My Story, His Glory

by Guest author Hope Hill (Re-printed with permission.)

A little over 3 weeks ago I noticed a gray cloud forming and moving across my left eye. One thing you need to know about me is that I am not a person who runs to the worst case scenario. I don’t go to the doctor on a regular basis (sorry mom). But all of that is because aside from the occasional cold or filling I have never been really sick. The blessing of health for someone like me is often overlooked and not appreciated until something happens. So I did what you are not supposed to do….I googled it. And all of my worst fears came true. I was reading about retinal detachment, permanent blindness and other eye-threatening issues when fear started to rush over me.  I noticed that I was fitting nicely into all of the right categories for a major eye problem.

The next day I phoned my optometrist to schedule an emergency appointment because a wise man once told me to never wait if there is an eye problem. As I walked in I started to explain my issue to the doctor. She took some tests, and I waited. I then waited a little longer. And even longer. Until finally the doctor came in and touched my shoulder. Uh-oh – this isn’t starting out great. She proceeded to tell me that it looked like a retinal detachment but I would have to see a specialist to determine the intensity of the issue. My worst fear in this situation came true. I was going to have to have emergency eye surgery that day. WebMD – 1   Hope – 0

Then came the tears. A bunch of tears. After 3 more hours of seeing different doctors to figure out just what kind of surgery was awaiting me, it was time. I was having a full-blown Vitrectomy. I will spare you the details of the surgery because that is definitely not the point of the story and super gross. What is important to know right now is that I have a gas bubble implanted in my eye. For 10 days I had to keep my nose pointed to the ground and sleep on my right side, so that gravity will use that bubble to hold my retina in place. If you do not do this properly the gas bubble can damage your eye and could cause blindness.

The medical term for my state (looking down) is called posturing. The word posturing suddenly captured my attention. I knew I had read it in the Bible, but I just couldn’t remember where. So two weeks later when I was allowed to sit up, I began my research of the word “posturing”.  I found many Biblical references to the posture of prayer. Abraham fell upon his face before God. (See Genesis 17:3, 17.) Moses prayed with his hands outstretched. (See Exodus 9:27–29.) King Solomon knelt in prayer. (See I Kings 8:54.) Jesus prayed looking up into heaven. (See Mark 6:41, John 11:41, and 17:1.)

Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. Wow! What has the attitude of my heart been? Well, I didn’t know the answer to that question right away so I decided to sit in silence, face down, for one hour to hear from God. ONE HOUR, PEOPLE! First of all it is hard for a busy body like myself to be confined to the house, facing down, listening to podcasts. But now the Holy Spirit wants me to be quiet for one hour.

After many mental lists were made (ladies know what I mean) I began to really be still. As I began to listen a thought popped in my head to read the story about Jesus visiting with Mary and Martha. So I scrambled to my Bible app to read the story.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Woah. I am a Martha. As a ministry assistant my entire time is spent running around preparing for events, meetings, etc. And even though all of those things are great and needed, I can’t let the preparation distract me from sitting at His feet. So is it a coincidence that I had a surgery that forces me to posture myself? Is it a coincidence that I am unable to be at work, events, and meetings? No, God is not a coincidence. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together. It is important for us to sit at His feet each day and get a fresh word from Him. God sees and knows what we are going through. He wants to remind us that in whatever situation, He is there, and He wants to be exalted. Every impossible situation is a perfect opportunity for Him to display His power and magnify Himself.

All of this sounds really good when you are not blind in one eye. Even though I heard that awesome Word from the Lord, I was still upset that I had to go through this process. Not because I think I am above it, but because I know He is bigger than it. I wanted God to heal me before the surgery, take away the pain and discomfort and show up big in the situation. But it was at that moment I failed to understand that the greatest expression of our mission can be born out of the deepest pain. It’s the same way that a crucifixion was necessary to bring eternal hope – to transform sin and death into life and liberty. The same way this trial was necessary to transform my life and my ministry. My question to you is what has been your blindness, your darkest hour? Have you allowed God to transform it into the victory and the calling that He intends for you?

I encourage you not to waste a single heartache but to seek for God’s plan in the middle of it. He doesn’t let us suffer needlessly. And your suffering may be the catalyst to what is next!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Hope Hill – https://hopehill828.wordpress.com

God Gave Me Back My Daddy: A Story of Healing and Hope

Editor’s note: As Father’s Day approaches we share this story of restoration to offer hope. Jesus changes things, even when it seems impossible to the human mind.

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And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten. Joel 2:25a 

In my childhood, all I remember about my Daddy is him leaving for work. He was a bread delivery man. He left between 3 and 4 a.m. and got home around 8 p.m. On his off day he worked in his Father’s produce company. On Sunday he usually got a call from someone to bring bread because they had run out. He worked very hard to provide for our family; I am so grateful for that. It taught me to work hard. But, I missed out on getting to know my Father.

