Music, namely worship songs and especially hymns, have a supernatural way of soothing and lifting my soul in the midst of life’s challenging seasons – such as our family, and I personally, have recently experienced.
Below are the lyrics I love of an old hymn by G.A.Young, which, after having shared it on a Facebook page last week, proved a healing balm to several others as well.
May the truth and power in these words touch your life today.
In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet, where the Water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads us along.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, sometimes in the valley in darkest of night, God leads his children along.
Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose, through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads his children along.
Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood, some thro’ the fire, but all thro’ the blood; some thro’ great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.
When it comes to time, there are those who would say they don’t have enough of it. How absurd!
I’m one of them.
It’s an absurdly ambivalent truth, for we all have the same time given us although it seems to run short differently for each of us. Some may not have enough time for exercise, study, or sleep, while others may not have enough for their kids, their spouses, or their aging parents.
Have you ever made a list of everything you wish you had time for but don’t? Oh, of course, you probably don’t have time to make a list like that. Neither do I. Which is why I started to make one, and you should too. The incredible irony in it is seeing what’s worth our time and what isn’t.
Managing your time, not making it.
Why do we say, “I need to make more time for ________?”
We do not, nor can we, make time. We make dinner. We make babies. We make decisions. We make a mess of things. We make vows. We make friends. But making time? No, it’s not in our power. No action of ours can produce more hours in the day, or create time, for it already is.
The best we can do is manage it– and that, wisely, introspectively, and most importantly: prayerfully, with God’s help.
The worst we can do is manage it like we think others want us to, like our friends and neighbors do, or like we believe society pushes us to do.
The list I began making reflected in part what I wished I had time for based on what I saw (or perceived) others to have time for. Comparison mentality will always trip us. Admiration for others will not. May we learn to draw that fine line between the two.
God created us uniquely with differing personalities and talents, and we live with varying circumstances, yet he has given each of us the same amount of time. How we manage all that together is our individual challenge– and it is a challenge! Are you a solo-tasker or a multi-tasker? Are you married or single? Do you work full-time or part-time? At home or outside the home? Are you healthy or perhaps dealing with physical or mental illness? Are you sanguine or melancholy? Are you a leader or a follower?
The Bible says to be careful how we walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of our time, understanding what the will of the Lord is and finding out what pleases him. (Ephesians 5) That’s good advice in discovering what’s worth our time and what isn’t. The one who created us certainly can help us uniquely and wisely fulfill our time here on earth– most importantly in pleasing him and understanding his will for us. Because we are each wonderfully and fearfully made and because we each have a unique life path on which we walk, our time management should mirror that.
When it comes to time, there are those who’ll seek God’s help with it and thrive. Not absurd!
Half our family left the nest years ago; we were six, now we are three.
Last month, one came by train from the east, another by plane from the west. The oldest one currently lives fifteen minutes away.
The joy of spending time with them was immeasurable. Evidence of their presence was everywhere…
Michael’s keys dropped on the table as he came in…
Joey’s tradition of doing the yearly, large crossword puzzle…
And Jon gently strumming his guitar and singing softly…
They came for Christmas, but not merely for the gifts. The gift of presence was worth more than the presents.
Christmas was special because we spent time with each other, together as a family.
They’ve all gone back now, each one to their own life. I miss them.
I miss the keys on the table, the strum of the guitar, and the, “hey, what’s a six letter word for…?” called out to anyone nearby.
They are busy about their lives (as they should be!) yet I wish they’d be back sitting around our table.
This, I realise, is how God feels about me, too. He loves when I spend time with him, at his table. Even when I am busy about my life, his Spirit is with me, but what he especially longs for are the times spent wholly in his presence, when I make the effort to stop and be with him.
When I am confused, time in his presence gives me clarity; when I’m discouraged, he knows it and lifts my spirits during quiet moments with him. Like David, I say,
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalms 16:11)
This is so, because I am his child; he is my heavenly Father. I have found – and keep finding – refreshing for my soul in his presence.
You can too. His presence is a priceless gift – if you take the time.
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)
In life, work, or in ministry, we all make goals. Some of those succeed, some don’t.
Unexpected circumstances can take those beautifully crafted, well thought out goals and toss them overboard from our smoothly sailing life. It may happen in one swift twist of fate or perhaps through a wearisome, drawn out battle. Either way, you find yourself off course and in tumultuous waters.
Will it be caused by an illness, an accident, a loss, or perhaps by someone else’s actions?
Frustration at its finest as you kiss your well made goals goodbye.
What if we opted for a better way?
Goals are discovered, not made. God delights in showing us exciting new alternatives for the future.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
This year, shall we try to discover our goals rather than make and cement them?
