Encouragement, Faith, Patience, Personal Growth

Top Ten People # 8, Gladys Aylward.

aylward4chinese orphans

Have you ever been told that you’re just not good enough?  Have teachers or other people of influence in your life told you that you are not capable of learning the subject matter and that you should abandon your studies and dreams?  Maybe these disheartening messages have come from within your own person or from others or both.  Has God called you to something that others disagree with and tell you that you’re wrong and now you are in doubt?  What if, deep down, you know your calling but obstacle after obstacle was rolled into your path?  All of these scenarios describe the challenges that faced Gladys Aylward.  Born in 1902, she was convinced from childhood that her destiny was mission work in China.  The journey to get there was an uphill battle from the start but her determination and belief in God’s calling enabled her to defy all odds and fulfill her dream.  Below are just a few of the obstacles she overcame:

  • Being small in stature and weak in constitution, she was repeatedly told she could never endure the hardships that rural Chinese life would consist of.
  • Her parents were working class people that could not offer any financial support for her dream so she went to work as a teen housemaid to save toward the cost of getting to China.  She saved for years on a meager salary to pay her own passage to China.
  • She applied to the established Inland Chinese Mission Board but was eventually released from language school after being told she did not possess the aptitude for learning Chinese.
  • She traveled alone on the perilous Trans-Siberia railway and was detained many times on her journey by Russians and others who sought to do her harm.  God protected her and she finally reached China in 1932.

This little woman, with no aptitude or support, worked faithfully in China and rescued over 100 Chinese orphans when Japan invaded in 1938.  She took them over a mountain pass to safety and did not lose a single child even tho she herself was wounded on the trek.  She was revered among the Chinese people and became known as the, “Virtuous One.”

Gladys Aylward, thank you for your legacy of faith, hope, determination and courage.  Thank you for overcoming the mountains of “NO” in your life!  Thank you for reminding me that a calling from God does is not necessarily an easy one.  Thank you for living out a life that was totally dependent on God!  Thank you for proving that if God calls and equips, it will be enough.  Thank you for confirming that our weaknesses are not a hindrance in God’s economy or plans!

Hebrews 13:20-21

 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Encouragement, Faith, Personal Growth, Redemption

All the Way, and then some.

A longer post.

moses in basket

In continuing with the idea that God often calls his children and people to go to extreme places in order to reveal himself, I want to look at the beginning of the life of Moses.

Moses was born into God’s chosen people who were enslaved by the Egyptians.  Not only were they enslaved, they were terribly oppressed.  Hard labor was forced upon them by harsh taskmasters.  The ruling pharaoh had succumbed to fear of the multitude of the Israelites living in his land.  Fearing that they might join forces with enemies of Egypt, he was determined to demoralize them with grueling work.  However, Exodus 1 tells us that the more he afflicted them, the more they multiplied and prospered.  Pharaoh’s strategy then took a cruel turn.  He would go to the source of Hebrew increase; he would eradicate the male population.  He first enlisted midwives to kill all the boy babies that they helped to birth.  Fearing God more than Pharaoh, they would not carry out his heinous instructions.  He then called upon the Egyptian general population to cast any male child of the Hebrews into the Nile.  It was during this reign of terror that Moses was born.  He was born under a death sentence.

His mother, like countless others, tried to hide him in her home.  When she could no longer muffle his cries or keep him sufficiently hidden, she resorted to a desperate plan. She covered a basket with tar and placed her tiny infant afloat among the reeds of the Nile.  This is my first point.  It was necessary for Moses to be placed all the way outside of the security of his home.  God is bigger than the safety of our homes.  Even if our children are taken away, given up, or leave on their accord, God is bigger than our homes!  God is bigger than the security we think we can provide.  What courage it took for his mother to place him there.  What courage it took to ask her daughter, Miriam, Moses’ older sister,  to stand watch at the river’s edge.  Crocodiles lurk there also and can potentially move faster than a girl who was still a child herself.  His mother’s courage and resourcefulness would bear much fruit in this story as we will see.

My second thought is that Moses was hidden in the very place that he should have been cast into!   The appointed place of execution had become his refuge.  More than refuge, the Nile became his place of rescue.

