It Only Takes One

This past week I read about two amazing women of faith who changed the course of history for many people.  Each one overcame difficult circumstances in her own life and stepped out in faith to make a difference in the lives of others.

The first one is Abigail.  Abigail’s story can be found in the Bible in the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 25.   Abigail was married to a wealthy, mean-spirited, and prideful man named Nabal, who lived in Maon.  David, who was not yet King, and the troops he was leading, had been in the wilderness near Maon for some time.  They had been kind to Nabal’s shepherds, and even provided them protection.  When David heard that Nabal was celebrating sheep shearing time, he sent a message to Nabal asking for him to share some provisions with David and his men.  Nabal rudely refused, and the messengers returned to David with news of the refusal.  David was angry and vowed to kill Nabal and all of his household.

When a servant alerted Abigail to what had happened, she was appalled and asked her servants to help pack up food and wine to take to David.  She sent the servants ahead with the provisions, and followed behind them to present the gifts to David and his army.  When Abigail met David, on his way to kill Nabal and his household, she bowed humbly at his feet and pleaded for mercy for herself, her foolish husband, and his household.  She reminded David that vengeance was for God to carry out, not him.

Abigail had the courage to do what she knew was right.  In doing so, she saved her husband and his household from death by the sword, and saved David from committing a terrible sin that may have changed his future.  When Abigail’s husband died a week later,  David sent a messenger with an offer of marriage.  Abigail accepted and became one of David’s wives.

The second amazing woman is Gladys Aylward, who lived from 1902 to 1970.  Gladys was a tiny, dark-haired housemaid from England, who felt called to be a missionary in China.  In her own words, she was “insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way.”  She was removed from a missionary training school because of poor performance and told she did not have what it would take to be a missionary.  She was hired to work as a live-in housemaid for two missionaries who had just returned from China.  While she was living with them, Gladys learned as much as she could about China, studied the Bible, and saved almost every penny she earned.

Gladys finally earned enough money to pay for her passage aboard a Trans-Siberian Railway train to China.  The journey was long, difficult, and dangerous.  Gladys’s life was jeopardized on more than one occasion, but she trusted that, if God wanted her to go to China, He would get her there safely.  And He did.

While she was in China, Gladys endured suffering, loss, hardships, fear, and physical pain. But this small British woman was determined to do what God asked of her.  Because of her faith, her strength, her amazing courage, and her hard work, Gladys did great things in China.  She converted many Chinese people to Christianity, stopped a prison riot, brought about prison reform in one village, provided food and medical care to many, and saved the lives of about 200 orphans.  Wow!

Did these women work completely on their own? No.  Abigail had the help of her servants and Gladys encountered many helping hands along the way.  But each woman was one person willing to take that first step into action.  Each one bravely stepped into the unknown.

If God calls you to do something, but you don’t think you have what it takes to make a difference, remember these women.  With God’s help, one person can make a difference.  You can make a difference and so can I.

Let’s Be a Separate People

If you have never read the book of Esther,  I highly recommend that you do.  I have read it more than once, and during one of my readings, the passage quoted below seemed to jump out and speak to me.

Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live.  ~Esther 3:8 NLT

Many of the Jews living in Persia after the exile, maintained their customs and religious practices.  Doing so kept them obviously separate from the people whose culture they had been forced into.  These Persian Jews refused to practice customs, or to follow rules that went against what they believed God wanted from them. Imagine how much strength and courage that took.

I believe that God calls us, as followers of Christ, to become a separate people also. We are called to worship our Creator publicly and regularly.  We are called to resist the ways of the world,  to hold on to our beliefs, and to practice living the way we believe God wants us to live.  Our lives should look different from those around us who are of the world.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  ~Romans 12:2 NLT

There are days when I do okay living in the world without being of the world.  But there are other days when I allow myself to be pulled into situations where it is hard to act like the person God is calling me to be.  Sometimes this happens when I am with a group of people who I really want to like me;  or it may happen when I am with someone I want to impress. At other times, I may just want to avoid having any kind of conflict.  I was never one of the popular kids, and even though I am grown up now,  I still struggle with wanting to be part of the in crowd.  It can get tiresome feeling like I don’t fit in.

