A Prayer For My Children

29 Dec

 

mother-praying

My Children.  You are my breath and depth of life.  You help me find joy in darkness and peace in chaos.  My day starts with prayers for you, continues with prayers for you, and ends with prayers for you.  You are each so different, in your own quirky ways, and yet so alike in your humility and compassion.  I could not be prouder.  God blessed me and trusted me with your lives, and for that I will be forever thankful.

I pray that in each day you will see and receive Hope in every situation.  Hope for today, Hope for tomorrow, Hope for eternity.  And in those moments, I pray that you will reach out to help another find Hope in their circumstances, for in giving Hope, your Hope will grow brighter.  “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

I pray that every day you will receive Grace for every situation, and in return, you will give Grace to those who have come short of your expectations.  Grace allows people to err and yet be restored once again for any inabilities or lack of judgment in their lives.  Grace is our greatest gift from God.  For through all of our failures He continues to love us and encourage us, and for that our lives are richer.  “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:2

I pray that each and every day you will receive Mercy, and in return, you will give Mercy to each and every person, animal and situation you encounter.  Mercy is the very compassion that we receive, no matter our circumstances or what brought us to those circumstances.  With Mercy we see the soul inside of another that may be hidden deep within a hardened exterior, and forgive the trespass.  “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”  Matthew 5:7

I pray that Joy will infuse your life so fully that it overflows into the paths of everyone you meet, and captures them in the moment, permeating them for their lifetime.  I pray that it will overflow your every action, every word, every step and every essence of your being.  I pray that the very Joy within you shines so contagiously that it doubles back and reinfects you over and over again.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  John 15:11

I pray that in all things you will receive the gift Patience from others, and in turn, you will give the gift of Patience to those struggling to figure things out in this life.  More than others, I pray that you will grant Patience to yourself when you are trying and trying to figure out a life lesson and have failed at it over and over again.  Patience can seem quite small at times, but most of the time it stretches every muscle and sinew inside of us, putting us on the edge of frustration and anger.  Realize that you are not, and never will be a perfect human being and you have permission to fail, many times, in many areas.  As long as you are Patient and continue to try, you will never be a failure.  “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  James 1:4

I pray that people will always show you Kindness, and you will honor that gift by showing Kindness to others.  Kindness is stepping back and recognizing that everyone has difficult days and it can all be turned around by a simple smile, an offered hand, an opened door, or a simple gift.  Kindness embraces sympathy and empathy, without requirement of return.  Kindness does not have to cost anything more than a moment in time, and we have a lot of those to share.  “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.”  Psalm 117:2

I pray that you will be surrounded by Goodness, and that in that loving atmosphere, you will show and lead others into Goodness in all that they do.  Respect follows goodness and paves the way for all good things.  Goodness always receives ultimate favor among men, cherish it.  “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

I pray that your life will be surrounded by people of Faithfulness and that you will find and live in Faithfulness all of your days.  No matter what character a man has, if he is not found faithful to his convictions, he has lost all.  Remain faithful to your beliefs, to those who surround you, and most importantly, to God.  “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

I pray that as you walk through your life you will be treated with Gentleness, and in return you will treat other people, animals and situations with Gentleness.  No matter how big, strong, smart or creative you are, Gentleness is a gift that cannot be ignored.  Gentleness can turn the heart of the most hostile around in a moment’s time.  Gentleness can defuse anger, bring confidence, turn tears to determination, and give another the courage to continue.  “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Titus 3:2-3

I pray that you will recognize the strength inside yourself, and that your strength will give you the confidence to maintain Self-Control.  So many things in life can drastically change in one moment of lost Self-Control, things that cannot be recovered, things that cannot be fixed, things that are forever lost.  I pray that your courage in exhibiting your Self-Control will give others the strength and inclination to maintain their Self-Control.  You will be an example to all around you, whether you recognize it or not, and your choices will help others in making their choices, good or bad.  I pray that you will always choose wisely.  (Self-Control – The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites).  “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance (self-control); and to temperance (self-control) patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:5-8

