Deep Waters

“I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Psalm 69:2).

My sweet friend, Charmé asked me several months ago to consider sharing how God has walked beside me through the past few years of my life. Just processing what has happened the past seven years feels overwhelming, but with God’s gentle, constant prompting and Charmé’s patience and encouragement, here are just a few snapshots of my life and that of my family with God’s handprint in everything!

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Jenny Yust and her sweet family

My name is Jenny Yust. I grew up going to church and being introduced to the things of God and I definitely would have identified myself as a Christian. However, there were many parts of my life that did not reflect what God’s word says about a Christ follower. Thanks be to God that when I was 28 years old the Holy Spirit revealed my lack of true relationship with Jesus and everything changed in my life. He truly became Lord of my life, and I can’t even share all the ways that He has walked with me and talked with me every day of my life. Currently I am married to my precious husband of 31 years, Shon, and am blessed to have two adult children, Parker (who is headed to the Philippines to be a campus missionary) and Macy (who is a senior at Kansas State University and preparing to take the next step God has for her) and then my amazing 11-year-old, Zoey who is truly a daily joy in my life! God in his sovereignty is currently using me to teach Spanish at Mighty Oaks Enrichment Center, facilitate a Bible Study at Mighty Oaks for 3rd-6th graders, lead ladies Bible studies at my home church in Spring Hill, Kansas and run a ministry called Team Hally (teamhally.org). Today I would love to share with each of you why God called me to start a ministry called Team Hally.

Looking back at this summer the list is long of God’s goodness! This past summer our family has enjoyed a trip to Arizona and the beauty of the Grand Canyon, dessert trails, and beautiful caves, spearfishing in the Bahamas, helping with wheat harvest on the family farm, waterski tournaments around the state, one of the most epic fireworks displays we’ve ever had, giving Bibles to local church VBS programs and camps, and watching our 11-year-old participate in her first 4-H county fairs and barrel races. So many special memories and so much joy. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

                   Hally

However, seven years ago our family had a very different summer than we expected. The summer of 2014 began much like this summer did with our family excited for waterskiing, harvest, swimming lessons, VBS, family vacations, time with friends, and the pool! Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”  I’m so thankful that the secret things belong to the Lord because if He would have revealed what would happen from July 4-10, I’m not sure I could have survived!

                                      Hally Yust

As I reflect on that week as well as the weeks before, I now know that God was preparing our family to walk through the deepest waters we could have imagined at that time. That summer my husband Shon and I had four children, Parker-16, Macy-13, Hally-9, and Zoey-3. Our family loves to waterski and all of us even ski competitively. The hidden thing we didn’t know about was a rare amoeba that can enter into someone’s brain from the water. Our blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter Hally spent hours playing in the water at the waterski tournaments with her siblings and friends, but for some reason this rare amoeba got into Hally’s brain (without our knowledge!). One day Hally had a headache, the next day she was very sick with what I thought was a bad stomach virus, and the next day we were in the hospital very confused, and by the evening of July 8th, 2014, we were told that our daughter was brain dead.

Psalm 69:2 says, “I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.” Even as I write these words to you all today, tears are rolling down my cheeks, my throat is closing, my chest is tight, and the pain of those days wash over me again. HOWEVER, there is One who is closer than a brother, my anchor in the storm, and holds on to me no matter how the storm rages in my life and in my soul! In Psalm 23:4 David tells us that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me;”.  God showed me He was with me even when I was at the bottom of the valley through:

                      Hally
  • a kind chaplain praying for Shon and I at the side of Hally’s bed
  • friends and family making us meals
  • neighbors driving us to the store when we were too grief-stricken to even drive
  • our children who continued to laugh and live life
  • God’s Word that revived my soul
  • a sweet group of mamas of Hally’s friends who weekly prayed over me for months
  • for a church family who allowed us to heal for as long as we needed
  • and so much more!

I can’t even write down all the ways God showed me his love each moment and has continued to walk beside me, fill me up with Himself, comfort me, bring me back when I go astray, and teach me to number my days.

Truly as I couldn’t foresee the depth of the pain God would allow in my life; equally I couldn’t foresee how God could use the death of my daughter to show me how much He loves me and how He will provide each day exactly what I need as long as I seek Him first (Matthew 6:33). Soon after Hally went to heaven I felt lost, angry, and confused. I continued to read my Bible every day, journal to the Lord, seek wise counsel, and worship. However, to be honest I was struggling!

As God always does, He provided exactly the resource that gave my weary soul rest. When Hally died we were given over twenty books on grief. I prayed with my sister over the overwhelming stack of books and decided I would only keep the ones that contained Biblical advice and were based on Scripture. The book that I have now given to many who have gone through grief is called “The Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie. In addition, she has written a Bible study called “Holding on to Hope.” One of my dear friends walked through this study with me and truly God provided much healing and direction over the next year.

In addition, seeking God’s love and direction lit a fire in my soul to share the Gospel, to give God’s Word, to yearn for heaven, to have more grace and mercy on those around me, to realize the pain so many around me suffer when they lose loved ones, and to realize that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  But I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). One of the many things the Lord has done with our family is to begin a ministry called Team Hally. Our ministry gives Bibles to local churches for VBS programs, camps, Sunday schools, individuals, mission trips, etc. God has given us opportunities to give Bibles all over the world and we have English, Spanish, and French Bibles. In the past six years we have given over 10,000 Bibles which truly overwhelms my soul! (Ephesians 3:20)

I would love to end this story with been there, done that and now there is no more grief in my life. Sadly, each of us knows that isn’t the truth on this earth. Ever since the first sin by Adam and Eve, we all live in a broken world. Our family has faced many hard things since 2014 but I have seen God never leave me or forsake me and I know He is good all the time! Whatever you might be facing today I want to encourage you that no matter what circumstances you face: “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and his goodness endures forever” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Concluding thoughts by Charmé   While reading and rereading Jenny’s faith journey of her precious daughter, Hally, my heart is moved beyond words. Jenny’s faith, although severely tested, has proven to be unquenchable and transferable, as she demonstrates a genuine love for Jesus and others. I personally cannot grasp the depth of Jenny’s sorrow and grief with the loss of her beautiful daughter. I’ve been told by close friends who have lost a child, including, Jenny, that the pain is immeasurable. As Jenny gave me the final edits and photos, she shared with me, that it brought her great joy to reread her own testimony of God’s amazing love and provision. God is using Jenny’s testimony to touch the lives of many others who have experienced the journey of loss, especially of those who have experienced the death of a child, and close family members. As she stated in her story, the book that helped her walk through the darkest days is The Book of Hope, by Nancy Guthrie. I have included a link to the book and Nancy’s website. I hope that you will also take a moment to read more about Hally and her family through the website that is dedicated to their precious daughter. Team Hally: teamhally.org

What Are These Stones For?

“Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18, NLT).

A Personal Testimony by Sharon Bushey — “Jesus is enough for me.”

Sharon’s 3 vases (left to right): Faith Confirmed: miracles, special blessings & answered prayers; Faith Confessed: confidence in what we hope for; and, Faith…Come What May: blank stones for future needs.
Faith Vases
(See below for description)

My sister-in-law Kathie and I watched the conference speaker drop stones into a large clear vase as she told how the Israelites built memorials. Their hope was that future generations would ask, “What are these stones for?” and in response they would tell the stories of God’s faithfulness (Joshua 4:21-24; I Samuel 7:12). Kathie and I decided to buy our own vases, stones, and fine-tip markers. Our stones with dates and brief messages would be permanent reminders of God’s goodness for our children and grandchildren. We also prayed, along with our conference sisters, that our children would see a modern-day miracle that showcased God’s goodness and undeniable power.

Two weeks later, Thanksgiving weekend, Kathie and my brother Wayne stood beside the ICU bed of their twenty-three-year-old daughter. Megan had congestive heart failure caused by a virus that had damaged her left ventricle at the age of fifteen. Would this be our miracle? God knew we needed one.

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By April Megan was in ICU again with her name at the top of the heart transplant list. Glad to be retired, I packed my journal and enough clothes to stay as long as Megan, Kathie, and Wayne needed my support. What I didn’t know was that it would be Megan who would support me and many others on the faith journey of our lives. Although Megan knew that she was surrounded by multiple machines that were keeping her alive, she spoke her motto that penetrated my heart: “Aunt Sharon, through this, I demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.”

