Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hope for Haiti and for Us Today


I just finished reading a post from missionaries in Haiti where the current situation is extremely dire.  The light of encouragement might not seem to be shining very brightly on a post that starts like this, right?  And it is not... Believe me, as I read the long list of unanswered questions that the writer posted, my heart ached for them and for the entire country of Haiti.  My soul sank as my illusions for good news fizzled, buried under a pile of profound concerns for safety, sustenance and overall survival of the people left on the island.  However, as I went on reading and the questions became more and more terrifying...at the end...after the last one was left hanging: "how do we plan for this?" the pending thought of how do we do life like this was answered by a sole reply: "with hope."

The words jumped out of the electronic pages with full force:  "with hope!" That's how we do life...with hope!  There's no other way.  And the way to hope is marked with blood stains.  The road to hope is the road to Calvary.  The sign of hope is the cross...for Jesus is our Hope and our Salvation!  "For in this hope we were saved!" says Paul in Romans 8: 24.  And hope is usually on things unseen, so patience and trust are its support. 

Life can very quickly become dark, void of joy and meaning if we don't have the hope of Christ in our hearts.  As we see our reserves emptying and nothing but bad news coming our way, it's very easy to fall in despair, especially if the reality of Jesus is not in us.  But the Word is clear:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 
Hebrews 11: 1

We don't hope on what we see, 

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8: 24-25

We hope in Him!  We trust "with hope" in the One who is Trustworthy! 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 23

We trust and wait "with hope," patiently and in perseverance, knowing that He will fulfill His promises...

This is true as much in Haiti as it is in our little corner of the world.  This is true whether we are concerned about fuel to keep an entire educational complex on, serving countless of individuals in need of evidence of Christ in their lives, or we are just waiting in the comfort of our safe home for the phone to ring with any kind of news.  This is true in wanting and in plenty.  This is true in darkness and in light.

Before I could finish writing this, another post came in from the same missionary: a miracle! The man they had sent out for fuel came back after 17 hours of perseverance at the gas station with enough diesel fuel to keep them open for another while. And also, a new donor's contribution popped in out of the blue!  Praised be His HOLY NAME!  As she says, all the good things that have happened since her previous post are not going to solve the crisis, but God is at work, and He is aware of their daily concerns.  His Mighty Hand is ready to provide what is needed one day at a time...and this is as much true in the middle of a small country deeply buried in the rubble of corruption and bad decisions, as it is true around our kitchen table today.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans: 15-13

The supernatural presence and actions of God are needed to see Haiti come out of the current and historical crisis in which they are immersed.  Join in prayer for Hope in Haiti, and as you do, I encourage everyone who is interested in finding out more information and in helping missionaries in Haiti to check out the following blogs:

The Ayars Affairs: Life in Haiti at:  http://mshaiti.blogspot.com/

and

Autumn Marshall's Blog at: http://autumnsreflections.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 14, 2019

Praise to the Lord God forever!

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen. (Psalm 72: 18-19)

Encouraging words of David that are given to us in the Book of Psalms...my favorite book when times are shaky and when my soul trembles.  

Today, as I sat at a hospital waiting room, fretting, yet again, about medical testing, I found refuge in the Word of God contained in this Holy Book.  One thing that jumped at my eyes was a little note at the end of Psalm 72: "This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse."  I don't think I ever saw that in there before.  I know that there are some other psalms written by David after this one, but somehow, it was important to state this line at the conclusion of the first 72 songs...I wonder why?

At any rate, the line just caused me to read the last couple of verses with more care ...and yes, it is impossible to perceive the flow of praises coming through the pen of the king.  David wrapped up these collection of psalms with great exaltation. What a wonderful way to finish!  How many thousands of years later, his words are still infusing encouragement, praise, worship and hope into the hearts of those who go to this book searching for comfort and peace.

As I walk out of the waiting room, with good news of things that should not worry me, I read the verses again, and join in King David's joy:  Praise be to the Lord God, indeed! For His glorious name lives forever!  Amen and Amen!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Always with Us

Hanging on to God's promises is one of the things we can do when we need encouragement.  And, out of all His promises, the one that brings me the most comfort is the assurance of His presence.  I mean, think about it: what are we to fear if God is with us?  Nothing!

Today, in Sunday school we talked to the kids about the "champions" of the Bible and how God used these champions to remind His people that He is always with them.  We talked about Samson and how his presence made the people of God feel protected.  Samson, however, like every other Bible character, was deeply flawed and his job was mostly to point to Jesus, the ultimate Champion!  The Perfect Champion, whose presence is the Only thing we need to be saved and to be sustained, Jesus is with us always! 