 I pray that you will always walk in the presence of Peace, Peace that surpasses all understanding.  Peace that allows you to stand strong in the challenge of fear, in the heat of angry men, in times of eminent danger, in the absence of understanding and the face of the unknown.  May Peace overwhelm you and cover you with a shield so graceful, so dense, so all encompassing, that nothing can penetrate it.  It will be your defense in the face of all odds.  “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Luke 1:78-79

Most of all I pray that you will always feel and receive Love.  Love is the very center of every person’s being.  Love is a feeling that cannot be explained with words.  Love is a presence that cannot be shown with actions.  Love is something so deep that it can only be experienced.  Love can be a feeling between friends, spouses, animals, nature, and the entire environment around you, but it can also be something inside that is very personal between you and God that no one else can share.  Love is the very foundation of who you are.  Love is your integrity.  Love is your humility.  Love is your sun and moon and stars.  Love is your very breath.  Love brings you to tears at the sound of music or the sight of a child.  Love turns giants into gentlemen and weaklings into giants.  Love makes us go farther that we ever expected we could or would.  Love boasts pride and breaks hearts.  Love is the greatest gift to mankind by our most wonderful God.  I pray that you will never try to harness your Love.  I pray that you will always let Love guide you and set your path, for by Love, your path will always be straight.  I pray that your Love will be strong.  I pray that your Love will be deep. I pray that you will always remember the source of your Love and will praise God for that precious gift.  “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and Love—and the greatest of these is Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13     “And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”  1 John 4:16

This is my prayer for you.  I thank God every day for giving me the honor of being your mother.  I speak these words over you, and through you, with deep conviction, knowing that the God who created this universe hears every word and answers my prayers with His most gracious wisdom.  Never forget who you are or the difference you were called into this world to make.  God Bless You.

 

12-29-2016

Exceedingly Abundantly Above

19 Dec

abundantly

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”      Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

Imagine something, anything, the biggest imagine that you have ever imagined.  God can do it.  In fact, God can do Exceedingly (“exceedingly; very; greatly; highly”), Abundantly (“an exceeding measure, something above the ordinary”), Above (“of place, above, beyond, across, or causal, for the sake of, instead, regarding; with the accusative superior to, more than”) anything that you can possibly imagine.  That’s huge!!

When I think about that, “Exceedingly Abundantly Above All That We Ask or Think,” I wonder how often we limit God in our prayers.  Our prayers are our direct connection to the Father, our personal relationship with Him, and how often are we holding back (Philippians 4:6)?  How often do we think, “Well, there are others who need His help more,” or “I don’t want to bother Him with something so small or trivial,” or “I’m not worthy of His personal attention.”  If that were the case why would this scripture be in the Bible for us to read and meditate on (1 Peter 5:7).  What if Hezekiah had decided that his desires weren’t worth of prayer (Isaiah 38:5), he would have missed out on 15 amazing years of life.

Can you imagine how spiritually powerful we would be if we addressed every need we have with this passage (James 5:16)?  Every prayer we send forward would reach the throne of God with power and confidence and expectancy.  Imagine the pleasure of the Father knowing that His children are stepping into His will and His realm to attack and issue that he can easily address (Matthew 21:22).

I remember hearing a story where a Pastor in Africa was praying for a Bicycle.  He prayed and prayed but nothing happened.  One day in prayer he asked God why his prayer had not been answered.  He heard God say, “You haven’t told me what kind you want.”  The Pastor then became very specific in the model and style and color of the bike he wanted, thinking previously that it was brash to be so specific.  Within a week God had put this Pastor on the heart of someone who bought the exact make, model and color that the Pastor had asked God for.

God could have sent a rusty old bike that still worked, but He wanted to ”abundantly exceedingly above” bless the Pastor.  He was waiting for the Pastor to recognize that God was big enough for specifics.  He wanted the Pastor to believe that he was loved beyond measure.

