My eldest daughter, Erica, has always been quite an adventurer. Even from an early age there was talk of her becoming a missionary. I used to cringe at the thought of her going to a far away land; but, I quickly realized that it wasn’t my choice. .
Erica used to play softball many years ago. Her pitching coach at the time, said that Erica could be a missionary on the field. Coach Kay told Erica that you don’t always have to go to a far away land to be a missionary…that she could be a missionary on the field.
Years later, the summer between Erica’s junior/senior year in high school became a turning point in her life. It was when she heard the explicit Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her initial understanding of what it meant to be a Christian was that she needed to go out preaching on the street corners of foreign nations. Erica’s adventurer spirit, met with the passion of the Gospel, was a little scary. Then she found out quickly that was not the most feasible, or effective, way of doing things. Better news, she found out, according to Colossians 3:23 that ALL things can be done as a way of being a mission for God.
This was not her choice! God had chosen Erica to be a witness for Him…to further His kingdom. God wanted Erica to take the road of Acts 1:8.
Missionary: in Erica’s case, it is a person who received power to promote Christianity through everything…even on the field.
Later that same summer, Erica attended the Baylor University Softball Camp. She loved the sport, but more importantly she loved the Lord because He first loved her. While at the Baylor softball camp, Coach Glenn Moore and his staff, not only provided guided softball practice…they also provided an optional Bible study for the girls.
I remember picking Erica up at the end of the week and sitting in the stands with one of my former professors, Dutch Schroeder. We were listening to Coach Moore speak to the families who attended the visitor’s day to pick up our girls. Coach Moore was talking and said there was one young lady who had inspired him, and he continued talking. I wasn’t really listening well. I was busy looking for Erica because I hadn’t seen her all week, when Dutch said that Coach Moore was talking about Erica.
I thought, “How can that be? How would Coach Moore know Erica?”
I heard these girls cheering, and Coach Moore called her up. He asked her to share her testimony, and about what had happened the past week in front of a stadium full of people. She spoke wonderfully!
I had no idea what had happened that past week. Come to find out, Erica had taken advantage of the Bible study…and to be a missionary on the field. By the end of the softball camp, Erica had shared her testimony and helped lead over 40 girls to Christ. She came home from the camp, and made a special cd of Christian music & wrote each girl a letter of encouragement. She also decided that Baylor was where she wanted to go to college…even if she didn’t play softball.
Erica ended up attending Baylor because she was so impressed with Coach Moore & his staff. She was also impressed with the beautiful campus and what Baylor had to offer her. Erica recently graduated in May with a B.A. in religion. She has since become a youth pastor in Austin, Texas at the Austin Stone Community Church. Her time there is completely devoted to working with Middle School and High School students. Her goal is to share and grow in knowledge of the never-ending goodness of the Gospel with these kids. She will be doing that through Bible studies, having awesome paint wars, discipleship, attending church, eating dinner, going to football games, and spending time with students (particularly girls).
Being a missionary “on the field” is definitely her dream job! Erica understands the importance of the eternal gift that God gives us, and she wants to tell all who will listen. This picture totally depicts Erica’s enthusiasm! I know that God is smiling, and saying well done faithful servant.
Now, I’m going to get on a soap box. People don’t have problems sending monies to missionaries in a foreign country; but, some people seem to have problems sending monies (or partnering) with missionaries when they are local. I say missions are just as important locally, as in a foreign country. I’m not just saying that because my daughter has partners, but because God calls us to be witnesses…period.
My husband, and I, are educators in a public system. We don’t make tons of monies, but we have often partnered with local missionaries (RUF), as well as foreign missionaries (MTW). We think it’s important to further His kingdom where we are not able to go. We partnered as little as $25 per month, or $50 per month…if there was a spouse or family involved. It wasn’t much, but nevertheless, the missionaries appreciated it. We now partner with a missionary close to our heart…Erica.
This is what’s important to Erica. It excites her to no end because she first heard the explicit Gospel during her junior year of High School. Since then she has wanted to share the Gospel with everyone, especially those the same age as when she first heard. Erica’s passion is that young students would know Christ as their Savior, redeemer, and friend. She knows the pressures of this world all too well, and she knows what it’s like to grow up in today’s society. Erica also knows that the love of God is better than anything this world has to offer during those years, seemingly good or bad. She wants all of the students she encounters, by the grace of God, to know that as well.
As a new graduate, it’s tough beginning the next chapter in your life. You have been independent for a while at college, but now you throw other factors in as well. Erica wants to be the best missionary possible, but it’s tough being a missionary on the field. The unknown of having to ask others to partner with you, either through prayers or monetary partnering, is frightening. People don’t know you, or maybe they don’t understand the importance of partnering. Some don’t want to make commitments to partnering with local missions. It is very important though.
Erica has had opportunities to do missions in foreign countries as well. She has been to Morocco, and this past summer she went to Israel. She shares a lot of her adventures on her blog called “A Freedom Ringer”. You should check it out, if you have time at http://afreedomringer.wordpress.com/,
Should after reading this blog about Erica and her passion to be a missionary on the field, you may want to check out her link on how to partner with her. It is a safe online link at https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=7ba521 . Any type of partnering is appreciative: prayers, monthly, or end of year/one time gifts that are tax deductible.