Daddy was an athlete in high school, so I wanted to be an athlete to get his approval. I wasn’t athletic, at least not until high school. I started playing softball in the fifth grade, Daddy never saw me play until I was married and had my own children. We never got to share that experience.

Daddy wasn’t an affectionate person while I was growing up. He didn’t say “I love you,” even though he did. He didn’t hug us. I began, sometime in childhood to believe he didn’t love me. This thought grew and festered until it became an unshakable belief. I did not believe my Daddy loved me until one day in college.

My mother and father were separated at the time. We were having issues with our septic tank, it was leaking in the yard. I called Daddy and told him to come look at it. I remember being very angry at him, even though he had done nothing wrong. This anger sprang from a bitter root I had against him. I began telling him all he needed to do; my words were harsh and critical. I made it clear, I didn’t much like him! Then it happened, tears began to roll down his face. I was shocked. I had never seen him cry, ever! I really believed he wasn’t capable of showing emotion. Then he said something that forever changed our lives. “Angelia, I love you. I need you to love me.” He loved me!? Until that moment I could not believe that. God broke through my hard heart and softened it toward him. I knew things would never be the same.

img_7186Sometime later Daddy came back home for a while. I began nursing school. I was still learning to trust him, and was on very uncertain ground. Just before I graduated, one morning I was leaving for the hospital. Taped to the doorknob on the front door, was a note. It was from Daddy, it said, I am so proud of how hard you have worked in school. You set your mind on a goal, and you have accomplished it. This will bring success in your life. I love you, Daddy. I still have that little note, tucked away in a drawer in my jewelry box, it is a treasure to me!

Not long after, I married and moved away. Our relationship never had time to grow. I remember coming home to visit, as I would leave, Daddy would be standing at the top of the hill crying. I cried too, would I ever know him?

Then tragedy struck. Daddy had to have open heart surgery. After surgery, he suffered a stroke. He was weak on one side and could not talk; his short-term memory was gone. He and my mother had divorced by this time. He was alone. He had no one to care for him. He came to live with us. His speech began to come back, and he began to get better. But he was different. We spent every day together, we would take walks to build his strength, and we would talk and talk. At night, as I helped him get ready for bed, he would hug me, and say I love you. He would thank me for taking care of him. I would go to bed and tell my husband this is so strange, but so good! Our relationship began to bud and blossom. A few months later he went home.

Daddy had met a sweet lady, and one day I got a call from him saying, “Guess what I’m doing?” I had no idea.

“I’m singing in a choir!”

“What, you can sing?!”

They had joined a choir of senior citizens; he loved it. Then someone invited them to visit their church. They began attending, regularly, every time the doors opened. God began a work in him, something I had been praying for years. Occasionally he would mention to me he wasn’t sure of his salvation; when I questioned him, he would change the subject.

Five years ago tragedy struck again, his precious wife, Julia, died. The light of Daddy’s life was gone. He was lost, depressed and lonely. He was unable to care for himself at this time. He wanted to stay in his home, so we hired a nurse for a year. Then the money ran out. So I began going to his house to clean, fix his meds, and spend time with him. We began a routine of me coming and having dinner together. He has been hospitalized several times and God has protected him in miraculous ways. I began to really know my Daddy. He is funny, loves to tell jokes, (I’ve heard them all!) loves to talk, loves history, and his family. He has so many stories to tell about his family, and I love hearing them.

Two years ago, after mentioning again his doubts about his salvation, we sat down and went through the Bible. That night with angels circling around us, Daddy settled this once and for all! What a blessing to be there with him and share that moment. He has never mentioned it again.

We have come to a place of complete healing and restoration in our relationship. Through a series of events, ordained by God, I was given back my lost years with my father. Some might have seen this as an inconvenience, but I saw it as a divine appointment.

The Daddy I never knew, the Daddy I thought didn’t love me, loves me deeply.

Yes, God restored what the locust had eaten. He gave me a gift, wrapped in tragedy, to bring me something I could never have imagined. I don’t regret one single minute, and never will!

And I and my Daddy, will spend eternity in heaven!

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Here Comes the Bride!

The chapel is booked. The perfect dress has been purchased. Fresh flowers have been ordered. The cake design is set. Decorations are ready to be hung and set out. Yummy delicacies to share with guests are ordered. All is prepared for the wedding.

Throughout the waiting time the bride has shed a few stress-induced tears. Each time her comment is the same: “I don’t want to have to worry about all this, I just want to be married to the one I love!”

Her eye is only for her Beloved! He holds her focus. The rest of the world fades away when he speaks. She longs for the day that she will be his forever.

Going through this wedding preparation makes me think deeply about being the Bride of Christ.

