God Connections!

1901145_10202687380718629_603159704_nby Guest Author Jan Muir Peine (Check out her website here.)

I have had a secret for 35 years, but God now wants it shared for His Glory. I pray you will be blessed by this incredible true story.

Flash back to 1985.

I was a vocational evaluator at a local Rehab facility when a young 16-year-old male was assigned to me. Several things pierced my heart about this boy; the least of which was his malformed right upper limb which I assumed was likely from his pregnant mother’s usage of Thalidomide as a means to stop miscarriage. The technical name of his unfortunate condition is phocomelia, but the result was he only had the usage of his left arm. In addition, he was without parents, the result of a very tragic, life-ending event that he witnessed as a 7-year-old child. Could my heart break any more for this troubled teen?

prosthetics-research-boston-1He was sponsored by the State of Alabama, and my testing revealed that he was quite gifted. But as any teen, he wanted to look “normal.” He repeatedly requested a cosmetically pleasing prosthesis, in lieu of the metal hook that the state approved for his missing right limb. I was burdened; so much so that I began to pray for him. In my prayer, God placed it on my heart that my husband and I were to provide him with the more expensive cosmetic arm; an investment into his future. But how, God?

Unknown

 

I had just sustained a huge pay cut from my sudden career change secondary to our own car wreck. We had a two-year-old daughter, and my recovery from the skull fracture I sustained in the wreck was not inexpensive. But when God calls you to obedience, he provides the means for you to obey. We donated the money to a charitable organization and insisted it be anonymous. We also insisted that he be given a Bible with his new prosthesis. I inscribed it. As per our instructions, he was simply told that he had been “gifted” with the items. He was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Flash forward to last Thursday when I received a call from a potential buyer for my deceased daddy’s “Jazzy Scooter,” which had remained in my mom’s garage since Daddy’s death.

My caller was a church organist from Childersburg, and he wanted to come immediately, which involved about a 2-hour drive to my mom’s farm. He said he was bringing a friend to help him transport it home if he bought it. When I saw the now 51-year-old, one-armed male, something clicked in my brain.

“It’s him,” I thought to myself. Surely not; what would be the odds? So I asked him if he had been tested at a Birmingham rehab center when he was 16. He affirmed. I asked him if he received a Bible with his cosmetic prosthesis. He looked puzzled, clearly didn’t remember me, but again affirmed.

I said, “Did the inscription in the Bible say something like, “God loves you and so do we.” He froze.

“How could you know that?” he asked in amazement.

“Because I’m the lady who wrote it.”

“Then you’re the lady who gave me the cosmetic arm? I never knew.”

“Yes,” I told him.

He asked, “Why would you do that for me?”

I told him that God had always been watching over him, and while earthly people had let him down, his heavenly Father never would. Needless to say, we were all three touched by this reunion.

He marveled, “It’s a small world.”

I responded, “Nope, it’s a very big world, but we have a bigger God who connects the dots for all of us within His own timing, even after 35 years!”

We decided together to share our story. And yes… they got Daddy’s scooter!

He is faithful always!

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

Thank you Jan for sharing your amazing story!

 

Unseen Path

by Sheila Keedy

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the might waters- a pathway no one knew was there!  Psalm 77:19 (NL)

close-up-photo-of-dog-3397939We have a new puppy. Her name is Pearl and she is very strong-willed. (Eye roll!) She does not like to be told no and wants to go her own way.  When we take a walk she has to be on a leash as she runs away if not and we end up chasing her around the neighborhood.  (Double eye roll!)

The leash is her worst enemy.  Pearl does not like following where we lead and the leash takes the brunt of her disapproval.  She has literally dangled in the air as she’s jumped up and clamped down on the leash.  Mercy!  We are going to persevere through this and maybe one day she will come to trust that we are leading her down the best path and will follow more obediently. (And maybe we’ll be able to recover financially from the number of leashes we’ve had to buy.) 

Actually, I’m sure I’m a lot like Pearl.  Looking back over my life there have been paths that I did not want to travel.  Miscarriages, breast cancer, loss of a 17-year-old niece, loss of a parent to name just a few.  Many times though, on these difficult journeys were pathways to ministry, testimonies, sharing and caring.  Pathways I didn’t know would be there, but found hope and joy again in that part of the journey.  And best of all, growing in my relationship with my Healer, Comforter, Savior and Friend.     