Jesus said, “Follow Me!”
Erica stepped up to the plate…being a missionary on the field!
I’m so proud of my missionary for making a difference in His kingdom!
No one told me that when I turned 50, I needed to take out an extended warranty. I was the person who dove after balls, and lifted things without properly bending down. Yet, when I turned 50, I began to quickly deteriorate physically! It hasn’t been pretty, and I don’t appreciate what’s happening to me! Despite me seeming to be falling apart, I recently received an unexpected and very undeserving gift…kind of like grace. It was definitely God giving me a much needed wake up call.
I will admit, I have begun to lose track of what’s important, especially in my daily walk with the Lord. I have forgotten many of the common courtesies about how I should live my life. I should love generously, be happy, help others, be grateful, and above all…count my blessings.
On the other hand I say, “What you talking about? Life is hard!”
I know what I’m supposed to do, and yet I’ve been miscalculating, and missing the prize altogether. I’ve been literally, and figuratively, missing the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ. I’ve been stuck on family things, monetary things, not feeling well, and just not believing in grace…period!
I have posted the definition of grace before, but apparently I still struggle with its meaning. I’m like the prodigal son who hasn’t returned, and hoping to be forgiven.
Grace, n.: undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor.
Grace is something that I most desire, but often feel that I’m not deserving of it for many reasons from past to present. I tend to forget that the amazing thing about grace is that it is an undeserving gift.
I know about God’s grace. It’s hard for me to fathom it at times. My daughter, Erica, is good about reminding me of this. She often talks to me, giving me pep talks, about how God’s grace is for the undeserving. Although it came at a big price, it’s freely given by God. His unmerited favor is that He sent His Son to die so we could live. He loves us unconditionally!
The word “grace” is music to my ears. Erica often makes me gifts with the words from the song “Amazing Grace” on them. I love it!
Now let me rewind to me turning 50, falling apart physically, and how His amazing grace has begun playing music to my ears.
I have had a mass in my stomach, and also in need of a hernia repair for a couple of years. I had been putting off surgery for many reasons: 1) I don’t like them, 2) I teach learning disabled children and they don’t like when I miss school, and 3) monetary reasons. I feel our monies could be spent better elsewhere.
Well, last fall things took a drastic change. The mass began to grow bigger, and was becoming more and more painful. I began to gain weight quickly. Then things took a twist. In December, I began to bleed. I ended up in the emergency room. The concern was endometrial cancer, and that took priority over the mass and hernia. Doctors began testing, but due to the holidays, appointments were hard to make with them. Early January, the doctor suggested I get a total hysterectomy. I was willing to do this, because I felt so bad. They would take a biopsy during this time.
I went to schedule the surgery, but to my surprise my insurance coverage had changed. My family pays almost $1,200/month for the various insurances we have. Yet to perform this surgery (because of the new laws), I was going to have to pay $3,000 up front for the hospital co-payment alone. This wasn’t including the doctor, anesthesia, and the rest of the hospital payment.
Tearfully, I had to tell the scheduler to stop! At this time we could not afford it. We are already in debt due to other family medical bills, and this would just have to wait. Since I couldn’t have the hysterectomy, the doctor said we at least needed to do a biopsy to check for cancer. I had cancer insurance, and if that were the case, then I could have the surgery.
Thankfully, the biopsy came back benign. We were relieved! I decided I would put that surgery off until a later date. In the meantime, the mass in my stomach continued to grow bigger. I knew it needed to be taken out, but we really don’t have the monies for that. We are just teachers, and we have a kid that was about to graduate college, one about to go to college, and one more at home. I just couldn’t think about it.
On Mother’s day, my oldest daughter texted me, and said she had a gift for me. She was about to graduate from college, and we would be going up for her graduation the following weekend. NOTE:Traditionally we don’t celebrate certain holidays, giving each other gifts, just because we try to save money. We are very blessed, and don’t really need some things…but family time is always good.
I texted back, and said I couldn’t wait to see her graduate, and that seeing her was gift enough.
I had no idea what was coming on the upcoming college graduation visit!
We arrived on Friday night, the night before Erica was to graduate. I dropped my husband off at the hotel because he was tired. My youngest, Jess, and I went over to Erica’s apartment to pick her up. I thought we might go out to eat. As we drive up to her apartment, I see Erica and her friend Kelli walking up. Erica had borrowed her whole graduation gown to save money and was walking up with the borrowed sash. She nonchalantly said let’s go up and get your mother’s day gift before we go eat.
I said okay, and we all went up. She put up her borrowed sash. As she was doing this, I saw on a table with a plaque that had the words from “Amazing Grace”. I didn’t think too much about it because I just figured it was some of their apartment decor.
I noticed Kelli beginning to film, but that’s not unusual. These girls are quite the hoot posting many a funny video online, or on Instagram. But this was to be no ordinary film. I was about to receive an unexpected, and very undeserving gift.
Erica picked up the plaque. I was kind of being silly quietly singing “Amazing Grace”, when Erica began telling me something that I never could imagine.
