Persecution and Praise in Niger

This week has been a challenge for Christians in Niamey, Niger. According to BBC News Africa, over 70 churches have been burned by protestors angry about French Magazine Charlie Hebdo’s illustration. But the believers in Niger are proving that their joy is in the Lord.

niger_burned_church

Look at these faces. Can you see the joy? The Christians in Niger’s know they already have everything they need. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:10

I’ve visited Niger three times in the past three years, and the violence caught me by surprise, but I should have been expecting persecution of Christians because the mission teams in Niger are reaping a harvest. The name of Jesus is spreading like water in a flood. All along the great Niger River, people are hearing the name of Jesus for the first time on the Road to Wanzerbe, the Road to Ayorou, the Road Between, the Road to Mehanna, the Road to Tera, The Road to Namaro, and The Road to Guya. We should expect to hear of more persecution in this country that is 99.9% Muslim.

map_prayerMap 3

The gospel is spreading because national believers continue to share their faith with their families, neighbors and community. It’s impossible for IMB missionaries to visit areas that where previously open, but local believers are spreading the “Good News.”

group

Last week I read the book, The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. This book includes countless examples of Christians being persecuted and the impact their persecution has on the spreading of the gospel. It’s by the believers’ faith and joy in the face of persecution that draws others to Christ. God uses what Satan means as evil to grow His kingdom. Consider Pastor Sani Nomoa’s words. “I call on every single believer in Niger to forgive and forget, to love Muslims with all their heart, to keep up the faith, to love Christ like never before.” See the entire article: (https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2015/01/3630042/#.VL6QYv7bcvA.facebook

Pastor Sani Nomoa is living according to God’s holy word. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. The Christians in Niger are an incredible witness to their persecutors. I have to wonder how my faith would stand under similar circumstances. One of the reasons I’m drawn to Africa is because I learn so much from the believers who have a faith that I cannot fully comprehend – even when I see it.

A Good Samaritan Orphanage I visited in February 2013 was attacked because it is run by Christians. I’ve been told by my friends in Africa that the devastation at the orphanage was exaggerated, (Praise God). The protestors burned the children’s mattresses, but the buildings have not been destroyed.

This child is singing a praise song in the orphanage. You may feel pity, but these orphans are blessed. They are among the few in Niger who have heard about Jesus and His love.

orphan_singin

I was unable to organize a mission team to return to Niger this year and I’ve been frustrated, but I can still pray. Praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ, in Niger is the most important thing we can do for them. “You must also help us by prayer so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayer of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:11. Please pray for the Christians and the Muslims in Niger. Pray for the harvest.

prayer2

Giving money to organizations in Africa can be risky because it’s difficult to discern what organizations are trustworthy. That’s why I give to the International Mission Board (IMB) and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The IMB is a branch of the Southern Baptist Convention. To learn more about this organization, you can visit their website:

http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/entities/imb.asp

IBM, PO Box 6767, Richomond, VA 23230-0767

To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, you can visit this website.

http://www.imb.org/main/lottie-moon/default.asp#.VMKIedN0y1s

To learn more about the missionaries I’ve visited in Niger, you can check out this website.

http://seekingthesonghai.blogspot.com/

BF_church

The Songhai are a beautiful people group, loved by God. Many are still waiting to hear the name of Jesus for the first time. If you can’t go or send funds, please pray. To sign up to be a prayer partner with the missionaries in Niger, you can subscribe to their newsletter: thephillips@pobox.com.

Hosea 14: 3 In you the orphan finds mercy.

van

#Africamissions #seekingthesonghai #theinsanityofgod #persecution #niger #IMB #lottiemoon

Seasoned With Salt

salt

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you know how to answer everyone.

This verse crossed my reading this week, and I keep pondering, ‘seasoned with salt?’

Salt is used as a preservative and also enhances the flavor of our food. Food without salt is bland, but if too much is used, the meal is ruined. Salt is a mineral our body needs. Too much or too little can leave us physically ill and can lead to death.

So if our words are full of grace and seasoned with salt, the words should be loving and pleasing to hear. We should choose our words carefully, enhancing the conversation. Just like salt can preserve food, words seasoned with salt can preserve our relationships. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone, but we should always be kind, and respectful. Do you think people feel better or worse after speaking with you? How do you feel after hateful words have been exchanged? If a relationship is damaged, how long does it take mend? Can the relationship be restored?