Over the last several months, I have worked my way from Genesis to Kings and Chronicles.  I have read story after story in the Old Testament of people whose lives were changed by the power and presence of God.  One example? Sarah at 90 years old having a baby!  Only God could make a way for her when there seemed to be absolutely no way! As the journeys of others like Rahab or Ruth came to an end, I was ready to let out a cheer, or a hallelujah, what great things HE has done! 

Because I see it from this perspective, beginning to end, I sometimes get detached from the difficult details of their stories – the parts where they resisted the path they were on.  I revere them for being such amazing women of faith and perseverance, forgetting they would have struggled just as we do.  They were real women, with real problems and I tend to overlook the reality and pain of their difficult journey because I know the outcome.  They did not.  

Eve – experienced the death of a son. 

Sarah – had to wait for the promise of a child to be fulfilled.

Hagar – cast out and alone.

Leah and Rachel – dealing with sister rivalry.  (and jealousy over a man????)

Rahab – wondered if there was hope for someone like her. 

Naomi and Ruth – grieving the loss of a their respective husbands.

Hannah – longed for a child. 

Tamar, David’s daughter and Tamar, Judah’s wife – wondering if there would be justice for what was done to them. (should you say “sexual abuse” or “rape” for those who may not know?)

Not to leave out the difficult pathways of a few women in the New Testament, think about these: 

the shame of the woman caught in adultery,

the despair of the woman at the well as relationship after relationship fell apart,

the woman with the issue of blood searching for healing,

and the torment of Mary Magdalene before Jesus delivered her.  

Am I trying to focus on their difficulties? Not at all. What I want to draw attention to is this: they had to travel down paths that they didn’t know how long it would last or where it would end. 

We can take heart from their stories for many reasons, but most importantly because we see God was right there with them.  He didn’t miss one part of their journey.  In fact, their paths led to Him.  

Genesis 16:13  So she, (Hagar), called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”

As we read their stories in Scripture, we get to see so many amazing attributes of God such as His faithfulness, grace and mercy.  We get to see that He is Redeemer, Provider and full of love and compassion.  We can be encouraged because what He did for them He will do for you and me. 

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

When it comes to our story, our journey, we are still in the midst of it.  We may not see or understand the path He is taking us on.  We struggle and resist.  What makes it worse is we don’t know the outcome of our stories like we do those of of the women in Scripture, and we want God to fix things now!  We want to know that what we’ve been through will be worth it.  But, this is where faith comes in.  Faith is believing in the unseen, the unknown.  

Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (ESV) 

If you had asked Moses and Israel as they stood on the edge of the Red Sea what they saw, they would have said nothing but water in front and the enemy behind them.  But what happened next changed everything! 

Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land.  So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!”  Exodus 14:21-22 (NLT) 

brown-colour-dawn-environment-132428There it is, a pathway no one knew was there.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”                       2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)

Whatever obstacle is in front of you, 

whatever storm you may be facing, 

whatever darkness lies ahead, 

whatever deep waters you find yourself in, 

there is a road unseen, unknown, a pathway you didn’t even know was there.   And right there with you is the Lord leading you and walking with you, step by step.  No matter how you struggle and resist, He will not leave nor forsake you.  He will remain faithful.  

Psalm 26:3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.  

One day, when we look back on the path He had us on, we’ll say along with the women in Scripture, hallelujah, what great things God has done! 

Luke 1:46-49  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,… for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 

***********************

Using the Scriptures below, pray them for your journey.  They will comfort you and give you the courage to keep moving forward.   

Deuteronomy 31:8  The Lord, himself, goes before you and will be there with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;…

Psalm 31:14-15a But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God. ”My times are in your hand;…

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

 

20/20 Vision

For the remainder of the 2020 year Priceless will produce a series of articles entitled 20/20 Vision which challenge us with how we view the world. Are we seeing clearly? Are we seeing from God’s perspective?

3D_eye_anatomy_02_MED_ILL_ENThe eye is an amazing organ. Light enters through the pupil. Then the lens focuses the light onto the retina, a lining of light-sensitive cells on the back of the interior of the eye. The retina converts light into electrical impulses that are sent to the optic nerve which carries these impulses to the brain. Rather a straight-forward process, but definitely an intricate design produced by a one-of-a-kind creator. A design that many scientists say is indicative of creative design which refutes evolutionary theory. The eye is an organ so important that to loose function of it is life-altering. Keeping it healthy and functioning properly is important and any problem with the quality of vision warrants an immediate  investigation into the problem. We all want to have 20/20 vision.