She said, “Dearest Momma! This gift is to show you one thing. ‘God loves you!’ Even if the mass were not removed we know that God loves you perfectly, but He has generously provided a way for your surgery through the body of Christ. No, you did nothing to earn it and that’s what makes His grace so amazing! I love you very much, and I know my love for you cannot compare to the perfect, unconditional, passionate, and proud love that God has for you!”
While this was going on, Kelli was still filming, and affirming what Erica was saying. Kelli was also telling me that God loves me!
Finally, Erica handed me an envelope, and in that envelope was the exact amount I needed for the hospital co-payment. I was going to be able to have my surgery! After paying the initial fees, I would be able to pay monthly on the rest of the bills.
I can’t explain what came over me in those moments. I began backing up away from them. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions: thankfulness, feeling guilty because I didn’t deserve this, excited, tears of joy, etc. .
I mean what does one do with such a great and undeserving gift as this?
Oh, but the story gets better! Erica, and several of her college friends, prayed about needs and wants. She lifted me up in prayer with a need, and these beautiful students gathered up monies, among themselves, so I could have a surgery.
Mind you these are college students: some getting their masters, some about to graduate, and some returning to school next year. Most of these students have their own debts to pay off, and here they were graciously lifting me up in prayer, and giving me an undeserved gift.
I had the surgery almost two weeks ago. The mass was the size of a plum, and they fixed a hernia as well. As I lay here in bed, recovering from my surgery, I’m reminded of a Bible verse that I love so much!
“the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;” ~Numbers 6:25
The Lord has definitely shined down on me!
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting most of the students who prayed for me, and who made it financially possible for me to have the surgery. I still can’t stop feeling a little guilty for this amazing gift. I have always had problems with asking for help, or accepting such gifts; but, I have been truly blessed. That said, I thank these students from the bottom of my heart. I can never repay you all except with the pleasure of you all knowing that I better understand that God loves me graciously despite my weaknesses. Thank you all for sharing, caring, and showing me through your actions that God loves me perfectly.
Thank you to Erica Hairston, Kelli Stenke, Kaitlin Daugherty, Paul Feghali, Jacob Imam, Jeremy Feghali, Drake Osborn, Allie Matherne, Joanna Calhoun, Katy Craft, Haley Barton, Madeline Sneed, and Carly Beckham.
These young Baylor University students have taken Acts 1:8 to heart. They are making a difference in the world, and furthering God’s kingdom. They are witnesses for Christ, and will go to the ends of the Earth. They each have many different gifts that God has given them, and I pray that you will continue to share those gifts wherever He sends you all. God bless each of you in your journey to love the Lord, and the freedom that you will bring to others spreading His word.
God is truly amazing! These young people help to restore faith within me. It’s been a distracting few years. The best way to deal with these distractions is to turn to God, read the Bible, and remember the common courtesies to live by. I’m so very thankful, and count my blessings…especially for God bringing these young students into my life. These students who love the Lord so much that they gave me an unexpected and undeserved gift.
P.S. If you would like to see the link to part of the video of this gracious gift being presented to me, please check it out: http://instagram.com/p/qwqcwTmQsk/?modal=true
Just over a month ago (December 14, 2012), the holidays were fast approaching, and I was looking forward to several things. For instance, all of my kids would be home for Christmas, I was about to turn 50, and some much needed time off from work. On that particular day, the word grace had been on my mind. I was thinking about how “Grace” is God‘s unmerited favor. I don’t deserve His grace, and I definitely didn’t earn His grace. God gives me grace despite my weaknesses.
The morning of the 14th, I posted a simple picture about grace. It was only the definition.
Grace, n.: undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor.
On the afternoon of the 14th, when I got home from school, I drove up to my house to find my son, my husband, my youngest daughter & her best friend, my mom, and the police…all outside of our house. I remember driving up and thinking that something was not right. As I got out, I was met by many, to say that there was a break in and we had probably been burglarized.
The two police officers, one off duty (Officer Prichard) who heard the call and responded first, and the reporting officer both entered the back of the house to see if it were safe to enter. The front door had been jammed so that no one could enter during the burglary. The burglars actually used our grill accessory to crash through the glass of the back door.
Upon announcing that the house was safe to enter, the officers asked if one of us would come inside with them to scan and make an initial report of what was taken. I volunteered, and as I was scanning the house…it seemed so surreal. While the officers were asking questions and taking pictures, I realized that things could have been so much worse. You see, my youngest has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and sometimes stays home with the pain. She is a high school freshman, and my mom lives across the street; therefore, I feel okay with her staying home if she needs to. Needless to say, her room was one of the rooms burglarized.
In fact, the downstairs bedrooms were pretty much the only rooms hit. Again, it could have been so much worse. The burglars only went for things that could possibly be put in a backpack and/or carry out with straps. The burglars pretty much took all the good jewelry I have ever owned…that I had collected over the last 35+ years. Some were heirlooms, and some semi-precious items. They took two laptops (one with our family photos), our family video camera, and some music and gaming devices. There were some other things; but, I was thankful that it wasn’t worse.