Do we limit God?  Do we only ask for the minimal, expecting to receive just the basics of what we need?  Do we believe that God loves us more than we can even imagine and wants to bless us with the desires of our heart, not just the needs of the day (Psalm 37:4)?  Do we believe the promises of the Bible are for other people, important people, strong people of faith, but not a simple believer?

Scripture says to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and if you don’t know how to pray for your specific need, to pray in the spirit and your requests will reach the Father (Romans 8:26-27).

Put Him to the test.  Pray with a humble heart and watch God bring you more than you could have ever imagined.  It is for you.  It is for today.  “To Him Be The Glory.”  Amen!

 

** A Journey Through Ephesians – Chapter 3, Part 8

(12/19/2016)

Grounded In Love

27 Nov

love

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19 (ASV)

To fully understand the depth of the love of God is probably one of the most difficult things for a Christian, or anyone for that matter.  We sing songs of how He loves us, read scriptures about His love and stand on the promises of His love and compassion for us, but we really don’t understand the depth.  How can we?  How can we know a love so deep, so pure, or intense, that God sent His son to earth to teach us His perfect ways, knowing full well that His son would be tortured and killed?  Not just “killed,” but stripped naked, forced to carry His own device of death through crowds of angry, screaming people, put up on a cross on the hill called Golgatha, and left in the sun to die a death that we cannot even imagine the pain of.  God did that, for us.  He did that for me.

I often tell my children that I love them more than they can understand or will understand until they have children of their own.  There is a depth of love between a parent, especially a mother, and a child, that can’t be explained in words – but I don’t think that I could love a group of people enough to take one of my children and commit them to torture and death so that the others could live.  Could you?  God did.

Scripture says that God knew us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).  He knew the mistakes we would make, the doubts we would feel, the anger and people we would hurt, the moments that we would scream and curse at Him when things didn’t go well in our lives, and yet He loved us.  He didn’t just “love us,” He loved us with a love “which passeth knowledge.”  That completely overwhelms me.

When I don’t spend time studying the Word, or on my knees in prayer, He sends His love in a cool breeze on a warm day, and a sky filled with beautiful stars on a dark night.  When I have moments of doubt in the foundations of my faith, He whispers words of peace and love in the night hours.  When I feel alone and lost, He shows me that He is always near me, guiding me, teaching me, setting my steps, never leaving me.

It is that love, that deep piercing love, that helps me get back on track.  It is that love that strengthens me after a trial and gives me the ability to reach out and help others that struggle in their own lives.  It is that love that helps me to “run with patience the race that is set before” me (2 Tim 12:1-2), the race of life, sharing the gospel while encouraging and strengthening the children of God.

It is the kind of love that people have for each other where you can’t spend enough time together, and when your loved one speaks, you sit perfectly still so that you don’t miss one word of what they have to say.  Yes, it is that kind of love.  Not a one-sided loved, but where God hangs onto my words and thoughts and feelings and desires, just as much as I hang onto His.  Yes, it is that kind of love, where we are “filled unto all the fulness of God.”  It is that kind of love.

** A Journey Through Ephesians – Chapter 3, Part 7

The Blood

19 Jul

Christ with cross

 “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood
crieth unto me from the ground.”    (Genesis 4:10  KJV)

Blood pools at the soldier’s feet surrounding the whipping yard, spraying those nearby, spraying those ripping His flesh.  Were they ever the same?  Did His blood heal the afflictions of those who wielded the Cat of 9 tails?

When they ripped at His beard and slapped His face, when the blood transferred from God to Man, did they feel the change?  Were they startled?  Were they ashamed?

Every step along the Via de la Rosa was stained with blood.  Those who screamed “Crucify Him!” surrounded and followed after Him.  As their feet stepped on the bloody droplets, did miracles change their lives?  Did the blood burn their skin?  Did it tingle?  Did it warm them to their souls?

When Simon lifted the cross and Jesus’ blood smeared onto his face, did he still see the battered face of a condemned man, or did he see the face of God?

