Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chapter 2: The Fear Factor

(words from the book noted in red; Scripture is in bold)
When writing about the untimely loss of her husband, Micca explained an important truth about trusting the promises of God. She explained how she "...chose to trust God's purpose...chose to believe what (she) couldn't understand..." The word 'choice' seems to be coming up a lot in my life lately. Because of a background that definitely frowned upon thinking for one's self, "choice" has not always been a welcome action. I am coming to realize that having the power to choose can be incredibly freeing.

I loved how Micca pointed out that the phrase "fear not" is found 366 times within Scripture. Powerful. My Scriptural lifeline over the past several months have been 1 John 4:16: "...God is love..." and 1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love...perfect love drives out fear..." I love the words she wrote "You and I were created to live by faith, and in God, we have all the power we need for a faith that is stronger than all our fears." (See 1 Timothy 1:7)

I wrote the words 'PERSONAL GOAL' in the margins on page 27 next to the words: "You'll discover how to balance pressure and stress without giving way to anxiety, and you'll recognize the promised presence of God guiding your daily life. You'll see how confidence in a faithful God unlocks the gateway to overcoming the fears of betrayal, loneliness, rejection, and the unknown." Those words alone make me want to devour this book, yet I know that it is important for me to allow these truths to sink deep within my heart. I can hardly wait to see what the following chapters hold after being so blessed by Chapters 1 and 2.

Another truth that I want to sink deeper within my heart are the words Micca mentioned about 1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. The simple reminder that only by God's grace can one do ANYTHING!

This chapter also helped me realize how I've often allowed my relational priorities to be out of whack. (Page 31) "...my biggest obligation is to maintain my relationship with God. When I lean on Him, my anxieties give way to peace." I so often make choices based on, hopefully, keeping the peace within other relationships and frequently lean on my own self, rather than placing my all in God. How I needed this timely reminder that my relationship with God is of THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE and that He never intended for me to go at this life on my own.

If you've read any of my previous posts, you've probably come to realize that I am, somewhat (ha!) of a control freak so I could SO relate to the words on page 35: "One of the hardest things to do is to give up control and trust someone other than ourselves...we misunderstand the benefit of a surrendered life. It's not about giving up; it's about gaining the power and presence of God living His life through us...Satan often takes what is meant for good and twists it into something damaging...you and I must always be on guard." AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! and THANK YOU!

The chapter closes with steps to avoid the Enemy's attacks:
  1. Submit yourself to God. Resist the Devil. (See James 4:7)
  2. Remember God's Words are true. (See Hebrews 13:5)
  3. Put on the armor of God. (See Ephesians 6:11)
  4. Live daily in the presence of God.

I would like to close this post with a condensed version of a study done by Charles Stanley years ago. I have the thoughts that he shared on one side of an index card and the prayers He wrote on the opposite side. (It is a little lengthy but my prayer is that at least one person will find these thought to be a blessing.)

Remember, it's never too late to join in on this study. For more information, click on our hostess' name, Lelia, and the link will take you directly to her website. May God bless all of you with a wonderful week!

(Source: Charles Stanley's http://www.intouch.org/)