I need to make a side note here before I go any further. The last few years have been a big learning curve for our family. We have experienced many ups and downs…with different family members moving out and some returning home (that’s another story). The reason why I’m bringing this up, is that my youngest writes poetry (one which is on this site called “Beauty Is…”). She also writes stories (with great details), and creates art. She’s extremely talented, and yes…I’m biased. Anyway, her laptop was extremely important to her. Her inner most thoughts, trials & tribulations, and dreams were on that computer. It was also a way to stay in touch with her best friends that moved to Alabama, and her older sister that had gone off to college. It was really like a safe haven for her.
Once we made the initial report, I returned outside to talk to the others. Glancing to the side, I noticed that Jess had a metal pole in her hand. It’s used to turn the water off at the street, in case of emergency. I was talking with one of the officers, and my son and husband, when I heard this blood curdling scream. My first thought was that Jess had fallen on this metal pole, and it stabbed her.
It was probably one of the worst feelings that has ever come over me…except from a bad dream. After I realized she was not physically injured, I went over to her to see what was wrong. That was when Officer Prichard had told me that he had told Jess the rooms that had gotten burglarized, and that the laptops had been taken.
That blood curdling scream was the agony she felt by someone invading her space, and just snatching up her very intimate thoughts. I was just thankful that our cats were okay, or that would have just added to the injury.
I have never heard her say anything really bad. If you read her poem (‘Beauty Is…”), you will have a better understanding of where her heart truly lies. But, on this day she screamed a cry of disgust. She asked, “Why would someone do such a thing?” I thought I don’t know. I’m sure they were in need of some quick cash before the holidays; but, no one really knows the burglar’s heart (except for God). Maybe they needed money for something really important.
I remember that it was hard to console Jess. It’s hard to say you understand, and sorry to something like that, unless you have really experienced something like that. She’s young, and there is nothing I could immediately compare it too. We all felt a little helpless. She looked like an empty shell of a person. She left the house to go stay at her friend’s house, because we were missing most of the back door…and frankly it’s a little scary. You begin to wonder if the burglars might return for the rest of the items they left behind.
I realize some of you may be thinking that maybe she was being a little silly, and very dramatic; but, don’t judge her if you haven’t been in that situation.
I posted later that night about the coincidence of posting about grace earlier that day, and how humbling it was for me. That I, in turn, should show grace toward these burglars. I was thankful that no one, or cats, were hurt. I had to accept that things were going to be okay, and that God was good!
Now to the paying it forward part…Officer Prichard, the first officer to respond came over the next day to see how we were faring. What I’m about to tell you is so awesome. He told me that he had fought in Afghanistan for eight years and had seen homicides while being an officer; but, he told me that the yell of Jess’ pain and the grief she felt, really touched him. Officer Prichard went home and contacted some wonderful people. He told them about Jess’ story. He told them that she was a good student. He told them that she had experienced some ups and downs over the past year (some emotional and some physical). He told them about her laptop, and then many of those kind people he contacted, responded to his story of Jess.
With the Christmas season approaching, Officer Prichard, and another officer, came to our house a few nights before Christmas. Officer Prichard, being the Christian man he is, wanted to make a difference and remind Jess that yes there is bad in the world; but, that there is a lot of good, too. He emphasized the reason for the season was Christ, and how Jesus gave us the best gift of all. He died so that we could live. His grace covers our sins…and even the sins of the burglars.
After reminding us that grace covers much in us that is not deserved, he also said that it’s important to make a difference with our talents that God has given us. This is where he brought out a new laptop for Jess. He also presented her with a backpack to carry it in, a jump drive so that she could back up her talent, and a card to upgrade Microsoft office so that she could excel at her school work as well. He also presented me with a laptop, and a printer for the family.
Wow! I wish I had a camera to capture the look of our amazed astonishment on our faces as when we received our gifts. God had used this officer’s talent to respond to the cry of one of His children. He contacted others on her behalf, and others responded. What a blessing, and for many reasons. I will actually write more about this at a later time.
Now, it’s time to use our talents and pay it forward. Jess has continued to write and create art. I’m beginning to write again, and we are currently housing a young boy who needed a safe place to live. It is the least we could do, for what others had done for us…especially God.
So much about God’s love was learned this season.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~Romans 12:9-10
God’s love is genuine! Hold fast to what is good. Show affection to others. God’s grace covers us all despite our weaknesses. God has shown/given unmerited favor to us. None of us are deserving, yet He gave His grace to us freely. He gave us His Son.
I know this isn’t much; but, at this time I want to personally thank those that were involved in paying forward and making a difference in our lives this season. There were some that didn’t want to be personally acknowledged for their charitable acts, and I respect that; but, know that we appreciate your gift, and we are most thankful. I know that God is adding jewels to your crown in Heaven. A big thank you goes to Officer Prichard, Patty, Cat, Susan & Jack, Al, Terry & Carolyn, and to the many others that responded and helped Officer Prichard make a difference in restoring a young girl’s faith. I also would like to thank the sweet teacher at my school who anonymously donated a grocery gift card to my family, and my Special Ed department at my school who bought each kid a gift card to help make their Christmas brighter. God bless you all.
I will have to say that all of the 2012 Olympic swimming has pumped me up! What an outstanding Olympics for Team USA. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their great achievements, and hearing their stories of hard work and overcoming their obstacles.