Why do we still fear, though?  Well...perhaps it is because fear is part of courage.  If we are not a bit afraid, we would not seek refuge in Our Great God.  We would think we can do all things in us and in our strength.  If we don't feel the shivers of dread, we might lean on our self-sufficiency...and forget about He who is Our Rock!

The problem, however, is when fear paralyzes us.  When fear makes us dismay...and causes us to lose faith and hope...that's when it becomes dangerous.  When fear overcomes us and rules us...leaving no room for the truth of God's love and compassion...that's when we fall into the trap of the enemy.  Knowing His promises, and the fact that they are true will help us stay afloat in the midst of our seasons of worry.  That's why I'm clinging to His Word that reveals His promises...That's why today, my encouraging verse is Isaiah 41: 10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41: 10)

Please Lord, don't let me forget your promises, especially those that remind me that You are with me always.  Please make Your presence evident in our lives that we may have no doubt.  In Christ's Name, amen!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Heavens Declare His Glory!


Darkness, fog and mist give way to sunshine.  A welcome coolness is in the air, and the colors from the Painter's brush begin to show against the backdrop of blue skies white, puffy clouds.  

Somehow, the overwhelming burden of the day is lifted, and I breathe in the beauty of the afternoon.  The glory of God is revealed in His creation! If we pay attention, the designs of His hand direct us to witness the glory of The Creator!  Let's praise His Holy Name as we admire His craftsmanship reflected in nature.

I'm not much of an outdoor person.  I don't see myself as one with the natural world.  But, when the Spirit calls me to lift up my eyes from whatever is weighing heavily over my head, I am able to contemplate the magnificence of God's creativity.  When the Holy Spirit nudges me to look...I am able to see.  When I obey, I can be in awe of what He has made.  Often, the nudges come through the voice of those around me who pulling me out of my self-absorption, convince me to direct my gaze towards what is in front of me so I might not miss it...like Dylan with the caterpillar, Dan with sunsets, Grant with the Moon.  Other times, during precious moments of sudden awareness, I notice the calling on my own...I open the blinds and invite the magnificent views to come into my heart.

I don't have a count, however, of those instances I've neglected His beauty... but I pray, those are fewer each day.  I trust I become more aware of the speech that pours forth from what His hand has created.  I pray I can let nature sing His glory for my soul to hear. I pray I always remember that...

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19: 1

May we all keep in mind that there's more than what we see on a computer screen, or on a clutter desk, or on a to-do list... a pile of laundry, a dirty house, a sore body, a broken heart are not the end...the days are designed to find Him, to glorify Him and to remember that to Him we belong! Amen.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Small Things


Me:  Dylan, hurry up!!!  We've got to go!

crickets...

UGH!!!! ARGHHHH!!!

I start the car and begin pulling out of the garage hoping the sound would make Dylan move faster...of course it didn't, but what did happen was that out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of nature's amazing wonder: a Monarch butterfly expanding its gorgeous wings right behind Dylan's basketball hoop.  For the last few days, Dylan had been so excited, calling everyone to see the progression of a cocoon opening up to let out a still immature butterfly.  "Look, look!  Come and see this!" would be his constant yelling...desperate for the rest of the family to witness the miracle.  Of course, his exclamations had been met by bored "yeah..." half-glances and exasperated: "ok, ok, I see it!" by the rest of the clan.  But not this morning...I saw that Monarch spendor and I was mesmerized...

I pulled in the garage again...thinking...what's a few seconds more...Dylan finally appeared, and when he opened the door of the car, I said to him: go look.  He knew what I meant, so he went right away while I observed him on the rear view mirror and witnessed the miracle: a teenager's face lit up by wonder...

"Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?" Zechariah 4: 10

I just came across this wonderful verse this morning, but it's quickly becoming a favorite. Zechariah was a prophet sent to proclaim the Word of God to the people of Israel as they were growing discouraged in their quest to rebuild the temple. After many years of captivity in Babylon, contingents of israelites came back to Jerusalem led by Zerubbabel. They started rebuilding, but disappointed by the little progress made due to conflict and disagreements, the people had began to feel as if they would never see the temple built again.

Hmmm...

Sounds familiar?  It sure does to me.  However, the Rescuer of our Souls never disappoints!  He comes in with the right ____________ (fill in the blank) at precisely the most perfect time to encourage us on.  In this case, a most vivid admonition:  "Who dares despise the day of small things..."  I. LOVE. THIS. PART!!!