For twenty-five days I slept on hospital benches and documented the impossibilities that we faced as well as the calls to prayer. Kathie’s Facebook friends and Wayne’s blog followers, many of them strangers who saw Megan’s TV interview, were drawn to a new level of faith as they prayed and then read the reports of God’s miraculous interventions time and time again.

On April 17, 2010, however, Megan was in a non-responsive state. We were told that she was now too sick to receive a heart even if one became available. We called our friends and followers to prayer.

Kathie went to the hotel to privately cry out to God. Wayne paced around Megan’s bed as he prayed for the blog followers and Megan’s work associates at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel who had just come to faith that week, and for those who were so close to believing in “Megan’s God.” Wayne didn’t want God to ruin His reputation and cause these people to doubt His goodness.

I sat alone. Only the humming machines filled the eerie silence. “Would my mom’s recent nightmare come true? Would my daughter die in a fatal car accident on the way to St. Louis and her heart be given to save Megan’s life? Was I willing to participate in this miracle if my sorrow was part of God’s plan to spare Megan and spiritually save others?” When my surrender was complete, I finally had peace.

Kathie and Wayne rejoice that Megan’s new heart beats like her own, and that she loves her life in Nashville with Nathan.

It’s a long God-story that will be for another time, but after a day of prayer and fasting around the world, thanks to media exposure, God let us see an undeniable, God-given miracle. Megan’s body systems revived, her fever and pneumonia were gone, and a perfect-match heart was received in time. And my daughter arrived safely. During our rejoicing, however, we mourned the donor family’s loss. Why did one family lose their daughter and our daughters were spared? We didn’t know. All we could do was pray that Jesus would be enough for them.

During one of Megan’s post-surgery-roller-coaster days, I read, “Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18, NLT). I was surprised by my unexpected emotional response and the clear impression that my journal was to become a book and then a movie. Eighteen months later, just before Megan’s storybook wedding to the Nashville Christian musician who loved the girl who loved Jesus with her whole heart, the book, Megan’s Heart*, was released.

My next goal was to educate myself for a new writing venture. Halfway through the book, Screenwriting for Dummies, I got so sick my doctor feared that he was losing me. A diagnosis was never made, but for the next three years, I periodically was so weak that I couldn’t even read. Instead, I watched more movies than I had ever watched in my entire life. I realized that I was mentally analyzing the movies and applying what I learned.

Just as my mysterious illness began to improve, I went through several months of severe pain and immobility due to the need for a total knee replacement. Two weeks before surgery when I attended Megan’s baby shower, I was reminded of how Megan’s motto had impacted my life and faith. I vowed to write the screenplay as soon as I recuperated. Jesus had been enough for Megan, and enough for me.

After 6 years of marriage, they were a family when Eilee Megan Kate was born on June 27, 2017.

Then life crumbled. My routine knee replacement was anything but routine. I fainted from pain during therapy; something was terribly wrong. Only a few weeks later, I got the call that Megan had given birth to a beautiful baby girl but had died only hours later. How much more could I take? How could God ruin His own miracle story? How could I write a movie script since the heroin had died?

Nathan, now a single dad, brings Eilee for dedication at the close of Megan’s Celebration of Life Service.

On December 15, 2017, I underwent one of the most extensive and complicated leg revision surgeries my orthopedic team had ever done. For the next eight weeks, I was alone on my couch-bed in the sunroom with only my thoughts to occupy my time. I could only be up five minutes every hour, and pain dictated that I use even those times only as needed. I got a few cards, but almost no visitors; did my friends and family care? My husband cared, but I also sensed his exhaustion and perceived emotional withdrawal as he dutifully kept me fed, iced, and medicated. Did God even care that I was sick again? In the depth of my despair as I cried and yielded all the “come what may(s)” of my life, Jesus became enough for me. I determined that I would pick up Megan’s torch. I would demonstrate through my this that Jesus would be enough…come what may. I would finish that screenplay as soon as I could sit erect!

Megan’s story now became my personal journey of testing. I felt inadequate. The pain made it difficult to think. How could I possibly keep my baby-shower-day promise? I read, “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious. I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50:4-5). God confirmed in my spirit that the screenplay was His idea; He would instruct me. All He needed was my daily obedience to write. Through my this, my seeming impossibilities, I would demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.

I remembered the half-read book I hadn’t seen since we moved. I quickly found it in the first place I looked. As I opened it to the bookmark where I had stopped reading years before, I read these words, “Even when the protagonist dies, there is still a story to tell.” This was a secular book, but these were heaven-sent words, just for me.

Richard & Sharon’s 50th Wedding Anniversary August 17, 2018

During these four years of recuperation, I did finish that screenplay, but only because I held on to this promise: “The vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come…it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3, NIV).

During the years of writing and learning to walk again, I became convinced that God wants this feature film to show more than Megan’s heart story and His power to perform miracles. God wants His hurting children to see His love…by seeing our story. What is the greatest miracle? Jesus is enough even when miracles turn into grief. He is enough when grief forever coexists with our joy. God is still good…even when life doesn’t make sense and our hearts hurt to the core. In the middle of the worst that life can throw at us, we can tell our hearts to heal and beat again, only because Jesus will be enough…come what may.

Today I’m walking a new uncharted path as I face the seeming impossibilities of getting my screenplay, Heartbeat…Come What May, to the big screen. And even so, I know Jesus will be enough. You may also be in a difficult situation. Hold on! When your trust is complete and Jesus is enough for you, then together we will spread our message of hope: Through this I demonstrate that Jesus is enough…come what may.

Nathan & Megan’s family participating in the American Heart Association Walk for Life in Nashville.
Sharon’s 3 Faith Vases (left to right) Faith Confirmed: miracles, special blessings & answered prayers; Faith Confessed: confidence in what we hope for; and Faith…Come What May: blank stones for future needs.
Sharon Bushey

Sharon Bushey lives in Lebanon, MO with her husband Richard, a retired minister. Sharon, mother of three adult children and grandmother of seven, enjoyed her years as an elementary school teacher, school counselor, and college psychology instructor. She is now grateful for the writing time that retirement provides. To contact contact Sharon and to request a copy of her book, Megan’s Heart, you may email her at sbushey7@gmail.com.

Personal thoughts about my friend and spiritual mentor

Decatur West Side Church of the Nazarene, Centennial Celebration, 2018. Pastor Richard & Sharon Bushey are second from left, Jeff & Charmé Fletcher are fourth from left.

I first met Sharon Bushey in Decatur, Illinois, when she and her husband Richard became our pastor and wife at West Side Church of the Nazarene in 1988. I immediately sensed a genuine love for Jesus and for others as Sharon ministered to our church family. Sharon’s heart for prayer has impacted my life for many years. Being reunited in 2001, Sharon and Pastor Bushey began attending our church in Camdenton, MO, where my husband Jeff was the pastor. It was such a joy to reconnect again! From that point forward, Sharon and I rejuvenated our prayer partner relationship, emailing each other often with special prayer requests and praises. While Jeff was pastoring churches in Camdenton and later in Belton, MO, Pastor Bushey and Sharon shared their speaking ministries with our church families. They provided marriage seminars, pulpit supply, and much encouragement to us personally. Sharon spoke at a women’s ministry luncheon at our Belton church, where she shared the story, “What Are These Stones For?” Through this cherished time together, my daughter Janée was moved to purchase me my own faith vases, along with stones. Since that time, I keep the jars of faith on a shelf in our office. It has been such a blessing to look at all the answers to prayers and to remember God’s faithfulness. I, too, hope that our children and grandchildren will continue to recount all the answers to prayer, including undeniable miracles in our family, and that they will retell these faith stories and their own to future generations.

Charmé’s Faith Vases

“We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands” (Psalm 78:4-7, NIV).

I’d love to see Sharon’s screenplay, Heartbeat…Come What May, become a movie. I believe that through Megan’s story, many people will discover the power of prayer and will have the opportunity to believe for themselves: Jesus is enough in all situations. Please join me in prayer for this endeavor. Thank you!

Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

The following is part two and three of “Waiting on the LORD”…6/3/2021

My prayers seem to go unanswered. Do you ever feel this way, or feel like giving up on prayer while waiting on the LORD for answers to your prayers? Sometimes our prayers are not answered in our preferred manner, or in our timing. When we feel this way, we may need to reset our thinking and our calendar to God’s ways and His timing. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s timing is always perfect. God’s perfect timing does two things: It grows our faith as we are forced to wait and trust in God and it makes certain that He, and He alone, gets the glory and praise. “My times are in Your hands …” (Psalm 31:15).

You’ve probably heard this saying, “A time of waiting is a time of testing.”

Before we delve into the testing of our faith, I’d like to testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I personally have had many answers to prayer over my lifetime, now sixty years plus. Some specific, while others have been answered in ways that I could have never imagined or even thought possible. In both instances, God has been faithful and has used His timetable, not mine, to answer prayers in ways that are in my best interest and in the best interest of others. (spiritual, physical, emotional, etc.)

When we pray, the Bible says, we should not pray for selfish desires.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Selfishness is worshipping self rather than God. Selfishness is living apart from God’s law. And let’s face it, whether you are a Christian or not, “…we all fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23).

Right now, you may be thinking, aren’t we supposed to pray about our own personal needs? Yes, the Bible teaches us to pray for ourselves as well as others. (A few examples: The LORD’s prayer, Matthew 6:9-15; 1 Timothy 2:1; Romans 10:1; 2 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7) I also believe that God does want to bless us with the desires of our heart…but only “IF” our desires align with His.

Before going any future, let’s look at the Scripture “Ask and you shall receive…” which unfortunately has often been taken out of context.

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). Similar statements are found in Matthew 7:721:22Mark 11:24Luke 11:9; and John 15:7. Is this a blanket promise with no conditions? If we ask for three hundred pounds of chocolate delivered to our door, is God obligated to give it to us? Or are Jesus’ words to be understood in light of other revelation?

If we assume that “ask and you will receive” means “ask for anything you want and I’ll give it to you,” then we have turned the Lord into a cosmic genie who serves our every whim. This is the problem of the prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings.

The above was taken from Got Questions. To continue reading:  https://www.gotquestions.org/ask-and-you-shall-receive.html

Kaufman Memorial Garden, KC, MO

I love to travel and see various places of interest and beauty, even it’s just a short distance from my driveway. For instance, we live on the outskirts of Kansas City, and one of my favorite places to visit is Kaufman Memorial Garden, just 40 minutes away. It’s a delight to the gardener’s eye, me included! I simply love the beauty of flowers and green plants. And, if I had my way, I’d travel all the time, to every destination that displays God’s handiwork. Of course, then I’d have very little time left over to enjoy the beauty of my six grandchildren, who all live within a 30-minute drive. And they far exceed all other beauty!

Some people crave food, while others may crave the pleasure of sight-seeing like me, or others may desire to become famous. Whatever our personal desires are, God created us with hearts to be fully satisfied in Him first. This begins by inviting Jesus to become your personal Savior. (See tab above. Private: Receive Jesus) All other desires we experience are secondary in value. Sadly, at times, we intentionally or unintentionally strive to replace an intimate relationship with Jesus with selfish desires. “We all fall short.”

In ancient Israel, stone and wooden images were a substitute for the One True God. Today, meaning, purpose, success, power, prosperity, career, possessions, pleasure, fame, peace, security, and happiness are the social norm and attempt to take priority over God.

Whatever the substitute (for God) may be, it grows into a matter of ultimate concern around which people organize their lives. From a biblical perspective, one’s ultimate concern is the object of one’s worship. Although the supreme and only proper object worthy of worship is God, throughout the Bible we see human beings regularly creating substitutes — idols — instead of worshiping the true and living God. But these idols can never fully or permanently satisfy the restless heart of fallen humanity, and we continue to thirst for that undefinable “something” that is missing.

The following Scripture instructs us to keep our number one priority aligned with God and His desires.

 “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exodus 20:3-5).

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). – (Read all of Romans 8)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-32).

Did you see that? God promises to meet all our needs. But as my husband often preaches: “There’s a premise that proceeds the promise.” In other words, God fulfills His promises only after we meet his requirements. For instance, God instructs us to store up treasures in Heaven, and He reminds us not to worry about the necessities of life. God desires us to keep our focus on His eternal kingdom, not on all the bells and whistles this world has to offer. God wants us to learn to trust Him. The premise before the promise: We must seek God and His righteousness first (through the study of His Word, and by the power of His Holy Spirit). The promise: God will then give us the desires of our heart–(“all these things will be added unto you”).

Ultimately, God’s desire is for us to be in a right relationship with Him through salvation in Christ. And secondly, God’s desire is for us to become “like Christ” as we surrender daily to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our born-again lives. (Galatians 2:20)

God’s desires are clearly specified through His Word. “What would it look like if our desires aligned with God’s desires?” Do you think it would make a difference in the life we live? I believe so. Romans 10:1-13 reveals the preferred desires of God and the results. From the Apostle Paul:

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites (you) is that they (you) may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).

What does “every need of yours” mean in view of Philippians 4:11–12? It means “all that you need for God-glorifying contentment.” Which may include times of hunger and need. The Apostle Paul’s love for the Philippians flowed from his contentment in God, and his contentment flowed from his faith in the future grace of God’s infallible provision to be all he needed in times of plenty and want.

It’s obvious then that covetousness is exactly the opposite of faith. It’s the loss of contentment in Christ so that we start to crave other things to satisfy the longings of our hearts which only the presence of God himself can satisfy. And there’s no mistaking that the battle against covetousness is a battle against unbelief in God’s promise to be all we need in every circumstance.

Part Three:

Now let’s examine the testing of our faith.  “A time of waiting is a time of testing.”

Why would God want to test our faith? After all, He is omniscient, “all knowing.” If God knows how much faith I have or am lacking, why the test? I’m glad you asked!

David, who is known as “a man after God’s own heart” realized that his heart was not to be trusted. In Psalm 139, David declares that God knows all about him: “Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2).

And at the end of David’s prayer, he declares:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
(Psalm 139:23-24)

The prophet Jeremiah also realized he couldn’t trust his own thoughts.

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

God tests our faith not for his knowledge, but for our own personal discovery. And in doing so, God reveals our weaknesses and gives us the opportunity to strengthen our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within each believer’s heart.

At the end of Paul’s ministry and life, he declared:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…” (2 Timothy 4:7).

When Abraham was tested by God, regarding the sacrifice of his son Isaac, he proved to himself and to the world that his faith was real. Like Abraham, we are tested by God, to affirm to ourselves and to those who know us, that our faith is real, and that we are truly God’s children, and that no trial has the power to overcome our genuine faith in Christ, who is our Redeemer and LORD.

Abraham had to wait 25 years before He became the father of Isaac, the promised heir. Abraham was 75 when he first received the promise of God and he was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

You say, “wait a minute!” Didn’t Abraham first have a son with his wife, Sara’s maidservant, Hagar. Correct! You know your Bible.

Here’s some encouraging news to those of us who get impatient and at times, jump the gun, racing ahead of God, to answer our own prayers. God is always just and faithful despite our human frailties and unfaithfulness. He is not looking for worldly perfection, but for hearts who desire to be conformed into the image of His Son…day by day, in the midst of struggles, trials, setbacks, and even our mess ups.

God didn’t give up on Abraham. Just like God doesn’t give up on us when we choose not to wait on God’s perfect timing and best plans. Rather, God can and often does use these times of testing, to refine our faith (purifying it, like a fire refines gold).

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God'” (Zechariah 13:9).

Too often, I believe we depend on human wisdom, rather than on God’s wisdom. For instance, when we are waiting for a difficult season or circumstance in our lives to turn around or get better, we tend to focus on ways that “we” can fix or change the circumstance. But, instead of fixing the problem we become exhausted and forfeit the peace God desires for us. May I suggest the following (to myself first).

Rather than focusing solely on the problem, try and use this time to fully trust God and focus on developing a more intimate relationship with God. Imagine (by faith) how God can use the difficulties in our lives to work out His good and pleasing will for us. (Romans 8:28) And think of these temporary trials as opportunities for God to transform our lives into the image (character) of His Son.