What exactly is 20/20 Vision? The website of the American Academy of Ophthalmology defines it this way: A person with 20/20 vision can see what an average individual can see on an eye chart when they are standing 20 feet away.” It is a measure of your visual eye-chart-24489_1280acuity, that is, how clear or sharp your vision is. The numbers represent how many feet you are from the chart and the distance at which an average person could stand to read that line. Twenty-twenty vision is not perfect vision it is average, and 20/30 is declining, while 20/15 is sharper than most. So in reality, a visual diagnosis compares your vision to that of others around the world.

But what about spiritually? What would spiritual 20/20 vision be? What is average? Do we want to be “just average” in our relationship with the Lord? Maybe we should have another way of designating spiritual sight. Where is our spiritual sight focused? What is it based on? What does the way we look at the world reveal about us spiritually?

The Bible has some important observations on eyes and seeing (as one would expect!)

  • Our Spiritual vision should be focused on God’s words to us.

Proverbs 7:2 – Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

  • Our human vision is not as accurate and wise as we think it is; spiritual vision must be based on a reverence for the Lord.

Proverbs 3:7 – Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

  • Spiritual vision looks at what God has put before us, not at our doubts or our past or our worries or obstacles or what other people say.

Proverbs 4:25 – Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

  • Spiritual vision will allow us to be full of light. Worldly sight is like walking around in darkness.

Matthew 6:22 – The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Spiritual eyes allows God’s light to come in through the pupil and be focused through the lens of God’s word onto the retina of our souls so that the God-sensitive cells of our heart send impulses to our brain to see things clearly. When we have healthy spiritual eyes and are sensitive to this input, we walk in light and Spirit-directed wisdom. We won’t stumble around with human, fallible ideas, but will focus on His Word and react to what we see through spiritual eyes.

Our paths in life can them be directed by what we see. Proverbs 4:26-27 says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” If we want a smoother path in life, if we desire a steadfast life built on substance, we must look with spiritual eyes. Then we must trust our vision and make choices to go in the direction our spiritual vision deems best. Spiritual sight will steer us away from evil paths. But we must choose to believe our eyes.

woman-wearing-blue-longsleeves-1799464

 

Atomic Moments

There are 2 types of people in the world of computing, those who keep their inbox emptied out and orderly at least weekly, if not daily. That’s my husband. And those who let their email pile up for months and then spend days cleaning it out. That’s me. I started that process this morning by accident, as I usually do.

When I logged in to check my mail this Monday morning, I stumbled upon an email that came from a political organization that has been filling up my inbox this election year. I thought to myself, I’ve gotten a lot of those lately. Let me do a search, and delete them all. There were 32 of them. Select all. Delete. Easy.

But then… I need to get rid of some of these other emails that come in a couple of times a week. Which led me to where I am currently, 310 emails deleted with 2,707 remaining in my inbox. The email purging takes forever because I treasure info. Therefore, I must examine any email with a subject line indicating it may contain an important nugget I’ve forgotten about. And thus, this blog.

The searching and purging was going along fairly quickly until I came upon a personal message from a friend which indicated it had some of her favorite recent blog articles. (“Recent” meaning from 2016!) Each of the articles were about evangelism – a weakness of mine. I allow Southern hyper-politeness, insecurity, and people-pleasing tendencies to ramp up the fear in me about sharing the gospel. I know it is the enemy and that I am in a spiritual battle, so I’ve committed this year to embrace “Who’s Your One?” and to obediently share Jesus even when the fear churns in my gut.

As I read the email, one paragraph from Lori McDaniel jumped off the screen and grabbed me.

Learn to extract gospel moments from everyday life. Moments are as small as an atom. They are so small they can be overlooked yet so powerful that if split they create an energy that explosively rearranges the landscape of anything nearby. Take hold of small moments you have with people. “Paul reasoned in the marketplace everyday with whoever happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17) You may not lead someone to Christ everyday. Yet, you can weave in threads of gospel truth into so many conversations.

Wow!