When the soldiers pounded the nails through Jesus’ wrists and they were sprayed by gushing blood, did they stop, even for a moment?  Did he feel the touch of anticipation in the dampness?

When Mary and John sat at the foot of the cross, praying and weeping, the precious blood of Jesus trailing down the wooden cross – dripping from His arms, dripping from His feet onto their clothing, onto their faces – did they feel the new life that was about to birth, or were they so torn by grief that they couldn’t see that each precious drop would birth a new nation, strong in miracles and power?

Did His last words pierce the sky like lightening, capturing the soul of anyone who heard?

When the soldier pierced His side, being sprayed with water and blood that flowed from Him, did he feel the hand of God?  Did he step back and recognize that this blood, this water, wasn’t the same as the hundreds of other men’s that he had seen before?  Did the water of the spirit flow over him?  Did he hear the voice of God?

When the sky turned dark and the earth trembled, did they feel God step down to carry up the soul of His precious son?

When they lifted His body down from the cross, did the last few drops touch the hands of the called?  Did they feel the burning and stirring inside of something miraculous about to happen?

Are there yet drops of His blood that have seeped deep into the soil, that by its presence makes the city Holy, not for what it is, but for who left His blood along a pre-ordained path?

Are my hands stained with His Blood when I walk from the path He called me to, like the many who strayed back then, and in their ignorance and anger, drained the miracle giving, life healing, Blood of Jesus out onto the ground?

Do I stand on hallowed ground and cry “No, it’s too hard” or like Simeon, do I pick up the cross and wrap an arm around my beaten circumstance and walk toward the word God spoke into my life?

If I had held one drop of His blood in the palm of my hand, could I have seen the eternal face of God in its reflection?

Thank you God for a sacrifice I may never truly understand the ramifications of, for a gift of which I may never realize the full preciousness.

 

There You Are Jesus!

19 Jul

Eyes looking up.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

What happens when innocence is lost?  Like a fresh new flower, ripped from the plant, first we wilt, then harden, then we crumble and are blown away.

I love movies, especially children’s movies.  One of my favorite is Peter Pan, the version where Robin Williams plays Peter.  At the beginning of the movie, he doesn’t realize that he’s Peter.  He’s lost his innocence.  He’d lost touch with what things in life are truly important.  He believes the tale of Peter Pan is something made up and passed down in stories from generation to generation.

Movies, as they are, overlook the logical (that’s what I love about them) and Robin Williams ends up in Neverland with the Lost Boys.  The Lost Boys try desperately to convince him of who he is and teach him how to be a child again.  Everything in Neverland is completely dependant upon imagination.  They wouldn’t even have food, drink or sustenance without a good, active imagination.

The Lost Boys are finally successful at helping Peter find his innocence again and let go of the stresses and frustrations of schedules, bills and responsibilities of the real world.  At one point in the movie, one of the Lost Boys walks up to Robin Williams, looks deep into his eyes and says, “Oh, there you are Peter.”  A revelation of innocence returned.

This sequence always reminds me of my Christian faith.  So many times we’re caught up in the stress and frustrations of schedules and appointments and trying to please so many in so little time, that we loose the miracle and the innocence of working in ministry.  Our innocence is dependant upon our faith.  Sometimes we allow the enemy to convince us that by striving we work the good work, when in fact, it is by faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit that we accomplish everything that God has called us to do; without the loss of innocence.

I look hopefully to the time when I can casually enjoy all of those around me, without worrying about where I should be, lest I fall behind (again!!).  I look forward to the day when I will be filled with faith to the point of complete peace and serenity.  When someone, perhaps a child, will look deep into my eyes and say, “Oh, there you are Jesus.”  When the Jesus in me will shine past my many earthly flaws.

Jesus, may I always hear and obey your voice.  That the innocence, birthed in faith, will always be the most obvious attribute in my life.

