top. The result? Not so good. Immediately afterwards, our table would forever be "tacky". I liked to joke with guests about our "tacky" table. But it didn't take long for them to experience it for themselves. Literally, every plate, cup or glass stuck to the table! Let's just say you had to yank hard to clear the table of dishes or even to lift a glass to your mouth. At times it was almost comical. Especially during the Babes With A Beatitude Bible Studies. Every Tuesday, the table would be surrounded by women, trying hard to lift their coffee cups without spilling hot coffee all over the place.

In true Proverbs 31 woman form, I decided to tackle a home project and believe me, I needed a lot of faith to accomplish it! The summer of 2014, I decided enough was enough. A friend had told me about the wonders of Chalk Paint. She'd refinished a bedroom set and was delighted with the results.

Chalk Paint is a wondrous mixture of: One cup latex paint, One-half cup Plaster of Paris, and One-half cup water, that goes on over the surface as is! No need to sand (unless the surface is terribly rough). I should warn you that there is quite a bit of light sanding in store for you however. You will need to sand in between coats. Lightly. Not too bad.

Whaaaat? I almost jumped for joy and decided that's what I needed to do!

So, the day before I planned to begin, I assembled my painting supplies. I like to get that task out of the way so I can get right to the painting in the morning. Makes life easier.

  • A tarp or plastic sheet. (Do this project outdoors or in the garage as things get a bit messy).
  • Paint tray OR a use a simple plastic vegetable tray you buy some of your veggies in--without air holes at the bottom of course. Lettuce trays work great because the top closes. You can leave your project to take a break and come back to your paint without worry it will dry out. Great way to recycle plastic to good use.
  • Paint Brush. An inexpensive medium size brush will do, but you might want to use a few smaller ones to get into tight spots. I had a bunch of old brushes around the house. Maybe you do too.
  • Rags. You will need to use a few rags to test dab or clean off excess paint. Old towels work great.
  • Sandpaper. Fine sandpaper and/or a sanding block if you have one. Better yet, if you have a rotary sander, use that instead. You'll barely break a sweat!
  • Tack Cloth. To clean off the surface. Works great!
  • Latex paint. I chose the colors I wanted (which took a lot of time and thought) and bought the more economical half-pints of paint for under $5 bucks a can. You won't need a lot of paint for this project. The water and Plaster of Paris really stretch it. Also, search paint stores for clearance paint. You never know what bargains you'll find.
  • Plaster of Paris. Any craft store carries this. I purchased mine at Wal-Mart for under $5. Mine came with four packets to a box and I only used one packet to do the table and chairs. Lots left to do future projects!
  • Water. Just plain tap water.
  • Latex gloves! Use latex gloves when you paint, ladies. Your hands and manicure, if you have one, will thank you later. Before I started using gloves to paint, I would have to use a Q-tip dipped in nail polish remover to get all the bits of paint out of my cuticles. No more!
Mix your chalk paint in here and close the top when you take a break from painting.

I started off with the base coat in a shade of green I liked--Valspar's Herbes de Provence:

I let that dry, gave it a light sanding as the Plaster of Paris is gritty. I sanded the surface smooth and then applied the second coat, a different color entirely! Valspar's Cottage White. Why? Because I planned to sand it down to reveal little streaks of the green underneath for the rustic charm I was after.

Next, I sanded that coat a bit. Depending on the consistency of your paint and how well you covered, you might need another light coat. Just eyeball it. Sorry about the non-technical instruction, but creative people have their own lingo:)

Now for the stencil. I fell in love with a Martha Stewart stencil, but you can use any stencil you fancy OR if you're talented that way, design your own stencil. Ambitious artistes' might want to go ahead and paint whimsical designs directly onto the table. Whatever suits you best.

The colors I used (just tiny bottles of craft latex easy to find at Hobby Lobby), were: FolkArt's Classic Green and Spring green for the leaves and vines, Podge Orange and Napthai Crimson for the flowers.