We can, through building Godly character, with eyes set on our Maker.
A discovery conceived from faith-conviction and incubated in meditative reflection. A discovery that doesn’t fear silence as it focuses on Scripture.
Goals discovered through willed obedience.
For the end of the matter is this: fear God and keep His commandments, for all else is vanity and striving after wind (Book of Ecclesiastes). May God delight you as He helps you discover your goals.
I’ve been aching to write with consistency and productivity, something I had not been doing. This should be a writer’s getaway, then. Writing helps me process life; it’s good for my soul.
But I was tired, and felt empty.
Should this be a prayer retreat? Yes, I probably will pray, since, like breathing, I find I can not live without it. But intercession? That is work.
And I was tired, and felt empty.
Then I thought of the eight books packed in my suitcase, besides the Kindle in my purse with hundreds of titles. This was my chance to fulfil a dream of doing nothing but reading without interruption all day long– except for the fact that several of those books were sent to me by the authors with the agreement I would read and review them on my blog and/or other venues.
And I was tired, and didn’t have the mental energy for that.
I sensed a hush as I walked into the log cabin. It was the Holy Spirit’s invitation to a treat; a retreat from striving, from performing, from people-pleasing, from caregiving, from preaching, from itinerating, from planning, from labelling what the heck I was supposed to be doing.
Zero obligation, except to enjoy the quiet and to be still.
The commotion (foremost that of my mind) ceased; immediately a healing began as I sensed His arms surround me, a smile on His kind face, the weight of striving fall off my shoulders, and a heavenly whisper of, “Enjoy!”
In His presence I knew then and once again, that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
It’s the knowing that is not of the head, but rather the deep acknowledgment in the innermost part of my soul. It’s the feeling of the bond between my God and me, that thing I don’t always feel but when I do it is good, very good.
And for me, it is healing. I can’t change the way God made me. I am an introvert by nature. I am good at solo-tasking and lousy at multi-tasking; the first one builds me, the latter one stresses me.
My solo task of “being still”, therefore, was the balm of Gilead poured over me.
Yet the stillness is not a turning into stone without movement, rather it is a ceasing from striving; It is a turning my eyes on Jesus as the cares fall away and simple pleasures are to be had.
In my stillness I drank coffee, journaled, watched the baby robins in the nest, went on long walks, took photos (the ones you are seeing on this post), sang worship songs, read a portion of Smith Wigglesworth‘s biography, took a nap, watched Fiddler on the Roof, and wept over the devastation and the children who died in Moore, Oklahoma.
As my forty-eight hour quiet retreat came to an end, I opened my journal and recorded the pondering of my grateful and peaceful heart.
This is a portion of what I wrote:
I am calm, refreshed. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. Sometimes we just need to stop the storm around us to see the rock on which we stand – and realize that even in the storm, the foundation was firm and sure, even though our head, mind, body, heart, soul seemed to be taking a beating.
Thank you Lord. You are good.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, I am re-posting the powerful testimony of a woman, one of our Bible School students in Mexico.
Additionally, you’ll read how her powerful story crossed borders and changed the life of another woman thousands of miles away, with a unique twist.
Both found true and lasting freedom.
~ ~ ~
“I was a very hard person to reach with the Gospel because of my childhood experience. I grew up in a home of daily violence and humiliation; a home where a woman was considered trash.
Deep inside me grew a desire for revenge and I made it my goal to do whatever necessary to get even with men. Even as a student, I pushed myself, not for my own advancement in high academics, but for the purpose of demeaning men by showing them that women are capable of achieving important status if they pursue it.
I never accepted anyone’s love. In fact, when I was dating, I did so only to play games with my boyfriends. I would wait for them to fall deeply in love with me, only so I could break up with them suddenly. I wanted them to feel as worthless as my mother and I had been made to feel by my father, who despised us on the account of being women. I would even yell at my father in hatred that I’d rather marry an evangelical* than marry someone like him!
I came to the conclusion that if and when I’d meet a man I was attracted to, I would have a child, then live my life as a single mother.
But Christ had other plans for me. He led a man my way who was different than the rest; someone who didn’t call me names, someone who showed me that my anger and hunger for revenge were hurting me and that I needed to give that to God.
We dated for five years and then married. But still I lived in fear that sooner or later I would be treated as my mother had been in her marriage.
It took sixteen years for the prayers of my husband and his parents to break through. Christ reached down and saved me. I began to attend church and was later baptized in the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Later, I knew that God was calling me to minister the same Good News I received to others.