  1. The Helmet
    “Lord, I choose to put on this helmet of salvation today in order to protect my thinking. I only want to think Your thoughts, Lord. I do not want any thoughts in my head that will damage my testimony or my relationship with You. When Satan sends one of his thoughts my way, I just want to know that Your helmet of salvation will protect my thinking.”
    We must remember that the battle begins in our minds; that is Satan’s battleground. It may slip into our emotions and actions later, but it always begins with our minds. Therefore, our minds must be protected from assault at all times.
  2. The Breastplate
    “Lord, I choose to put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect my emotions. I only want to feel what You feel. Don’t let me react out of my emotions; rather, let me react to the obstacles and attacks of life based on the truth I know in my mind, in my relationship with You.”
    If you allow your emotions to carry you wherever they will, you will be utterly defeated in your Christian life. One of Satan’s prime objectives is to make us feel wrongly about ourselves. If he can distract us with feelings of false guilt and worthlessness, leading us to forget God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, then he can cripple your faith.
  3. The Girdle of Truth
    “Lord, I choose to put on this belt of truth, and I ask that it keep the core of my body centered on Your Word. I want to live in the truth, walk in the truth, and testify to the truth.”
    When we are wrapped up in the truth of God, then we cannot be deceived by Satan’s lies.
  4. The Sandals/Foot Coverings
    “Lord, I choose to put on the sandals of peace. Father, wherever I go today, I want to be a peacemaker. I want my footprints to be the evidence of the peace I carry in the Holy Spirit.”
    The Roman soldiers often had long spikes on the bottom of their sandals to enable them to plant their feet firmly in the ground. Similarly, with the sandals of peace, we can boldly set our feet on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, trusting in the Lord that the world cannot make us lose our footing.
  5. The Roman Shield
    “Lord, I choose to take up the shield of faith. I want to thank You that, no matter how many fiery arrows the enemy hurls at me today, no matter how many trials or temptations may come, I can stand safely behind the shield of faith.”
    Faith is a mighty force; it is our faith that makes the difference between success and failure, between victory and defeat.
  6. The Sword
    “Lord, I choose to lift high the sword of the Spirit, Your Holy Word. Father, thank you for this spiritual weapon that cuts so deeply to bring about such conviction and repentance.”
    The sword of the Spirit is both defensive and offensive. It enables us to deflect the blows of the enemy, and it pierces the hearts of sinful man. Success in battle depends upon taking up and mastering our only weapon: God’s Holy Word.
  • You put this armor on by faith. Even thought you cannot see it, you can trust that God will indeed wrap you completely in His power and His presence as you go out each day into a dark world.
  • If we step onto our spiritual battlefield missing the helmet of salvation, or the breastplate of righteousness, or the shield of faith, Satan will surely attack our weak, unprotected areas. That is why Paul specifically commands us to put on the FULL armor of God. If any piece is missing, then we will give the enemy an easy target.
  • Be intentional about dressing for the spiritual battles you will face every day. God has provided resources for us; all we must do is put them on. You are heading into battle today. Are you dressed for it?
  • When you start the day by putting on the armor of God, you dedicate your whole self---your body, your mind, and your emotions---to the Lord. You make it clear that you belong to Christ and are under His protection. And you show the enemy that you will not be easily defeated.
  • Paul also tells us to “stand firm…” We must have a position that we must take in our spiritual battle. And that position is revealed in the first part of verse 10, “be strong IN THE LORD.” This fits with Paul’s theme of the whole book of Ephesians: our position in CHRIST. He is saying, “Stand firm. Don’t even think about giving up. Your strength is in the Lord, and you can keep your footing in Him. When those demonic forces start to press in on you, when the enemy fires his fiery darts your way, when the pressures of the world threatens to knock you down…stand firm.” We can do this because of the firm foundation in which our feet are planted.
  • When we respond to temptation by planting our feet in the ground and taking up the shield of faith, God empowers us to resist the enemy’s traps. In Christ, we have the power to say, “I choose to resist that.” As the Spirit of God empowers us, we can be victorious in those daily battles.
  • On the other hand, if we face the devil while depending upon our own strength, we will be defeated every time. No man or woman in history has ever been able to handle the devil, except for Christ. And now, in Him, we share in His victory.
  • Even though we have been given this mighty spiritual armor, Scripture never loses focus on the source of our strength. The Word does not say, “Be strong in your armor.” Rather, it says, “BE STRONG IN THE LORD.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Journey to Jamaica, Day 5

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Unfortunately, today was pretty much miserable until 6 p.m. I must've slept in the wrong position because I woke up with pain in my shoulder that radiated up to my neck, and into my temple and left me with nauseating migraine. I took the proper meds but very little, if any, relief. One of the team members knows massage therapy and after he "worked" on my shoulder, the pain was manageable and the nausea dissipated. I was able to eat the tuna fish sandwiches that were prepared for lunch though the throbbing-sensitivity-to-light-headache continued. I finally retreated back to the tent at 1 p.m. and slept until 5:30. When I awoke, all was much more manageable and I rejoined the group for dinner. Definitely didn't "carry my load" today but all were graciously understanding.

("3-minute-shower-rule" broken down into seconds...no joke!)

We had some sort of Chinese-looking food for dinner. Afterwards, Tom and Michael surprised us with cold Snickers bars, Pringles, Doritos, and soft drinks. All were crazily EXCITED about this unexpected treat. Would hate to see how we would have scarfed these items down if we had truly been deprived for more than a few days. The remainder of the evening included a devotional time and casual visiting. The evening fun made up for the miserable morning and afternoon though I hate that I wasn't a better member of the team in regards to the work efforts but things happen, I suppose.