After the stencils are completely dry, give the surface another sanding. The images should not be crisp. Whaaaat? That's right. You should sand them down and blur them out a bit. But it's all a matter of personal taste. If you want crisp stencils, go for it. I like the vintage sort of look.

The surface of the table should feel smooth to the touch. Caution: use your gloves for this touch test. The oils in your skin will leave behind blotches. Yech!

Use a tack cloth to remove all traces of dust and grit left behind by your hard work.

And now for the wax. I used Trewax paste wax. Definitely use gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Do not wax in your house or it will create a very toxic atmosphere. The inside of your home will smell like charcoal briquettes! You could experiment with a safer, more natural alternative like beeswax. But I went for the toxic industrial stuff. Alas...

If you have a random orbital sander/buffer, use it! Or maybe your husband waxes his own car and owns an orbital buffer. Use it! Your job will be oh-so-much easier than buffing by hand.

Once the buffing is complete and your table (and perhaps chairs) glow, you're ready to dress your table. I kept my stencils to the four corners of the table with that in mind.

Shop for a table runner, or continue your craftiness and make one. Dress the center with an interesting piece. I found a bowl with a concrete base at Cost Plus for $14.99 and added some items I found on sale at various places. Place mats coordinate with the base color and serve a utilitarian purpose by catching bits of food and splashes. Mine are straw and easy to rinse off.

Voila', your refurbished kitchen table is done. Yes, I was sweaty and tired and inhaled toxic fumes along the way (next time--bees wax for the finish), but my fingernails weren't swathed in paint (thanks to the gloves). AND now my table is smooth, not sticky.

I can't wait for our Babes With A Beatitude Bible Study to start up again in the fall. The ladies are going to love drinking their coffee without having to jerk the cup up off the table in between sips.

And that, my friends is my craft journey with chalk paint. Thanks for letting me share it with you this week. If you have any questions or items I didn't cover, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer to the best of my knowledge.

Kitchen Table Makeover

Turn Shabby into Chic

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Titus 2 Woman--Am I HER? By Linda P. Kozar

You mean Banquet understands us "Titus 2" women? Good Lord! But this vintage ad brought a prompt to my heart that many of us need to revisit the definition. Here's a reminder of the scriptures that describe a Titus 2 woman:

Titus 2:3-5 "...the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things--that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Mothers--if you've succeeded in raising godly kids without losing your mind--if you've gotten them off to college or watched them walk down the matrimonial aisle, good for you! Time to breathe a sigh of relief. Now God is moving you into a different role, that of a mentor to younger women.

Now you might be asking yourself, "what could I possibly teach younger women about marriage? I have no idea how my husband and I made it this far." But you did--thank goodness! You know you didn't do it alone. If God is at the center of your marriage, you've got a good thing going. And it's likely you learned some good and useful things along the way too. Think about it. You have the opportunity to impart Godly wisdom to a younger generation struggling with the same issues you did when you were younger. That is the heart of what a Titus 2 ministry is all about--training a younger generation of women to live a loving, biblical, spirit-led life.

Reverent in Behavior

The word reverent means expressing great awe or respect. Women who live a reverent life are living sacrifices (Galatians 2:20 "Bodies presented as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, not conformed to this world,  but with transformed and renewed minds...")--dedicated wholly to the Lord in thought, character and action. This sacred devotion to God infuses and influences every aspect of your daily life. This means you are the same woman behind closed doors as you are in public places--an example to others of what Godly devotion is.

Not Slanderers

The Greek word for slanderers in Titus 3 is diabolos, the very name for Satan, the false accuser of the the brethren! Those who give in to gossip and slander are surrendering their tongues to Satan to be used for his evil purposes. Gossip can start innocently enough. "Did you hear about so-and-so? She did blankety-blank or was seen doing blank. We should really pray for her." Soon the conversation goes far beyond simple care and concern and a widening circle of so-called confidantes are all putting their two cents in. So make sure you have the proper motives and desires before calling others with sensitive information. Why not connect with a discrete prayer partner and actually pray for the person or situation instead? When in doubt, it's always better to take it to the throne, not the phone.