I love to swim! I may be a novice swimmer, but I enjoy it just the same. It’s a great quiet time for me. I actually listen to music, or pray while I’m swimming. It allows me to think about trying to reach for the prize.
Recently, I was thinking about Michael Phelps‘ swim coach, Bob Bowman, and how he has understandably put Michael through some trials to train him for the many adversities that might come his way. He was quite successful at doing this. I was also thinking about Hebrews Chapter 12. Both of these things got me to thinking about a similarity between our Father in Heaven, and some great coaches. The similarity of how they discipline…or train us for adversities of life.
Discipline is not always pleasant, but if one trains hard, with their “coach”, then they have the potential to become stronger…bringing about great joy. For Michael, he has become the most decorated Olympian in history of any sport.
In my case, I’m not training for Olympic history, but I’m training for an Everlasting life. I am hopeful that my new found joy will lead me to a greater intimacy with my Father in Heaven, and that will help me reach for the prize.
My pastor had a message a couple of years ago from Proverbs stating that “a friend loveth at all times”. Sometimes those friends have to love with discipline.
I know that others have tried to discipline me in a loving way, so that I may learn to make better decisions. More importantly, I know that they want me to experience the love God intended for me to know instead living in self pity (despair)…due to my past abuse. In knowing that, I will need to make sure that I have a good “assistant coach” (Earthly companions) that may be looking over my “workouts” to make sure I’m on the right pace. I may also have some questions about what “workout” will come next, or be the best for me. I may doubt their knowledge; but, those coaches, full of wisdom, will help guide me to reach the prize.
There will be times that I won’t want to listen to the “coaches”, especially when they are speaking truth. They will try to help me be better prepared for the race that’s set before me. They will tell me that there will be obstacles…even when I can’t see them coming. They will help me learn how to react and/or avoid them.
They will also help me to muster up the skills, and encourage me, to get ready to battle for any adversities that might come my way. I will need to wear good equipment (full armor of God), put my “game face” on (fix my eyes on Jesus), look at the game plan (His word), and really listen to my assistant coaches (Earthly companions) and Head coach (Christ). Together, they will try to help me put on the full armor of God as stated in Ephesians.
Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! I know that I can win this battle and reach for the prize of Christ. It will take hard work from myself, and many; but, it can be done.
God can restore my hardened heart, and really strengthen me. God has shown me grace, mercy, and love, and in knowing this, I can become one step closer to being truly healed.
In order to be truly healed, my workouts will need to consist hard work & dedication. The desire to do better. Coaches that have great wisdom to share, and may be able to guide me. Their knowledge will better prepare me for the days that follow. I will have to allow them to do so, and not let my pride get in the way. I will also need strength and courage to love boldly-not just others, but myself. This will allow me to forgive, and be better able to focus on the prize.
I will be honest. It’s still hard for me to believe that I can be granted grace and mercy. I constantly forget this idea, or block it from my memory. Thank goodness God does not forget, and He places others around me to remind me of His grace, and to lift me up when I feel down.
In essence, I am just a beginner swimmer. I have not totally learned to submerge myself into His healing waters. I must learn to dive off the starting blocks to get a great push forward. It will help me to swim as fast as I can to reach for the prize–Christ who strengthens me.
I know that I might get disqualified along the way; but, the good news is that I can start His race over. God is very patient with me, and never gives up-even when I think He has.
Trying to swim hard to reach for the prize! †
Of course, the king Tolkien was talking about in his book was the Ranger Strider who later becomes King Aragorn. There is much symbolism made in Tolkien’s books that refer to Christianity. I love it! Today, I’m going to share my twist of this last line of the poem.
We know that Christ touched many lives (figuratively and literally). I think most people thought that there was nothing special about Him. I have often thought about how Christ did not much look like a King during His reign on Earth; in fact, he probably had similarities to that of a ranger.
Through God‘s words, the Gospel in the Holy Bible, we know that Christ is the truth we should all seek. We also know that while He lived on Earth… few really “knew” Him. Of the few that knew Him…some betrayed Him. In fact He suffered greatly at their hands. In the end, He wore a crown of thorns.
Why was Christ crucified?
The Apostle Paul explains very well for us. Paul says that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . We are now justified by his blood.”; thus the crucifixion began. Christ endured many painful experiences for us so we could live our lives…the lives we often choose for our self.
As humans, we often choose the life we want to live for ourselves. Although, there are times that we experience pain as a result of those that choose to live their life for them self; such as, physically, spiritually, verbally, emotionally abusing others. This is not always the case; but, it does happen more than we care to know…often times go unnoticed by our self, or others.
…Anyway, in dealing with our painful experiences we must understand that a deep healing can take place, if we allow it. We must desire for this deep healing to take place. We can not begin to understand how this deep healing works, unless we understand His grace and mercy…of dying for us.
We must learn, and try to understand, that there is hope in healing, and His hope leads to freedom. Freedom will come when we have faith to trust in Him. Truth is our hope is found in Christ; but, lack of faith can stand in the way of our passion to heal. Like our doubt, faith must be learned.
How do we learn to have faith?