As in the refining process of gold, God uses his refining power to bring our weaknesses to the surface so that his consuming fire can burn away all the impurities in our lives (self-sufficiency, idolatry, selfish desires, etc.). And in this process, we will begin to look more like Christ, reflecting his righteousness to a lost and dying world.

The times of testing come in various ways. Being a Christian will often require us to wait upon the LORD with great faith. Perseverance in testing results in spiritual maturity and completeness. Therefore, James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). The testing of faith may come in small ways and daily irritations; they may also be severe afflictions (Isaiah 48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows.

Concluding words of comfort: We know that God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to handle by His power. His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Romans 12:28-29).

Concluding thoughts: As we wait upon the LORD, for answers to our prayers, let us enjoy His presence above all, and receive the peace that envelopes our anxious hearts. My lifelong go-to Scripture:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Waiting on the LORD

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Part One of Three

Part 1: A brief look at three women and one man who experienced great loss and the raw emotions they displayed during their pain. In this three-part reflection, we will begin to answer these questions:  Is there purpose in waiting on God?  Does God love me and care about me? Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?

Waiting for the LORD to act on our behalf or answer our prayers can seem unbearable at times. And I believe even more so in this high tech, instantaneous world we live in.

I’ve been studying the life of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widowed and experienced feelings of abandonment, great loneliness, poverty, and an uncertain future. Any one of these emotions can evoke fear and a sense of hopelessness, let alone the combination of multiple struggles and hardships.

Possibly you can relate to some of these emotions or others that seemingly hit without much warning, or at other times, seem to linger much longer than we’d prefer. I know that I can relate to most.

It became clear to me that Naomi’s deep grief stemmed from not only the death of her husband, but also the death of her two sons. I personally can’t fathom the intense sorrow and pain of these multiple losses. I’ve been told from close friends who have experienced a death of a child, that this is the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced, even more so than the death of a spouse or parent.

Marriage of my mom and dad. Rev. Alvin Mueller, pastor who led my mom to Jesus during her battle with cancer.

My grandmother, grandfather, and me

I do know that the pain of losing my mother at age seven was severe, but as I look back, I realize that my pain paled in comparison with that of my paternal grandfather. He experienced the death of his only child, (my father), the death of his wife, his parents, and my mother, all within seven years.

Me and my grandfather

Being raised by my grandfather following the loss of my mother, I observed what I thought to be peculiar behavior in my grandfather, especially around certain holidays. At the time, I didn’t understand why my loving and doting grandpa would often remain in bed on Christmas mornings. Much later, as an adult, I realized that my  grandfather suffered intensely during Christmas, as he recalled cherished and happier memories of his deceased son and wife. This time of the year was also a trigger for his pain, with the birth and death dates falling during the holiday season. I now look back with great love, compassion, and empathy for my tenderhearted grandfather.

I suppose this is why I can relate to Naomi. Her anguish was intense and the way she responded was real. The following is Naomi’s response to her hometown, as they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Her Hebrew name means “pleasant.”

Returning to Bethlehem, after being gone for ten years, and following the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi expresses her heartache to the crowd and to God.

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Mara in Hebrew means “bitter.”

Some who haven’t experienced the same type of suffering may be quick to judge Naomi for her direct response, and this is understandable. It’s often difficult to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have worn the same shoes.

For me, it’s easy to relate to Naomi’s raw emotions because of my personal experience and the observation of my grandfather’s response to great loss.

It’s amazing how God helps us to identify with those who have experienced the same or similar losses. I believe He does this so that we can offer hope and encouragement to those who He brings into our lives.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Throughout this fascinating love story filled with a plethora of drama and suspense, we learn a lot about two women who learned to wait upon the LORD… for His divine and providential plans to unfold in their lives. From the account of Scripture, Ruth possessed a humble and faithful spirit of servanthood and obedience. Observing these attractive character traits first in her mother-in-law, Ruth began to emulate Naomi’s genuine faith. Doing so, Ruth placed her faith in the One True God, which ultimately led her to her kinsman redeemer and future husband, Boaz.

Over a relatively short time span, we see how Naomi’s trust in God revitalized as she passes along words of wisdom to Ruth.

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). This refers to Ruth waiting to hear back from Boaz, to learn if he could legally purchase Naomi’s land, and in doing so become Ruth’s husband. (Ruth 4 describes this God-ordained transaction.)

Waiting on the LORD for answers to our prayers and for a much-desired miracle can seem like “forever” in some instances. And there are times that we may feel like giving up and even blaming God for not “coming through” for us. If you’re human, you have probably felt like Naomi at one time or another. And this is perfectly okay! God understands our heart, even more than we do. He created us with a full range of emotions, and He is big enough to handle our outbursts resulting from inner strife and pain.

God also knows that waiting on answers to our prayers can be a true test of our faith. In fact, God often uses the time of waiting to strengthen our faith. Here are a few examples from the Bible of those who found themselves in a time of waiting on the LORD.

  • Jesus had to wait until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23) to fulfill His mission on earth, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then 3 years later, Jesus completed His mission on the cross, for the redemption of the world. (John 3:16)
  • Jesus then waited 40 days after his resurrection from the grave before He ascended to the Father. (Acts 1:3)
  • The apostles had to wait 10 days after Jesus ascended before they received the promised Holy Spirit in the upper room. (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Moses, at age 80 (Exodus 7:7), had waited in the desert for 40 years (Acts 7:30) before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from Pharoah.
  • The Israelites waited for 430 years before God delivered them from the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:40)
  • Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac. (Genesis 21:5)
  • Noah had to wait for 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time of the flood. (Genesis 6:3)
  • And Mary and Martha waited a gut-wrenching two days before Jesus came to heal and ultimately raise their brother Lazarus from the grave. (John 11:5-6)
  • An invalid for 38 years waited by the Pool of Bethseda to be healed. (John 5:1-16) (See link to The Chosen, “The Perfect Opportunity”)

When hardships and new obstacles come our way, do we instantly turn to God for guidance and provision, or do we fret and worry, and try to fix problems with our own means and within our own time schedule? Scripture teaches that our trials teach us to trust in God and strengthens our faith in Him. It also teaches us that our trials produce a deeper intimacy with the LORD (1 Peter 4:1-2). When we accept that hardship is a part of the Christian life, we can lean on God and grow closer to Him.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

When, (not if) we find ourselves in a time of waiting, God promises to be with us and to give us His power and wisdom to navigate through these difficult seasons of life. All God asks of us is to take hold of His outstretched hand of mercy, grace, and unconditional love, and rest assured of His perfect timing. The following passages of Scripture are encouraging to me, and I hope they will be to you as well.

“For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.…” (Romans 8:24-26).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Romans 8:35)?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

As we wait upon the LORD and trust that His way is better than our plans and desires, and that He understands our needs better than we do, we will be able to rest in His perfect love and provision. Our heavenly Father sees what lies ahead and knows what He wants to accomplish in every situation of our life. And as we spend time in His Word, we will discover that our trust in God is growing as we discern His ways and plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Chosen TV Series (Season 2, episode 4) “The Perfect Opportunity” – offers a heart-wrenching rendition of someone waiting on the LORD for healing thirty-eight years, and the dance of victory he receives through Christ alone.  (The link below will give you directions for watching The Chosen.)

May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'The CHOSEN SEASON2 WATCH NOW ON THE "CHOSEN" APP ANDROID APP ON Google play Download the App Store'

https://thechosensupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045859754-How-Do-I-Watch-The-Chosen-On-My-TV-

Watch for the next blog post: Part Two: Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

“When We Fall Apart” – Songs of Hope

While driving to work I heard this song playing on the radio: “When We Fall Apart.” I don’t recall hearing it before, but the words caught my attention. A portion of the lyrics:

“When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson, songwriter, musician

You were 43 when you got the news
Life will be changing, nothing we can do
The clock is ticking now
All I can think about
Is knowing I have to move on without you somehow
And I just can’t believe
That you’re the one whose keeping it together
As you hold my hand and say

It’s okay to cry
It’s okay to fall apart
You don’t have to try
To be strong when you are not
And it may take some time to make sense of all your thoughts
But don’t ever fight your tears
‘Cause there is freedom in every drop
Sometimes the only way to heal a broken heart is when we fall apart

Ryan Stevenson penned these words ten years after the death of his mother. His personal testimony:

I remember the last words my mom spoke to me. She said on her death bed in our last conversation, ‘don’t ever think that you need to have it all together. Don’t ever think that you need to fight back your tears because sometimes the only way we see clearly is when we look through our tears. Sometimes our greatest act of strength is really our weakness. It’s in our surrender. And sometimes the only way we heal is when we just let go, crumble and fall apart.’” – Ryan Stevenson

To listen to this song, “When We Fall Apart,” see the  video at: https://youtu.be/xUPgzd3nwMo

Following nine years as a paramedic, Ryan Stevenson signed an exclusive agreement with Gotee Records in 2013 after capturing TobyMac’s attention by co-writing the No. 1 and Grammy-nominated single “Speak Life.” In 2015, Stevenson’s full-length album “Fresh Start,” featured the RIAA Gold-certified single “Eye of the Storm.”