The atomic bomb basically ended WWII. It revolutionized warfare. The atom, the smallest of particles, unable to be seen with the naked eye, contains world-changing potential! And so do the moments of our days!

people-in-couch-1024248Do I see my moments as having such powerful potential? Do I use my moments with family or friends for heavenly purposes? In the grocery check-out line, at the gas pump, or in a doctor’s waiting room for instance, do I think about sharing Christ? Do I wait impatiently cruising my phone, treading water, wasting time? Or do I pray and listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and make the most of my moments “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” as Ephesians 5:16 tells us in the King James Version? Am I spirituality aware that the Father may have put me in that place at that time to speak the Gospel to a soul that desperately needs to hear it?

The New International Version of Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Wow!

I kept having those little “Wow!” bomb drops in my thoughts as I contemplated Lori’s quote.

Can you even imagine the impact of a full-out atomic war? I grew up in the 60’s where bomb shelters and fear of nuclear war prevailed. My childhood dreams were full of those nightmarish images. I can imagine. City flattening, nature annihilating, radiation poisoning, life changing, world landscape altering atomic bombs shook my little kid body with fear. An atom bomb dropped a hundred miles from my house could alter my life!

white-clock-reading-at-2-12-1537268Now as an adult I am confronted with the thought that my discarded moments could be atoms in God’s hands if I give them to Him. The potential of my moments could metaphorically flatten a city for God! That moment given to Him could radiate, not poison, but the Gospel for a hundred – or more –  miles around! That tidbit of my life could be life changing for that 1 person I share the Gospel with, and not just them but for the family they are in – their spouse, children, parents, mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, and aunts & uncles! That atomic moment has the potential to alter the landscape of the world!

Our country is in crisis mode right now. Problems abound. Sin is the root problem for every issue the news or the politician tells us about. What is the answer? Jesus is the only answer. Strengthening laws, abolishing old ways, government handouts cannot rescue us. Without Jesus Christ our world is decaying, dying, and hopeless. There is a Redeemer for sin that the hopeless souls in our world need to hear about, need to know. Are we telling them? Am I? Are you? Am I willing to embrace every stray moment and speak the truths of the Gospel into the sin and decay? Am I willing to love the world as much as God the Father did, so that I lay down my life and my will to do His will? Am I willing to get past my fear and use my atomic moments to share Jesus?

atomic-bomb-1011738_1280Resource to download: Gospel Threads by David Platt

Love Takes Action

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.

If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do?

Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.

If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.

alex-boyd-lPt2QZHjuE4-unsplashLove is very patient and kind,

never jealous or envious,

never boastful or proud,

never haughty or selfish or rude.

Love does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable or touchy.

sebastian-leon-prado-dBiIcdxMWfE-unsplashIt does not hold grudges

and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.

It is never glad about injustice,

but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost.

You will always believe in him,

always expect the best of him,

and always stand your ground in defending him.

All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.

Someday prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge—these gifts will disappear.  

Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor.

But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.

It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things.

In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.

There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

How does your love measure up to this checklist from 1 Corinthians 13 (TLB)? If you have been embracing love as a feeling rather than a doing, now is the time to take action. Show the love of Christ in you to ALL those around you – the ones you see as undeserving as well as the deserving!

Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 TLB

Waiting in Faith for the Waters to Recede

by guest author Jenny Stricklin

IMG_1151

Photo credit: Kelley Dague

Weeks into the Covid-19 quarantine, I saw a rainbow. Spread out over my house after a heavy rain. And it reminded me…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back in early January, when 2020 was still so fresh and clean, I had asked God to speak.  The new year held so many secrets and I wanted to be the first to know them. Opening my Bible, I asked God for just one hint. I love to get a hold of what God is up to if He’ll let me and then dream about how it might play out.

Of all the verses in those couple of chapters I read that day, one tiny part of a familiar story jumped off of that thin page.

Gen 8:1 said, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.”

I bet I read it a dozen times looking for clues.

-“God remembered Noah in the ark” – Remembering here (I learned) doesn’t mean God had forgotten Noah, but that he was about to take action for Noah’s well-being.

-“God made a wind to blow across the earth” – The word wind here can also be translated Spirit. As in, the Spirit moved  over the earth.

-“The floodwaters began to recede” – This sounds hopeful. And it was. But it was a slow, gradual process lasting the better part of a year, per the rest of chapter eight.

My perspective that day was super limited. Obviously, I could never have predicted this pandemic. But God let me sense that He was up to something. And unfortunately, it looked like it would involve a lot of waiting. Waiting is hard.