Yet, I know that God is calling me to do just that.  God wants me to be different from those who are not living the lives He wants them to live.  God doesn’t want me to fit in, if that means going against His will.  He wants me to be faithful and obedient.  In order to better separate myself from the ways of the world, I need to be faithful in prayer, to regularly study God’s Word, and to surround myself with people who will hold me accountable.

Do you also struggle with this?  Please share your thoughts with me.

God and My Girlfriends

In 2017, Reba McEntire released a new album filled with songs of inspiration.  One of the songs is titled “God and My Girlfriends”.  I love the lyrics to this song, especially the chorus:

God and my girlfriends
They’re always there when
I’m feeling down, always around, lifting me up
I love how they know me, forgive me, and show me
Again and again, I can depend
On God and my girlfriends

These words remind me of how important my relationship is with God and with the special women friends that I have.  God is always there for me in every situation.  He knows my heart.  He knows my strengths and my weaknesses.  God hears every one of my prayers, spoken or silent, and He should always be the one I turn to first.

But God created us to be in community with one another.  Friendship and fellowship are vital.  I need special people in my life to encourage me, love me, hold me accountable, forgive me, laugh and cry with me, and pray and praise with me.  It’s not always easy to build and nurture these deep relationships because it takes commitment, time, and work, but it is worth the effort.  I am a volunteer women’s ministry leader because I feel called to help women develop deep, meaningful friendships with other women, and I believe that Christ should be at the center of these relationships.  He should be our common bond.

Do you have the kind of friendships that Reba sings about in this song?  If not, reach out and try to connect with other women.  Look for a Christian women’s fellowship in your area, or maybe start one of your own.  If you are not ready for a group experience, try reaching out to one woman who may need you as much as you need her.  Through these special friendships, God reaches out to us and can help us lead others to a relationship with Him.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. ~Galatians 6:2 NLT

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.  But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.   Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT

Glory Sightings

At the beginning of our staff meetings, my boss asks us to share glory sightings, or ways we have seen God at work during the past week. This practice has made me realize that I don’t spend enough time really looking for God at work in the world. I need to pay more attention to how God works in my life and to how often I let an opportunity for a personal encounter with Him pass me by.  I need to wake up to God’s amazing work.  The evidence is all around me.

Not too long ago, I was given an opportunity to practice being intentionally observant.  I participated in a Photo-a-day challenge sponsored by Rethink Church, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.  I was given a word-of-the-day to ponder, and then asked to post a photograph that illustrated its meaning for me.  I found old photos to represent some words and snapped new photos for others.  Some words were particularly difficult to capture in a photo.  I had to stop and really think about the meaning of each word I was given.  I also had to take a good look around.  As I searched for just the right picture, I found that I was viewing some things from a different perspective.  It was a great experience!

Photography is a great tool for me to use to view the world around me.  I am going to challenge myself to look for pictures of God in this world more often–in nature, in people, in what I see, in what I hear, in what I read, etc.  I want to overflow with glory sightings to share.

How about you?  Do you see the hand of God in your daily life?   Are you ready to look at life in a new way?  What tools might help you do this?

A Simple Act of Kindness

A simple act of kindness can mean a lot.  I was blessed to be the recipient of an act of kindness that made me understand how true that statement is.

I had gone to Walmart to deliver my husband’s lab coat to him in the Vision Center.  I was thinking about trading cars with him for the afternoon,  so I parked in the employee parking area – a long way from the store entrance.  After dropping off the lab coat and meandering through the store for awhile, I decided to leave.  Unfortunately, a storm front had moved in and brought with it pouring rain and gusty winds.  The location of my parking spot seemed extra far away as I glanced out into increasingly wet lot.