“The Eye of the Storm” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sx8wTnnfSc

“I’m so thankful that songs sneak past us and our boundaries and penetrate to the heart. I just want to encourage everybody to be bold, speak out about your brokenness, speak out about things that are actually going on in your life because that is what makes what we are doing special and sets people free – that is our testimony that truly starts revival.” – Ryan Stevenson

Arriving at work, I began to research more about Ryan Stevenson. Wow! I’m not sure why I hadn’t learned about this Christian music artist before, but I have heard many of his songs on the radio. Some which include: “Eye Of The Storm,” “Speak Life,” Amadeo.” Each one has an amazing story behind it.

TobyMac and Ryan Stevenson

God took a tenderhearted little boy from Bonanza, Oregon, and shaped his yielded spirit to follow Christ…through various means. Childhood and teenage insecurities, seeds of faith planted by his parents, church attendance and his youth pastor, as a caretaker for his mom who was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year in high school, a ‘chance’ encounter with a woman struck by lightning while working as a paramedic, the death of his mom, his wife’s miscarriage of twins, and a special unexpected meeting with TobyMac.

Without going into detail of each one, I encourage you to listen to the amazing God-filled testimony of Ryan Stevenson on the Billy Graham Association website: https://billygraham.org/audio/how-ryan-stevenson-found-peace-with-god-in-the-eye-of-the-storm/

Abbreviated testimony of Ryan Stevenson talking about his songs, by CCLI – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQPQcy9nzJk

Each of us will encounter storms in life…death of a loved one, job loss, cancer diagnosis, divorce, infertility, wayward prodigal, financial hardship, and the list goes on. And some of us may face more and even greater hardships than others.

Because we live in a fallen world (Genesis 3), because of sin, we will all face difficult and painful circumstances. However, there is good news for those who have placed their trust in the LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“One glorious future day, the curse of corruption and decay will be lifted for all eternity: “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:19–21, NLT; see also Revelation 22:3).” (To read more see: Got Questions, What Does The Bible Say About Corruption? https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-corruption.html  

During our women’s Bible study, our teacher wrote on a dry erase board all the bad things we could think of. It was quite a list! But then she added: Starvation, the Rwanda genocide (where Hutu extremists murdered at least 800,000 Tutsis over the course of 100 days), mass shootings where gunmen shoot and kill children, youth, and adults. Then she said, “And, yes, God is still the comfort for ALL those who mourn.” Our feelings may tell us otherwise, especially in the moment of great despair. Just like our Bible study teacher tearfully recalled, “There was a time when I didn’t believe God could comfort me, when my daughter passed away (from a very rare illness caused by a waterborne amoeba that attacks the brain).” She went on to say, “But God understood my pain, and He was and is faithful to be my comforter.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I pray that these testimonies and songs of hope will encourage you today. And for those who are going through a difficult journey, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

With the love of Jesus,

Charmé

“Wildest Dreams” Album

Ryan Stevenson –  https://www.ryanstevensonmusic.com/

“Eye of the Storm” book

 

Ryan Stevenson and his family

 

Fleas and Lice a Blessing? Overcoming Hate Through Christ

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom – Holocaust Concentration Camp Survivor,  Humble Heroine, Vessel of Forgiveness

Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom was born April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, near Haarlem. Carrie’s grandfather, William ten Boom, opened a watchmaker’s shop in Haarlem 1837, and led prayer services to pray specifically for Jewish people who were being discriminated against in Europe. William passed this faith tradition onto his son, Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, who inherited the watchmaker shop.

Mr. Casper ten Boom
Ten boom Family

 

 

 

Ten boom Legacy of Faith in Christ

Mrs. Cornelia ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom House — Kevin & AmandaThe ten Boom family (Casper and Cornelia ten Boom, Corrie, her brother Willem, and two sisters, Nollie and Betsie) lived on the second floor, above the watchmaker shop. Mrs. ten Boom nurtured her children’s faith, teaching them to love and obey Christ. Mother ten Boom made a ‘blessing box,’ instructing her children and their friends to drop coins into the box to help the poor and missionaries. And as her children matured, she instructed them how to lead Bible studies for their neighbors. Corrie’s mother died in 1921. Throughout the years (1920s – 1930s), the ten Booms cared for many refugee children and orphans.

World War II

On September 1, 1939, World War II began. And in less than two years, on May 10, 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands and within five days of fighting, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands.

Corrie, who was 48 at the time, helped her family turn their home into a safe haven (Hiding Place) for people trying to escape Nazi tyranny. Mr. ten Boom and his daughters, Betsie and Corrie, risked their lives hiding Jews and others in their home for a few years. The ten Boom family helped save the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees.

Large wall clocks camouflaged a false wall that opened up to a secret hiding place. The secret room was only about two feet deep by eight feet long, but could hold six or seven people. The hideout was very successful, but on February 28, 1944, a traitor led the German police to the ‘hiding place’ and thirty people, including several of the ten Boom family were arrested.

Betsie and Corrie

Corrie, her father, and her sister, Betsie, were taken to Scheveningen Prison, where Corrie’s dad died ten days later.

Ten months later, Corrie and Betsi were shuttled to Ravensbruck concentration camp near Berlin, the largest camp for women in German-controlled regions. Thousands of women were executed there.

The living conditions were harsh, with little food and severe discipline. Betsie and Corrie led secret prayer services in their barracks, using a smuggled Bible.                                                                    The following story is one of my favorite ‘faith over fear’ narratives. 

Ravensbruck Concentration Camp Women’s Barracks

Fleas and Lice a Blessing?

When Corrie and Betsie entered the filthy flea invested Ravensbruck prison and they were starving, they cried out to the Lord to help them.

While laying on a bunk with several other women, Betsi turned to Corrie and shared these words, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Corrie asked, “What on earth can we give thanks for?” Betsie said, “We are together in prison and we have a Bible that wasn’t confiscated.”

Then, Betsie prayed, “And thank you, Lord, for the fleas.” Corrie told her sister that she could never give thanks for fleas, but Betsie reminded her that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.

Betsie Ten Boom and the Key to Making a Lasting Impression
Betsie ten Boom

While lying on their flea-and lice-infested beds, they gave thanks for the fleas. After several weeks passed, they noticed that the soldiers rarely came into their barracks. Initially, Betsie and Corrie did not know why, but it allowed them time to share the love of Jesus with other women. One day, Betsie asked a supervisor to come to the barracks for assistance. Betsie told Corrie, “‘The supervisor wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the other guards. And you know why?’ Betsie boasted of their unusual blessing: ‘Because of the fleas!’ That’s what the supervisor said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

On December 16, 1944, Betsie died at Ravensbruck of starvation and lack of medical care. Corrie recalled Betsie’s last words:

“… (we) must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

Two weeks after Betsie’s death, Corrie was ‘mysteriously’ released from the prison due to a “clerical error.” Corrie always referred to this as a miracle. Shortly after her release, all of the other women in her age group at Ravensbruck were executed. 

Remembering her sister’s last words to go and tell, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” Corrie spent the rest of her life sharing their story and the gospel of Christ and his forgiveness around the world. During one of her speaking engagements, she recognized one of the guards who had cruelly mistreated her, Betsi, and the other prisoners.

