Hidden Talents

Web on grass. Spider on a web. Dew on a web. Solar morning.

If God has given the tiny spider the gift to create such beauty, imagine the talents he’s hidden inside of you. You were created in His image.

Inspired by Genesis 1:27.

#dailyinspiration

Compassionate Heart

Kindness Words in Sky Compassionate Generous Background

I pray today for a compassionate heart — that my thoughts and actions demonstrate kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. When others hurt me, may God give me the heart to forgive them, just as he has forgiven me.  His love fills me with peace and I am thankful.

       Inspired by Colossians 3:12-14

#compassionateheart

Drink in the Glory of the Lord

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Drink in the glory of the Lord

Fill yourself with His word

Pour out your heart and receive him

And blessings will overflow

Shine His light brightly

As a beacon of hope to others

And may the peace that only God gives

Fill you forevermore.

       By Shelia Stovall

“Not Cancer”

shelia 

Last Sunday I opened the previous day’s mail to discover a report from my latest mammogram. “Your recent mammography examination showed a finding that requires additional imaging studies for a complete evaluation. Most such findings are benign (not cancer.)” I have a sister and an aunt who are cancer survivors. The letter said, “not cancer,” but all I could see was, “CANCER.”

 After my second mammogram on Tuesday afternoon, my husband sat with me in a small curtained room awaiting the results, and something unexpected happened.  The radiologist reported that my second mammogram was completely normal. I don’t know what happened to the “finding that might be benign. “  Was it a miracle or was it human error? I’ll let you decided. But I thank God for the good results, and I am thankful for my Bible study group who prayed over me.

 I would worry and say aloud, “I will put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for my feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In every circumstance, I will hold up the shield of faith and extinguish those flaming darts of the evil one.  I will wear the helmet of salvation, hold fast to the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. I will pray all day in the Spirit.” And I would experience peace. After a while, I’d start to worry again, and then I’d repeat the scripture again and peace would follow. Whatever issue you are facing, God has it covered, and as a dear friend reminded me, “God is bigger than cancer,” and He’s bigger than anything you are facing.

Ephesians 6:10-18

#notcancer

 

 

Perfect Peace

shelia

I pray that you can let go of the worries of the day and trust him with everything: your children, your spouse, your job, your church, your health, your home, your food, your clothes… every detail of your life. The answers you seek are found in the scriptures. Every verse in the Bible is God breathed. You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, For the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

2 Timothy: 3:16, Isaiah 26:3-4, Isaiah 53:5

#perfectpeace #scriptureisgodbreathed #trustinthelord

Endurance

Endurance

Sol Andrews stood up straight with shoulders back and glared into the antique mirror spotted with age, just like him.  I look old, he thought. But he felt young… at least he had until yesterday. Sol’s shoulders slumped as he remembered feeling as if someone had punched him in the gut after hearing Dr. Singer say, “You’ve got cancer.”

This is all Minnie Bess’ fault, he thought. She’d nagged and pushed him to get a physical, and when Dr. Singer brought up a colonoscopy, he’d almost refused. His Daddy had lived to be ninety and never went to see a doctor because he’d claimed, “Doctors will make you sick. That’s how they make a living.” And now he was sick. At least that’s what he’d been told.

Sol ignored the new, bright orange t-shirt placed on the bed by his wife.  He turned around and stomped to the chest of drawers. Today was the thirty-fifth annual 5k Weldon Wellness Run, and by golly, he was going to be in the race, cancer or no cancer. He’d let the young guys on his team from the filling station crew stand out like a tangerine. He still had his shirt from the first race, and he was going to wear it like a badge of honor.

He sighed, If only I could go back in time and tell the young man of forty, “The best is yet to come.” He’d had a lot of good years and running had made him feel healthy and strong, but now he had… cancer.

Sol dug through the clothes and found the faded trophy, and pulled it over his head. When he walked into the kitchen, he found Minnie Bess drinking coffee while reading her Bible. She looked up and shook her head. “That shirt looks like it ought to be in the rag bag.”

“It’s old and worn out, just like me.”

She stood up and gave him a hug, “Nonsense. You’re the same good looking man I married fifty-five years ago, and still running faster than a scalded dog.”

“My fast days are over.”

“I’ll have no part of a pity party. I’ve fixed you a half-a bagel with peanut butter. You don’t want to run out of energy.” 

He looked at the kitchen clock and sighed. “I’ll eat and then we need to go.”

“Let me take a picture and post it on Facebook. The grandkids will get a kick out of seeing their old grandpa running in a race.”