My sweet husband loaned me a small umbrella and I made my way through the downpour, sloshing through puddle after puddle, to my car.  By the time the umbrella and I were both in the car, I was drenched.  I drove to a nearby convenience store to get a drink before heading home.  I was already soaked, so I didn’t think a quick run into the store would do much harm. Boy, was I wrong!

After purchasing my drink and dashing back to my car, I discovered that the engine wouldn’t turn over.  It was pouring, I was cold and wet, and my car wouldn’t start.  This was not what I had planned for my afternoon.

After trying several times to start the engine, and hearing it click in defiance, I called my son and asked him to rescue me.  I had to wait  awhile for him to get there, and after 20 minutes or so, I tried to start the car again.  It worked!  The engine sputtered to life.  I called my son to tell him my car was running.  Since he was only a couple of minutes away, I told him to come anyway so I could put gas in his truck.

My car also needed gas, so I when my son arrived, I pulled up to the pump.  I got out, swiped my credit card for both of us, and got ready to dispense my gas.  There was a small cover overhead, but it was not keeping the wind and rain away from me as I began to fill the gas tank.

A very nice gentleman, carrying a big umbrella, climbed out of a nearby truck.  He walked up beside me and held the umbrella over me while I pumped my gas.  It was a small gesture of kindness, but it made a big difference to me.  His simple act kept the rain off my body and put some sunshine in my heart.  It alleviated some of the gloom of that rainy afternoon.

When you have the opportunity to do something nice for someone, remember that even very simple acts of kindness can mean more than you might imagine.

Pray and Pause

I recently purchased some prayer beads made of olive word.  These aren’t just any prayer beads.  These beautiful beads are called Pray and Pause beads.  What a wonderful idea!  In between each prayer bead is a smaller bead.  The idea is that when my fingers move from the larger bead to the smaller bead, it’s time to pause to listen and reflect.

Wouldn’t it be great if I approached my prayer life that way on a regular basis?  What would happen if, when I stopped to pray about a situation, I also paused to allow God to speak into my heart or take action in my life?

Here are some thoughts about how I can do this:

  • I can pray for peace, and then pause to allow God to fill me with His calming presence.
  • I can pray for wisdom, and then pause to allow God to give me the right words to say, or show me the right actions to take.
  • I can pray for guidance, and then pause to allow God to show me where He is leading.
  • I can pray for patience and compassion for difficult people, and then pause to allow God to equip me with the right attitude.
  • I can pray for courage, and then pause for God to clothe me in His armor.

Whatever I pray for, I need to pause and wait patiently for God to do His will in His time.
  Do you need to had some pauses to your prayers?

But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
~Isaiah 40:31 NRSV

God’s Call

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
~Proverbs 3:6 (NRSV)
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
~Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)
Have you ever felt like God was calling you to do something?  I have felt like that many times through the years.  I believe He has called me to lead Bible studies, to write this blog, to help people find creative expression, and to start and grow a women’s ministry. Sometimes His call has taken me outside my comfort zone, but not always.
Recently, I have been trying to discern what God is calling me to do now.  Is my ministry dream the same as His?  Do my plans line up with HIs plans?  Am I using my gifts to further His Kingdom?  Am I growing into the person He created me to be?  You may be seeking the answers to these questions, or questions of your own.
How do we discern God’s will for our lives?  How do know we are hearing His call correctly?  We have to ask Him.  I believe that, if we seek His guidance, he will show us the way to go. When I have paid attention to God’s direction, He has given me signs that point the way. When I have needed confirmation that I am moving in the right direction, it has been provided.
These signs and confirmations have come in many forms: in a passage of Scripture, in a book I’ve read, in an email from a church member, in a word of encouragement from a friend, in a thought placed upon my heart, in a sermon on Sunday morning, during a conversation with a mentor, etc. 
Are you paying attention to the ways God is calling you? He will lead the way.  We just need to seek the path He has for us and then be willing to walk that path with Him.