Tag Archives: encouragement

Dear Someone, Thank You!

Lifelong Christians aren’t supposed to get frustrated, or discouraged, or wonder if they’ve made enough errors to be abandoned. Seeing miracles from time to time is supposed to shelter the faithful ones from all forms of doubt. Or, that’s what we tell ourselves…or perhaps tell each other.

Well, this lifelong Christian, called missionary, and observer of miracles has been having a rough go of it. Few know how discouraged I’ve been getting, how many times I’ve wondered if I’d have served better by staying in my former life. A six-figure life, complete with modest mortgage, two cats, and a fair bit of affirmation from coworkers, church leadership, and my beloved youth group. But I was under a call to another realm – the place of seeking deaf people and introducing them to Jesus. So I packed up my gear and headed north to focus on relearning American Sign Language (ASL).

The plan to become an interpreter for income fell through, leaving a lot of dust, doubt, and debt in its wake. I was at a point of nearly despairing, considering the need to return home and admit defeat. Then came a period of two weeks where I was placed in a home and assigned to a ministry. Not only was I not forgotten, not abandoned, but I was on track once again in a place of service to reach the most invisible and spiritually isolated people all over the world – deaf children. I’ve since moved steadily south to get closer to ministry headquarters, living in four different guest rooms so far.

I confidently agreed to accept whatever funding I could raise, counting on being a scheduled speaker at monthly missionary services. I looked forward to telling about my target group and receiving support to devote myself to the mission. A few of us discussed how a team of people would surround me to encourage, pray, and help me with building a network and a speaking schedule. That whole plan didn’t fall through — it crumbled, slowly and agonizingly… Memories of school fundraiser failures and dishonest televangelists mingled with impossible numeric goals and the already busy life rhythms of those I thought to lean on. It looks like I need to take on all aspects of fundraising, and I just don’t have it in me to treat people like walking wallets.

This is the burden that’s grown to unbearable proportions over the past several weeks. Reminding myself that God is faithful and His resources are unlimited doesn’t effectively counter the idea that I’ve failed too much to imagine continuing forward. It seems time to take on a second job for income, knowing that it will reduce the hours and energy I can give to this ministry. If I’m not in ministry, I’ve wasted the last eight years and the sacrifices of several loved ones. My standing prayer request at the moment is for clarity and against discouragement.

That brings us to the title statement: “Dear Someone, thank you.”

Two weeks ago I visited my friends up north. Not only was it a refreshing encouragement to be with my deaf friends, but they were willing to provide taxi service, lunch, and a love gift of $100 from “Someone.” I decided to put that toward a women’s retreat happening soon in the same area.

Yesterday, I noticed that a local pastor (and friend) intended to speak on John 14, and I could use a little “I’ve gone to prepare a place for you…” right about now. Still exploring church options near my new home, I chose to go there. The radio message was Dr. Paul Nyquist’s “Heirs with Christ,” on being adopted by God. I was warmly greeted by several people at the church and had some discussion with the Lord about perhaps serving with this body, then the pastor gave his message on the Fatherhood of God. His focus was verses 13-14, “ask in My name, and it will be done.” Then, being prompted, he asked the congregation if someone would give $20 to the visiting missionary. I was overwhelmed with more greetings, encouragement, a couple of contacts, a prayer, and a total of $386.

Afterward, I had a text from my friends up north. The cost of the women’s retreat is covered. Another unexpected blessing.

To all the Someones who have given of themselves to pray, encourage, affirm, and provide — especially recently — THANK YOU! I am overwhelmed.

Fear Not – Week 4

Only One God – look to Him and Fear Not

Judges 6:10, the Midianites are raiding the Israelites every chance they get, taking or destroying their food resources. (Rather like the movie Magnificent Seven – good flick, that) Anyway… after 7 years of this agony, the Israelites turned to God and He sent a prophet to remind them of their history, His history with them… He’s the One who brought them out of Egypt, brought them through 40 years of wilderness with their clothes and stomachs in good order, conquered the people who were on the appointed land, etc. He reminded them of all the instances where He proved to be the only God alive and active – and He reminded them that He had said FearNot‬ their gods, yet they had chosen to honor the false gods and reaped the slavery that comes with such a choice.

Do we do the same? Do we turn away from the One who we know by testimony and example to be the only God alive and active, as we follow the gods of opinion, money, even government? There is One who has proven Himself….look to Him and #FearNot.

Those who honor God need not fear Him

Judges 6:23, An angel of the Lord shows up to commission a man named Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. He’s the least likely candidate, which for God makes him the most likely candidate. Throughout the scriptures, we see that God appreciates humility – not groveling worthlessness, but humility, an honest appraisal of oneself before Him (not before others). The conversation goes on, and Gideon comes to realize he has encountered an angel, at which point he cries out, and the Lord says, ‪#‎FearNot‬, be at peace, you’re not about to die.