This is why I enrolled for the weekend classes at IBAO (Instituto Biblico Alfa Y Omega). I continue learning, and in the process am gratefully reminded that I am a valuable treasure, loved so much by God that he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins.
He changed my life. I now see life through a new perspective and have learned how to love and be loved. Praise the Lord for that!
My future plans are to take God’s word to the multitudes who have never heard of such love, to those who are made to feel worthless because of color, gender, or social status. I am willing to become a missionary and go where Jesus Christ has not yet been proclaimed as the Savior of the World.
by Elfega O.R. , translated by I.K.Hadinger
~ ~ ~
Elfega finished her studies, graduated, and to the last of our knowledge, was pastoring a church in a village near to where the photo to the left was taken.
I originally posted Elfega’s own story on our ministry site in 2009. Soon thereafter, a woman in California was searching the internet to find distant and lost relatives.
She typed in Elfega’s full Mexican name and saw the link to our site.
That search changed her life. She found more than she had expected!
So moved was she after reading Elfega’s own story, she herself prayed to God, surrendering her life to Jesus Christ.
She later found Elfega’s contact info and related the exciting news of newfound hope and promise.
That day two relationships in her life were restored: one with her Creator, another with a long-lost relative.
But wait, there’s more:
Elfega’s relative has since enrolled in Bible school, hungry to learn more of the life changing message of Jesus Christ. The healing cycle continues…
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
* In Mexico, being evangelical is a derogatory term and referred to those who have left Catholicism after converting to Protestantism.
I asked a wise lady, a widowed veteran missionary, a question. Her answer took me by surprise.
We were sitting, enjoying iced tea, and catching up on each other’s lives when I asked about her kids and grandkids. What followed was an account of pain and difficulty. My heart broke as I listened to the ongoing drama of what some may consider a parents/grandparents worst nightmare. And she no longer had her husband to walk this trail of tears with her.
Knowing her to be a praying woman, I wanted the inside scoop of how such a woman of faith talks to God about this
With solemn sincerity, I asked, “So, how do you pray for your grandchildren?”
I expected to hear the chess-game-strategy prayer: “God I pray you move this person to this spot, get rid of that player, surprise attack another, then corner the enemy with a final check-mate so we win. Amen.” After all, isn’t that how most of us pray? We call the moves that we believe will win us the outcome of healing and wholeness in broken situations.
What I heard, instead, as she fixed her eyes upon me and said with a confidence born of trials, was, “I pray that they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength; that they would love their neighbor as themselves, and that they would fear God and keep his commands.”
The lump in my throat held me momentarily silent as I pondered the radical perspective she had – radical, but right on. Another needed reminder of the greatest power available to us in prayer: God’s Word, the Truth that supersedes.
With that prayer, she not only embodied the whole of scripture (Matt. 22:37-40*) but also applied the wise preachers words, that everything in life is meaningless except fearing God and keeping what He commanded (Ecclesiastes 12:13**).
With that prayer, she went straight to the eternal, the critical. For what shall it profit our loved ones to have everything work out in this world, and in the end lose their soul?
Is it wrong then to pray for specifics, for things to be worked out in our favor? Not necessarily. God in His infinite kindness, goodness, and mercy has indeed answered many such prayers for us, and I assume for you as well. However, when my prayers are born with God’s Word at the core, the chaff prayers are blown away and a sense of praying God’s will, which is perfect and lasting, comes into focus.
It’s been some time since this wise woman and I have spoken in person, yet her example speaks to me daily. I pray it does you as well.
*Matthew 22:37-40 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And h a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend k all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV
**Ecclesiastes 12:13 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ESV
Today our oldest son turns 24. This post, about him, was written and blogged several years ago, during his first year of college. (He is now into his second year of post-grad studies while serving part time on staff at Harvest Ridge Assembly of God). I felt it deserved to be shared again today, on his birthday:
We recently chatted with our oldest son and my husband asked him how he was doing. He said he’s doing well, excited about soccer and loves it at college. This, to my mom’s heart, was soothing – and it was about to get better.
My husband, Mr. Philosophical, then asked, “Are you happy with yourself?”
“Well, in some ways, no,” my son answered.
He went on to explain that when it comes to certain areas of life – study, sports, character, etc. – he doesn’t settle for where he’s at but rather pursues improvement. This I can accept. Then he went on and said something that surprised me; something that is rarely heard: contentment.
“The other day I was with the soccer team, and in my head I went through all the guys, including my five best friends, and decided I would rather be me than any of them.”
Really? I thought, my brows furrowing. It took a while for my heart and mind to wrap around those words, for my mind instantly raced through memories, stopping briefly along the way at sundry moments in our life; in his life.