Corrie Retells Meeting Her Enemy

corrie ten boom - The Tiny TwigIt was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

My Memes of Corrie ten Boom's Quotes » The Faithful WandererNow he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

The Word For The Day • For if you forgive other people when they sin... |  Forgiveness quotes, Corrie ten boom quotes, WordsAnd I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

Louie's Lair: LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND BLESSINGIn our deepest pain and suffering, God reaches out to us with His love and compassion. How can I do less, to those who Jesus died for on Calvary. The only true enemy we have is satan. As Jesus died on the cross, His last words stick in my mind, every time I’m tempted to withhold forgiveness to someone who has hurt me. “Father, forgive them…” (Corrie ten Boom)

Inspired by Betsie’s example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel around the world to 64 countries as a missionary, preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation.

Jay Hicks on Twitter | Inspirational words, Corrie ten boom quotes, Faith  quotesCorrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. She was buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.

 

 

You will find these stories and many other inspiring incidents from the life of Corrie ten Boom in her own book, The Hiding Place, released in 1971. And later, the book made into a film in 1975 by World Wide Pictures, Billy Graham Association. https://www.christianbook.com/the-hiding-place-corrie-ten-boom/9780553256697/pd/56696?event=ESRCG

Other Favorite Resources:

Tramp For The LORD, https://www.christianbook.com/tramp-story-begins-where-hiding-place/corrie-ten-boom/9780875089867/pd/089867?event=AAI

Torchlighters DVD, The Corrie ten Boom Story: https://www.christianbook.com/torchlighters-series-corrie-ten-boom-story/pd/015385 and for other Torchlighter resources for kids: https://torchlighters.org/

Grateful During Suffering?

“A grateful spirit is what enables people to view and respond to the most painful circumstances in life with thanksgiving. As one person observed, ‘Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.’”

I borrowed this quote from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, who has touched the lives of millions through Revive Our Heart, True Woman movement, and through her books. (Please see Nancy’s bio at the end of this post).  

I don’t know about you, but having a grateful attitude doesn’t always come easy, especially when facing difficulties. Sure, I’m thankful when all is well and life is free from any struggles and heartache, but these times seem to be few and far between, at least for me. Oh, see there! —‘at least for me.’ I believe I need an attitude adjustment!

I recently ‘stumbled’ across a video by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth titled, Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall, and her article, The Attitude of Gratitude. To be honest, I didn’t just stumble across these, but rather, I located them online after learning of Nancy’s husband’s cancer diagnosis.

A brief background:

Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth

Nancy surrendered to God’s will early in her adult life, to serve the LORD as a single woman. Then, in her mid-fifties, God brought “the unexpected” into Nancy’s life. Robert Wolgemuth, a friend, whom after the loss of his first wife, Bobbi, began corresponding with Nancy. At first, Nancy hesitated to reciprocate, but as she sought God’s guidance and the counsel of close friends, Nancy and Robert began a courtship, which led to their marriage, November 14, 2015. This is a grace-filled story in its own: The Unexpected Grace: Nancy and Robert’s Story: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/unexpected-grace-nancy-and-roberts-story/

Nancy continues to surrender to God’s will in her life and marriage. In March 2020, Robert was diagnosed with melanoma, and in August 2020 Robert received a second cancer diagnosis of B Cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

There are times in life when we are faced with a vitally important question. Will I choose to trust in God and His providence for my life, or will I falter and succumb to overwhelming fear and disillusionment, leading to despair and hopelessness? Nancy and Robert are choosing to trust in the faithfulness of God, as He writes their life stories. (See link below to the co-authored book by Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.)

I hope that you will find encouragement through Nancy’s Gratitude Wall. I know I did. I’m known as the Post-it queen in our family (I use post-its everywhere…on my car dashboard, mirrors, refrigerator, and at work), so I totally love this idea. And most recently, our eight-year-old granddaughter, Emeree Faith, started leaving post-its for me and her Pappy.

As you watch the Gratitude Wall video,* I hope that you will find the blessing God desires for you, whether in plenty or want.  https://www.reviveourhearts.com/videos/nancy-shares-her-gratitude-wall/

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Additional Thoughts (from Charmé)

While reading through the Bible this year, I found myself in the story of the ‘grumbling Israelites’ during their forty-year wandering in the wilderness. They always seemed to be grumbling about something! Does this sound in any way familiar, possibly in today’s culture, in your life and mine?

I chuckle embarrassingly under my breath when I think of how often I grumble about the smallest inconveniences in life, like having to wait in line at the grocery store because I’ve run out of creamer for my coffee. I can’t imagine going to bed hungry or not having any shoes to wear like so many in our world. Yet, this is how the Israelites acted when they ‘forgot’ how God delivered them from the tyranny of Egypt’s Pharoah. Did they not remember the ten plagues, and how God miraculously pushed back the waters of the Red Sea until all the Israelites escaped to dry land, and then how God instructed Moses to wave his staff, releasing the waters, and swallowing up the Egyptians?

For forty years the Israelites complained about not having ‘enough’…enough water and food, the right menu, the right leader, and so on. Yet, in God’s grace and mercy, He provided for all their needs. In Exodus 16:4-5 the Bible says God provided manna (bread) from heaven daily. Each day they collected enough for that day, but if they collected more, it rotted by the next morning! God wanted to teach His people to trust Him to provide for them. God also provided quail for the people so they would have meat to eat and later he provided water to drink (Exodus17:5-6). What’s amazing to me, is that even when the Israelites grumbled, God still chose to provide for their needs. Such a loving and compassionate Father!

The Israelites’ complaints didn’t originate in their surroundings or their circumstances, but rather, in their hearts. Their ungrateful spirits really were a result of spiritual amnesia. They neglected to recall and remember God’s gracious deliverance from bondage.

During Holy week, leading up to Easter, the celebration of our resurrected Savior, I encourage ‘us’ to take time to thank God for His daily provisions, and most importantly, the provision of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became our ‘substitutionary atonement.’ This refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23). And that the penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, I encourage you to NOT wait another day. Please click on the above tab in the header of this blog, Private: Receive Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth Bio:

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them FreeSeeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband) https://www.reviveourhearts.com/books/you-can-trust-god/. Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

The Attitude of Gratitude* article, by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth, may be located through the Gratitude Wall Video, and here: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/articles/the-attitude-of-gratitude/

  • Nancy Shares Her Gratitude Wall video and The Attitude of Gratitude article is used by permission.
  • Copyright Revive Our Hearts. by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Used with permission. www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Closing Thoughts

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are times that the severity of pain and suffering warrant a definite, “Help me God, I can’t do this” or “I don’t understand why!” God understands our human frailty and limitations apart from His mighty hand and outstretched arms. God is desiring this type of response, so that He can prove Himself faithful in our lives, for ‘His love endures forever.’

I’ve included Psalm 136 at the end of the blog, to read, meditate on, and to make it your own, as you offer praise and thanksgiving to our loving Heavenly Father who cares for you.

Let this act of remembering awaken in you joy in God and a deep sense of gratitude that God loves you, knows you, and keeps you.

Psalm 136 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

God Was Purposeful in Our Pain

Personal Testimony of Natalie Faith Johnson

natalie-pic-1Growing up, I sang many songs that assured me it was “so sweet to trust in Jesus” and “God can make a way when there seems to be no way.” My favorite movie as a kid was Sister Act 2 (don’t judge!) and I would sing along with Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount as they sang “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” I sounded exactly like them!

The lyrics of all these songs are so beautiful and TRUE…but sometimes they are hard to sing. What if you’re not happy and things don’t feel so sweet? What if you don’t feel free but instead are trapped in a life you never saw for yourself? What if you know God is watching but you don’t feel Him actively working?

Deciding to be a Christian is life changing. However, as you the reader knows, it doesn’t spare you from all the junk that can happen. I love the verse:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

The word rampart means “a protective barrier.” God is faithful and even though life can throw some pretty crazy stuff our way, we are sheltered under His wings and can make it through any storm!

I’m about to tell you a story about becoming a mother that has the best ending. Just you wait! However, I do want to preface the story by saying that for years I thought over and over again that I was in the lowest valley I’d ever walk through…but then it would get lower. I thought circumstances would get better but then they got worse. Has that ever happened to you? I’ve heard ‘bad things come in threes’ but sometimes it seems like bad things come by the dozen!