You see, though we have become a bit jaded about the awesomeness of God, and of His messengers, a dose of reality looks a lot different than the cavalier manner in which we dare to approach Him, or respond when He approaches us. Recall the demonstration on Mount Sinai. (Ex 20:20, January 9)

Gideon realized his humanity in contrast to the holiness before him, and he responded appropriately, with full humble attention. Those who honor God, wholeheartedly, need not fear Him.

With Jesus, we have a home and a family

If you enjoy love stories with a Cinderella flavor, Ruth is the book for you. She is the young woman from a foreign, even hated, heritage who watched her father-in-law, brother-in-law, and husband die, said goodbye to her homeland and sister-in-law, then followed her mother-in-law to Israel with those beloved words, “Your people will be my people, your God my God”.

Don’t skip too glibly over those words – she’s leaving all that she knew because she has developed a trust for the God of the visiting family she married into. Her mother-in-law encouraged both ladies to return to their original households, to the culture and deities they grew up with, to the resources their fathers could provide, and Orpah took her mother-in-law’s advice, while Ruth took her mother-in-law’s hand.

The story goes on, and in Ruth 3:11, her late husband’s cousin says to her, “‪#‎FearNot‬, you have a home and a family here with us.” At the end of the book, we find she becomes King David’s great grandmother, and many generations later the family line includes Jesus.

As we come to God, with a realistic assessment of how foreign and needy we are, and an appreciation for the life He offers, we will hear Him say, #FearNot, you have a home and a family here with us. It may require abandoning all that is familiar, but the rest of the story makes it more than worthwhile.

God will preserve His honor & worship

I Samuel 4:20 – Here is a scene that looks similar to the birth of Benjamin, son of Rachel and Jacob, but the lesson is its opposite. As with Rachel, the attending women tell a dying mother, the wife of Phineas, to ‪#‎FearNot‬, she has given birth to a son. She names the child Ichabod, meaning the glory of the Lord has departed – this, based on her knowledge that the Ark of the Covenant has fallen into Philistine hands, her husband and his brother have died in battle, and their father Eli, chief priest of the temple, died when he heard the news.

There is no up-side in this story – but there is a word to the attentive. You see, Eli and his sons, and perhaps much of Israel, had come to regard not God Himself, but the symbol they had, the Ark of the Covenant. In that object, albeit a holy and divinely commissioned and protected object, they had placed their focus and confidence. If it was with them, they were victorious – they forgot that it was God’s presence, not the Ark, that they needed. Eli’s sons abused the role and responsibilities of priests, divinely appointed spiritual leaders and representatives between God and His people. They squandered the privilege as a means to get free meat. (there are two ways to read that phrase, both accurate, see for yourself)

As for the Ark, God knew exactly where it was and how to manage preserving it unto Himself. As for the priesthood, God had already arranged to preserve that too, through a faithful young man named Samuel who knew both the procedures of the temple and the voice of God – and he followed and honored both. This begs us repeat that God keeps His promises, and will accomplish His objectives with or without us, two good reasons to #FearNot.

The women who served as midwives to Ichabod’s birth sought to bring comfort to his mother, so they said something nice – Fear Not, you have a son – and she died, giving no response. Ichabod is mentioned by name only once more, ten chapters later, as the uncle of a man who served in Saul’s army. Rachel’s last comfort was not available to this woman, she just…died.

The story tells us that we run two opposite and very great risks – one, squandering what God has given, whether that’s talent or position or grace… the other, making idols of what God has given. We serve the Eternal Living Almighty God, not a building, not a gold box of artifacts, (not even a constitution), and certainly not ourselves. When we forget that, we risk not only ourselves, but our communities and our children.

Oh Lord, may we not earn the name Ichabod. May we not forget that Your glory is in You and in those souls who are Yours, not in emblems. May we seek Your face in our distress, for You alone are our salvation, then, now, and later. Selah, amen.

On the positive side, there’s God’s continued attention to the Ark and Samuel.  #FearNot – God will preserve His honor and true worship

God forgives the sincerely repentant

I Samuel 12:20 – young Samuel is grown up and has been the priest of Israel for many years, never defrauding them nor dishonoring God as Eli’s sons had done. They begged God for a king, as though He were not king enough for them, but everyone else had a king, so, y’know… We get in so much trouble when we trade God in for what everyone else has…

Anyway, God and Samuel let them know what the price of a king would be – their resources would go to feed, protect, and decorate him and his home and his entourage – that is the way of human kings. Samuel reminded them of the King they rejected, the One who brought them out of Egypt, routed their enemies, and provided them a homeland, asking nothing for Himself but that they be His faithful representatives. Samuel asked God for a demonstration, and the Lord sent thunder and rain over the harvest-ready grain….they trembled, as they had at Sinai and on several occasions since, and repented of their foolishness.