Journey to Jamaica, Day 4 (part 2 of 2)

(Jim and Cheryl)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
For a day that began so heavily, all went wonderfully well. Since I had awakened earlier than usual, I had some “free time” before breakfast was served. I took advantage of that time & talked with Jim about what was going on within my head & in my heart. As always, Jim patiently listened as I spoke & cried while guiding me back to reliance on the Lord. He understood, helped me to better understand & after prayerfully being comforted, I was ‘good to go’ join the others for breakfast which consisted of corn pudding & pineapple. YUM! The morning tasks consisted of scrubbing restrooms, & more painting.

To ‘celebrate’ the midpoint of our trip, a picnic-lunch had been planned. The adventure began with a 20-minute hike to Cranbrook Estates. When we arrived, Mrs. Barbara and Mrs. Elaine had prepared some “chicken soup” for our lunch. The soup had a good taste but the appearance (unrecognizable vegetables, a variety of bones and twigs with leaves) made it difficult for some of us to swallow but swallow we did.

The hike was mildly rough and ended in a beautifully landscaped field with humungous palm trees. After lunch we walked a small bit further headed for the river. Along the way, we saw colorful peacocks along with a white peacock, an amazing gazebo, grass/mud huts and unbelievably beautiful foliage and flowers.

The river trail began at a calm pool of water. Jim and Michael were the 1st ones in the water. As I saw them standing there in the water laughing and talking, I “heard” God whisper to me: “I just want you to be obedient and place your all in Me. That is all I’ve been asking.” The previously mentioned “wrestling” and “tug” suddenly made sense. Both Caren and Cay noticed my tear-filled eyes and asked if I was okay. I responded with “I’m more than okay. I think I’m fixing to be baptized.” I then asked if they thought it would be alright to have that done here. They ecstatically responded with a yes and simple arrangements were immediately made.

I was amazed because I hadn’t even, consciously, been considering such a thing but I knew without a doubt that was what God wanted me to do. I was overwhelmed. Jim asked if I wanted to say anything beforehand but words weren’t coming nearly as easily as my tears were.

The day continued with a hike to the mouth of the river, which no photograph could ever do justice to the beauty that was displayed. The awe-striking sound of the rushing river was amazing. Donna, Cay, Caren, and Judith chose not to swim but all had a great time. We then hiked back to camp, which was a much steeper hike than anticipated. Upon our arrival, we quickly changed back into our work-clothes and got busy with the unfinished tasks. For dinner, we were served jerk chicken, French fries, and a carrot salad.
Later that night, we all headed up to the completed tree house (YAY!!) for a devo-gathering, tree house dedication and Communion by flashlight. During this time was when my words finally came. I explained to the group that I had been baptized when I was 15 years old but I had come to realize that my heart wasn’t right with God at that time. I was not baptized because I desired to be obedient or share in a relationship with Christ. I was baptized simply out of the fear of going to hell if I didn’t do so. I didn’t believe in the power of Jesus to save me; I believed that the power of my choice to be baptized would save me, as long as I continued to be “obedient” to the commands of God. (Legalistic-thinking in its finest form!!)

(Beginning of tree house)
I am still in awe that I have been in a religion with God since infancy but not in a relationship with Him until the past 2 years. This newfound relationship hasn’t always been smooth because I can be stubbornly defiant, sinfully self-reliant, and blatantly manipulative if I felt the need of ‘survival’ kicking in. There was/is a lot of “junk” that God has been faithfully cleaning up and clearing out. I no longer feel duty-bound to serve the Lord. It’s no longer a burden but a privileged blessing. I no longer fear damnation if my “service” isn’t good enough. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve. I no longer dread coming into the presence of God because of my weaknesses, failures, and sins. I feel honored that He has chosen to always have me in His presence. I am devoted to Him because of my love towards, appreciation of and heartfelt passion for Him.
(Completion of treehouse)

I had previously considered the baptism issue but was too fearful of what family members and life-long friends would think of me because of the disapproval and disappointment that has been expressed to me within the past 3 years since in their minds, I have “left the church”. The ‘whispers of God’ to place my all in Him included that fear of what others may think…He wants my obedience, despite the fears.

To be baptized in a river surrounded by those who whole-heartedly love the Lord and have a life-changing passion to serve Him was amazing. Many in this group have been my side over the past 2+ years regardless of the ease, convenience or beauty of the moment and I have grown to love them in the depths of my heart that have rarely ever been accessible to others. Jim has been a consistent sense of security, an unconditional source of love and acceptance and I was so grateful to share in that moment with a person whose relationship began as counselor-client, to faithful friend, then a brother in Christ. I have been blessed beyond measure.