This brings me to my third point.   God can and does use anything and anyone to accomplish his purposes!  For the princess, the daughter of the very Pharaoh who issued the death decree, to discover Moses is not coincidence!  Oh I love how God writes surprising characters into his stories!  God put pity into her heart.  She recognized the baby as a Hebrew and pitied him.  She had him “drawn out” of the water and brought to her.  Some scholars have speculated that she was actually down at the river performing a fertility ritual and that Moses was seen as the fulfillment to her desire to have a child.  Fawning over the baby and declaring that she will take him as her own was overheard by Miriam.  As this scene unfolded before her Miriam, using the same resourcefulness and courage as her mother, and quickly approached the princess and arranges for a wet-nurse.  Who should it be but Moses’ own mother.  But that’s not all!  Not only did the princess consent for Moses to be taken back home and nursed by his own mother, she was going to PAY her to do it!  Only God can take our deepest point of fear, turn it around and make it a place of blessing!  To be paid to nurse your own son? Only God does things like this.

God has taken Moses and his entire family to the brink and saved him in a miraculous way.  No one in Moses’ family could imagine the grander story that God was weaving  or where this would end.  Each day with their son became precious and a time of preparation for his life in the palace.   We have the benefit of Scripture and know the entire story. However, his family was walking by faith with great uncertainty.  Each day brought them closer to saying goodbye to him again, but at least he was alive.  Each day provided another opportunity to tell him of his true lineage and heritage.  He was of God’s chosen people.

Rest assured, even when we cannot see, God is weaving a greater story.  Our darkest places of fear and doubt will become the place where God does mighty things!

Philippians 4:5-7 (NASB)

The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Happy Thought Indeed, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Reflections

Crickets and Curriculum

Cricket isolatedbooks

As long as I have breath, I will declare that the Living God of all creation wants to be seen.  He himself said that his “eyes of the Lord roam the Earth looking for someone to show himself strong to.” (2 Chron. 16.9)  If you have eyes to see with and ears to hear with, He can be found!

Last March we became the recipients of an incredible gift, our entire curriculum for our rising 6th grade daughter.  We are a homeschool family and the estimated value of this gift is ~700.00.  When the box arrived in the mail, it was like Christmas!  My daughter and I fawned over each book and could not believe the blessing.  Just this past week, the same benefactor, the curriculum publishers, sent an additional new edition of the language arts program!  I am in awe of God’s goodness.  God sends every good and perfect gift from heaven and wants to be seen in the giving!

Now on to crickets.  I am currently Chameleon sitting for my one of my older sons.  What that entails is misting his tree twice a day, refilling is auto mister and water dish and feeding him crickets.  Yuck.  This has been a busy week and I didn’t realize we ran out of crickets.  I was concerned that Drake the chameleon was hungry and was searching frantically outside for a cricket last night.  I could hear plenty of them but none were in sight.  I stopped and prayed, “Lord, if Drake needs supper, can you help me find a cricket?”  When I opened my eyes, there was a cricket at my feet!  Only God!  He cares about chameleons.  Surely, He cares for us!

Ask him to give you new eyes and ears and a heart of child like faith to see Him everywhere.  God wants to be seen.

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

God calls us to go ALL the way.

dark-prison-cell

Part 1.

Looking at the saints of old, I see a mysterious and Holy pattern.  God doesn’t stop short of the miraculous.  He doesn’t go half way or do anything in a less than complete manner.  God takes his people to the very edge, He brings them to the last-minute rescue and the midnight hour desperation and then reveals himself with such power, glory and might that we are left speechless.  His plans are for his works to be displayed in such a way, so that there can be no other explanation for what has happened except that God has intervened.

However, these gripping stories are also to build our faith.  Our lives are not so unlike the people of old.  Sometimes our trials bring us to very edge of disaster and if God does not work, we are done for.   If God does not part the Red Sea, we will be destroyed.  If he does not dry up the Jordan, we will drown.  God calls us to go all the way to see the miraculous.  It is necessary to go the distance. Consider this example:

Genesis 37 relates a tale of a very dysfunctional family where sibling rivalry and hatred peaked with a brother being sold into human trafficking by his older brothers.  Let’s look closer at the pattern. It was necessary for Joseph to go ALL the way down into the pit that his brothers cast him into.  There he learned that God had a plan to preserve his life.  Thru the long dark night, with each passing hour, he survived.  As dawn broke over the wilderness, he realized that his body was whole and preserved and that he had lived to see the sun’s rays pierce the darkness.  It was then necessary for Joseph to be sold into slavery and taken hundreds of miles away from his home and family ALL the way in Egypt.  On an auction block, his favored son status was stripped away and he became the property of someone else.  He had no say, no input, no nothing.  His elevated status in an affluent family was cruelly ripped away as he was inspected and chosen solely for his physical build.  His father, his family, his lineage meant nothing.  It was then necessary for him to be accused falsely and sent ALL the way to prison.  Ultimate humiliation and unfairness became his daily bread.  It was in prison, however, that he learned to trust the God of the dark.  Totally constricted and unable to dictate the terms of his life, he was helpless before God.  How easy to lose faith and hope in such a circumstance.  Who would have blamed him if he had.  The evidence, however,  tells a different story.  The evidence speaks of a young man who continued to work with excellence not to please men but God.  The way he ordered his cell, his habits, his time was of such a nature that it captured the attention of his guard.  He was then placed over other prisoners so that he could teach them the same order and habits.  But still his case and cause were overlooked.  Year after year he remained in his confinement and was able to contribute nothing to change the outcome.

What did he dream the outcome to be?  To be set free at some point and make his way back home?  To be free so that he could take revenge on his brothers?  While we are not privy to Joseph’s private thoughts and agonies of soul, we are privy to God taking him to the limit and then some.  Just when it seemed it could not get any worse, it did.  God had set an against all odds scenario so that if God doesn’t act and save, Joseph is toast.  I am sure that no matter what Joseph longed and dreamed for, he could not have imagined the outcome that God  accomplished.  He went from the prison cell to the right hand of pharaoh.  Who but God could bring such a conclusion?  Revenge to his brothers?  Joseph ended up not only saving his immediate family from starvation but the entire known world at the time.  It was necessary for God to take Joseph ALL the way so that the work accomplished was so incredible, no one could deny God.

Yes, God often calls his children to go to the brink of disaster.  But no matter where God takes us and calls us to go, we are not alone.  We have His promise never to leave us or forsake us.  If He takes us to the very edge, He is there.  We are not alone.

If you find yourself in a prison cell of unfair life’s circumstances, falsely accused and forgotten….Wait and watch.  You are primed to see a miracle.

To be continued.

 

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Patience, Personal Growth

“I Your Teacher”

classroom

Isaiah 30:20-21…..”I your teacher will no longer hide myself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher and your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it” whenever you turn to the right or left.

What does it look like to be in the Holy classroom of God?  I am sure it looks differently for different people but here is what it looks like for me.  I might be listening to a sermon, a friend, or even a stranger when a truth gem is exposed.  Its beauty begins to resonate deep within my soul and I know God has spoken.  I usually journal these nuggets of gold and meditate on them for days and weeks.  I find that over the course of those next days and weeks, I will hear the same truth in varying ways.  God will keep instructing me and reminding me of what He has said.

Like all good teachers, an opportunity to practice the truth ALWAYS follows the instruction.  What good is anything learned if you cannot use it in everyday life?  So it is with God, he does not waste His words, instruction or his time.  If He has been so intentional as to instruct, He has a purpose in it.

Several weeks ago I heard a message that contained more truth nuggets than I could write down.  I jotted down what I could and have actively thought on what I couldn’t.  Here’s the gist of what I was instructed in:

  • The fear of the future is often worse than the future.

Anytime God gives the command, “Do not fear”, it is ALWAYS coupled with a why not to.  For example:

Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When we face our fears because of the realization that the God of the Universe is beside us, then we can take steps forward in faith and courage.  Personal victory has the potential to unleash corporate blessings. Consider the personal victory of David against Goliath.  The outcome had actually been dictated by the giant; whoever was victorious, their nation would enslave the losers.  David’s victory was applied to the entire nation of Israel!  He declared that he had come in the name of the Lord; he was living in faith and gained a courageous victory!

  • Do not entertain any thought reduces God or your position in Him.