This is when Samuel told them ‪#‎FearNot‬, and admonished them to follow God. He reminded them that for His own name’s sake, God would never forsake His people. But be warned, neither will He fail to deal with disobedience – He knows how to release people to the consequences of their own choices while preserving a remnant of the faithful. As you read the words of Samuel to Israel in this moment, you hear the pre-echo of Jesus, saying to a woman “I do not condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” #FearNot, God forgives the repentant, for His name’s sake.

Jesus, the victorious, is our Protector

I Sam 22:23 – David, anointed but not yet crowned king, came through Nob and a few other towns with Saul on his heels intent on killing him. 85 priests of Nob were slaughtered at Saul’s order because they failed to report on David and worse yet, gave him some bread and the sword of Goliath. One man, Abiathar, escaped as Saul’s wrath fell on every man, woman, child, infant, ox, mule, and sheep in town. Abiathar reached David with the news, and David replied, Fear Not, stay with me and you’ll be safe from him.

There are those who follow the idea that if you can’t defeat your enemy, abuse his friends and helpers. Saul was such a man as it regarded David, and Satan is such a one…. the people of Nob, and you and I, are nothing more than a way to inflict pain on the One who loves us. However, Jesus has already defeated Satan, so He has what it takes to fulfill His commitment: Abide with Him, and ‪#‎FearNot‬, all in His care are kept safe.

This isn’t to say there’s no struggle and/or no pain – but there is no real eternal harm that can reach those who belong to Jesus.

God gives friends to remind us of Him

I Sam 23:17 – Saul is relentless in his pursuit of David, even after David has shown himself to be capable but unwilling to harm Saul.  Jonathan is both Saul’s son and David’s friend, and the scriptures say Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God and reminded him to #FearNot – God’s declared plan would be fulfilled.  “You will be king,” Jonathan said, “and I will be by your side.”

Sometimes we need an eye we can see, a voice we can hear, and an arm we can feel to remind us that though our troubles keep coming, God doesn’t let our challenges overwhelm His plans, and we don’t have to face such things alone.   As Solomon noted in Eccl 4, friends are sometimes lifelines, and we are blessed to have them.

Whose hand can you strengthen, in God, today?  Tell them, #FearNot, you are not alone.

 

Fear Not – Week 1

God is our Shield and Reward

It is said that there are 365 “Fear Not”‘s in the scriptures…the first is in Gen 15:1, God’s promise to Abram that He will be both shield and reward…a promise that’s valid for us as well, and a good reason to #FearNot in 2015.

Happy New Year.

Realities don’t have to be Roadblocks

The second “Fear Not” is in Gen 21:17, where God tells Hagar that He knows her situation and her son will live. He allowed her responsibilities to far outweigh her resources, and He committed Himself to be her supply, even though she was a stranger and outcast. Your realities don’t have to become your roadblocks – look to the One who works miracles, sees individuals, and says things like “Fear not” and “Come to Me”.

God keeps His promises, no matter what

The third “Fear Not” is in Gen 26:24, where the Lord appears to Isaac, introduces Himself, and says “fear not, for I am with thee”…and He repeats to Isaac the promise He made to Abraham about multitudes of offspring – for His servant’s sake. God keeps all His promises, for His own name’s sake if not for ours, and sometimes, because He made the promise to someone else who loves both us and Him. You might be alive because of your grandma’s prayers – and because God will keep His promises, no matter what…therefore, #FearNot.

Life invested in God is never in vain

I’m not sure it’s among the aforementioned 365 ‘fear not’ statements, but it exists and it comes next and it says ‘fear not’, so here y’go… Gen 35:17 – Jacob & family are traveling, Rachel is in hard labor with her second son, Ben (his name got adjusted before the paperwork was filed). The midwife says “fear not, you will have this son”.

Sometimes we may feel like we’re giving our last ounce of strength – and some truly have – but when it is given to and for God, it will live on whether we do or not. Invest yourself, your all, in His kingdom, in what He has prepared for you to do, and whether life is long or short, it will not be in vain… #FearNot.

God redeems and restores

The next ‪#‎FearNot‬ shows up in Gen 46:3, when God tells 130 year old Jacob that He will go with the family to Egypt, and when it has become a nation, He will bring them out again – moreover, that Jacob and Joseph, father and long-lost-son, will be together until Jacob’s eyes are closed in death.

The God who knows all, plans ahead, redeems bad situations, and restores relationships says “Fear not, I will be with you and yours.”