The tree house devotional time was filled with many precious moments. We had the chance to talk about the wonders of God, the bonding that had occurred with our team and the personal changes that were taking place within each of us. We took Communion, sang together and had a chance to simply enjoy each other and enjoy the Lord---a definite memorable time.

The Lord really chose to fill this day with unexpected twists and turns, moments of indescribable joy and blessing beyond rational belief and I praise Him for doing so!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Journey to Jamaica, Day 4 (Part 1 of 2)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I had a fitful night of sleep last night. In between the rainfall, shoulder discomfort, and weird dreams, I have woken up struggling with a sense of physical and emotional heaviness. I've never understood this term before, but I felt as if I were wrestling with God all night. I can't explain how but I know that God is tugging on my heart but I'm not sure what the tug means.

I feel as if He is compelling me to follow Him somewhere, to do something different and in my heart, I am responding with "Good grief...what do You want from me??! I am in the middle of a Jamaican jungle, working hard in what could have been my vacation; I am sleeping in a tent; eating all sorts of unknowns; having to hike to simply go to the bathroom; stepping way out of my comfort zone and 'opening up' to basic strangers while fighting against physical pain every inch of the way. Isn't that enough?!" (I know, I know...not one of my prettier spiritual moments.)
As I am preparing to head up for breakfast, someone had chosen to play Michael W. Smith in the distance...this was the 1st music I'd heard since arriving in Jamaica. I do not sing well nor do I read music but Contemporary Christian Music has a huge place in my heart. M.W. Smith was singing about how one is never alone because God is always there. I KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE but my heart does not "feel" like He is 'hanging with me' this morning.
Actually, I can feel God's presence but some sense of unexplainable sadness is running deep. I feel like weeping but I know that this really isn't the time or the place. Or is it? I am, as always, in the midst of God; I am surrounded by people who serve, worship and love Him and these same people, beyond my comprehension, also love me.

In between the moments of sleep last night, I prayed for faith to replace fear; for peace to replace panic, for calm to replace chaos, and for trust in God's provisional care. Lord, the song in the distance is echoing my deepest desire: please open the eyes of my heart. I do want to see You. I do want to see You shining in glory. I do want to experience the pouring out of Your love and power. I do know that You are close to my heart because Your Word is truth. I so long for the day that my heart will stop feeling so shatteringly fragile. I want to be complete in You. May that day be today. I pray for the safe-keeping of all today as we continue in the carpentry, landscaping, and cleaning at the campground as well as our specially-planned outing for a picnic and swimming at the river.

Journey to Jamaica, Day 3

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As I sit in this camping environment, I am surrounded by the beauty of God's creation and the peacefulness of His presence. I am taken back by the realization that the peacefulness of His presence may be mine despite my surroundings or circumstances. What an awesome privilege; what a treasured gift!

I am praying for a deepened faith in my God that will overwhelm any and all mistrusts that linger in my heart. I know God can heal and restore all things and I pray that He will do just in all areas of my life. I pray for the humility, mercy, and capability to unconditionally love as Christ loves me. I pray for a gentle spirit that is dependent upon God and God alone.

Today was somewhat difficult. My shoulder injury was aggravating me and led to a feeling of being drained both physically and emotionally. I am irritated that this pain hasn't gone away and embarrassed that it is prohibiting me from being 100% available to the goals of this trip. While waiting for the pain to dissipate, I assembled the 'goody bags' for the rural school we will be assisting at on Friday. Afterwards, I ended up taking the pain RX and slept in the tent from 11:30-2:30. (UGH!!)

I missed lunch and was thankful that my mom had strongly encouraged me to pack canned tuna meals, beef jerky, and packaged crackers. The afternoon tasks consisted of cleaning the used paint brushes, and then painting picnic tables with Cheryl, Cay, and Caren. Low-key day but, thankfully, my shoulder is feeling much better.

The evening meal consisted of some doughy item similar to potato cakes, bread dumplings, steamed green beans, white rice and baked fish. Throughout dinner, several of us talked about the return trip that is being planned for the summer. I am falling in love with Jamaica and would so like to come back; I am already having difficulty imagining returning to my 'westernized lifestyle' while so much is needed and can be done here.
I realized as I write these words that these are the plans that I have. I haven't even laid these plans before the Lord. I surrender these plans to His hands and pray that above all, His will be done. Other evening conversations focused upon Nel's adoption of 2 Jamaica boys and Dan's recent adoption of a child from China and an on-going adoption process for a teen in Ethiopia. My heart yearns to have such an opportunity to be more involved in the lives of children in need. Again, I am fervantly praying that my heart and mind will be open and receptive to His will and I pray for the wisdom to be able to discern what His good and perfect will is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shared Thoughts...