Resisting excess in every area of a believer's life is important. Self-control is a Godly characteristic and it applies not only to alcohol, but to any substance or action (overeating, workaholic, shopping or fashion, abuse of prescription drugs) that has a foothold in your life. Simply put, addiction means you are putting something or someone before God.

An occasional glass of wine is not a bad thing, but Paul stresses the importance of Titus 2:3 "...not given to much wine." In ancient times, pagan women turned to wine for solace. Romantic love between wives and husbands was not the norm. Husbands practiced infidelity without so much as a second thought. Men married women to bear legitimate children, to enhance their standing in society, and to keep house. As a result, many women turned to wine for a temporary respite from emotional and physical abuse or neglect.

Even after becoming believers, many women reverted to their old habits--turning to the cup instead of to God. Self-control is a mark of spiritual maturity. These women needed someone to encourage and teach them how to overcome these enticements with the Word of God and through practical instruction.

Now for the flip side. Some modern day believers pride themselves on never having tasted a drop of alcohol, and have no qualms about their opinion on others who indulge. However, they have no qualms about overeating or maxxing out the credit cards shopping or abusing prescription drugs.
I remember an incident in the checkout line at a local grocery store. A older man in front of me was vocalizing his faith loudly and obnoxiously to the checker. The man must have noticed my carton of ginger beer on the conveyor belt, because he started instantly proclaiming his disdain for alcohol and those who fall prey to it. Thankfully, he took his bags and left. However, when the checker rang up my ginger "beer," he seemed confused. "Hmmm, this doesn't ring up as alcohol."
I smiled. "That's because it isn't. Ginger beer is just like root beer."
The man in line took pride in his abstinence, so much so, that he failed in what should have been his primary mission. He should have used his faith to impart a sweet savor to those around him, but instead left a bad taste in everyone's mouth!

Teachers of Good Things

The Titus 2 women in the early church began to teach younger women about marriage. As mentioned earlier, the notion of a romantic marital relationship between man and woman was not the norm. And some believing women were married to unbelievers--which presented an even greater challenge.

This scripture calls for women to love their husbands (and for husbands to love their wives too!). Most men sought illicit sex outside of marriage, so sex with their spouse would have been sporadic, not the cherished, sacred sex life that would have created an intimate, godly bond between a wife and husband.
I'll never forget the call I received late one afternoon. A friend called to tell me she was in her car sitting in the parking lot of a strip club. She'd suspected her husband of frequenting strip clubs and followed him discretely one day. Most women, including myself, would have been full of anger and fury, and would have stormed into that club to confront him.
When I first heard her speak, I have to admit I was worried she might do something else to the man. I asked if she had a weapon. But she assured me that she didn't intend to do anything to hurt her husband. She simply wanted him to know that she knew what he was doing.
After breathing a sigh of relief, I talked to her and was particularly impressed with her calm and graceful attitude. She was prepared through her prayer life, and full of faith for this painful situation. Though I sensed the deep wound in her voice, I knew God was with her in a mighty way.
My friend filled me in on what happened later. She sat in the car next to her husband's vehicle and when he emerged from the club, the first thing he saw was her. She didn't scream or yell at him or create a scene of any sort. After he saw her, she drove away, tears streaming down her face. Her silent witness of his actions later brought her husband to repentance.
And her godly response to an ungodly situation left a lasting impression on me!
Believing women were taught and encouraged to love and pray for their husbands and to live a noble and godly life. The Titus 2 women prayed for and with these younger sisters, that God would uphold and transform their marriages. They also taught them practical ways to improve their marriages, their parenting skills and how to run a household--even a business. If you read about the Proverbs 31 woman, wives could be wise investors concerning business as well. Proverbs 31:16 "She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard." 