The humble need not fear God’s people

Jacob and Joseph have about 17 years together, then it’s Joseph’s turn to say ‪#‎FearNot‬, as his brothers feel certain that they’re about to see his revenge for being sold into slavery. What they have is his forgiveness, long ago granted, and finally realized. Gen 50:19 – the humble have nothing to fear from those submitted to God.

People submitted to God can be trusted

In Gen 50:21, Joseph reiterates the promise he made in Gen 47, that he will provide for his brothers and their families. People who are fully submitted to God can be trusted to keep their promises, especially when they are based in plans God has already declared, ‪#‎FearNot‬

 

“My Song”, a movie about identity

This film is 24 minutes long, and worth attention in every frame.  It is done by folks in the UK, so they use British Sign Language (BSL), with audio and captions.  You may want to have tissues handy.

2012 August: Landing

August is gone.  My to-do list isn’t.

I have a tri-board that I’d like to set up, scrapbook style, with seed thoughts for deaf and hearing as they relate to ministry.  I’m really excited about it, while I’ve been focused on getting other things done first. A board, check.  A plan, check.  Initial reviews, check.  Some materials, check.  Well, it’s a start…

I assembled the box of NAD materials and made a fine list of every organization represented – now to get everything (printer, data, memory) in the same spot at the same time to finish it off so I can make it accessible to others (which was the whole point).

I’ve got 3 sewing projects in mid-stitch.  The biggest hurdle was the one thing I expected to be easy-breezy, ain’t that just how life goes?  I’m taking on two new challenges that I may never do again, or I may do them again and charge big prices.  Either way, it’s an opportunity to learn & grow, and perhaps something to check off for my bucket list.  Getting the machine out has also inspired me to think of several other salable ideas, as though I needed more ideas or directions to go in…  One of the sewing projects, without question, is ministry…the other two might be.  There is one more that jumped to the forefront, a matter of prayer for some time already, and a matter of faith from the first stitch to the last – may it be so. (He knows what that’s all about, and anyone can pray for the undisclosed things He’s doing in other peoples’ lives)

I made a list of the many things I learned while on my tour of the southern midwest, then pulled out the most important ideas that floated to the top and whittled out a lot of other insights.  This, I presented to our congregation on the 19th, in a service we’re confident God had a hand (or two) in.  Now I need to go back & revisit the items that landed on the cutting room floor, there’s some good stuff in there.  As for the message, key points were:

  • God owns everything
  • God prepares to provide
  • Relationships are God’s highest priority

There were a couple of babies born, a few families mourning the loss of loved ones, newlyweds returning from their honeymoon & setting up a lovely home, and more insight into issues that people continue to struggle with.  Add to that the start of school with all the excitement and angst that entails. Both the prayer list and the praise list got longer, but we can rest assured that God doesn’t change, and He doesn’t let anything thwart His purposes, and He doesn’t miss even one of our cries for His attention and/or help.

I may have a job in one-on-one client services with a deaf person, or perhaps the person is hearing and relies on sign language, I’m not certain.  A second interview is pending, and of course there’s the confidentiality thing.  Speaking of which, you must see this cartoon – it’s too perfect!

There are budding relationships with new people, and I’m looking forward to nurturing those and starting more.  I went on an outing with friends, and circumstances worked out to meet a person who is just starting their foray into the signing world – the whole thing had Divine Appointment written on it.  One long day came down to 30 minutes of introduction, but that’s how God works.  It’s not the first time He’s dropped a short opportunity into a very long day – hope He keeps doing it!!  Pray for these seemingly random people, that they will recognize how un-random they are to Him, and how much He cares for their specific situations.

As the weather cools down, I’m increasing my focus on what it will take to build a tiny house (on a towable trailer) – I’m starting to look at options for where to build it, which of course includes what materials and people will be available to help with the heavy lifting.  It could turn into a ministry of it’s own, we’ll just have to see.  Once I get a movable residence, I can make sure I’m always within reach of whatever deaf community I’m serving in.

I still have 2 in-home Bible studies ongoing here.  In one, we’re with David in his flight from King Saul and his murderous jealousy.  It’s a chapter-by-chapter read through the Bible.  In the other, we’re looking at statements Jesus made and exploring the context and “the rest of the story” that takes it beyond a mere soundbyte to an actual understanding of what He was saying.  This is driven by a devotional application and allows for exploration of a variety of themes in a short time.  Our church begins a study of James this week, which will likely spark some interesting discussions.  Add these to your prayer list, especially that in our confidence we don’t gloss over or misconstrue something very important for the people involved.  I’m very relaxed in the role of working through the scriptures, but I also have a very high regard and respect for the weight of the responsibility.  My prayer on the 19th applies, as always…  “Hide me, You teach.”

And with that, I’m off to dart from cave to cave with David and my Bible study companion.

Blessings to all.