Sometimes I don’t know what to say, especially if someone is hurting, or if I’m upset. During those times, I must choose each word with care. If only I could remember to stop and pray, particularly if I am angry. I believe it’s impossible to hold onto anger when we pray in the name of Jesus. He intercedes for us, grace shows up and I’m given the words I need.

The amount of salt in our conversation should be balanced. Too much and it may seem insincere – too little and we can come across as indifferent.

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you know how to answer everyone.

#seasonedwithsalt #fullofgrace #Colossians4:6

What is Grace?

church

2 Corinthians 12:19 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Grace is loving the unlovable. Grace is forgiving the unforgivable. Grace is mysterious. Grace is merciful. Grace is more important than being right and having my way. Grace does not hold a grudge. Grace leaves no room for bitterness.

What more do we need than God’s grace?

 

New Mercies

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s birthday. She passed away last July. I miss her in ways I never imagined. She always made me feel special on my birthday. I could ask her to do anything, and she’d drop everything to help. We didn’t always agree, especially on issues of spoiling my children. To be honest, she spoiled us all. She loved her children and grandchildren more than anything on earth, and they could do no wrong in her eyes. Now that I have my own grandchildren, I understand.

Judy_Jacob1

January has always been a difficult month for me. For some reason, I feel more keenly the absence of my parents during the winter. I long to sit with them next to the fire, just to talk. I can smell the wood smoke, hear my Daddy laugh and my Mom scold him. If I could just hug them one last time.

mom_daddy

Many of my friends are suffering through a difficult season. One sweet friend passed away just before Christmas. We’d lost touch with each other. I regret not taking more time to seek out old friends. Another friend from my childhood lost her husband. My heart is broken for her. It seems so many of us are dealing with the loss of someone we love.

I struggle with winter depression, but reading scripture helps me overcome the darkness. A friend directed my attention to Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. (23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “

winter_sunrise

Some of the new mercies I experienced last week included: the beauty of a morning sunrise, a cardinal at the bird feeder, and the sweet face of my sleeping grandson. There are new mercies each day, even during a bitter, cold season. The more difficult the season of your life, the more important it is to search for his mercies. Remember, it is just a season you are passing through.

A closeup photo of a Cardinal bird in winter.

#newmercies #@sheliastovall.com #devotionalnewmercies

Will My Dog Go to Heaven?

I’m sure there must be something in my genetic make-up that has caused me to be a dog lover. My extended family members have the same condition. I see countless pictures of their pets on Facebook. We’re a bunch of dog-lovin’ people.

dogs

I can feel alone in a room full of people, but I am never lonely with my dogs. They comfort me when I’m sad, greet me enthusiastically, and love me unconditionally.

Our Labrador, Kate, died last spring, and my grandson continues to ask, “Where’s Kate?” Am I wrong to tell him, “She’s in heaven?”

Kate_Matthew

Many theologians don’t believe our pets will be in heaven, but I don’t know. God has prepared a place for me according to John 14:1-2 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

kate

I am thankful that God has given me the gift of wonderful dogs. Is it too much for me to hope that they will be waiting for me? Mathew 21:22 says, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

No one knows what will be in the place God has prepared for me. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Consider Isaiah 11:6-9

(6) The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (7) The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (8) The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. (9) They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

My interpretation of this scripture is that heaven will be full of animals, and none will harm.

lionandlamb

What’s your opinion? Do you think my dogs will be in heaven?

#dogsheaven #@sheliastovall.com #doglovers

 

Books I Read in 2014

According to my records, I read fifty-six books in 2014. I recommend them all. There were many books I started and did not finish. If a book doesn’t hook me by the end of Chapter 1, forget it. I have too many books on my list.

What do you think my reading choices say about me?

devending jacobinvention of wings

words in the dustgoldfinch

worthy browns daughterhelp thanks wow

under thew die and starryhomemade life

once upon a timeorphan train

still lifebreathing on her own

the lowlandvalley

aviatorsparchment

longbourn chestnut

all the lightsnow flower

cemeterysignature

delicioussilver

every secretforbidden

here to staycocktail

loves comes homesweet mercy

fireflyeverything

all mya place called hope

 

uncommon appeallizard

storiedsweet olive

magnoli market

greatermr. miracle

killing jesusbook thief

sarah's keyleaving time

gray mountainchristmas mourning

the leanin doggod rest

the christmas letternavy seal noel

redbordgideons gift

 

handsomesweet mercy

 