“I wish they lived closer.”

“Me too, but we’ll see them soon.”

Sol finished his bagel and coffee in record time. “Let’s go.”

By the time they reached the town square, the crowd was already large. It was easy for Sol to find his team. The bright orange shirts the filling station crew wore stood out. The young guys seemed to get a kick out of Sol’s original t-shirt.

 Billy West shook his head. “That’s an old shirt, Mr. Sol.”

Sol clapped him on the shoulder, “Just like me, but the seams are still holding together.”

The Chamber of Commerce Director, Tom Shaw, spoke into a bullhorn. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to line up.”

Everyone shuffled and tried to angle closer to the start line.

Tom continued. “I’d like to read a verse of scripture before we start. The rowdy crowd quieted, and Tom spoke into the bullhorn. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Sol considered the familiar scripture and the weight he carried today. He’d been shocked to hear that he was sick, and then angry. The words from Hebrews reminded him that he could let Jesus carry this burden.

Within seconds, Tom’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Prepare to start - On your mark… Get set… Go!”

Sol’s adrenaline kicked in, and he started running. He passed a young mother pushing a toddler in a stroller.  He waved as he caught sight of Minnie Bess in the crowd of bystanders. Both children and adults pushed through Main Street. Sol normally looked down when he ran, but today, he wanted look up and savor every minute.  The trees that lined the street were beautiful, and the shade from the leaves blocked out the heat from the sun.

After the first few blocks, Sol’s shins started to protest, but he looked up and prayed, Forgive me for my anger. He rounded the corner and felt a new surge of energy. In the distance, he could make out Noble Biggs, his old buddy from grade school, sitting in his wheelchair, passing out cups of water. Sol grabbed a cup, “Thank you buddy.”

“Show those young’uns what you’re made of,” Noble said.

Salty sweat stung his eyes while he gulped the water. “I feel like I’m made out of Swiss cheese.”

“Drink another cup then.” Sol grabbed a cup and threw it over his head and started jogging again. As he passed the half-way point, his left leg started to cramp but he limped on and kept his head up. He felt an urge to sing. In his mind he heard, To God be the glory great things he hath done…  

The cramp in his leg caused him to pause and try to work out the kink. He gritted his teeth and limped along. Other racers passed him. I should just give up, he thought as he saw the backs of so many racers. He didn’t know if he could finish the race. He bent over, rubbing his shins, he prayed, Lord give me strength and I’ll give you the glory. He felt a small hand touch his. When he opened his eyes, he saw eight year old Becca Reynolds next to him. “You okay Mr. Sol?”

“I’m about whooped, but I’m gonna do my best cross the finish line.”

“I’m tired too. Let’s sit down and quit.”

He looked into the dark eyes of the little girl, took her hand and started walking, pulling her with him.

“Let’s not give up. Remember what Mr. Tom read from the Bible when we started, Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

“But I’m tired.”

 “Me too, but I’ve run this race before, and when we cross the finish line, we’re going to give God the glory.

As they walked, Sol continued to hear the familiar hymn in his head. “Let’s sing Becca, and he belted out in his strong baritone voice, “To God be the glory, great things he hath done…”

Becky started singing with him and in the distance he could see the finish line. Crowds from the sideline started clapping and cheering them on. Sol held onto Becca’s hand. The cramps in his legs disappeared and they picked up their pace singing all the while. Others on the sidelines started singing with them, Great things he hath taught us, great things he hath done, And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son.  

Sol caught sight of Minnie Bess in the crowd, and next to her, were his two sons, their wives and his four grandchildren. He felt a surge of joy and had to wipe the tears from his eyes as all the people were singing, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the people rejoice, Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son, And give him the glory, great things He hath done.

Sol crossed the finish line and his family overtook him with hugs. He didn’t know what the future held, but he knew he’d been blessed beyond anything he deserved, and he would run his race with endurance, because he could look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of his faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.

#endurance

Camp Habitat

Last week I was blessed to attend a Christian Youth Service Camp called Camp Habitat, a part of Habitat for Humanity of Simpson County, KY. The teen volunteers spend a week, camping out at the local High School and spend the days helping low-income, elderly and disabled citizens of Simpson County. We spend the evenings celebrating and praising God and participating in organized recreational activities such as swimming, a cookout at the creek and team competitions.

I am reminded to appreciate my health and the ability to serve. I am not a skilled worker, yet somehow, I and a group of 4-5 kids, aged 13-16 have managed to accomplish our assignments.