I wrote this in my journal well over a year ago but felt compelled to re-read, remember, and post now.
Out of the Darkness and Into the Light
In a land, not so far away and not so long ago, lived a woman who had, long since, lived in the dark confinement of a pit. She did not enjoy where she was nor did she entice others to join her, yet she had become convinced that this place of darkness was where she was to call home.
She, vaguely, remembered times before her life in this pit, but she couldn’t recall if she had been thrown in by others, willingly jumped in seeking adventure, or if she had simply lost her footing and stumbled down into the opening or maybe a combination of them all. As time passed, the reasons behind her captivity seemed irrelevant. She was where she was, assumed that she deserved to be there, and was determined to make the best of it. She attempted to make the pit as comfortable as possible. She, endlessly, scrubbed the mud floors and walls. She even etched hopeful designs of sunnier scenes within the dirt.
Regardless of her efforts, it never felt like home. The pit remained dark, dirty, lonely, and dangerous. The woman believed that there had to be something she could do that would deliver her from this despicable environment. She decided that she would form bricks from the mud and the small pool of water, created by her many tears. She worked long and hard to create what she hoped would become the stepping-stones leading to the opening of the pit. As she shaped the bricks, she envisioned what labels she could place upon each stone: futile efforts, self-protection, blatant sin, denial, compliance, anger, betrayal, heartache, selfishness, pride, shame, despair and fear. Each label could have easily represented a few, of the many ways, that may have led to her to this pit-dwelling existence.
After much effort, she was able to form enough steps that would, hopefully, hold firm as she took herself, step-over-step, up to the pit’s entrance. Though exhausted, she began to climb. Amidst much sweat, blood, and tears, she was finally able to grasp hold of the edges of the pit. She felt exhilarated and her excitement only increased as she felt the warmth of the sun upon her face. But before she could even fully rejoice at her self-directed accomplishment, an Enemy came over to the pit’s edge and stomped on her sore, bloody hands until she was no longer able to maintain her grasp.
She, rapidly, fell downward, causing the stones to crumble and further injured herself. When her descent finally ended, she realized that she had landed at an even deeper level within the pit. The crumbling bricks had created a hazy layer of dust and debris that not only blocked out the light but also soiled what little water remained. When the woman realized how far she had fallen and that there was absolutely nothing she could do, on her own, to get out of the pit, she was devastated. She sobbed, bitterly, while contemplating how the jagged stones and contaminated water may hasten her departure from this overwhelming darkness. Eventually, her body gave in to her physical and emotional exhaustion and she slept.
She awoke, hours later, with thoughts about the God who she had heard about before her entry into this dwelling place. She believed in His existence but couldn’t imagine Him caring about her, especially in her current condition. She had, long ago; come to the conclusion that He, too, felt she deserved to be in this dismal pit. As her tears, once again, began to fall, she noticed that the dust was settling, allowing her to see a rope along the wall of the pit. The rope had, obviously, been there for quite a while and she couldn’t believe that she hadn’t noticed it there before. In the silence, she heard the following words: “I’m here. I’ve been here all along. You have not been abandoned. You have not been alone. I have heard your cries and longed for you to look up and see that I have provided a way out of this darkness. My love is all you need to be rescued. Accept my gift and you will be lifted up into the light.”
Through the tears and even a bit of hesitancy, the woman reached out to the rope. Upon her initial touch, she was effortlessly pulled from the pit. She was so grateful to have been set free, yet God was not content to leave her standing at the edge of the shifting ground. He carried her far above and away from the place that had once held her captive. He set her feet upon a rock and explained to her that the ground was firm and steady because she had made up her mind that is where she wanted to be. She, immediately, noticed that there were others standing with her on this solid ground. They welcomed her to this remarkable place of safety.
The woman felt such appreciation, comfort and joy at her deliverance but she was still covered in dirt, blood, sweat, and tears. Within moments, God, and those whom He allowed, lovingly cleansed and bandaged each wounded area. The Lord was even able to heal the wounds that weren’t visible to anyone else.
She was amazed at the testimonies of the people who told her how God had once saved them from their own darkness, yet she was in awe of the words that came from God, Himself. She knew, without a doubt, that regardless of what life brought her way, she would never, again, be alone in a dark, slimy pit. She, whole-heartedly, clung to the words of her newfound Father, who had promised her security, stability, protection, mercy, guidance and unconditional love.
The woman is eagerly anticipating the day when this graciously loving and forgiving God will enable her to call out to others who are battling their own personal pits. This eagerness is developing, because she knows, that when that time comes, those who turn towards her voice of hope and rescue will no longer be able to see her standing before them, but they will be able to see the very essence of God.
Stacy Golden
Completed July 30, 2007