Do I look longingly and lovingly for the day I, along with the entire church on this Earth, become the Bride of Christ?

Do I think of my love all day and anticipate what would make him happy?

Do I adorn myself and prepare myself to be the best possible person for my Jesus?

Do I sit with Him hanging on His every word and sharing my heart with My Love?

Do I spend the resources, take the time, and throw all my energy into planning my life with my Beloved Jesus?

Do  I long for time to be with Him as a bride-to-be longs for her fiancé?

It’s very easy for us to say we love Christ. It’s very easy to enjoy saying we are His fiancé. But we would think it very peculiar if a young lady never spent time with her fiance or never prepared herself for her wedding. Perhaps we should examine our heart and consider our engagement with our heavenly Bridegroom.

The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. But only five of them were wise enough to fill their lamps with oil, while the other five were foolish and forgot. So, when the bridegroom was delayed, they lay down to rest until midnight, when they were roused by the shout, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come out and welcome him!’ All the girls jumped up and trimmed their lamps. Then the five who hadn’t any oil begged the others to share with them, for their lamps were going out. “But the others replied, ‘We haven’t enough. Go instead to the shops and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Matthew 25:1-10 TLB

Grab His love letter to you and read it until your heart is full! Listen to His words of love to you. Pour out your heart to Him. Sit and rest in the embrace of the Lover of Your soul.

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God Doesn’t Make Junk – Only Masterpieces!

Have you ever seen a masterpiece in person?

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Italy a see some of the great masterpieces done by Michelangelo and Leonard da Vinci (the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the sculpture of David and The Last Supper just to name a few).

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_GothicA few years ago, some friends and I went to Chicago for a few days. One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Art Institute of Chicago to see the famous painting by Grant Wood titled “American Gothic.” Unlike our own Birmingham Museum of Art, which has free admission, the cost to enter the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.00, unless you are viewing a special exhibition. My thinking was that it would be worth it. We were going to be seeing a famous piece of art. So we made our way through the museum to the place where the picture was to be displayed. When we arrived, there on the wall was a picture of the famous painting and a sign with the words, “This piece has been loaned out.” I had missed seeing what some consider to be a great masterpiece.

So what makes something a masterpiece? Merriam-Webster defines a masterpiece as “a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.” A masterpiece doesn’t have to be a piece of art, it can be anything done with extraordinary skill. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Some Bible versions use the word handiwork or workmanship. Each one is saying the same thing. We are God’s work of art. He created and is continuing to create us in His image.

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows every single thing about us, and nothing was or is hidden from him. God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t make junk. You are God’s piece of art. We don’t view or value ourselves as masterpieces that have worth. In today’s world we are so quick to compare ourselves to other around us. We focus on the negative in our lives. Don’t view yourself through the eyes or standards of others, see yourself as God’s treasure.

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We may make our lives messy at times because of our sin, but as believers, God’s word tells us he is creating us anew. God has a specific plan for us and we have to let him keep working on us. Isaiah 64:8 says “God is the potter and we are the clay. We are formed by His hand.” We have to let God continue molding us and shaping us and putting us through the fire. It is not an easy process. It takes time. It can even be painful at times. We have to be willing to let Him work. In the end, God will create and mold us into a beautiful piece of art that will display Jesus to others.

One of my favorite skits done by the Skit Guys is called “God’s Chisel” or “God’s Chisel Remastered.” It tells of God chiseling away at the sin in our lives so that when others see us they see Jesus, and when we see ourselves in the mirror we see Jesus. God is creating us into His masterpiece. He is working on us and chiseling out the sin, worry, ugly attitudes, and anything holding us back from being all God wants us to be. So why don’t we let Him work and not fight him. I think some of the reasons are fear, guilt, anger, bitterness, and laziness.

Today, why don’t you turn loose of the ugly sin and let God work on you. When you stand in front of the mirror don’t be disappointed. Don’t plaster a picture or image up of what you want to look and be like and loan yourself out to Satan to beat you down and conform you to this world. Instead, see yourself as the Masterpiece God created you to be. Be open to him chiseling and molding you into His image. Start by letting Him renew your mind into what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) for your life.

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The Journey: Ride the Tuk Tuk

(Republished with permission from Tender Tugs.)

When people ask me about Cambodia, I have trouble putting my experience into words. (Partly because I still felt jet lagged the first few days people asked and partly because I just wanted to burst into tears from emotional overload.) I was in Cambodia for only ten days, but it left an indelible mark on me. We were in the capital of Phenom Penh for eight days and in a smaller village called Siem Reap for two days. Throughout the trip, we worked with an organization called Hard Places Community that serves the Khmer people with a goal of keeping children and adults out of the sex trade and redeeming their brokenness through Christ’s Gospel.