So that morn, I pondered Noah’s plight and typed these notes in my phone:

“Even as with Noah, Lord, help me be faithful and patient over the next year as “the waters recede” at a slow pace. When there’s no dry land in sight or change to be noted, help me to walk in faith like he did. In the uncertainty, the insecurity, the fear…. In the isolation, the unknown, the frustration. When he had no clue of what You were doing or when You’d calm the storm or how You would rescue…When there was no end or plan in sight, only deep, dark waters of mystery, Noah waited on You.”

I remembered these words again that day. And oh how I needed to pray them again.

crashing-waves-1494707Noah was in the middle of the MOST COLOSSAL GLOBAL CRISIS of all time. And his struggles were likely common to ours – long waiting, isolation, limited Information, total lifestyle change, deep loss, fear of the future.

And in the middle of the mystery, after 40 days of isolation and flooding, God was moved to action. He shut off the water supply and inch by inch by inch, the water subsided.

After many long months, Noah and his family were released from the ark. The land was dry again and suitable for life and flourishing.

—Sometimes floods precede flourishing.

—Sometimes suffering is the soil that nurtures great fruitfulness.

—Sometimes we just have to cooperate with God’s bigger plan for our lives & for the world.

I won’t pretend to understand the flood. Thankfully, He promised He wouldn’t do that again.

And I won’t pretend to understand Covid-19.

All I’m sure of? GOD WANTS OUR ATTENTION. The One who allows the struggle, will be the one to save us from it.

The rainbow that day was a sure sign of His commitment to us…

And perhaps also an invitation to recommit ourselves to Him.

background-957469_1280

 

A New Normal

by Sheila Keedy

IMG_1136-2

Over the last few weeks I have said and keep hearing from others, “It will be so good when things return to normal.”  Family dinners, church gatherings and meeting with friends are just a few of the things I am sure we all look forward to enjoying again.  

In reality, things may return to normal but then again maybe they won’t.  We already have new words in our vocabulary like “social distancing” for example!  So the question that keeps tugging on my heart and mind is, do I really want things to return to normal?

Normal, before the quarantine, seems to be a blur.  Hectic schedules driving us at a frenzied pace.  Parents feeding kids across the back seat of the car on the way to the next event and many of us falling into bed at night exhausted from the demands of work and activities.  Time to read and study God’s Word marginalized against other things we make a priority. 

Over the last few weeks, it has been such a delight to see moms and daughters riding bikes together, dads and sons playing basketball in their driveway, and couples walking around the neighborhood.  We have enjoyed talking across the yards to neighbors and worshiping together from our driveways – socially distanced of course!  More than anything, I have loved unhurried time with the Lord in the mornings.  

So which of those “normals” do I really want to go back to?  

These times remind me of Israel’s journey as Moses led them out of Egypt.  God was testing, yet also preparing them for their Promised Land. They experienced God’s presence, saw His mighty hand at work through miracles and provision over and over again.  Yet, over and over again, they would get discouraged and complain, wanting to go back to Egypt. 

Numbers 11:4-5 And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

They wanted things to return to normal.  God was preparing them for a new normal.  

Several times in my life I have been on a difficult journey and just wanted to go back image0-3home where things were expected and convenient.  One specific time stands out the most – spending over four months in the country of Venezuela.

In the fall of 1983, my husband was invited to play Winter Ball in Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela.  We prayed and believed God had opened this door and we were excited to walk through it.  At that point in his professional baseball career, it was a great opportunity for many reasons.  So off we went with our “English to Spanish” translation book tucked in our luggage.   

When a player was sent to Winter Ball, their length of stay depended on how well they played.  After the first two weeks of struggling and almost being sent home, Pat hit a homerun.  It wasn’t just any homerun – it clinched a game against an area rival and he almost became a national hero!  We were in it now for the long haul.  No matter how difficult the situation or how homesick we became, we were going to be there through the New Year. 

image2-2Our home away from home was a large hotel room with plenty of fresh air as the air conditioner only worked about half the time.  (Just know we were close to the Equator!)   My refrigerator was a Styrofoam cooler where the ice melted faster than we could load it in there. (Did I mention the Equator?) Our kitchen appliance was an electric skillet that popped some really good popcorn; the “manna” of choice as the food in the grocery store was usually outdated, sometimes by years.  The option to buy cow eyes in the meat market was enough to help my satisfaction with our salty sustenance.  The language barrier wasn’t too bad except when I almost got eggs in my water instead of ice getting the two words mixed up in my request!  