ABC's of the Word...Gg


Psalm 34:6-8 (New Living Translation)

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard: he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

  • Since returning from a mission trip a couple of weeks ago, I feel as if I have been under some sort of spiritual attack. Thoughts that I know are not true have re-surfaced and I've not done so well at capturing them and refusing them access to my heart. Painful memories have been haunting me day and night and I am feeling the physical and emotional fatigue.

  • The Lord is good. He does guard me. I am surrounded by His love, His truth, His power, His grace. He is my defense and I refuse to give the Devil even the slightest opportunity to carry me into the darkness and shame that I once knew so well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chapter 1: When the Unthinkable Happens

Yesterday began the new Yes to God Tuesday study of Micca Campbell's book: AN UNTROUBLED HEART: FINDING A FAITH THAT IS STRONGER THAN ALL MY FEARS. If you would like to join, click on our gracious hostess' name, Lelia.

The title of this book, immediately, grabbed hold of my attention. I have grown tired of living a life steeped in fear. I began the journey to be rid of this fear close to 3 years ago and what a journey it continues to be. I am eager to read the insightful information within this book. (Quotes from the book are posted in red.)
A statement within the 1st paragraph of the "Introduction" captured a goal I am growing towards: "...I have been liberated from most of my fears by placing my faith in God instead of my circumstances." Oh, how I long for this to be true in my own life.
Micca's introduction continued with the words: "In the face of the unthinkable...fear uncovers truth. We're really not in control of anything, Control is only an illusion...realizing our helplessness isn't as bad as you might imagine, It's often the beginning of a new thing---a new dependence on God who is sovereign over all...There's nothing to fear when you and I are certain that God is in control and on our side...The truth is we don't have to go it alone...nothing can snatch us from His hand." The realization that I, in fact, wasn't in control was relieving and heart-shattering at the same time. I wish that I could say my dependence upon God was steadfast and secure but it continues to be a growing process. I am struggling with the truth of not being alone because I vividly remember times when I've felt so alone, regardless of this promise, and still find myself wondering 'where was God when...?
My heart broke as I read of the tragedy that occurred in Micca's life yet was amazed at the strength she drew upon to not only survive her loss but to share her story with others. "My story" is not nearly as devastating but it remains difficult to share. I must find the way to get beyond the "why" questions? My "why" questions are no longer in the sense of "why me?" (in a pitying sense) but in the sense of "why---what was/am I to learn from these experiences?" I can grasp the fact that God was aware of my circumstances (pg. 19) but God being involved in those circumstances is still difficult to comprehend.
Micca wrote: "God wants to teach us that's it's safe to trust Him. Even if we don't have all the answers, our past will never make sense until we invite God into our present." Including the Lord in my 'present' isn't where my difficulty lies---I continue to struggle with the simple acknowledgment of remembrances from my past. Micca wrote about her 1st step began when she chose to believe she was never alone (pg. 21). Can it really be that simple---just a concentrated choice? I am stubborn enough to stand by a personal choice yet continue to struggle with this concept. Her words on pg. 22 took hold of my heart and keep resonating within: "This is the God that gave life to you and me. Why would He do that and then leave us alone?" I've never thought of it that way before and I feel that seed taking root in my heart.
I love the words of Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength always ready to help in times of trouble." Not meaning to present a case for pity; just stating a fact in that there have been very few truly "safe" places and the words "refuge" and "always ready..." imply a sense of loving consistency I am longing for. I can't wait to "...look to the end result of what our testing is accomplishing, then we can find joy in the midst of it...when adversity has its way, we mature..."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scriptural Thoughts

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been reading posts from the blog, http://magnoliaheartbeats.blogspot.com/

Laurie Ann has some amazing devotional thoughts and a true gift for representing God's Word and tying in Scripture to our everyday lives. One that she recently posted has grabbed hold of my heart and will be my meditation material for this week. She has written more extensively on the topic but I have included some highlights from her page and some thoughts of my own.

Her direct words are represented in blue ink.

