Monthly Archives: January 2015

1000 Wins

Congratulations to Coach Mike Krzyzewski for his 1000th win. As a Kentucky Wildcat Basketball fan, it’s difficult for me to pat him on the back when some of those victories were losses for my favorite basketball team.

coachk

Photo: Rob Kinnon, USA Today Sports

Few of us will make the headlines like Coach K, but we all have gifts and special work that God has prepared for us. Ephesians 2:10 For we were all his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared for us.

boston_healthcare

This is a picture of Terrian Lakes, a security officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. He walked through a blizzard to get to his post. Countless healthcare workers put their health at risk every day. A few make the news, such as the Ebola fighters, but most go unnoticed, even by the patients they serve.

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Firemen and police officers put their lives at risk every day as do countless other first responders. You may be like me, and know that you don’t have what it takes to be that kind of hero, but there are many ways to make a ‘win’ for God.

I’ve recently learned of a program called, Room at the Inn. It all started in December 1986 when four churches in Nashville, TN opened their doors to the homeless. Their core values: Through the power of spirituality and the practice of love, we provide hospitality with a respect that offers hope in a community of non-violence.

Kitchen Serving Food In Homeless Shelter

Today there are over 180 congregations with over 6000 volunteers. I wonder how many thousands of homeless people have slept in a warm, safe environment, offered food and shown hospitality as a result of this program. One person saw a need, acted on an idea, and thousands have benefited.

Each of us has opportunities to make a “win” for the Lord every day. We can lift a prayer for a stranger, encourage someone who’s down, and offer a helping hand. We can do our unglamorous jobs to the best of our ability.

Someday, we will all be called to be accountable for our actions. 2 Corinthians, 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Consider the treasures you are storing up for yourself. Luke 12:15 “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

As impressive as Coach K’s 1000 wins are, the more important achievement is the number of young people he’s mentored. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say Coach K brought thousands to Christ? And maybe he has… but only God knows.

angles

I want to live my life in such a way that there is rejoicing in heaven. Luke 15:10 “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” I want to win hearts for Jesus. That’s the ‘wins’ that count.

#1000winscoachk #roomattheinn

 

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.

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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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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