As our journey continued, we began to see some difficult things – the unrest in their government, extreme poverty, and odd things that were really out of place for us like military soldiers in full battle gear stationed all around the baseball field with guns ready.  I think our biggest struggle came in not being with family during the holidays and just missing the comforts of home.  By the end of the first month, the adventure wore off and we were ready to pack up and head back home.  

As God would have it, things slowly but surely changed. (Or was He changing us?)

Most of the baseball games were at night, so with no television or a car to go anywhere we had plenty of time each day to read the Bible.  We would then talk for hours about what we had read. We were only two years into our marriage and a foundation of trusting the Lord and each other was being established.  

We became close to teammates and their wives as we found ways to meet for Bible Study.  The opportunity to share our fears increased our faith as we prayed together and saw God move in so many situations.  

An American missionary family made contact with us and provided a place to worship each week in the small church they pastored.  It was a bilingual service so we could hear God’s Word in our own language.  It also gave us the opportunity to share our testimonies with the local people and that helped many of us in our courage to share our faith.  The men naturally connected with the players, but it was such a blessing to connect with the women who were wives and mothers just like us.  

image0-4I learned to cross-stitch, fashioned our first Christmas tree out of felt to hang on our hotel room wall, visited a candle factory where wax ornaments were being made that told the story of Jesus’ birth, saw amazing poinsettia trees, and watched local women make the most beautiful tapestries. Not wanting to forget any of the things happening, I began to journal.  What started as journaling  day-to-day experiences soon became testimonies of God moments that continues to this day, thirty-seven years and over forty journals later.  

image1-3Looking back now, going home early would have been a mistake.  Giving in to inconvenience and the unknown wouldn’t have allowed us to experience God’s presence, His provision, seeing Him heal and restore.  Most importantly, it wouldn’t have allowed for Him to change things in us that needed changing.  

Don’t get me wrong; I was very glad when we did go home!  Hugging my family, listening to their voices, sleeping in my own bed, and drinking all the clean water I wanted was a privilege not taken for granted.  But, how much sweeter was it all because of the journey we had been on. 

So, is wanting things to return to normal a good thing? In some respects, maybe so.  But what if, during this time, we seize these moments seeking God with all our heart, soul and mind and ask Him what to continue, what to cut out, what to change?  Instead of just waiting for the quarantine to be lifted and things to return to normal, allow God to show you how He would like to prepare you for maybe a new normal.

Consider these things with me:

  • Do you really want to live at the same pace that you were living before the quarantine? 
  • What daily plans need adjusting to prioritize time in Scripture and in prayer? 
  • Are there things you thought you couldn’t live without that may have become an idol? 
  • Do you need to extend love, kindness and/or forgiveness to someone?
  • How can you serve your community instead of your calendars? 

When it’s over, what will you go back to?  Let’s not return to Egypt.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— I Corinthians 2:9

Add a heading

 

Resurrection Day – Sing Praise!

faith-2208916_1280

This BloodListen to Prestonwood Choir sing this powerful song.

There is a blood that cost a life
That paid my way Death its price
When it flowed down from the cross
My sins were gone, my sins forgot

There is a grave that tried to hide
This precious blood that gave me life
In three days He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries
Every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim
That He’s coming back for you

There is a blood that sights the blind
That heals the sick, the lonely finds
It has the power to free the bound
As chains they fall upon the ground

So pour it out to cleanse my soul
And let His liquid glory flow
Because He lives to make me whole
I owe my life, I owe my all

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries
Every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim
That He’s coming back for you

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries
Every tear that falls

So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim
That He’s coming back for you
This price, this blood
This price, this precious blood
This one He sacrificed to wash away my sin
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing, nothing

What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing, nothing

What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood

There is a grave that tried to hide
This precious blood that gave me life
But in three days He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries
Every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim
That He’s coming back for you
Yes, I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim
That He’s coming back for you

 

What You Can Do During This Quarantine

The night is dark, but the moon is shining bright. There is a bright side to all dark events we face in life. Don’t close your eyes. In all situations, we have the opportunity to look around and find things we can learn in order to become more kind and loving. This season of pandemic is no different.