To truly know freedom is to know being held captive. Many of us don't know what it's like to be behind bars, but we do know what it's like to be held in bondage to a particular sin or thought-pattern.

She had a photo illustrating the Scripture, Isaiah 61:1: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed."

For as long as I can remember, I have been held captive by thoughts of being worthless, invaluable, burdensome, useless, and unlovable if people "really knew the real me". As I have been reading through the Word of God, I am amazed at the amount of references that mention how God, the Creator of all, loves me.
Psalm 8:3-4 (New Living Translation)
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— 4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

Laurie Ann often includes an acrostic on the theme she is sharing through her blog. The following is taken directly from her site but I have used the NLT version for Scripture quotation. Praying that at least one will be as blessed by her insights as I have been.

Fully rely on what the Word of God says about you---not what the world says.

Romans 12: 2: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Remember that freedom in Christ is not a license to sin.

Romans 6: 1-2: Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

Embrace the truths God gives us through His Word and live according to His commandments.

Psalm 111:10: Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

Esteem others above yourself.

Romans 12:16: Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Devote time each day to spend with God in prayer, just as Jesus did.

Mark 11:35: Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.

Open your heart to reading and receiving God's Word every day.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Make it your mission to share the freedom in Christ you have found with others.

Romans 10:14: But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins (#116)


And... here we go!

  1. Why do we have to gain weight when we eat something really good?

  2. Thankfully, daily prayer and daily Bible reading are now habits that I look forward to each day.

  3. I have more blessings than I can possibly even imagine, much less count.

  4. I had never heard the phrase "when you've gotten older, ...never trust a fart" (Jack Nicholson on movie: THE BUCKET LIST") and it made me laugh so very hard!!

  5. I have a hard time making choices/decisions the way I always do. I am way too analytically minded…can see so many options, therefore, making it difficult to choose.
  6. How was I to know that the island of Jamaica and its people would instantly steal a huge chunk of my heart?

  7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spending time with my sister and nephew as well as seeing our month-old ‘great-niece’ for the 1st time, tomorrow my plans include hopefully catching up on some much needed rest. Jamaica was WONDERFUL but having very little time b/w our return and the return to work has, physically, worn this girl out and Sunday, I want to attend worship services and small group fellowship along with meeting with the “Jamaica Missions 1 Team” to exchange photo CD’s. I imagine hundreds of photos!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Daily Gratitudes # 2

For the past couple of months, I've kept a sidebar of "Daily Gratitudes". I've really enjoyed having these small moments of appreciation. I couldn't, possibly, list all that I am grateful for each day but having the simple reminder to keep an "attitude of gratitude" has been worthwhile for me. I am going to keep the sidebar posts going but 'cut and paste' that list into a post after a month or so.

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for...
  • March 19: my "new-to-me" frig that my sweetie surprised me with. Thank you, Wayne

  • March 18: my brother's steady, continual recovery

  • March 17: the time off work that my husband has taken to heal and to rest.

  • March 16: the many teaching materials at my disposal

  • March 15: my husband...my family & friends...safe arrival back in USA...HOT water...comforts of America...beauty of the Jamaican people...the prayerful opportunity to return to Jamaica in June...

  • March 14: for the graciousness of Nel in allowing us to shower at her cottage when the camp water tank ran dry!

  • March 13: for the innocence and joy of children, even in the poorest of poor situations. LOVED the Chester Primary School...the staff, the students, the families, the community.

  • March 12: for the beauty of Cranbrook Estates, the awesome rainforest and river, and the simple joys of being surprised by soft drinks and Snickers...THANK YOU Michael and Tom!!

  • March 11: for the new relationships with Donna, Tom, Preston, Alayna, Michael, Katelynn, Nel, Teffari, Lemon, Mario, Judith, Barbara, Elaine, Samantha, Arrayn, Maurianna, Tim and the deepening of relationships with Cheryl, Jim, Cay, Caren, and Dan.

  • March 10: for the unity all may have through Christ. Our "group" consists of Dutch, Jamaican, and American & we "connected" instantly. What a gift!!

  • March 9: for the AWESOME natural creations that God made. Didn't realize we were camping on the outskirts of a rainforest. INDESCRIBABLE beauty!

  • March 8: for an EARLY-morning Starbucks Strawberry Creme & a safe arrival in Jamaica.

  • March 7: my mom helping me finish up my shoppping tasks and my husband for helping me pack for the Jamaican trip.

  • March 6...the availability of prescription medications that have helped me to feel SO MUCH better!!