Having faith is learning His truth. Ultimately the truth is that it is not within our power to heal ourselves. We will fail alone–every one of us. That is why we need the “Author and Finisher” of our faith. The One who is able to keep us from falling. Christ can lift us up. As Casting Crowns song “Who Am I” says, “He lifts me up not because of who I am or what I’ve done; but, because of who He is…the One who cares to know my pain.”
Christ endured great pain on the cross. He died for our sins so that we could live. Christ fulfilled what we could not do.
If the Gospel brings about true freedom, then His message brings us hope. Not just for today, but for the future of His Kingdom. One of my Pastors told me that, “God’s grace gives us freedom from despair and pride.” Truth is, that we can have hope to “carry on”, if we let His grace free us of our idols of our sinful nature…or from our past of painful experiences.
I want to share parts of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s poem. It is as follows:
“…Not all those who wander are lost;
…A light from the shadows shall spring;
…The crownless again shall be king.”
Again, the only crown Jesus wore was a crown of thorns. But through the Gospel we find hope. We learn that the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and justice sets us free. Knowing all of these things, we should be able to have faith that His Kingdom is very real. He has Risen! Yes, the Lord has risen indeed! He is risen in a kingdom where the crownless again shall be King…of all Kings.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20
I would like to have the Lenten Special, please.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:25-26
Traditionally people “give up” certain things during the Lent period. Usually a person will “give up” something they really like. It usually is a habit of some sort, and it really depends on the person. I really have a sweet tooth; but, have to have something salty to get the sweet taste out of my mouth…hahahaha!
Lent is not about a deprivation of our selfish habits…the ones we mostly partake for our personal gratification. Lent is a season of self-examination. During this period of self-examination we are called as Christians to examine how we “nourish” our bodies…as members of the body of Christ. It’s about how we nourish our hearts. It’s about how we focus on Jesus, who gives us strength.
My pastor said, “It’s like a spiritual test of where your heart is. Your heart is where your treasure is. Is it focused on “me” [self], or is it focused on Jesus?”
It’s human nature to want to focus on ourselves. I’m extremely guilty of this. In fact, I tend to focus on things that I may have regretted doing wrong or I may focus on good things that I feel have gone unnoticed. Either way, my focus is on “me”, and not Him. I focus on things that don’t give me true life.
There are also some who may focus on the things I’ve done wrong, and are really good at pointing them out to me, and sometimes to others. It’s not like I live in a box. I know I’m a sinner! Most of the time, I actually regret doing a lot of the things I do. But, something that I tend to forget, and need constant reminding of, is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Only others, or my miserable self, may accuse of past, or present things.
Lent can also be a time to be a part of community; to be a part of others–who have a commonality of fixing their eyes on Jesus.
That’s really the goal isn’t it? To fix our eyes on Jesus. To understand that this beautiful gift from God, His only Son, is not just for ourselves but to be shared with others…with no strings attached.
Lent is a time to extend ourselves to others. Extending not to just those who are impoverished, but, those that are older in age, those that may need comforting (for whatever reason), and to the sick and weary. We should extend ourselves to those in our broken world; to be His messengers of love and mercy. Our extension of ourselves should bear the very image of God.
Giving of oneself can be tough; but, there is a high return on the satisfaction odometer. Giving of oneself can be like a ripple effect. Those that take His Light out into the world of others–do so because they take delight in this action, not because it’s “dutiful”. It becomes a celebration that ripples out into the world.
I know that there is a lot more to Lent. I could write pages on Lent. Lent is not only about self-examination, it’s a plethora of practicality of sorts. Some of it’s about focusing on our faults; some of it’s about repenting; some of it’s about extending ourselves to others; but, it’s mainly about keeping our eye on the prize of Christ Jesus. He is the Author & Creator–the Finisher of the story of our lives.
During this season, what will you be serving up for your Lenten Special?
Who determines if one is strong or not? No one should determine other’s strengths or weaknesses. We have our own strengths and weaknesses, knowing that God has a plan for us. Every struggle in your life shapes you into the person you are today. Be thankful for the hard times; they can only make you stronger…strong enough!
Many of us have felt great guilt from the brokenness of our past, and present, struggles. We feel, or have felt, that we just have to live under a dark cloud. Through Christ, He became our answer for our brokenness. It was His sacrificial love for us that gives us strength to carry on past our struggles.
For some of us, the healing and restoration from life’s struggles are needed to rightly see God. This kind of healing is available through the power of God who makes us stronger. It may take some time to let those old idols go; but, one may consider the work of the Holy Spirit to heal those wounds—if we let him.
Despite our struggles in life, we can have confidence in knowing that Jesus suffered and died for us. We can now find restoration and resurrection through him…and all from the hand of God.
We all know that our struggles can wreak havoc within us. They often leave us feeling like we are living in a world of tangled hangers. Sometimes it’s hard to straighten them out without some kind of help. While straightening up the “hangers” in our life, they may allow us to find support and comfort from others. Instead of regretting all of our struggles, we should be thankful when God puts others into our lives to help us.
One important question we may have is…does God care that we suffer? Does He enjoy watching us as we fall down? Of course not.
God knows that we suffer. On our worst day, we are never alone. Jesus is by our side. Our faith declares that God, our Father, sent His only Son to suffer at the hand of others. He came into our world to deliver us from evil and give us a future and a hope.