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When I think of Cambodia, I think of the people. People make such an imprint on our lives. The Khmer people of Cambodia are no different. Many of them have no reason to trust others (especially outsiders and foreigners), yet they still open their arms to embrace visitors. Below, I will try to tell the stories. The stories of people who are desperate for Light. The stories that make me want to cry (with happiness?) whenever I think of Cambodia. The stories that show what the Hope of God can do in such a dark place.

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There was a boy around 10 years old with a black t-shirt with the letters “Ok” printed in large white font. The first day, he came to the Hard Places Community center to hear our lesson. (We did mini Vacation Bible School type lessons with kids age 1 to 14.) The second day, we saw him again at the Riverfront. (We went out in the neighborhood in the afternoons to act out biblical stories while dressed in fun costumes.) The boy was wearing the same t-shirt. One of our translators told me that his mom and dad had both died. Now, he lives by the side of the river and relies on the community to keep him alive. Boys like this are very susceptible to the kind of evils that Phenom Penh sees everyday. Evils like being lured down dark alleyways by foreign men who offer money in exchange for sexual favors. Thankfully, this boy has the Hard Places center to offer him food, training in what is right and wrong, and the truth of the Good News. While we were there, he had a large scratch on his leg. On our team, we had a trained nurse Taylor who bandaged his leg. However, many of the kids Taylor treated did not know anything about medical care and ripped off their bandages minutes after she careful cleaned and treated their wounds. But the tiny hope I saw in this boy’s life was that he kept the bandage on just like Taylor instructed him. I saw a flicker of hope that he was listening to us and that God’s truth would stay with him just as much as the medical advice. Maybe by next year, this Hope will grow into a healthy leg and eyes that are no longer filled with sadness.

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Another person that I cannot forget is an older lady that I met by accident. One day, I went with Sineath (one of our translators) to invite children to our meeting. We walked past the doorway of a house and a lady called out to us from the shadows. She began speaking rapidly in Khmer to Sineath. Sineath explained to us that the lady wanted us to come inside and pray for her. We respectfully took off our sandals and entered her corrugated tin house. We sat cross legged on the slightly raised floor next to her sleeping pig. Through back and forth translation, the lady told us that she had a dream the night before. In the dream, she saw Sineath come to her door to pray for her. So when we came, she knew it was to pray for her. This lady had recently undergone surgery to remove a tumor, but she felt that part of the tumor was not removed and was still growing. Sadly, this lady had no money left after her original surgery to pay for another consultation. With teary eyes, we prayed for her. I felt very strongly that although her situation was miserable, God was using it to bring her back to Himself. She even admitted to us that she used to believe in God, but lately she had wandered away from Him. I can’t help but believe that this physical illness will bring spiritual healing to her otherwise cancerous heart. There was Hope for her that God was bringing her back to Him spiritually and that He can heal her physically too.

There were so many other people. Men, women, and children. Some broken and some restored. All of them were in need of the Gospel. All of them are like us: covered in the darkness of our sin until we agree to let in the Light of Christ’s truth.

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In my jumble of stories, I want to leave you with a metaphor:

As we rode through the cities of Phenom Penh and Siem Reap, we always traveled in tuk tuks. Man, I really miss those bumpy, scent-filled rides. Sometimes we had to hold on to handles on the side of roof so that we would not get jostled out the side of the cart. Sometimes we had loads of medical supplies, snacks, and crafts to take to eager children. Sometimes we knew where we were going, and other times even our drivers seemed lost. Sometimes we filled our nostrils with the smells of fresh flowers or savory noodles, and other times we shriveled our nose to block out the stench of open sewage or piles of rotting garbage. But we always, always rode in tuk tuks for one reason: to meet people.

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So whether you are in Mississippi or the great world beyond, I leave you this challenge. Ride the tuk tuk. This tuk tuk is going to take you on a mission for God. There are no doors, and it might get bumpy, so hold on tight. You might have loads of baggage or things to take to others. You might know where you are going or be more lost than unmarked baggage at the airport carousel. The place you are going towards may seem inviting or nauseating. Just remember: you are going to meet the people. No matter what the ride is like, stay in the tuk tuk. Trust your Driver. Let God lead you to whom you need to be with at just the right moment.

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Believe me, this is not something I have grasped. I have called my mom crying more than once since I got home (three times in one day). I have desperately wanted to get off the tuk tuk. I wanted a clearer map, more supplies for the journey, and more appealing smells on the way. I have simultaneously wanted to stop and to get there faster. I haven’t figured out what God is doing. But for now, I am still holding on to the handles. I know this will eventually take me to meet people. It will take me to the people I need to minister to and the people who will minister to me. So, if you see me trying to jump off the side, give me an encouraging yell. Together, let’s ride this tuk tuk until it stops.

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[Side note: I cannot share any of the pictures online of the people to whom we ministered. This is for their privacy and protection.]