 

 

My Favorite Book Covers for 2014

I planned to post my top ten favorite book covers for 2014.  I couldn’t do it. There were too many I loved. See below my favorite twenty-five.  Can you name your favorite book cover from 2014? What was your favorite book this year? My favorite book for 2014 was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Unfortunately, the book cover did not make the cut.  Happy New Year and Happy Reading in 2015.

daccidental_book_club

all I love and know

and the dark sacred night

art of arranging flowers

 

cathedral of the wild

delicious

ghost wanted

glass kitchen

ice cream queen

king's mountain

long time gone

lost lake

lydias party

magnolia city

magnoli market

miracle in a dry season

No book

pearl

sea garden

seagrass pier

still life

story keeper

take this cup\

when love stirs

when the cypress whispers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Go of Perfection and Find Peace

I always feel lacking in skills as I study beautiful homes decorated for the holidays in popular magazines.  I have attempted to copy ideas from these beautiful pictures. The result has left me feeling worn-out and discontent. Don’t let that happen to you.

christmas_tired

In our home, I am the cook, gardener, laundress, grocery shopper, and house cleaner. I’m often called to babysit my two grandsons (which I love). I also have a full-time job outside of my home, which I enjoy. My to-do list is long, and I’m sure your schedule if full too. For many of us, a normal day is overwhelming, and our budgets are strained. The burden of the holidays can drag us down like Marley’s chain from A Christmas Carol, especially if you pile up credit card debt.

jacobmarley

My home will never be picture-perfect. It may not be acceptable to Martha, Oprah, or Rachel, but that’s their problem. I encourage you to let go of their magazines’ idea of perfection. An imperfectly decorated tree is not the end of the world. A small tree can be perfect.  In fact, there is no law stating you have to put up a Christmas tree.

Little Christmas tree, gifts and candlelight on a white table.

I am attempting to be more selective when choosing holiday activities. Last evening, I joined a group and sang Christmas carols to elderly shut-ins. One sweet widow hugged me with every ounce of her strength. And then she held my hand while others sang. Her embrace filled me up with contentment.

carols

I adore having a house full of family and friends. No one who loves me will care if my home isn’t magazine worthy. My family has never criticized me for using a frozen pie crust instead of making it from scratch.

family

God has given us the perfect gift of His Son. It is not necessary for us to stress out because we can’t find the perfect present; we can’t afford, for someone who probably already has everything they need.

holy-family

My wish for you during this holiday season is for you to find the time to enjoy family and friends. If you don’t have “the peace that surpasses all understanding,” my hope for you is that you find it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.

Merry Christmas!

#letgoofperfection #Christmasdevotional #peacethatsurpassesallunderstanding

 

 

10 Free Gifts You Can Give to Boost the Christmas Spirit

Sunday – December 14

Look for people who need a hug, especially widows. The human touch can heal broken spirits.

Daughter hugging her mother and smiling to her.

Monday – December 15

Grab those extra coupons in Sunday’s paper. If you don’t get the Sunday paper, stop by your local library. Most are happy to share the coupons from the daily/weekly papers. Take those coupons to the grocery and tape the appropriate coupon onto the products in the store. Someone will leave the store with extra money in their pocket. It’s an easy way to be Secret Santa.

Beautiful Latina Woman at table in Kitchen with Coupons

Tuesday – December 16

Stop by the nursing home and ask the nurse on duty who could be cheered by a visit. Offer to sing Christmas carols. It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune. End the visit with a prayer.

Nursing_home

Wednesday – December 17

When it’s your turn at the check-out counter, let the person behind you go first.

 

Customers Standing In Line At Checkout Counter In Supermarket

Thursday – December 18

Think of those adults from your childhood who made a difference in your life, perhaps a teacher or Sunday-School teacher and write them an email or note to thank them. Few things cheer me as much as a card from one of my Sunday-School students who are now adults.

thank you

Friday – December 19

When traffic is heavy, look for others trying to get out of parking lots. Yield and let them out and send them on their way with a happy wave.

waive_trafficSaturday – December 20

As you finish your last minute shopping, be on the lookout for elderly or handicapped shoppers that might needs assistance.

assist_shopper

Sunday – December 21

Call an old friend this afternoon just to catch up and wish them a Merry Christmas.