How then does Jesus know about our path of struggles? Within our faith we have learned how the only Son of the living God encountered real temptations. We know that Jesus overcame those temptations by using His Father’s words…scriptures. We have read where Jesus suffered at the hands of family and friends. We know that His suffering became worse the closer he got to achieving His goal—to save our souls.
God knows that we are weak and He urges us to pray to Him, dare I say cry out to Him, so that we would be better equipped not to succumb to temptation. Something happens to us when we take our struggles to the Father. He transforms us, and gives us strength and courage to do things we never thought possible. Even in the midst of our struggles, we can rise up to most challenges. God would not bring us to our struggles, if He could not bring us through our struggles. Don’t get off the beaten path, take the path to Jesus… often times the path less traveled.
“You must think I’m strong…
To give me what I’m going through…
Forgive me if I’m wrong; but this looks like more than I can do on my own.
…Maybe that’s the point; to reach the point of giving up.
Cause when I’m finally…at rock bottom.
That’s when I start looking up and reaching out.
Cause I’m broken down to nothing
But I’m still holding on to one thing
You are God and you are strong when
I am weak
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,
and i don’t have to be strong enough
I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up. I’m not strong enough.
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me.
Lord right now I’m asking you to be…Strong enough.”
God does know that we suffer and that we needed someone to give meaning and hope beyond our suffering. Jesus Christ was sent to enter into our world to deliver us from evil. He gives us hope when we draw near to Him. Jesus’ suffering lasts beyond the cross to the wonder and glory of the resurrection. He is the Suffering Christ whose grace and mercy has saved us from our struggles today! He makes us strong enough to carry on.
There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine. His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ. God is love!
I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial. I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year. I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful. I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me. Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them? And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.
After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me. I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me. He comforts me. God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.
God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
His promise doesn’t end there. You see…I was sexually abused as a child. I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt. It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened. People may condemn me; but, He never does.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17
We all have struggles. It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles. There is hope in the very lives we live. Christ’s love is our hope.
There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..
My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered. In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today. He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.
God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!
Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it. He tells me that He has plans for me. He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper. God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me. He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.
I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”
I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ. The path can and will lead us to glory. Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ. While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world. God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way. The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering. Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”
So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.
As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us. He is the true lover of our soul. We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday. God is near. God is Love!
Even though I was far from being an orphan as a child, I understood loneliness at times. I was an only child…for real. I was abused by my step father. I alienated myself from others.
As an adult, I have experienced loneliness. I have alienated myself in a very different way. I imagined I was what my pastor describes as being “spiritually orphaned“. But something has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve been adopted…adopted by God.
There was a time that the only father I knew about was one I was trying to forget about. With the help of a few spiritual leaders at my church and counseling, I began to learn otherwise. I learned that God is my true Father. I understand that He is my Father. He chose me. He had plans for me, even before I was born. God adopted me to be a part of His family.
Because of my past, even my present, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt. It has laid heavy in my heart. I tried to keep it suppressed; but, thankfully things are different now.
“I am the thorn in your crown; but, You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from Your brow; but, You love me anyway.
I am the nail in Your wrist; but, You love me anyway.
I am Judas’ kiss; but, You love me anyway.
See now I am the [wo] man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life!
It’s like nothing in life
That I’ve ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me.”
You see, my sins pinned His exposed and naked body on the cross. Despite what I did to Him, He sought me out in the crowd and said, “I love you anyway. I delight in you. I have adopted you for my own. You are mine.”
I’m so glad to know that I am loved. I’m not afraid to follow Jesus, or be with Him. In fact, I look forward to the day I will spend eternity with Him. I’m secure in knowing that Jesus loves me. He has adopted me for His very own. He understands my fears. He forgives me of my sins. He gives me strength.
It’s people who don’t understand. It goes back to the disconnectedness I have mentioned before. It’s people who choose to disconnect. Yes, there are some other circumstances; but, people make time for what they want to do. I know, because I’m a human being who does that very thing…chooses to do what I want to do.
I think that God would like for us to slow down and be a community…to try and reconnect with one another. Last fall I had a friend from middle school who reconnected with me, and it was great seeing her. To share our different journeys with each other. We shared so much, and it meant so much to me to be able to catch up with her. I have to admit that I have also connected with several through Facebook as well. It’s been great reconnecting with so many.
It seems so many have trouble reconnecting. Maybe something happened within the relationship. Sometimes things may have happened intentional, maybe on accident without knowing, or maybe time just slipped away. It’s not easy to reconnect. It takes time and energy. There are some who encourage you to do one thing, and then same people hold it against you for doing the very thing they encouraged you to do. It’s so frustrating, and talk about disconnecting.
There is another type of reconnecting…a reconnecting with God. God desires us to connect with Him. If God had not given me the strength and courage to depend on Him, then I think I would have ceased to exist. It’s because of Him that I’m capable of so much more. I’ve been made new.
God chose me to be a part of His family. God adopted me. I don’t mind being in a single family relationship with God. A community would be nice; but if some can’t accept me for me then there is no reason to be a part of community. Jesus loves me anyway…no matter what secrets I may have from my past, or the person I am now. He chose me. I’m adopted by God. He is the best head of family anyone could ever want. Praise His glorious name!