Today, women are still in need of godly models of what a true marital relationship is supposed to look like. Because so many marriages end in divorce, marriages that survive and stand the test of time and temptation are outstanding examples of success.

Unconditional love is referred to in the bible as agape love and is defined as the "selfless love of one person for another without sexual implications, especially love that is spiritual in nature."

Let's take the example of this agape love and apply it, like the Titus 2 women, to our own marriages and families and to both encourage and mentor other women!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

God's Top Ten--By Linda Kozar

How many of us can name all of the Ten Commandments in the bible on the spot? Apparently, not many--and as Christians, we should be able to do so. In fact, we should be living our lives accordingly. Below is a gentle reminder for everyone. Commit these to memory--and heart.

From Exodus 20:1-17
  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, theLord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

If Mama Could Remember--by Linda Kozar

If Mama Could Remember

By Linda Kozar

If mama could remember, she’d know the names of all her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She’d delight them with stories about her childhood growing up on a farm. If mama could remember, she’d whip up some of our favorite family recipes in the kitchen. She’d recall what she wore yesterday and wonder why she’s wearing the same thing today. If only mama could remember . . .

Are you a caregiver? I’ve been one for three years now. My mother whom we affectionately call, “Mama Rose” was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and will be eighty-one this month. Other than Alzheimer’s, she’s is remarkable health, and up until last year, on absolutely no medications. My siblings and I share caring for our mother in five-month periods, an arrangement that is sometimes difficult for us, but noticeably beneficial to her.

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (, Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. The disease is named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician who presented a case history before a medical meeting in 1906—of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A later autopsy revealed and identified the characteristic plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearing that diagnosis pronounced on a loved on is difficult to endure. The very first thing I imagined was a scene from the 1968 science fiction film classic, 2001, A Space Odyssey, when the lead character, Dr. David Bowman begins shutting down the rogue HAL 9000 computer’s processor core. As each bank of stored information is shut down, HAL eventually regresses to his earliest programmed memory, the song, “Bicycle Built for Two,” which he sings for Bowman. “Daisy, Daisy/Give me your answer, do/I’m half crazy/all for the love of you.”

Would my mother’s mind diminish in like manner? And would all her wonderful characteristics and personality be reduced to its lowest form? I grieved that diagnosis, as did my sister and brother. Our prayers for her continue, in spite of that pronouncement.

There are several scriptures I hold onto: John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said unto you,” and Philippians 4:7, “ . . . And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (KJV)

All in all, I know my sister, brother and I, made the right decision to take care of our mother. She is far better off being with us and interacting with her extended family than living alone or in a facility. We all love her and lavish affection on Mom. We feed her well, dispense medicine as needed, and provide constant companionship. Is caregiving hard? Yes, most definitely. And any activity we think of scheduling during our five-month rotation absolutely has to include her.

Mom asks the same questions of me, constantly and consistently. Each question she asks is a first for her, but for me, one of a hundred repetitions. One day, I came up with an idea. Was it possible Mom could keep a memory of a daily routine or schedule? If so, I could use repetition to my advantage. I scheduled her life around meals, two daily walks, and a relaxing soak in peppermint bath salts before bedtime. Once the schedule was implemented, she began to settle down. She still asked lot of questions, but not as many as before. I do my best to answer, but whenever I become frustrated with repetitive questions, I leave the room, pray a lot and regain my composure before she starts the process again.

Alzheimer’s has changed my mother’s view of the world, but because of the disease, she’s been able to teach me some very important things. Mom notices the smallest details—like the shape of a cloud or a sparrow flitting from tree to tree. And each day she finds some sort of lost treasure on the ground, while on a walk together, or in the mall or even a parking lot. Mom finds the most unusual items on the ground! I keep jars of her sparkly finds, and often wonder if some are tiny diamonds lost from ring settings or earrings.  She also finds coins, little plastic toys, sequins, metal pieces, dice, buttons, tacks, beads—you name it.
Mom's Little Treasures Jar

And rocks. We have a large quantity of river stones in our landscaping. She began to focus on the broken ones for some reason. One day, I began to understand why. She showed me the interior of the stones--ribbons of color, banded and swirled. Amazing. Why didn’t I ever notice them before?