Martin Luther once said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” His quote was pertaining to temptation and our thought life. There will always be storms that come, dark valleys we walk through, and squawking birds over our heads. We were never promised that this world would be fun or easy. However, we can find shelter within our Refuge (the Lord!), we can walk beside Him through the valley (He promises that!), and we can take every thought captive in Jesus’ name!

When I was younger my parents got divorced. It was painful, messy, and didn’t end well. My dad, who was a pastor and charismatic man lived a double life by having multiple affairs, abusive behavior, and strong mental health issues. My mom wrote a book about her healing process called “Secrets in the Sanctuary*.” Their marriage never recovered, and in fact, my dad went on to have even stronger issues over the years and he sadly passed away when I was 19 years old.

What’s bizarre, is that growing up I knew very little of my dad’s unhealthy behavior. My dad was extremely intentional when he saw my sister and me. He took us on the best vacations, had thought provoking conversations, and challenged us to be strong in our faith. I can look back on my parents’ divorce and grieve over the things that were destroyed and at the same time be thankful for the years I had with my dad and the good seeds he planted in my life. We don’t have to be 100% happy with how things turn out. We can have joy and pain at the same time. Let me repeat that…joy and pain can coexist at the same time. It’s what makes us strong and makes us long for Heaven.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I really hoped that growing through my dad’s death and the divorce of my parents would be my full testimony. I wish hard times were like lightening striking once, but like we all know, we need God every hour to help us through this life!

natalie in hospitalLike I said earlier, sometimes bad things come by the dozen. My parents’ marriage began to turn toward divorce when I was 4 years old. In the thick of their struggles, I was having some health issues, and through multiple doctors’ visits, led to the unexpected. I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my pelvis. It was wrapped around my organs and blocked my body from functioning like it should. Thankfully, through two years of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and a great team of doctors, I was healed at 6 years old from cancer!  My mom, sister, and I started a new life with the help of our family, church, and the Lord’s provision.

The doctors warned us that there would be limits of how my body would function as I grew up, but every single limit they gave was surpassed and overcome!

God was faithful over the years and eventually I met and married Adam when I was 20. We started a fun life together and moved to Spring Hill, KS in 2009.

Confident of what the Lord had done in my body, I became pregnant at 24, and I knew this was another victory of His healing touch. Adam and I were so excited to share with everyone about our baby! I was getting ready to graduate dental hygiene school and Adam was established in his job as a Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. We were thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives.

Unfortunately, I miscarried our first baby at 9 weeks and a year later I miscarried another baby at 14 weeks. Both pregnancies started off great but because of the radiation treatment to my pelvis during my childhood cancer, my body would not stretch enough to make room for a growing baby. We would have tried to keep getting pregnant but both miscarriages revealed that my body was unable to clot blood normally and I would be hospitalized for days to stop the bleeding. I was told the next pregnancy would end in a hysterectomy.

I never kept any of our journey to be parents or the grief that I felt a secret. My poor mother, sister, and best friends heard it all! One day, Katie, my closest friend, graciously offered to try surrogacy, since carrying the baby was our main battle. With prayer and research, we decided to go for it!

“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

The first surrogacy attempt failed, and we had depleted all our money. With encouragement from our friends and family, surrogacy fundraisers were held, giving us another opportunity to try again. By this time everyone in our circle and Katie’s knew about our journey. It failed again.

I started going to counseling. The idea of carrying a child myself was gone, and now the idea of having a biological child was also gone. My heart was not ready for any other option. Grief was a daily friend.

But God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. A family at our church that we didn’t really know heard our story and invited us to a birthday party they were having for one-year-old twins, a brother and sister. The twins had come into their lives through foster care. Our new friends hoped we could be the twins’ future parents.

In one fell swoop, these babies wiped out every stigma I had toward fostering. It was easy to connect with them. God was changing my heart on how I could be a mom.

We decided to get our foster care license and after taking classes the twins became a part of our lives. But then several months later a family member stepped in to be their guardian and they left our home.

I couldn’t take anymore loss. The idea of never mothering, of never feeling this way again was sounding like the best idea…but God had a different idea in mind.

Aren’t you thankful that God is always working behind the scenes and knows the desires of our hearts?

  • In 2013, when I miscarried my first baby, Jaedyn Faith Johnson was born.
  • In 2014, when I miscarried my second baby, Neila Kate Johnson was born.
  • Because of our surrogacy fundraising event, a couple who had attended mentioned our names when a relative of theirs was looking for adoptive parents for Jaedyn and Neila.
  • Katie, our dear friend, and surrogate was the connecting person to that couple and called to ask if we’d be willing to meet the girls.
  • We met our daughters on Adam’s 31st birthday. God was about to show us the most incredible gifts he had ever made.
  • Years before we met the girls, we got our foster care license. We needed this license to be candidates to adopt them.
  • There were 12 couples who wanted to adopt the girls. We were the only ones out of state and yet we were picked as one of the final two couples.
  • When the board (Best Interest Staffing) met and interviewed us and the other couple, the majority of the board was going to vote for the older couple with a child. One woman on the board, however, swayed the whole vote toward us when she said that when we spoke, she could feel God’s presence and assurance that we were supposed to be the girls’ parents.

judge And in December of 2018, we became the overjoyed, emotional, grateful parents of two of the coolest girls we have ever known. Every detail of who they are, from their personalities, their interests, and even their eye color meshes with our family as a beautiful reminder that God was working. God was purposeful in our pain and nothing was wasted. He redeems and restores what we think is beyond his control. God is faithful!

Johnson family
The Johnson Family. Neila, Natalie, Adam, Jaedyn

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9).

Natalie and Mom*Book written by Natalie’s mom, Julie E. Davenport, “Secrets in the Sanctuary” – https://julieedavenport.com/

God is Faithful in All He Does

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things” (Isaiah 25:1).

My personal testimony from 2020:

Looking back over 2020, my one word.

Surrender…to God’s healing in my life, trusting His methods, doctors, medicine, physical therapy; and accepting things I couldn’t change…including COVID-19. I praise God for bringing peace to my heart and mind.

I started the year (February 2020) with extreme pain in my left shoulder. After visits to doctors and trying several medications, the pain continued to severely affect my sleep and daily routine. At the same time, my blood pressure began rising to stroke level. After consulting with my physicians, Jeff and our daughter Jennifer took me to the ER, where they admitted me and ran tests for two days.

Prior to my cardiac stress test, Jennifer asked the technician if she could pray for me before they started. I immediately felt peace and assurance that God was with me. After running all the tests, they said everything looked good, but they still couldn’t regulate my blood pressure. Finally, my cardiologist was able to stabilize my blood pressure with two new medications.

After being released from the hospital I saw an orthopedic doctor for my shoulder, which I couldn’t move without severe pain. He quickly diagnosed me with Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder) and ordered physical therapy. I was skeptical, but at this point would try anything. God knew exactly what He was doing!

After a few sessions with my physical therapist, Mike, I started to see some results. Mike not only treated me for frozen shoulder, but he also attended to my emotional and spiritual needs. He recited Scripture over me, prayed, and encouraged me. At the end of my treatment Mike said he felt that it was amazing that my recovery went so well, and then he told me about the One Word* book ministry.

After listening to his passion for God during my eight weeks of therapy, I decided to remember the One Word ministry. I also shared with Mike about our Family Legacy Day* and he said that he would like to start doing this with his wife and two daughters.

Almost a year later, I had kind of forgotten about the One Word ministry until just prior to the new year, January 2021. God kept impressing upon me the word “faithful.” Then I kept seeing the word faith and faithful show up in my daily devotions and Bible reading. I also re-read my prayer journal which testified to God’s faithfulness over the years (in my life and life of our family). So many answers to prayer over twenty years of journaling.

2 Timothy 2:13 Faithful God — Tell the Lord Thank You

Faithful! Yes, God has always been faithful to me and to His Word and promises. I desire to be faithful to God because He’s been so faithful to me. Even when I’ve been unfaithful, God has showered me with His love, mercy, and grace.

Grandpa, Me, & my Mom

As a child, God was faithful to care for me as an orphan (loss of both parents by age seven). God placed me in the home of my loving grandparents. Faithful to heal me from so many illnesses (two life-threatening) over all these years. Faithful to bring me into a personal relationship with Jesus as a young wife and mother, faithful to watch over our three children (protecting their lives, sparing them from serious illnesses and accidents, etc.) And faithful to bless me with six wonderful grandchildren.

