Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hope

There once was a magical golden flower that took up residence here in Little Burma. It was magical because, unlike common flowers, it didn't wilt and die within a few days of being plucked. Oh, no, this amazing little thing bloomed strong and radiant for 3 whole weeks; bringing cheer, love, joy, and most of all serving as a reminder of hope.



Ironically enough, the hand that plucked it (mine) was also the hand that ended its life. She was a thriving, happy little daisy until the day I decided to change her water. Within hours my little flower, who had nearly become an actual member of my home (we're still convinced she was a fairy of some sort), was shriveled up and gone, beyond all healing.

With the demise of Little Burma's visible little light of hope, a strange kind of darkness was settling over my heart as well. Surrounded by overwhelming circumstances on every side, like my poor little flower the hope that is in my heart was being choked by the death grip of doubts and fears. The sight of hope was almost completely gone with my daisy, but faith stepped in when hope was not clearly evident.

A week ago I found myself wandering around Little Burma. My heart felt like it just couldn't take one more blow. I searched and searched for another little blossom to help, but I searched in vain. The daisies were all gone, and the doubts and fears aimed to shoot what they hoped was the death blow. But, thanks to Jesus, my HOPE, those arrows bounced back and landed on the ground, worthless. During another walk with my Mama Chandler, we found some pretty purple wildflowers: "A blessing from Jesus!" They reminded me that, with Jesus, hope is always there, just not necessarily the same shape you think it should be. Circumstances still seem in some cases to be hopeless, but faith is the belief that hope is evident in the things unseen! Faith sees defeat as simply the prelude to a wonderful fairytale of love, peace, and joy. Faith chooses to see hope where hope has taken on a kind of invisibility cloak.

Once again I strolled the grounds, pondering peace and praise and faith...and all the while, searching. Sure enough, I found it: in my heart with my Jesus, and in my yard.

Hope


May these words from God's heart encourage you and remind you of the hope we can have in Jesus. Whatever hard things you are facing, remember to bring Him thanks and praise. 'Give thanks in all things' includes the trials, and we are also commanded to be joyful in them. I think this is the challenge for me, because thanks and joy come from resting in hope!

'We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treaure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you. It is written in the Scriptures, 'I believed, so I spoke.' Our faith is like this, too. We believe, and so we speak. God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and we know that God will also raise us with Jesus. God will bring us together with you, and we will stand before him. All these things are for you. And so the grace of God that is being given to more and more people will bring increasing thanks to God for His glory.' ~2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fearless

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

I talked with our youth group girls last night about this verse. We first spent some time in thought, then we each wrote down one (or several) of our biggest fears.



Death.
Being alone.
Pain.
Losing a loved one.
Being rejected.
Trying new things.
People dying without knowing salvation.

We spent some time reflecting on our fears. "So why do we fear these things?" I asked them.
"Because we don't trust God," one girl quickly responded. She hit the nail on the head! For if we say we believe God is all powerful, and since we know that He is in control and has a plan, to fear something He has allowed to be set in motion is to doubt His love for us.

5 But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. 6 But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind.7-8 Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:5-8

Fear has no place in the life of one who has entrusted their very soul to God's capable hands. To fear is to doubt, to doubt is to lack faith, to lack faith is the absence of trust, and where there is no trust you cannot love. And withholding our love from the one who created us is a terrifying thing indeed.

So instead of fearing things we have no control over, we continued to the rest of the verse. The part where we see that God gives us the real deal: power, love, and a sound mind.

Power. A spirit of power is courage, steadfastness, and a warrior-like strength that rises up and challenges the validity of the fears that bombard us. It seeks truth rather than settling for the convenient emotions of worry and self-pity. To be filled with God's spirit of power is to remember that, even when on the surface it looks like evil is winning, Love conquers all.

My dear children, you belong to God and have defeated them; because God's Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Love. When you love someone, you trust them. You don't doubt their ability to do anything. If its an unconditional love, you love them even when things are chaotic and they seem to not really be there. To love leaves no room for fear in our hearts-it is a peace of mind that is unwavering in its faith that God's promises are true.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30
Sound Mind. This takes a lot of work! One of the girls and I discussed the act of guarding our hearts and minds from things that would will fear into them. It doesn't just mean NOT fearing-it means not allowing doubt to enter so it won't grow into fear. It means filling our minds with God's promises and truth, and recalling them every time doubt tries to enter. To have a sound mind, you have to rely on God's spirit of power to fight fear, and His love to cover all wrongs. It is peace through all the trials of life, even when the 'worst' does happen to us.