 

Sore On My Palm

19 Jul

 

jesus hands hole with baby hand

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.      Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)

To say that we have had windstorms this year is a gross understatement.  We are getting to know our neighbor’s eating habits from the trash we’ve had to pick up in our yard – the hazard of being the last house before the cyclone fence!

Our poor trees took a beating and their branches covered an acre of yard.  So few trees, so many branches; I suspect some are visitors from neighboring yards accompanying the trash.

I grabbed a big bucket and went about collecting branches.  The smaller ones fit nicely into the bucket, but the longer ones had to be broken.  Most snapped in half easily, but one branch hadn’t dried out completely and gave me quite a challenge.  When it finally gave, it snapped in my hand and dug into my palm – yikes, that smarts!

I babied that hand for days, the loose skin fell away and it left behind a perfectly round purple mark in the center of my palm.  As I reviewed it one day it took my breath away.  For just a moment I was looking into the hand of my Savior, a hole clean through and bloodied.  A sacrifice, just for me.

I fussed at my simple gouge; the soldiers drove nails through His hands and feet.  I jump at the smallest bump, He was hung on a cross; his side pierced.  How dare me to feel sorry for myself over a scratch when He gave His life without complaint so that I could receive eternal life.

The mark stayed on my palm for weeks, a daily reminder of how much God loves me.  Scars are reminders of choices made, good or bad, and always come with lasting memories.  I wish the mark had not gone away.  Like the cross hanging around my neck, I desire the simple daily reminders of who I am in Christ; someone just like you, a child of Christ.

Thank you Lord for making me ever aware of what You have done for me.  I could never repay You.  Don’t allow me to get so caught up in everyday life to forget that everything I have, every breath I breathe, every step I take, is made possible by You.  I praise You.

 

The Phenomena of the American “Christian”

18 Jul

Church clip art

  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  John 3:16-17 

My husband and I made the decision to become foster parents.  After a year of classes and paperwork, we were blessed with two little boys, which we were allowed to adopt four years later.  To say we have been blessed by our decision is an understatement, although it has not always been easy.

When we brought these boys into our lives, we were extremely involved in church, choir, teaching, Bible study, helps and various other church activities.  The boys were thrust into a culture they never knew existed.  Being church “staff kids” meant they often spend 10 to 12 hours a day at the church in different aspects of school and ministry.  They received a “crash course” in Christianity and were excited to share this delight with the world.

It was not uncommon for them to stop perfect strangers and ask questions or give lectures of the values of “keeping the temple clean” (no smoking, drinking or drugs) (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Being lectured by a 3-year-old or a 5-year-old on what harm certain substances can do to your body can be amusing, irritating, condemning or all three.  Going to the grocery store or drug store was always an adventure.  Restaurants were unpredictable – they knew they had a captive audience; the waiter or waitress.

We never knew when or what they were going to say.  They held a boldness I never had when it came to their faith.  The amazing thing is, that with their wide-eyed innocence, people always answered.  That is what this is all about.  Not about the innocent questioning, it’s about the answers.

I had read that Americans consider themselves to be Christians, simply because they are Americans!  Several people responded in just that manner – “sure, I’m a Christian – I’m an American!”  but, when pinned down about which church they attended – they didn’t.  When they did, it was for Christmas, Easter and Weddings.

One young man said that he wasn’t a Christian, his mom was.  He said he was a Christian once, but he quit going to church.  He knew he needed to start going back, but he was busy.  Sunday was his sleep-in day.

One young man said he wasn’t a Christian, he was a Baptist!  And several LDS said they were Christians, even though they don’t believe Jesus is the son of God.

We met several people who were obviously into New Age, but believed they were Christians.  We even knew of people who claimed to be “white witches” who felt they were Christians.  People who attend church on Sunday and read horoscopes every day of the week.  People who pray at bedtime and call psychics during the day.  It’s the phenomena of the American “Christian.”