When we arrive at the work site, the first thing we do is ask the homeowner if they have any prayer needs. On the first project during my first year, I forgot to do this until it was time to leave.  The couple we were serving were in their eighties, and we had cleaned the aluminum siding on their house and cleaned out their gutters. Two of the girls helping had already returned to the van. It was a hot, humid afternoon, and we were all exhausted. I wiped the sweat from my face with a paper towel and watched the homeowner inspect our work. When he returned to our small group huddled in the shade, I remembered to ask him if he had any prayer requests.  He shook his head and so I asked him if we could pray for them.  “If you don’t mind, I’d like to pay for you,” he said.  I’ll never forget the first words of his prayer. “Thank you Father for answered prayers. Thank you for sending these people to help us.”

I don’t know if I’d ever been the answer to someone’s prayer. I had entered the work sight with a bad attitude. For you see, I had not planned to be a crew chief.  I had been responsible for organizing the food for the week and had done that task. But due to a lack of adult volunteers and an abundance of teen volunteers, we were going to have to turn down projects and reject some teen applications if I didn’t step forward. I am thankful God blessed me even though I didn’t deserve the blessings. He sent me to the right sight, to the right couple, to remember who I was serving. Each homeowner I’ve served has blessed me. My cup runneth over.

It was difficult for me to serve this year because a loved one is ill. I considered cancelling at the last minute, but I knew this would be a strain on others, and I would also miss an opportunity to share my faith.  Not all of the teens who attend Camp Habitat are Christians. During our morning work schedules, one of the teens leads a devotional, and we pray together. On Thursday, we didn’t have a planned devotional, so I spent the time sharing God’s plan for salvation. My skills for home improvement projects are limited, but I know how to tell people about Jesus and His love for us.

As I struggled with the decision to work at Camp Habitat this week, I prayed and studied scripture. The one I love who is ill knows Jesus and regardless of the outcome of her health issues, she will spend eternity in heaven. It was a difficult decision, but I prayed about it, and felt God would have me serve Him best at Camp Habitat.

Satan attacks us and those we love when we are serving Jesus. I was reminded of 1 Peter 5:8 “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. But as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, he cannot harm me. Have you experienced spiritual warfare when you are serving the Lord? Has the evil one put up barriers to block you or to distract you? Remember, ““No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39.

 

#HabitatForHumanity

Why I Go To Africa

Many wonder why I travel all the way to Africa to share the gospel when there are so many lost in America. I go because I have compassion. Imagine knowing that everyone you passed on the road this week is destined to spend eternity in hell because they’ve never heard the name of Jesus? No one in the mall, at school, at work or in the grocery store has ever heard the name of Jesus. That’s the reality of Niger. Virtually everyone I saw, everyone I passed on the road, and in the market place will spend eternity in hell unless someone tells them about Jesus. Niger is 99.9% Muslim.

On our recent mission trip, we shared with perhaps 2,000 and six believed. Since January 2014, seventy-seven people in Niger have believed and accepted Christ. How many times did you hear about God’s plan of salvation before you believed? The people we visited have only heard once. I could see their interest. That’s why I must return, and I hope others will go with me in 2015. I hope to return as long as I’m physically able.  And I pray others will accept the responsibility to go. I pray God will call those who are able. I understand some can’t due to family responsibilities or poor health. I understand being afraid to go. I’ve been there. But I hope you will pray and ask God to remove your fear.

The setting in Niger is Biblical. I felt as if I had stepped into the book of Acts as I walked among the mud brick buildings and women gathering water at the wells. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit as the crowds gathered. It seems like a dream but I know what I saw and experienced.

I am nothing without God and I can do nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit. God does not need me to accomplish his plan, but I’m thankful he allows me to be a part of his plan. As I looked at the villages of 5,000, 8,000 and 15,000, I felt helpless. I was helpless. But then I prayed and witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope you too will have the opportunity to share the name of Jesus with people who have never heard his name. You will experience something I lack the words to describe.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

Joy and Light

During our orientation meeting, Mark reviewed our schedule for Wednesday morning. He asked us to share Bible Study with a group of three women believers in a remote village. Bible study would be followed with teaching them a craft project in an effort to help them earn money.  He said, “The last time we saw Anna, her hands were ravaged with sores where she’d been bitten by termites. She had been to the mound in search of food for her family.”