Mom is teaching me to see the beauty inside the things I take for granted. The beauty inside simple stones, in the flight patterns of butterflies and birds, and the parfait of puffy, white clouds above our heads. All these nuances, like a twinkle in God’s eye, are special, beautiful—a wonder to behold.

She’s also teaching me patience. Everything I ever thought I knew about patience before is nothing to the patience required in caregiving. I often remind myself--she didn’t ask for this. She didn’t want Alzheimer’s. But she does want to be loved, to live in grace and dignity. The time I offer to care for her is the time I’m giving back to the woman who dried my tears, who treated me with tender care throughout my childhood and adult years, who taught me, sacrificed for, and loved me unconditionally.

Every evening, when my mom is ready to go upstairs to bed, I stand at the bottom and watch as she slowly climbs the stairwell. When she reaches the landing, she always turns to me and says, “Good night.”

And I answer, “See you in the morning.”

But one day I know my mother will go to be with the Lord and I imagine we will exchange different words. I see her climbing a heavenly staircase illuminated by the glory of God, her knees nimble and quick, a wide smile upon her sweet face. She will turn to me, and instead of saying good night, she’ll whisper a soft good-bye.

With tears in my eyes I will wave and answer, “See you in the morning, mama.”

For you see, the night is long indeed, but joy comes in the morning.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What is Love? By Linda Kozar

Wondering what love really means? Single women often wonder if they are truly in love or if the man they love is truly in love with them. But God spells out the definition of love in His Word. Hold love up against God's metric for your answer.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Walk On The Wild Side--Part II--By Linda Kozar

To My Readers--This is a continuation of my previous post "A Walk On The Wild Side," detailing my first visits to strip clubs and modeling studios with the Jesus Loves Dancers ministry.

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” 
Luke 5:32

We prepared the gift bags and headed out on the highway, the sky ribboned with streaks of pink and orange. The first club we visited was just gearing up. Our group arrived just as the sun slipped away. The young woman at the front desk of this particular club was no fan of the "church ladies." She answered our greeting and accepted the gift bag, but her face could not hide her distaste. I couldn't help thinking she'd been hurt or judged by Christians at some point. It was clear she didn't trust us or our motives for being there. But, thankfully, the dancers did not share this woman's opinion of us!

A barrel-chested DJ accepted one of our gift bags as we walked past, the loud bass of rap music drowning out every other sound. Except of course the small audience of men and one woman sitting near in front of the stage watching the dancer's every move. The lone woman in the audience clapped and hooted loudly, her voice slurred. As our little group walked through the dark club toward the dancer's communal dressing room, the tiny audience stared at us as if confused.

There were only two dancers in the dressing room when we walked in and they both wanted prayer. One in particular, for her young son. We joined hands with these two and prayed together as the music blared outside. Another two dancers walked in, but weren't interested in joining us. Not this time, anyway.

At one of the clubs we visited before (where the managers are so kind to our group), we talked at length in the dressing rooms, praying with whom ever wanted prayer. Some dancers avoided us, but others were open and willing to share their needs as well as their hopes and dreams. My favorite memory of this club is seeing one of the ladies on our team at a trio of poles. She called the three dancers together at the middle pole and they all huddled in prayer for the longest time. The three poles brought to mind the three crosses. Jesus was clearly in the midst of them!

The manager talked with us for a long time as well. We complimented him on all the remodeling he had done on the club. Lots of cleaning as well. He proudly recounted how they cleaned and stripped the floors, tables and each of the abundant wingback chairs in the place and how difficult it had been to clean years and years of gunk off all that.