First, my mind flashed to the day we moved him into his college dorm room: he with one box, one suitcase, (those two holding basically everything he owned), plus a few linens and things from Target. Half an hour after our arrival, his roommate boisterously cametumbling in with nearly a dozen extra large packing boxes filled with room decor, clothes for every season, various new electronic gadgets we’d never heard of, a new mini fridge, and bragging rights about everything his parents went out and bought him those past few days.
I stood there, a serrated pang of guilt cutting deep.
I was sure my son wished he could be in that kids shoes. Less than a year earlier, on the mission field, our lives were turned upside down and we lost almost everything we owned because of a medical emergency that forced us quickly back to the USA. Our son, too, lost so many things that were precious to him. And there was no replacing most of those things – for any of us.
Then my thoughts turned to the fact he has no car and therefore obligated to work in the campus library for minimal pay while his friends have awesome paying jobs at the mall or at busy restaurants, bringing in hundreds of dollars per week. Their parents bought them cars before going to college. My son has asked if there was anyway we could help pay for a car and insurance, too. “Sorry”, we told him, “there’s no possible way.”
Among the rapid and impromptu thoughts came another one: his new friends don’t get stressed when it comes to break time from college, be it fall break, holiday, or summer vacation. They go “home” and hang with their social circle there, be it church, work, or former high school buddies. Our son has to figure out where he can go – and although his grandparents open their home, bless their heart – once there he really doesn’t have any social life, or again, his own vehicle in which to get around.
Certainly at times like that he must have wished to be like his friends, having grown up in the U.S. and being able to return to the familiar.
So how, I wondered, with less material possessions and a life that’s not the norm, can he say he’d rather be himself? How could he be so content when I feel guilty for not being like the rest of the college parents?
My husband had always told our kids that contentment is a great gift that few ever possess, and that people are drawn to content people. My oldest son concurred with both those statements.
I learned another important lesson from that: I need to not only be content for myself, but also be content on behalf of my kids; I need to quell these female and motherly notions I entertain – these guilty feelings of not having done or given enough.
My son has a rare commodity indeed – contentment. God’s grace has brought him to that place in his life and I pray God’s grace will keep him there. It will take him far in life.
Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Tim. 6:6
Happy Birthday, Michael! We love you and are proud of you!
She overflows with joy about His love for her; her conversation peppered with swear words between drags on her cigarettes.
Her eyes water as she talks about her past as a lost lamb, and how God has found her. She was rejected by her own mother at age 12 and floundered in the US foster care system for years. She left and lived off the grid in Mexico and gave birth to a daughter here.
No paperwork, no legal existence, and no justice.
Taking her by the hand, we fight together in a labyrinth of offices. We need this document to get that one, and this is the fee, and your time has elapsed, so pay the fee again. Notarize and mail, and fee and fee. Will we ever find justice from the unrighteous judge before our resources are exhausted?
In the mire of offices, her daughter, who is deaf, lives in the pleasant moment with me, and a puzzle, as we wait. The little girl knows only the Mexican village where she can run free. But now is forced to wait in a tiny office. Untrained in restraint, she begins to howl, seeking mischief until the disapproving, judgmental looks force me to take her away so business can get done. (Oh, how guilty, I am Church, of these same withering looks, God, forgive me.)
Between the paperwork of two countries, we are tempted to shout in anger at the officials who sit and count their beans and check their boxes. But we stuff it inside and quietly pray for God to make their hearts like water in His hand.
When my friend gets to you, dear Church, you should know a few things. She is guilty of the worst crime of all: she is unfashionable. I know how very much you like fashion, Church. You will glance at her odd clothing after having lived in the remote pueblo for so long.
Stringy, long hair with no highlights or trendy cut. Flip flops in the winter. Teeth yellowed and too-early lines on her face, from smoking and stress. Will you take care of her for me Church? Or will you point and say, “Bad choices!” Never mothered herself, will your jaw drop as she absently allows her daughter to prance by traffic? Or will you inspire mothering like Jesus, the gentle shepherd?
You see, she just met Him. She thinks you are His children.
Please, Church, be kind to my friend. Be ever so gentle. Seek justice on her behalf. Don’t abandon her and cut the ties before she has even learned the baby steps of faith.
I’m sending her to you, Church.
Take care of her.
Missionary in Mexico
(The above Open Letter to the Church was written by a friend and missionary colleague.)
You can read more of the rescue, written by one of my mentorees, the one who began the initial rescue, at A Life Redeemed. Excerpt:
Redemption and restoration are not only spiritual realities, but when Jesus calls someone His own, He calls them out and gives them a new life, providing, restoring and establishing their feet on solid ground.