I, myself, spent several years in a denominational church and was never encouraged to read the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), never told that horoscopes were forbidden (Isaiah 47:13-14), or that psychics were cursed (Leviticus 20:21).  I didn’t know “white” witchcraft was “witchcraft” trying to make itself look “good” instead of “evil” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).  I have prayed many, many hours over this phenomena.  What is the answer?

The word of the Lord came to me “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; [38] Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).  The mission field begins in our own home.  The mission field is at our front door.

Because America does not have to fight to have freedom of religion, the people don’t understand what true Christianity is.  In those countries where they lay down their lives for an hour a week to gather together in prayer and Bible study – you can believe they understand.  We dwell in a country where we know a little bit about everything – but very few know a lot about any one particular thing; especially, it seems, pure Christianity.

We, the Church, have allowed confusion, distraction, and laziness to enter into the message we were sent to share (Galatians 1:6-8).  It crept in, ever so quietly, and took its place among the once dedicated.  Now we are sent to search it out.

There in the curiosity of my two children dwelt an answer.  Where I had been content for someone to verify they were a Christian, now I knew the mission was to make sure that they knew what Christianity was and how to come to the saving grace of Christ.  It is each of our jobs to steer the confused from horoscopes to scriptures – from psychics to Jesus.

Jesus, let me always be mindful of the enemy we battle and the subtle ways he perverts the truth.  Let me not be pacified with quick answers that may leave a soul, believing they are walking righteously, in the hands of an evil curse.  Let me speak up, at my own discomfort, to bring that little lost sheep back home.

Martyred

18 Jul

 Martyred Hand

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Mark 8:34-36 (NIV)

Recently I’ve had a bout with sciatica.  I’d heard of it before, but never realized the pain that accompanied it.  It isn’t one of those “if I turn just right the pain will go away” kinds of pains, it’s one of those “no matter what I do I can barely breathe” kind of pains.

Day three was the most intense and I was collecting exercise and stretching advice from as many folks as I could.  All of the exercises helped the pain subside, some, but first thing each morning, crawling out of bed, the pain was always the worse.

Standing was the least painful, sitting was the worse, lying down took strategy . . . still haven’t quite mastered it.  I was trying to do my morning reading and devotionals and found myself walking in circles in the living room, trying to read my Bible as pain free as possible.  At one point I started yelling at Satan to let go of my body and take his pain away from me.  After a while I was praying for healing to my God.  I reminded Him of His scriptures and His stripes.  Then I heard His still small voice, “this pain is nothing compared to what many saints endure for My sake.”

Oh, my, the tortured and martyred Missionaries for Christ.  In a foreign land, tortured and kept in prisons with little food and water; often killed.  I have a home, a soft bed, a comfortable chair to sit in, food in the cupboard and clean water in the tap.  I have so much and I complain about pain.

It’s 1 am of day 5 and it’s hard to sleep.  Yes, the pain is uncomfortable, but with every pinch I think about one of those Saints.  Outside the wind is blowing, I’m safe inside, but I’m thinking about the conditions surrounding those Saints.  How could I have missed thinking about those Saints?

I don’t know, as in Job, whether God is using this affliction to test me.  I do know that it has made me aware of something that I had unintentionally closed my eyes to – the Missionaries that are tortured and martyred for Christ.  How did they endure the pain?  Was it like Stephen who felt nothing as he looked upward into the face of God as he was being stoned to death?  Or was it like Jesus who was beaten, tortured, and hung on the cross in excruciating pain, crying out to the Father, asking why He had been forsaken?

I do know this, with my awareness comes my prayers.  I may not know their individual names or locations, but my Father does.  God, I pray for your children, beaten and tortured for proclaiming You and teaching Your word.  I also pray for the souls of those that bring them harm for they know not what they do.

Jesus, let me NEVER forget.

HOPE

18 Jul

Hopeless child

“Now hope is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

I knew what I wanted to be from the age of 3.  Every year it changed, sometimes every month.  I had big elaborate dreams and overwhelming visions.  Some came to pass, some I let go with maturity – but I would never have been able to accomplish anything in life if I hadn’t had those dreams built on hope.