No amount of cleaning however, would ever take away the stain of sin. I realized the man is clearly in transition! Before the group started praying for him and his family, he didn't notice how dirty things were around him, but now he does and is trying to clean things up. In time, he will discover that no amount of effort on his part will succeed. Please pray that God will reach this man's heart and reveal the truth to him. Only the cleansing blood of Jesus can take away the stain of sin.

We visiting many more clubs, the same ones as the previous visit, except for one that was closed for whatever reason. Sometimes their liquor licenses are randomly revoked. Or maybe their air-conditioning situation caused them to shut down. From what the others told me, they've had air-conditioning problems for a long time.

So we visited a modeling studio instead--a different one. The glass on the door and store front had the indigenous black tint treatment, blocking all outside light. Three of us walked in to offer the gift bags and we met at the door by a middle-aged lady dressed in what looked like a bikini of sorts with a beach towel wrapped around like she'd just come from the pool. She was hungry for conversation and talked on and on about a lot of cases on court TV and those in the current news. When she wasn't busy at work, it was evident this lady watched a lot television. We talked quite a while and then asked if we could pray with her. Like many of the others, this woman was a mother and wanted prayer for her son and for their finances.

As I feared, we paid another visit to the modeling studio with the interesting smells. Two women got off the bus right away and the others, with more sensitive noses stayed behind. But not me. I decided to get off the bus and push past my discomfort. This time I made sure to avoid the incense burners near the door. Instead I moved to the middle of the room. So did the other ladies. We talked with the madam for a while and she told us the top of her foot was hurting. I knelt down to the floor and laid hands on her foot and we all prayed that God would heal her foot. Pretty cool!

We hopped back on the bus, happy and filled with hope. But the other ladies covered their noses. The smell of that incense combined with other unidentifiable smells was overpowering. Again, the stickiness of it seeped into both hair and clothing. But I felt a sense of personal victory. Sin is the aroma of death to those who are alive in Christ. And we brought the fragrance of life into that dark place.

I believe if Jesus walked the earth today, He would surely be on that bus with us. He would minister to the dancers, the bartenders and bouncers in those clubs and pour out His love and Spirit upon them. When He walked the earth, Jesus was always in the company of those who were considered the outcasts of society. When confronted by His own disciples and those who considered themselves righteous, He answered, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"--Luke 5:32. 

Jesus IS on that bus with us and in our hearts. He goes everywhere we go--sees what we see--hears what we hear and moves us to say what He wants to say. Every hand we extend, every prayer, every hug we offer, every gift bag we give is from Him.

Jesus loves us. And He loves people who are not like us. He wants us to love them too. He wants us to love them right into His kingdom!

"And He will cause the sheep to stand at His right hand, but the goats at His left.
Then the King will say to those at His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father you favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation, inherit (receive as your own) the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me,
I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me.
Then the just and upright will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink?
And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You?
And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You?
And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least (in the estimation of men) of these My brethren, you did it for Me"--Matt 25:31-46.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Walk On The Wild Side--By Linda Kozar

Three weeks ago I decided to get on a bus and visit six strip clubs in Houston.

Now before you say, "Linda Kozar is completely out of her mind," listen up! The bus was a church bus and I joined a ministry led by a good friend who founded the ministry over thirteen years ago to reach strippers and sex industry workers with the pure love of Christ.

My twenty-two year old daughter had already gone a couple of times and invited me to come along. But my friend has been inviting me for thirteen years. So it was quite understandable that she nearly fell over when I walked through the door!

These are some of the gift bags.

The first thing we all did was introduce ourselves. After that, we got right to work loading over eighty "gift bags" filled with scripture, chocolates, peppermints, a ministry card, and a personal fan with two fresh batteries taped to the package. The bag's contents vary each week, but there's always something fun or useful inside. With all the eager teamwork, we finished loading the bags in a short time.

Then we sat down to pray for the trip but also for individual prayer needs. All told, eight of us loaded onto the bus--four newbies and four veterans.