  • March 5: ...the "good-to-go-with-precautions" from my dr. regarding the mission trip to Jamaica

  • March 4:...the blessings of 2 dear friends' loved ones experiencing health recoveries

  • March 3...the faithful prayer warriors in my life & for the blessing of my brother having already been allowed to return home

  • March 2:...the survival of my brother in what could have had been a far more tragic accident

  • March 1:...the convenience & ease of shopping while so many around the world can't even imagine the privilege of being able to do so.

  • Feb. 28: ...carefree days to relax and recupe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Journey to Jamaica, Day 2

Monday, March 9, 2009
As I crawled out of the tent this morning, tears filled my eyes due to being surrounded by such beauty. The greenery, the majestic trees, the slight breeze, the brilliant blue sky dotted with wispy, white clouds, the numerous colored flowers, the sounds of many birds, the distant sound of the river rapids and the laughter of those who have chosen to come here to worship and serve the Lord, placed a smile in my heart at the very start of the day.

Lord, thank you for the beauties of your creation and for the kinship found through You despite different backgrounds and homelands. Thank you for the nourishing meal provided by Mrs. Barbara, Judith and Nel. We enjoyed scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes, buttered toast and corn meal porridge (YUM!) along with lemon grass tea (not sure if I care for that particular taste…). Thank you for these loving hearts and willing hands that have so graciously provided such a meal. Father, thank You for the accommodating sleeping arrangements and the rest that we were blessed to receive. Please watch over all of us today with Your merciful and protective love. Please enable each of us to work with an open heart and willing hands. Please remove any murmurings or complaints and replace them with gratefulness, patience, kindness, and love. I pray, especially, for those who will be working on and in the tree house. Please guide them and protect them from injury. Father, thank You again, for the privilege of being here. I pray that my every word, every action, and every thought be a reflection and true representation of You.

Today was a great day despite my slipping a bit on the wet grass and “jarring” my recovering shoulder. I went back to the tent and took some of the prescribed pain medicine and ended up falling asleep until close to noon…so much for a productive morning but, thankfully, I did wake up pretty much pain-free. For lunch today, we had lasagna noodles with a ham and cream sauce along with a side salad and yummy spice bread. After lunch, Caren & I began painting shutters and bathroom shelves. It was an easy task but took most of the afternoon. Jim and Mario had to help with the high spots because neither Caren or I were too fond of climbing up the ladder (!!).

We all made some new friends today. Teffarri actually works at Cranbrook Estates but helps out at the camp when able. He is probably in his late 20’s/early 30’s. He was deaf but patiently visited with us despite the obvious difficulty with communication. Cheryl knew several sign language symbols. I could only finger-spell and then he’d show me the correct sign until I had it down. (Did I mention he was VERY patient?!) He was fun to be around and promised to come back throughout the week.

Another man, “Lemon” (nickname) came out to assist and lead us. He brought along his 2 little girls (pictured above) and they were precious! I ended up playing with them for about 45 minutes and they all stayed for dinner. Dinner consisted of white rice with an unfamiliar tender meat (I didn’t dare ask what type of meat!!) with sliced cucumbers. The early evening was spent cleaning up paint spills on ourselves and in the environment. Nothing like basically bathing in paint thinner---professional painter I am NOT!

Later in the evening, Jim led the group in a devotional and then those who chose to do so went on a “steep hike” to see the city lights. Took a lot of energy to get there and unfortunately, I didn’t find the view so spectacular but I did enjoy walking back with my Jamaican friend, Stefan. I am falling in love with the Jamaican people even though I am not doing too well on picking up on the English words spoken by those with thick accents. I am finding that to be a bit frustrating but they have responded graciously.

After the hike, I took my 1st COLD shower. We were strongly encouraged to limit our showers to 3 minutes. Initially, we all balked at that idea but believe me…3 minutes was NOT a problem. At first, it wasn’t so bad but the rinsing was almost painful. “Suffering for Jesus, I suppose” (hahahehe) New plan is to shower while the sun is out with the hopes of the natural water being a bit warmer.

The “highlights” of my day were meeting Teffari, Lemon and his 2 girls and having deeper conversations with both Caren and Donna. They are both amazing women and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know them better. I feel SO BLESSED to be here, and thank God, repeatedly, for allowing me to share in this experience. I pray that the next 5 days go by slowly.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Jamaican Missions Team :)


Jim and Cheryl

Dan and Caren
Preston and Alayna

Donna and Tom