A day or two ago, I received an email from George Verwer (founder of OM) sharing his 29 suggestions for us to do while we live in isolation and deal with this coronavirus crisis. His list prompted me to write up my own suggestions, which I hope will be a help for you in these days ahead.

35 suggestions for this season of isolation:

  1. Write emails, letters and notes to as many people you can think of. Thank them for the small or significant things they did for you or share what they mean in your life. Write to your parents, teachers, doctors, children, friends, neighbors and so on. A word of encouragement can make all the difference in a person’s life.
  2. Call 10 people each day just to say “Hello” and offer a word of encouragement. Be diligent to share words of hope and refrain from talking about negative things—there’s enough of that in the news already.
  3. Make a list of people that come to your mind and start praying for them. Each day set aside 1 or 2 hours and pray for each person by name.
  4. 35 suggestions for us to do while we live in isolation and deal with this coronavirus season, which I hope will be a help for you in these days ahead.Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Read 5 books at a time. I do this all the time. Read one for half an hour, then switch over to another book and read that. In this way, you are reading many different subjects at the same time. It feels like a good meal that has several items on the plate all at once.
    • If you email me, I will send you a list of some of the most impactful books that have changed my life. Email me at kp@gfa.org.
  5. Read God’s word and memorize verses of hope and promise.
  6. Read poems about hope, love, and faith.
  7. Read a good book about using time wisely.
  8. Think about others, especially those who are in a much more dangerous environment than we are, and pray for them.
  9. Write an email to the Government authorities, both local and higher levels, and encourage them. Appreciate all that they do for the society. They don’t hear positive encouragement very often.
  10. Although you cannot go to public places like the gym for exercises, discipline yourself for at least half hour each day to do some kind of physical exercise in your home. If you aren’t sure what to do, a quick search on Google will bring up hundreds of ideas as to what you can do for exercising at home.
  11. Read my books. You can download them for free by going to gfa.org/resource.
  12. Look around and see the accumulation of material stuff that has cluttered your life. Simplify your living conditions by throwing things away that can’t be used and giving away what can be.
  13. Don’t consume foods that your body cannot use, especially during these days with limited inability to burn the calories.
  14. Listen to music that calms your mind and emotions.
  15. Watch good movies on life. Don’t watch scary movies.
  16. Guard your ears from listening to people talking about negative things.
  17. Read a book on silence and solitude and try practicing it. Make this a habit for your life. They say when you do something for 21 days, it will become a habit. One book I would recommend on this topic is The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.
  18. If you have resources to give, look for ways to help others in dire need, especially those in communities and nations that are in greatly suffering due to this corona virus crisis.
  19. Learn something new! Practice a new language, develop speed reading, learn an instrument—you can get started by looking at what is offered for free online.
  20. Go to gfa.org and learn all the ways you can help the needy and suffering in Asia through your prayers and assistance.
  21. Listen to encouraging teachings. Some of the best I’ve found can be heard online at sermonindex.net.
  22. Eat simply and eat less. Fast one or two days a week if you can.
  23. Read the words of Christ about the signs of the last days. Think to yourself what it means to live in the light of eternity. Make decisions that matter beyond time and the physical world around you.
  24. Being isolated with your family members is a gift from God. Be kind and loving to those who are close to you. This convergence culture and online world of social media has caused so much loneliness and isolation. Re-learn how to be a real human being during this time you have together.
  25. Make a list of things you can live without. Use that list to create changes in your life. Think about the amount of time and money you can save and learn how to live simply—it will bring you so much freedom!
  26. Study about the first 400 years of the Holy Church by reading the writings of the church fathers and the desert fathers and mothers. Many of their teachings can be found online.
  27. Use this time to think about the reason for your living based on 2 Peter 1:4. Learn what it means and looks like to embrace the sacramental life, which is key to living as God intended for us.
  28. Use this time to think about all those you need to seek forgiveness from as well as those you need to forgive. Call. Write. Talk to them. Free yourself for the prison of bitterness. We all fail, we are all sinners. No one is perfect, including you. Be kind.
  29. This season of forced isolation is a God-given opportunity to know who we truly are by reading God’s Word over and over again and learning to see ourselves in light of it.
  30. Church is the epicenter of the universe. And the Church is not a crowd. Worship is the epicenter of the Church. You can gather with the handful of people already in your home and have a time of worship, where God is in your midst as the only audience.
  31. Make a list of prayer requests to pray for the nations. You can get started by visiting our website gfa.org/pray and using the list we have provided.
  32. If you have any inclination to write—either stories or poems or a memoir—begin writing a book, especially one that includes stories of hope and courage from your life’s journey.
  33. Pray the Lord’s Prayer as you wash your hands often. [It takes about 20 seconds!]
  34. Every time you become anxious, say out loud, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I reject these fears.”
  35. Remember this phrase: Don’t waste this corona virus! Use it to your advantage and help others in need.