Was I nervous? You bet. I had no idea what I was in for, much less what I would see.

We pulled up to the first club and we each hurried to collect four or five bags. The bouncers welcomed us with smiles, especially when they received their gift bags. It seemed the "church ladies" their nickname for us, were welcomed, warmly into strip clubs! I followed the other ladies right into the stripper's dressing room, though it's more like an undressing room.

The dancers who knew the group smiled as we walked in. The new dancers stared back at us at first. I imagine they were confused about why church ladies were invading their space.  I listened to my friends ask if the dancers needed prayer for anything and they did! So right there in the middle of the janky-looking dressing room, we joined hands--all of us--and prayed.

Most of the dancers are mothers with young children, struggling to make ends meet. They're doing their best to support them, but losing more and more of their dignity as time goes on. The industry is soul-killing. Many turn to alcohol and drugs just to keep doing what they're doing.

The vibe at every club was different, but we had almost full access at each location. It's been years since I'd seen carpet on walls. And you can imagine all the bells an whistles going off if anyone dared to wave a black light around any of those places.

The veterans dove right in--greeting girls, bartenders and bouncers with hugs. It was clear they have established relationships with some of the workers over the years, but they treated new girls with the same regard. At one club I worked up enough nerve to ask a dancer if she had any prayer needs. She seemed a bit embarrassed and said, "No" at first.

But I pressed her a bit. "C'mon, everybody has prayer needs. How's your family? Do you need more money?"

She responded quickly. "Yes, pray for my children and my fiancé and so I can make more money."

I asked if I could lay hands on her and she told me I could. But I hesitated a moment because she was almost naked. I settled on her shoulder with her back to me. Another dancer and another "church lady" joined in and we prayed. Force of habit--I hugged them both after the prayer.

Afterwards, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus hung naked on the tree for us, to pay the price for our sins. Stopped me in my tracks.

We are all naked before God, our sins and desires transparent to Him. He sees who we are inside. With that encouragement, I resolved to pray for the person inside the outer garment.

The managers met us in the hallway. My friend asked one about his son, born with a serious medical condition. The group had been praying for him for years. The other manager was intent on making us comfortable. He offered to give us water and Red Bulls. Though we politely declined, he disappeared and showed up a few minutes later, his arms full of refreshments. We thanked him and accepted his gracious offer.

The last place we visited will forever be the worst on my list. On the way there, the other girls warned us about the smell.

"Smell?" I asked.

They tried to describe it. "She has a lot of dogs and she burns incense and there are other smells as you might imagine. The place is a "modeling studio." I was to learn later that "Modeling Studios" and "Spas" are euphemisms for brothels.

Although we were only allowed in the foyer of the place, the smell hit me right away. I would say the olfactory assault was overpowering--smell on top of smell on top of odor on top of stench and all covered up with the scents of incense and baby powder.

The madam came out the office door to greet our group. A standard bank teller's type window predominated the room. A ceramic good luck kitty paw perpetually waving, enjoyed a predominant spot. The entry room was filled with beat-up furniture--a sofa, rug and coffee table and a credenza by the door. Three ceramic burners on top of the credenza, tiny candles lit, melted incense--the scent of which became distinctly unpleasant the longer you were exposed to it.

An older woman, the madam seemed genuinely happy to see us. She talked with us for quite some time. But I didn't talk much, or rather, could not. I was too busy dealing with the overwhelming odor of the place. In fact, I had difficulty fighting back the bile rising in my throat. When we first walked in, I tried not to pay attention to it. But it was truly a force to be reckoned with.

I realized later after talking with the veterans, that what we experienced there was more than just a physical smell. There was a spiritual aspect to it. The scent of sin and oppression, tangible and as real as any other. The smell of the place clung to hair and clothing and nestled inside our nostrils. It followed us back on the bus--a reminder that "... we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" Ephesians 6:12.

Next Week:  The Return