And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7


I was up late, well after the youth had all been taken home and the other leaders and I had gathered for prayer last night, thinking about it. To leave fear behind is such a change of mindset, it really takes a lot of work to switch from that easy life to the life of complete peace and trust in the Lord. But really, fear is just the cheap, dollar store plastic ring that most of the world buys thinking it is the real deal, when God's way is the true diamond, worth more than anything. Yes, it requires a price: sacrificing our own desires to live as He wants, and sometimes sacrificing even more. But 'the sufferings that we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us.' (Romans 8:18)

Fear is full of nothing but pain, death, loss, hurt, loneliness, rejection, and separation from God. Fearless is all of God's wonderful promises blooming in our hearts; full, rich, and fragrant as a rose.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Something Beautiful

She walked down the aisle to the heart-warming song, "God gave me you," decked out in purest white gown and western headdress. The words of the song were thickly accented by the country singer, and her face shone with love and devotion that only came from walking through life's trials with the man she was about to more permanently continue through life with, forever until death should separate them. Love, joy, and a long sigh of relief. Her dream was finally coming true.

pure joy



A little 4 year old boy met his mother for the first time since arriving at the orphanage 3 years ago. The first child I made a heart connection with as I cuddled him through a bad case of malaria, and many more times through cases of lonely tears. After 3 years of longing, heartbreak, and feeling lost and alone, he is reunited with his mother. Home, in his forever home, at last.

speechless



The sun rose over the horizon just as we sang of Christ's resurrection and the power of His salvation that Easter morning. A group of us stood and sat in a cluster around her hospital bed, worshipping the Father with our dear friend and offering her our love in hopes to restore some strength to her weary soul. God's Spirit filled the small hospital room, and not only restored souls, but ignited them with joy, too.

simply heavenly



She smiled big and beautiful as she opened the door to her home and pulled me inside with boisterous exclamations of welcome and delight. Her daughters all greeted me warmly, and the oldest pulled me into the kitchen where she'd just finished cooking chicken for her family. The taste reminded me of Uganda, despite being made in an Asian home, and we talked cooking for a good while until her sisters arrived. Mother and daughters sat with me and chatted in Burmese and English interchangeably (so I only spoke English...bummer!), daughters translating for mom when her thoughts were too complex for her english skills. I left their home with promises of returning for dinner with the family soon, and a warm heart.

my beautiful friend <3


A quiet, gentle, yet strong woman sits with me as we sip pink lemonade on a Sunday afternoon, and she pours out her heart to me. I listen quietly, responding with smiles or concerned sounds when appropriate, and occasionally inserting encouragement and opinions. Her two little boys know me well, and are content with ignoring us; its a good thing, too, for what is on this woman's heart this day is deep and complex, and sad and full of the unknown. I in turn share some of the hard, ugly stuff of my heart that leaves me with nothing but acceptance of my own inability to ever measure up. We both cry tears of frustration over some of life's trials and our own stupid mistakes, but remind each other of God's grace and faithfulness. We praise God for His mercy, and when I tear myself away she farewells me by kissing both cheeks lightly, wrapping my up in her warm jacket (for, silly me, I neglected to dress appropriately for the northern weather), with urgings to 'come again, my sister, and soon.'

Flowers from our friend for Connie!


His face finally dawned recognition at the second glance, quickly followed by surprise and joy-his oldest girl was home! Five long months of separation, and a two-day early surprise arrival were just the sort of combination to create laughter and joy and a good evening in our home that day. Which was followed by 8 more days of adventures, chatter, fun and good family bonding times.

we celebrated a birthday :)



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All of the above events have happened just in the past month, and I'm sure I have forgotten many more which I could share with you. On the surface they certainly don't seem like a group of stories you would usually put together, but each one is actually my plan B for the particular situations...and in some cases even all the way down to plan Z. For each wonderful tale, I have another, less cheerful tale of a failed plan, plot twists, dark, and sometimes even evil, events that took each story in a direction that held no apparent promise of any sort of good ending. The prequels to these stories are full of pain and heartache, sin and disappointment, sickness and hopelessness.

But through it all-pneumonia, abandonment, fleeing countries, separation from family, loss, stupid decisions, frustration, impatience, you name it-God triumphed over all.

"But the Lord's plans will stand forever; His ideas will last from now on." Psalm 33:11

The plans I had in mind might not have come to fruition, but the plans that God ordered and directed were certainly much better than any I could have ever come up with.

"'I say this because I know what I am planning for you,' says the Lord. 'I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

The stories still hold much pain and hard times, but God is there. His glory shines through it all.

"The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us." Romans 8:18

This month has taught me: whatever jumbled-up-mess the events of life look like, God is at work and can use even the ugly to make something beautiful. And, not only is He certain to work all things for good and for His glory, He is EAGER to do so! What a mighty God we serve!

"The Lord wants to show His mercy to you. He wants to rise and comfort you. The Lord is a fair God, and everyone who waits for His help will be happy." Isaiah 30:18


"He has glory and majesty;
He has power and joy in His temple.
Praise the Lord, all nations on earth.
Praise the Lord's glory and power;
Praise the glory of the Lord's name.
Bring an offering and come to Him.
Worship the Lord because He is holy."
1 Chronicles 16:27-29