I’d like to clarify that God does not always show His faithfulness to me by answering my prayers in the exact way or timing that I’d like. Yes, God does choose to intervene in this way at times and I’m forever grateful. There are other times, however, when through His divine sovereignty, God chooses not to remove or exclude hardships from my life. Instead, He has used these difficult times in my life to help me learn to trust in Him and strengthen my faith. I’ve come to relish and recognize God’s faithfulness through His loving and caring hand of comfort, inner peace, and unconditional love in the midst of suffering and pain. His ways are greater and higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9), and I am thankful God knows what’s best for me.

This Year: Faithful – My One Word

Scripture: Psalm 145

My One Verse: Psalm 145:13

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.”

God is teaching me the importance of living a life of faithfulness to Him and His Word. So, I’m excited about spending this year meditating, contemplating, and living out the word “faithful.” 1). God’s Faithfulness And 2). God equipping me to be faithful to Him.

This blog site, Holding His Hand, is dedicated to my mother, Audrey, who learned to trust in Jesus as her personal Savior during her battle with cancer.

On occasion, God will direct my attention to others who have personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness in their lives. And from time to time I will post their stories on this blog site. Please watch for upcoming testimonies.

Upcoming Testimony

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is natalie-pic.jpg
Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson, a worship pastor’s wife, and mother of two precious daughters will share how God’s faithfulness walked her through the most dark and painful days in her life. God’s hand of grace has lovingly held Natalie close throughout her life. Her story will move you from tears to joy as she bravely and openly details living through childhood cancer, the divorce of her parents, and an infertility journey that included miscarriage, surrogacy with a close friend, and foster care. If you’ve ever been sorely broken in life, you won’t want to miss reading Natalie’s testimony of God’s amazing faithfulness. It will encourage you to seek God during heartache and suffering because God’s promises are true. He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), give us His strength when we are weak (Isaiah 41:10), and He promises to carry our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30).

Happy New Year? (A Rewrite from 2018)

Priority. This word will define the person you are and who you desire to become. It will also determine what kind of year you will have.

Many of us set goals for the new year. Or what some would call, resolutions. I suppose I’m more of a goal-setter. One of the gifts God gave me is being an organizer, or planner. But unless God oversees this gift it can become more of a burden rather than a blessing, to myself and often to others.

Distinguishing between the two, a blessing or a burden, depends upon priority. The word priority may seem like such a simple word, but it can become extremely complex as a person wrestles with its meaning. In fact, the personal definition truly defines the person we are or who we desire to become.

Brother-Lawrence-in-KitchenNicholas Herman (1611-1691), better known as Brother Lawrence, found this to be true following his conversion to Christ at the age of eighteen while serving in the military. (To read more about Brother Lawrence, his conversion and life, go to: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence Serving in menial roles, mostly in a hospital kitchen, Brother Lawrence became known for his quite remarkable and serene faith, and his simple but dynamic experience of “the presence of God*.” Thousands of lay persons and clergy desired to know the secret to his life filled with unquenchable joy, peace, love, and humility.

Happy New Year?

Brother Lawrence gave the same answers to all who sought after these inner virtues. “Stop putting your trust in human rules, devotional exercises, and acts of penance. Instead, exercise a living, obedient faith in God. Live as though he were beside you and with you all the time—as indeed he is. Seek to do what he wants, as and when he commands it, and make his command your joy and chief pleasure. The person who lives like that will be fully human, completely Christian, and genuinely happy.”

More about Brother Lawrence a little later.

As I approach the year 2018 (now 2021), I am particularly aware of a personal need to prioritize my life (once again). For me, this is an ongoing journey, of which I suppose is true for most of us. Being fully human is the easy part. Ha! It’s the other two I seem to struggle with–being completely Christian and genuinely happy. Just being honest here.

Oh, did I mention that I’m a list keeper? Sometimes a gift and other times a burden.

This new year’s list includes (the left side from 2018, the right side this year, 2021): After reflecting on the 2018 list, I decided to be more specific in my goals for 2021 and to be more intentional in my spiritual life.

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly          Same
  • Plan/have annual Family Legacy Day             Same
  • Pre-planning funeral arrangements, etc.        Order grave marker
  • Ministry and Missions                                        Lead a discipleship group
  • Medical and dental appointments                    Take care of physical body
  • Retirement (future and ongoing…)                   Trust in the LORD for future
  • Vacation and family outings                              Same, according to God’s will
  • And so much more!                                             Faith to fulfill God’s purpose*

Of course, most if not all these things are important, but they’re not really going to ensure that I have a happy new year, even if I am able to put a checkmark next to each one. (Only the genuine abiding daily presence of God in my life will ensure my true happiness.)

So many “things” and people vie for our time, and as Solomon so eloquently penned, “there’s a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

The modern world seems to throw everything at us, so to prevent us from living a spiritual life, one that pleases the LORD. Think about all the high-tech machinery replacing hands, computers replacing minds, psychotherapy replacing prayer. And while these things are not bad in themselves, taken together along with the accelerated advances in science, the turbulent rhythm of life, and the external tensions of world events (recently in 2019/2020 with the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest which is sadly continuing in 2021), they tend to produce a society that has little time for personal relationships and even less time for God.

How then, can one “practice the presence of God?” A silhouette of a young boy praying against a brilliant sunset sky.

The basic spiritual disciplines remain our core: prayer and Bible study. But how must we compete with a world full of noise? The concept of silence is foreign to much of this generation, with cell phones, Facebook/Instagram/TikTok, tablets, movies on watches, and so on. Then adding to the social media, we find ourselves, as Solomon did, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1). Many families find themselves running from one activity to the next, and purchasing things that will only ensure longer work hours or require a second job. And to be quite honest, it’s not only our young families who have fallen prey to “this world’s system,” many older adults are chasing after the wind as well. Thousands of dollars are spent on finer lifestyles, while yearning for retirement days spent listening to the ocean waves rather than the voice of our Creator. Again, there’s nothing wrong in planning for retirement or caring for our personal well-being, but if these things take on a higher priority than God’s design and purpose, then we may need to re-evaluate our goals and or resolutions for the new year. Think about (no, pray about) how you might prioritize your life this year in ways that will help to ensure a happy new year according to the sweet pleasure of our LORD and Savior.

In closing…

From a letter written by Brother Lawrence:

“We can, in fact, learn a great deal about the love of God from the way we treat our friends (and family). For example, it would be very discourteous to invite a friend to our home and then leave him to sit alone in a corner while we go ahead with our own activities, ignoring him completely. Yet that is what we do with God. We have invited him, in his Son, to enter our hearts and live there—but often we neglect him, almost forgetting that he is there at all, so distracted are we by other things and other people.

The Christian’s biggest, most important job on earth is to live and die with the LORD. He can hardly do that if the slightest diversion drives all thoughts of God out of his mind. It is all a question of priorities, really.

Yours in the LORD,

Laurie (Brother Lawrence)

Two final thoughts recorded from Brother Lawrence’s conversion experience:

Trees“Suddenly I saw what ‘providence’ is all about—it’s simply believing that God has the power and the will to do all things well for us, if we will only submit to his loving, patient rule. And that nothing we can do—beyond trusting him—will speed up his will or make things happen that he isn’t ready to do in us.”

“At that moment, sitting there on the grass, my acts of worship, my attempts at discipline—all the effort I had put into trying to please God—were swallowed up in an enormous sense of love for him. The One who patiently led the trees and the plants through their seasons would also lead me, if I would only submit to his loving and powerful hand.”

The Practice of the Presence of God—the title given to the collection of “conversations” and letters” by Brother Lawrence.

New Year Faith Challenge:

Prayerfully evaluate your life. Look over the past year and take an honest inventory on how you spent the time God blessed you with. After a time of personal reflection, determine to spend more time this year in the presence of God, at home, school, work, on vacation, and definitely “in the kitchen.” If you’re not intentional in prioritizing your life according to living in the presence of God, you will find yourself simply “chasing after the wind.” And think about it, no one ever catches the wind.

Have a very blessed New Year, trusting in God. My personal goal for life.

*”Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13)

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