I worked in an inner-city school and had gathered a small group of children together for a state standards test.  These were the students that had been absent on the regular testing day and had to make-up the test.  One little boy, 3rd grade, 8-year-old, captured my heart.  This boy whizzed through the math, flew through the language, but when the time came for writing he sat, not moving, eyes firmly fixed on his paper.

The test allowed 45 minutes for this section.  After 30 minutes all of the other students were gone and he sat alone, staring.  When I reminded him of the time, tears began to well up in his eyes.  I asked if he had ideas of what he could write.  He shook his head “no.”  I suggested his favorite person, a hero – he didn’t have one.  What about what he wanted to be when he grew up – he didn’t know.

President?  “No.”

Astronaut?  “No.”

Movie Star?  “No.”

Sports Star?  “No.”

I suggested he write about fun times with his Mom – he did not have a memory of a fun time with his Mom. Special times spent with his Dad – he never had a special time with his Dad.  Fun or silly things he did with his pets – didn’t have a pet, never did.  A sports game he’d gone to – never been to one.  A vacation – never been on one.

With each suggestion his shoulders stooped a little farther until he almost lay on his paper.  A moment later he began to sob.  I tried to comfort him, letting him know that it was only a test and that there were no right or wrong essays, it was just his thoughts he needed to write down – it didn’t help.  I finally told him to just write who he was and that he couldn’t think of anything to write – and I silently prayed that his sentence would be long enough for them to grade.

He handed me his paper and pencil and slowly left to go back to his regular classroom, wiping his eyes and composing himself as he went.  I felt as broken as he.  I was angry with the culture.  I was angry with the school.  I was angry with the parents.  I was angry with the whole system, a system that allows 8-year-old boys to “survive” day to day in a difficult inner-city world with no hope for tomorrow.  With a culture where two parents with a limited education struggle to make a home and feed a family, but have no time to nurture the hopes and dreams inside the children.

What has happened to our culture when our children have no hope for tomorrow?  Where, Jesus, do we start?  How, Lord do we begin to show the children the very love of God that builds the hope and dreams they deserve – when God isn’t allowed in the schools?  How, Jesus, do we place into an 8-year-old child a dream to be the President, an astronaut, to be a parent and raise a family – a desire to LIVE for tomorrow?

Lord Jesus, forgive us our sins of not seeing those, most precious in your sight, laying waste in a life of “getting by.”

Faces of Hopelessness

11 Jul

 

Inmates Praying

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  Galatians 5:5 (KJV)

At Christmas our ministry sends Christmas cards to the 100+ active inmates and the many released inmates and families.  Arizona Department of Corrections moves inmates frequently between yards and has recently made the decision not to forward mail to inmates that have been moved to different yards.  Thankfully, ADOC provides an inmate database for friends and families to monitor their loved ones.

When I receive the cards back I pull out my spreadsheet and mark moves and releases.  Making these changes started out to be fairly mechanical, but it didn’t finish that way.  Not at all.

Each time I pulled up an inmate’s page a photo displayed haunting photos.  Picture after picture displayed; angry and aggressive pictures, pictures of men with eyes swollen shut, stitches, lips split; and pictures of men who eyes said:

“How did I get here?”

“What do I do?”

“I’m scared.”

“Help me!”

They were the faces of hopelessness.  Faces wondering if anyone cared, if anyone saw, if anyone heard.

I have always prayed over every card and letter sent to these inmates, praying that Jesus would hold them, draw them close, give them peace.  Jesus, the only answer in a place of fear and hopelessness, the only peace when there is confusion and insanity all around.

Every inmate was sent a Bible, and if they wanted, several study books to learn more about Jesus.  Several of the inmates started “God Squads” in their pods to encourage, learn and find hope.  A little light in the darkness.  A little hope to displace the hopelessness.

Lord, let me always speak Your words when writing to your children, that they will always see and hear You in the worse of circumstances.  Amen.

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