“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from…strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace,…For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…” ~ Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-19
Forgiving doesn’t mean to forget about the pain. It means to no longer let the experience hold you back for another season. Only His abounding grace and mercy allows you to break free and to get back up again. I will not give up!
Even though I may be one, and am surrounded by oppressors, I will never be totally crushed by them. I will never give up, and I will continue to get back up again.
I may suffer embarrassments and become perplexed. Often there seems no way out of my situation; but, I manage to survive. I shall not despair…even if I am persecuted, driven hard, or ignored. God will never desert me, nor make me stand alone. Even though I may have been knocked down to the ground, I will never totally strike out. No matter the difficulties that come my way, I will never give up. I’m stronger than the energizer bunny. Yes, I have breaking points; but, when I recoup…I can get back up again.
I have become stronger and more courageous. I have become persistent, more steadfast, and resilient with my faith. I will try to remain fearless and determined no matter what obstacles lie ahead. I will remain strong in the Lord despite my weaknesses. I have the power of His words and the strength of his sword. Victory will be mine! I will be relentless on those that try to knock me down. I will remember that I’m standing on Solid Rock.
Yes, we all fall short and sin. We can be forgiven by Jesus, yet there are those who can’t seem to forgive. Sometimes we can’t see past our own mistakes. I will be the first to admit that I make lots of mistakes. I was in need of a change. I finally realized that I was desperate for His grace. It’s by God‘s mercy and grace that I, and others, can love and forgive and be able to make a change.
Our world is a broken place filled with broken people. Many often get a front row seat to this brokenness because God sends trials our way. These seasons bring us closer to Him. So why do we feel that we have to grovel for forgiveness from others when Christ has already forgiven us? Isn’t it what God does in the heart of a person rather than waiting for something to happen? Shouldn’t we use some of our experiences to go out and further His kingdom?
There are those who are called to walk with others through this deep personal pain. Gratefully, some have helped me to find my way through some of my seasons to stronger days. It’s through a few confidants that only God gives them grace to persevere and have good wisdom to give counsel. Sometimes counseling can be in the form of encouragement; sometimes admonishment. Sometimes people have to hear things they don’t want to hear…or say things they don’t want to say.
My pastor said that a good entry point into grace is in and through Christ…the One who liberates us. Now we can become empowered by our obedience to live a life that He intended for us.
When we find freedom from our sin through Christ, not everyone allows us to be free from our sin. I don’t feel very liberated when some may hold a grudge from something I have done. I feel there are times that many (including myself) have a disconnectedness from “grace” within our own lives.
In the church we are called to help others understand His grace. Not everyone seems receptive to “reaching out.” If there is a disconnectedness…why not get reconnected? There are a few that seem to ask, “What’s in it for me? How will reaching out to others empower me?”
I like what Robert Munger said, “The Church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate.”
If we are a part of the body of Christ, we are called to encourage one another. Don’t say that the community is like a family reunion and then never include some family to the reunion. That’s wrong! People get there hopes up thinking they will be included…just to be let down that they were just words.
Jesus is for everyone…especially His grace and forgiveness!
My new acquaintance, Mark Wilson, wrote, “A long time ago, Christian forgiveness used to be called, ‘the truth will set you free’.” The problem is that not everyone feels that way.
Mark noted that, “It is not possible to become entirely whole unless we are in relationships with the people around us. But as we give love and receive love – or learn to – then we can grow, heal, evolve and heal and become whole. We also can’t come to wholeness if we refuse to be an adult and grow up, take ownership of what happened to us and mature. What happened was not good, but ignoring it won’t heal it and won’t make it go away.”
Mark also said it’s hard to under-estimate how important forgiveness is. If you refuse to forgive…the Lord’s prayer says that you will also not be forgiven. It’s really just that simple. If you refuse to forgive… you are harming yourself, and your own fellowship with Christ.
Try to think about if there is someone you know that produced sour fruit…in the beginning of the relationship. Unbeknownst to you their fruit began to ripen. Maybe you are blind to the changes. Maybe you haven’t noticed the changes, or time has slipped by without concern. For whatever reason, the fruit has become sweeter; but, because of our disconnectedness the new found fruit is not shared with others. Instead, we may only remember being “snake bit”.
If we are truly liberated by Christ and we are members of his body…then maybe try to reconnect with the other member. Try to remember that His grace is abounding with joy. Why not share the joy of the fruit that has been made new and sweet with the one who was once sour. Reconnect. Make a Difference. Show grace.
Being faithful is the work of the Spirit. We can’t do it alone! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Faith is not what we look at; but what we look through. It’s not what we have focused our lives on but that which we should focus our lives on…on Him. If we are God centered, then change becomes evident and we can make a difference in our own life and in others…to try and further His kingdom. It won’t hurt members of the body to reconnect their disconnectedness. What would Jesus do? He would welcome any member to His body. Again, His grace is for everyone!
Stay strong! No matter what is thrown at you…don’t let it knock you down.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1
God, my heart is truly, truly comforted by Your promises, by Your love and mercy; refuge and strength. I want to establish myself, permanently placing myself in Your word and in Your works!!! Thank You God for giving me strength and helping me to get back up again!