This is the part that caught my attention..."who dares despise the day of small things..." A question lingering in our minds, for we ... I have been guilty over and over and over again to do just that: despise the day of small things.  In a world where only the "big" things are valued, small things are ignored and discarded as useless.  In a society where time is money, pausing to enjoy the small things is perceived as a ridiculously extravagant waste.  In the days of rushing because we're running late, taking it easy to admire the small things is just not done...in a moment when the car is started and one's about to pull out of the garage to try to squeeze what little time we have most efficiently into our tight schedule, taking a few seconds to admire the small things of nature's magic reflected on the still wondering eyes of a teen who is about to leave behind the ways of a little boy any moment now is just unimaginably stupid.

Praise the Lord for the small things!!!  The image on the rear view mirror is tattooed on my mind bringing me great joy, thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to stop at the sight of a seemingly small thing.  Dylan open the door of the car again and climbed in.  We talked about Monarchs and how he had learned about them in school.  We drove in silence for a while...long enough to savor the event before Dylan put his headphones on and disconnected from me again...but I hope the memory persists and that I never forget the power of the small things.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Prayer and Thanksgiving


I draw encouragement from nature's beauty.  A crisp autumn afternoon where a blue sky is colored by the orange and pink hues of the setting sun, making the turning leaves come alive is a refreshing balm to my soul.  A starry night, where the constellations adorn the great expanse like jewels scattered on black velvet make my heart sing!  Cloudy and foggy mornings, where a light drizzle makes my...hmmm... hair frizzy...sigh...how can I find encouragement in that scene?  I mean, really? 

Yes, really...

It is as simple as Paul tells us:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Rejoice always.  And how do we do that?  By praying continually and by giving thanks in all circumstances.  

Easier said than done?  Well, of course!  Nothing worth anything comes easily.  Character development in our Christian walk is God's priority for our lives.  Have you ever seen a movie or read a book where the moral character of a person is developed by an easy-self-indulgent-nothing-bad-ever-happened-always-bright-and-sunny-life? I haven't.  I haven't seen it in the Bible either.  All the heroes and heroines of the Bible went through their fair share of hardship, disappointment, frustration, sadness, disillusion, pain and suffering as they journeyed along the Great I AM.  Jesus Himself ought to be the greatest example of the reality of pain while on this world.  That's why Paul calls us to rejoice always by praying and thanksgiving. 

How do we ever do this?

I don't know.  All I know is that prayer leads to thanksgiving and eventually to rejoicing.  When we pray consciously, we realize that just the simple act of prayer is miraculous.  The fact that we can pray, communicate with God Almighty, is a realization that should immediately lead us into gratitude.  What is mankind, that God cares for us?  (Psalm 8: 4)  ... that He cares enough to  open a line of communication so we can come to Him and place at His feet all that we are.  Praise You and Thank You, LORD for the gift of prayer!

As we become aware of the blessing of prayer, we realize the intimacy that we are developing with God.  Every time we dial His number, we get closer to Him.  The sense of belonging intensifies.  Our identity as His children grows stronger.  And thanksgiving overflows.  If we get in the habit of going to prayer without ceasing, thanksgiving in all circumstances will follow...even if we don't necessarily feel it, the simple act of saying:  "Thank You, Lord, for another opportunity to trust You" will develop a sense of peace in our troubled heart...and we would begin to see every circumstance as a chance to get closer to Him, and trust Him with the outcome of our situation...leaving Him at the driver's seat...and us, behind, to just go for the ride...in joyful adoration.

Easier said than done?  Of course!  But with the help of the Holy Spirit we can start taking steps towards fulfilling this commandment with the simple discipline of thanksgiving.  There is always something to be thankful for.  Even cloudy and foggy mornings are good for something:  perhaps not for a stroll, but perfect for staying inside and read a while, meditate on His Word and rejoice for the moment of quiet contemplation.

May the Holy Spirit inspire us to rejoice always in prayer and thanksgiving!  Amen!





Wednesday, October 2, 2019

You Rescue Me!

I continue with my challenge to find encouraging things to write about...or write nothing at all...for the next 30 posts...and I must say that, though I'm advancing quite slowly, I shall not be deterred!

I'm a voyager who's gotten too close to the edge while traversing in choppy waters...a careless traveler who thought she could fly, and instead has gone overboard. I feel the cold sea of my busy life overtake me. I've forgotten how to swim, and I begin to drown. Into the deep, its darkness overpowers me. I'm helpless...

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
5 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me. (Psalm 18: 4-5)

But...in my distress...I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help (Psalm 18: 6)...and something marvelous happened...He heard my cry...and, not only He heard, but...

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me. (Psalm 18: 16-17)

Out of breath, but alive, He pulls my head out of the water and breathes life in me again so I can say:  The Lord Lives!  Praise be to my Rock! (Psalm 18: 46a)

He is the God of my Salvation!

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18: 1-2)

He will always rescue me!

I encourage you to watch the video that I posted right before...I pray it is encouraging to you right at this moment.