Senior Woman Enjoying Hot Drink Whilst On PhoneMonday – December 22

Scan your email contact list and find someone who might enjoy a note of encouragement. Include a special memory of the two of you together.

old man in eyeglasses working with laptop at homeTuesday – December 23

Think of those you’ve touched within the past ten days of giving. Lift up their names in prayer in secret. Pray for God’s blessings on them.

Stressed young housewife in living room

Wednesday – December 24

Reflect on the gifts you gave through the past ten days that did not cost you a penny and you will discover you gave yourself a precious gift, the feeling of peace and goodwill towards all.

chrismtas

Merry Christmas!

#10Freegiftsyoucangive

 

Are You Ready for a Storm?

When decorating for the holidays, I love arranging my Christmas village. My grandson, Matthew, discovered the miniature people and buildings last year.

Matthew_village

The citizens of the village experienced a few minor accidents. There was nothing too serious that Super Glue couldn’t repair.

Broken

Repaired_figure

After a visit from Matthew, the streets look like a storm has passed through the little village.

Real life is like that, isn’t it? We have everything arranged and planned just so, and then, BOOM! A job loss, illness, or the death of a loved one, knocks us off kilter. We are all going to face storms. Wouldn’t it be nice if Super Glue worked on our broken lives? I know someone who discovered something better than Super Glue, and I’d like to share her story with you.

I met a young teacher about fourteen months ago. Tiffany Barnes Gray was about five months pregnant and also suffering with a brain tumor. She was the guest speaker at a conference held at my church.

tiffany_pregnant

I’m happy to report that she delivered a healthy baby girl named Rosie.

Rosie

 

But Tiffany had difficult decisions to make regarding further treatment.

july_17_tiffany

I’ve followed Tiffany’s progress for months and continue to pray for her. A little over two months ago, Tiffany suffered a seizure and was immediately scheduled for surgery. Her walk through this trial has inspired me. If you too are experiencing a difficult time, I hope you’ll be encouraged by her words. With her permission, I’ve listed some of her Facebook posts starting with the evening before the surgery:

October 1, 2014

“O LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. Psalms 30:2

I am so blessed to have so many people on my side and praying for me tonight and tomorrow. I have never felt more love. The word above promises healing. I am crying out tonight, and tomorrow I have faith that I will be healed! I’m so thankful for God’s word which does not fail me.#‎strongerthanbraincancer

Oct_3

October 5, 2014

“Using a walker today! Praise God!”

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October 6: 2014

“Jesus take the wheel!”

October 10, 2014

“I had a bad day. I felt sorry for myself for a split second. Therapy is hard! I felt like giving up, I’m not proud of myself. Daily reflection: Being a victim simply keeps you stuck, paralyzed and powerless to actually be able to do anything about the situation that you are in. I can’t control my situation, but I can control the outcome. Forgive me lord for losing faith today. Tomorrow is a new day!

On October 31, 2014

“I am a huge believer in blessings, I find the harder I work, the more blessed I am! I used my left arm today! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

On November 28, 2014

“Eight weeks ago I would have never expected that I would be doing this! I couldn’t even get out of bed after brain surgery. Stroke victims rarely recover so quickly, God is so good, all the time! I’ve never been coordinated, but I’m so thankful that I can still walk! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

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November 30, 2014

Tomorrow will mark 60 days since the brain surgery/stroke. In just these couple of months God has shown his presence in my life more than ever. I learned to walk again, I’m using my left arm, and can now make and open a fist with my left hand. There is still a long road ahead, but I’m so thankful to say that I’m returning to work tomorrow! I can’t wait to be back with my LES family; it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be! #‎strongerthanbraincancer

Isaiah 40:31 But they 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.

It’s amazing what a child of God can endure with the strength of the Lord. I stand in awe of what Tiffany has overcome. But then I know, her help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121-2. Tiffany has built her house on the rock. Matthew 7: 24-25 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (25) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Whatever storms come Tiffany’s way, I have no doubt that she will endure with a smile on her face because her joy comes from the Lord. You too can experience this same steadfast love and joy by placing your hope in Jesus.

It’s simple according to Matthew 7: (7-8) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Please add Tiffany and her family to your daily prayers. I pray for God’s blessings on Tiffany and her family. I pray that God will heal her completely and that He will be glorified. I pray that God will use every second of her suffering to turn to His good and to grow His kingdom. I ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

#strongerthanbraincancer

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