1 John 4:1 (NASB)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
Our loving Father does NOT use discouraging or despairing language with his children.  If you hear any “head talk” that is hopeless, filled with failure and fear, rest assured it is from our enemy and NOT our Father.  Years ago, our pastor at the time, gave me some very good practical advice for when the enemy was on the attack in my mind.  He encouraged me to say aloud,
“My Father said I am not to talk to strangers.  You are a stranger and if you want to talk about me, go see my Father!”
We are the sheep of our Father’s pasture.  We hear and know His voice.  Make truthful declarations to yourself and others about His character, His love, His power, His faithfulness and His glory.  What God has revealed to us in His written Word is for our instruction.  His past works declare who He is, not who He was!  Read and be encouraged and declare who our God is.
So, true to form, God gave me these nuggets and has also given me a test.  From where I am standing, the bay has emptied and a tsunami has formed and is poised to come crashing down.  However, by God’s grace, I will look beyond the wave to the creator of the wave.  The wind and waves still know His voice.  I know His voice.
Friend, if you also find yourself in God’s Holy Classroom, you are not alone.  He is right there with you as well as countless other saints who are in similar trials.  Remember that God is for you and me and has purpose in our tests:

James 1:2-4 (NASB)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
God desires that we lack in nothing and be perfect and complete!  What a good, good Father He is.
Happy Thought Indeed, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth

God Remembers

poplar bloss

Today is the day God told me he remembered. For the past 20 years, God has shown me a Poplar Blossom to show me He is remembering the baby I lost in my first miscarriage. He is the faithful one. I forget; He remembers.

Some say there is no God. Some say there is a God but we can’t know him. Some deny what they have seen and heard and continue looking for another. But like Christ instructed John the Baptist to do….I am telling what I have seen and heard.

20 years ago, as I sat crying and mourning the loss of my baby, God allowed a Poplar Blossom to fall at my feet. As I looked at the beauty of the blossom, His Spirit, His Voice spoke to me. He assured me that my baby was no less beautiful or valuable just because it wasn’t with me. He assured me that my baby was beautiful, delicately and intricately formed, and valuable.

Every year for the past 20 years, He brings a Poplar Blossom to remind me of Him and his great love and care.  Today, as I was walking with a friend, He placed a blossom right in front of me!

There is a God. He can be known. He wants to be known. I have seen and heard!

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption

God is the Faithful One!

God is Faithful

I am telling you again, I have been in a 3 week slump.  I have not been able to pray, or read the Word or do anything that I would consider spiritually uplifting.  Sadly, I have been able to get angry, be selfish and manipulative, and lazy.  Ugh.  Guilt fests and emotional toilet flushes have abounded.

This week, I am faced with a scheduled trip to fulfill a speaking engagement on the subject of encouraging women!!  I awoke this morning, full of dread and fear realizing that I have not prepared at all!!  This is not false humility but harsh reality; I am not ready.  Lying in the hotel bed, I feebly eeked out a prayer of desperation….”God, you have brought me here but I am unprepared and need you.”  Then, my mind wandered away and UGH, again!  “God, help please!”

Mind wanders again and I find myself deleting emails from my phone.  As I am selecting which ones to delete, my eye catches the word, “Arise” in the subject line of an email that I am automatically sent from crosswalk.com.  Curiousity more than anything compelled me to open the email.  I began reading the writer’s telling of Jesus healing the young daughter of Jairus.  As I read, the tears began to flow.  God heard my cry and like the good shepherd He is, reached down and gathered me in His arms.  Here is the excerpt from the devotional:

…..And though she was already dead, Jesus went to the little girl and said one thing: “Get up.” (Mark 5:41)

And she did.                                                                                                                                       

Is He calling you to do the same today?

Hear this: it doesn’t matter who you were before He told you to get up. In fact, I love how little we know about the characters in this story because it speaks volumes about who our Savior is. There was only faith by the grace He supplied–everything else was Him bringing death to life.

The new basis of her identity was this: she was dead and Jesus brought her back to life. If you believe in Him, that’s your story too.

Last year, last week, even what you did last night does not define you. Your sin, your shame, your accolades, your family name–none of these details matter compared to the truth of who He is and who you are in Him. The fruit God produces after He raised you from the dead can be beautiful and glorifying to God, but you are everything you are because of the moment when He said: “Little girl, I say to you, get up.”

You are everything you are because he brought you back.

You are everything you are because you are loved.

You are everything you are because you’ve been made alive.  No sin in your life is beyond the power of Christ’s forgiveness, and no brokenness is beyond the reach of His healing, restoring touch.  It’s time to get up. Arise.

(Excerpted from the She Reads Truth Bible. Published by Holman Bibles, Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams, general editors. copyright 2017)

 

Wow!!  My God heard me.  He answered me.  He reminded me again that He is the faithful one.  Because of who He is, I can get up.  Because of who He is, I can fulfill my calling.  Because of who He is, I am restored. 