Tell Me a Story

by Sheila Keedy

Can you imagine the stories we will tell when the COVID 19 pandemic is over? The speed at which things changed! The empty grocery shelves & toilet paper panic! The disappointment for students as their academics & extra curricular activities came to an abrupt halt. The cancellation of things we thought we couldn’t live without like sporting man-and-woman-drinking-milkshake-3951878events & entertainment. The separation of family & friends. There will be good stories, too, like how amazing it was to come together as the church online.

We will also want to tell our God stories. As we seek God in prayer & in His Word, we will surely experience His peace, His comfort, His provision and His presence. We will want to tell how He was glorified and how His mercy & grace came through again & again as it has over the ages.

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve stories. Our extended family would get together on the weekend, and what I loved most about our gatherings was the singing and story telling! In between great old songs there would be stories that usually made us laugh, sometimes cry, but always left us wanting to hear more.

We didn’t know it at the time, but we were learning about what they loved, what they had survived, what was important to them, and a lot about their faith. Stories that marked my life and stories I’ll never forget.

Talk about stories to tell! In my Chronological Bible study, I am in the book of Joshua and it is packed full of adventure, battles, fulfilled promises and amazing illustrations of miracles by the hand of God that will take your breath away.

brown-book-page-1112048Joshua himself lived a life on the front row of God’s theater watching and experiencing Him deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, providing safe passage across the Red Sea, manna from heaven and His presence in their midst. Joshua was Moses’ assistant and was with him when he came down the mountain with God’s commandments. He was one of only two spies out of twelve that believed God would give them the land they had been sent to check out. In fact, after Moses died, he was appointed to lead Israel in to take possession of the land. He obeyed God’s Word and saw the walls of Jericho fall with a shout, and armies defeated by hail stones and the hand of God. His life was marked by faith in God so much so that he prayed for the sun and moon to stand still and it did! Can you imagine how many times that story was told and how many came to believe in Israel’s amazing God?

Earlier in the book of Joshua is a story of someone whose life was marked by stories she had heard of that same God. At the time, Israel was encamped across the Jordan from Jericho and Joshua sent in two spies to gather information. Rahab had taken in and hidden the two men. As they were hiding out, she goes to them and makes these amazing statements based on what she had heard about their God.

Joshua 2:8-11 “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites …And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”

Rahab didn’t know much about God except what she heard but it was more than enough to light a fire of faith in her heart. Whatever gods she had known in Jericho did not compare to what she heard and came to know about the One True God.

And don’t you just imagine she told her God story over and over. Can’t you just hear Rahab, as a grandmother, with grands all around her leaning in closely so as to not miss a detail of her story?  She would surely tell them how Israel had marched around the city not once but seven days in a row, horns blowing and then on the seventh day they just shouted and the walls came tumbling down and she and all her family were rescued!  If you’ve ever told a child a story you’ll know they most likely would have said, tell it again, tell it again!
So, with all that said, think about this. Joshua, Rahab, you and me – such different lives and times, yet, something very much in common.
Lives marked by hearing and believing.

Joshua’s family heard God’s instructions to wipe the red blood of the Passover lamb on their doorpost and they were rescued from the angel of death.
Rahab heard the words of the spies and let down the red cord from her window and she and her family were all rescued as Jericho fell.
We have heard the Word of God and believed in the red blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and we are redeemed and rescued.
All of us marked by faith. Faith in a God who wrapped us all up into His grand and glorious story.

So the question for us is:
What stories are you telling?
What God stories have marked your life?
Who might hear and believe?

We don’t have to wait until the pandemic is over ~ the time is now.  Sing with me…my family would be so proud of us and are probably singing along, too.  

“I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, twill be my theme in glory.
To tell the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17”

black-and-red-typewriter-1995842