Mark developed the idea to teach them to create notecards. He would provide the supplies needed and would buy back the finished product. Enabling the women to make a marketable item was our version of teaching them to fish for life rather than giving them food for the day. It would have been easier to donate money; however, everyone in Niger will be saying “I believe in Jesus” if we start distributing cash. It’s a dilemma. We want to help, however, gifts can create false conversions.

I’m thankful for Terra’s artistic gifts and was relieved when she agreed to teach the women. Her assignment wasn’t an easy task. Women in Niger usually don’t attend school and can’t read or write. Explaining the purpose of a notecard was difficult. It took several attempts to describe which side of the folded paper was the front. Next they had to be taught how to hold a pen, and how to trace the outline of the wooden pattern on the fabric.  Finally, Terra taught them how to grasp the scissors to cut the material and glue it to the notecard.  Keep in mind there was no table or proper work surface. It took more than an hour to create the first finished notecard.

I will never forget their smiles of joy as they each proudly presented their finished notecards.  Mark will return next week and buy all they have to sell. Some might look at these simple cards and shrug. But when I view the results of their efforts, I’m reminded of their joy. I may never see these women again until we meet in heaven. Until that time, I’ll remember seeing the light of Jesus in their eyes, in a country that desperately needs His light.

I’m the Least

I started a Bible study, Gideon, by Priscilla Shirer in February. As I studied chapter six in the book of Judges, I felt a bond with Gideon.  “And he said to him, ‘Please Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’” Judges 6:15.  So many times I’ve asked myself, “What can I accomplish by going to Africa?  I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t speak the language. I am the weakest.”

As we entered a new village on the second day of our trip, I felt the heaviness of our task. It was a long drive so it was already hot. The population of the village is about 5,000. We had to ask a young boy to lead us to the school so we could deliver a gift of school supplies. The director of the school was polite but curt. As he turned to leave, we were on a slight hill and I could see the many walled compounds. Again I wondered, “What can we accomplish?”

We stood at the entrance of the first compound where a group was standing inside the walls. Our translator, Biba, smiled and explained the purpose of our visit. Without hesitation, they told us they did not have time to talk with us. We thanked them and moved down the sand trail and listened. You can’t see over the walls of compounds, but you can find women by listening. The women are always working. Their jobs include: gathering water, pounding millet or cooking and caring for their families. It’s easy to hear the rhythmic thud of pounding millet.

Our team continued to walk and approached another compound and saw a circle of women. We greeted them and asked permission to visit. They simply stared at us without speaking. Biba said, “They have not offered us an invitation. We should go.”

After our third rejection, I felt defeated. I didn’t know what to do. We’d travelled so far and no one wanted to listen. I was thinking about Gideon and remembered that God had told him, “But I will be with you.”  I stopped in the middle of the street and said, “We need to pray.” We prayed for God to clear a path for us and to call his sheep. “My Sheep hear my voice.” John 10:27.

After our prayer, we continued to walk through the maze and found ourselves in a central public area with a well.  Many women were gathering water. We greeted them and explained that we were Christians. Immediately, one of the women left and returned with a mat and unrolled it. We sat on the mat in the shade and started to share. A man suddenly pushed through the crowd and sat across from me. This is very unusual behavior for a Muslim man. I expected him to tell us to leave. Instead, he said, “It is good for people to hear what you have to say. Everyone should decide for themselves.” This was an amazing comment to come from a Muslim man.  We continued to share scriptures and covered the IMB’s version of From Creation to Christ, also known as C2C.  The growing mass of people closed in on us. As Biba interpreted, her eyes grew large as she studied the pressing crowd. This is not normal behavior for Biba. I’ve been with her through two other mission trips and she is always calm and confident. However, she continued to interpret and speak fearlessly. Every mission team needs a Biba. She is a blessing.

Each of our team members spoke boldly and proclaimed the gospel. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit so strongly it was overwhelming. We estimated that perhaps 100 people had surrounded us. When we rose to leave, the crowd dispersed. That’s when I realized that we were sitting in the shadow of a large mosque. It had been to my back as we entered the central courtyard. I had only seen the well. We had been preaching the gospel in the Mosque courtyard. I felt weak in the knees as I realized what we’d done.

For the rest of the day, we were welcomed with smiles, laughter and interest. I believe two factors impacted our success: 1. We prayed and called on the power of the Holy Spirit.  2. Our prayer partners were praying. It was about 11:00 am in Niger when we prayed, but 5:00 am in America. I believe one or more of our prayer partners had risen early and prayed for us.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.  I am the least, but He is the most powerful. That’s why I’ve been called to go to Africa.