“Oh God, thank you for the new mercies of today.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Use me if you will, but thank you for your love and mercy.  Thank you that YOU are the faithful one!”

Failure and Success, Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Redemption

Will the Real Christian please stand up?

cross-sun-sky

Do you ever feel like you’re blowing it as a Christian?  I do.  Stand?  Some days I am just barely able to make a shift in my horizontal position, much less stand.  Currently, I am in a 3 week slump and feel very unsure of my footing.  In my own strength, I cannot stand to answer this call.

As I reflect on Easter and the incredible mystery of death bringing forth life, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace for those, like me, who are unable to stand.  The cross of Christ stood high on a hill, erect and firm.  It was immovable.  Christ allowed himself to be nailed there and was immovable also.  There it was finished.  There the call was answered.  Every sin I have ever committed in the past, will commit now or in the future, was laid upon him.  He who knew no sin, became sin for me!  He stood in my place.

Not only did he stand in my place, he died in my place.  He knew the depths of the separation from God so that I do not have to.  He laid in the darkness of the tomb so that I would not have to.  Then, in glorious form, He stood again!  He rose from the grave so that I might have eternal life also!

“God, how merciful and loving and powerful you are.  Thank you for standing for me today and on Calvary.  Thank you for standing again in life!  God, thank you for the promise that your strength is made perfect in weakness.  Lord, I am desperately weak. Please, by your strength and might, help me to stand for you today.”

Patience, Personal Growth, Redemption, Reflections

Weather Alert! Storm Approaching!

Storm_cloudsSevere thunderstorms have been rolling across our state the last few days.  With high winds, blinding rain and even hail, they have been treacherous to say the least.  Yesterday, as I drove to work, traffic crawled at a snail’s pace because visibility was only about 2 feet!  I clinched the steering wheel with white knuckles and was exhausted by the time I arrived at my job.  I collapsed in my desk chair, thankful that I had made it.

Honestly, these storms have mirrored my insides.  A few days ago, while I was out-of-town, an emotional storm started rolling in and ravaged me in very familiar ways.  Old triggers were being set off and I felt out of control and like a wounded animal.  My mind and emotions could not seem to settle or find any peaceful calm place.  After an entire day of being in inner turmoil, I prayed, cried, yelled, and finally retreated to my bed thankful that I had made it.

I don’t understand days like these and I wish with every fiber of my being not to have any more of them.  Sadly, I know that I probably will and I am trying to gain as much insight as possible.  Here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • Being in unfamiliar settings can put me off kilter
  • Fears are opportunistic
  • I do not think in reasonable ways when I am off kilter
  • It’s ok to retreat to my room!
  • As I get older, my body handles stress in different and lesser ways
  • Nothing can snatch me out of the Father’s hand!
  • God does not love a future version of me, He loves me NOW!
  • Feelings do not always reflect the truth
  • God, like the good father He is, pities my broken and weak state

I am going to try to remember these truths for the next time.  I also want to remember that times of dysregulation and being out of kilter are a normal part of living in a fallen world.  I will also remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom:

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

Living in Freedom, Personal Growth, Reflections, value

A Beast of Burden

jesus-on-donkey

Random thought today about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  I am a FIRM believer in the fact that God does not waste the details.  Anything in scripture has meaning and I love the details that God gives us.

Today, I was contemplating anew the detail that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  A donkey has traditionally been a beast of burden.  They are a work animal.  Honestly, they have very little value beyond that.  Today I was struck that Jesus was the ultimate “beast” of burden.  He was to carry on the cross the weight of EVERY sin of all of humanity.  I cannot imagine that crushing weight.  He who knew no sin, became sin for us.

He still calls us to cast all our burdens on him.  He cares about what weighs us down and what becomes heavy for us.  He alone can bear the weight.  He alone can take the heaviness of heartache and worry and turn it into something good.  He wants to take these things from us!  My heart is overwhelmed that the King of the Universe became a beast of burden for me.

I am also struck that the next entry into the world will not be on the colt of a donkey, but on a white charger!  A very different entrance.  Not as a beast of burden but as a victorious KING!  What a day that will be.

“Lord, you are so good and kind; fill me with your love.  Help me to help others.  I long for your coming.  Thank  you that you are the victorious burden bearer.”