The telling of a story

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

It’s late, and I have plans to get up early tomorrow morning to pray with a friend, but I need to share this tonight.

I volunteered to blog for World Help because I wanted to use my blogging for more than promoting my own voice. I knew the founder as a professor in my college days. If I wanted to be a part of an organization that was really out there doing humanitarian work and not losing donor’s money in the shuffle of administration, and where I felt confident they were who they said they were, this was it.

As a freshman in college, I heard Vernon Brewer share amazing stories. He had a way of telling stories that mesmerized even the most sleepy collegiate, from his life-threatening health issues to mission trips to less-than-friendly countries. One such story was a little boy, Nildo, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And 25 years later, I remember Nildo. His name was lost, but burned on my heart was the story of a street child who Brewer’s daughters took under their wing, fed and clothed, and gave the gift of very bright white tennis shoes. I remember their chagrin on discovering him the next morning with dirty bare feet again as the bright shoes served as a target and were stolen from him overnight.

Listen as Noel Yeatts, one of those daughters, retells this story:

 

Tonight, I read of Nildo’s death. As Noel wrestles with this ending and what it means for her and others, she writes,

My story gave people the ending they craved. It kept them coming back for more. It gave them hope. And, it neatly wrapped up an important truth. If we reach out and do our part, lives can be changed. Nildo was that shining example of a life transformed. He was inspiration to look past the masses and zero in on the one child, the one person God has put in your path. He helped us “see the one”…

I am realizing now more than ever before that Nildo’s story was never my story to begin with. I was just a small part of his story. A big beautiful story but one that I cannot write all the chapters in. There is no alternate ending to choose from, just one tragic end to a life beautifully lived.

And here’s the question I have started asking myself: How much are we willing to risk to let God write our stories? Am I really brave enough to let God write my story … my whole story – with no alternate endings to choose from?

And there is the heart of it all. I don’t write my own story or the story of others. I share the story that God is writing. It’s scary, because that means I don’t control the ending, the Author does. It is my privilege and joy to share it with you.

To give a gift in Nildo’s memory, which will help support his family, click here.

World

My church currently has a team of people on the ground in Rio, continuing the work of spreading the gospel to the people there. Would you pray for them?

Go where I send thee

It’s time for #fmfparty again. Five minutes to write on a word prompt. Last week it was welcome. This week, the word is send.train

And the first thing to hit my mind is the old children’s song:

Children, go where I send thee
Well, how shall I send thee?
I’m gonna send thee one by one
One for the little bitty Baby
Born of the Virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem.

I’ll have to search youtube for the whole thing. It’s a little silly, especially when it gets stuck in your head. (Hey! I found a Hall & Oates version, who knew?)

Child, go where I send thee. And how shall I send thee?

train_graffitiWe have to be ready to go when/where God calls. And for some, like my friend, Eric Papp, or my sister’s friend, Sue Takamoto, it’s across the world. But for others, it may only be across the street.
Across the office.
Across the counter.
Where you are is where God is calling you in this moment.

Stop reading and look around you. This is where you have been sent. Is it a coffee shop? a bus? your living room? your cubicled office? a doctor’s waiting room?

Child, God is whispering for you to go where He sends you. It’s time. You are there. You have been sent. If you don’t know what comes next, pray to Him to show you who to reach out to, where to speak words of comfort, peace, healing, truth, and what to do next.

Go where I send thee.
I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

To the new year

Fireworks_tallWelcome new year.

Welcome blank slate. Welcome fresh start.

Welcome new challenges. Welcome the old faithful ones.

Welcome temptations. Welcome trials. Welcome hardships. Welcome stretching experiences.

Welcome new friends. Welcome unexplored places. Welcome firsts.

Welcome health; welcome sickness. Welcome riches; welcome empty pockets.

Welcome laughter; welcome sadness. Welcome births; welcome deaths.

If I truly believe God is in control and sovereign over this new year with its good and bad, joys and sorrows, easy and hard times, then I welcome them all. If…

…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

…then – welcome. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for His glory in 2015.

Fireworks_long

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

The Perfect Gift – an Advent series

After an October that should have completely overwhelmed me, I’m amazed to say that this year, the first in three years, I ended the #write31days challenge more excited about writing and blogging than before I began. I can only guess at why, but it definitely seems like God is at work in my heart and, perhaps, my words.

Earlier this week, I talked with my husband about starting another more relaxed series, perhaps looking toward Advent. It’s a little early for me; I typically prefer to keep the Christmas and all its trimmings on hold until after Thanksgiving dinner. I’m realizing, though, that this year will be very different. Due to the continuing upheaval in the state of our house (see Four lessons from a flood and the follow-up, Counting blessings and revealing messes), it seems silly to even think about Christmas decorations – there’s just no room in this mess! Combine that with other circumstances which mean we will most likely not spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with family, and I’m realizing that Christmas needs to happen in my heart this year or it may not seem to happen at all.

And then this gem of a song and You Tube video appears in my inbox. JJ Heller is one of my favorites (and her smile is contagious!). The song was just released today and you can buy it on iTunes. I immediately knew this song would be my theme for this Advent season.

Have we forgotten, we need some sorting out? Clear our minds; we will find what the story is all about…

Do we remember the wonders of His love? Will our voices join with the chorus up above?
Do we remember how on that silent night there was a baby who came to recall us back to life?

Instead of focusing on the gifts to be bought or exchanged, the decorations with which to deck the halls, the tinsel and lights and Hallmark movies, I want to highlight the Savior, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law. Would you join me here every week from now until Christmas for another reminder of the wonders of His love? Together, let’s explore this Perfect Gift, given for you, given for me.

He was the Perfect Gift. He came to bring us peace. Holy Child, our King.

The Perfect Gift - an Advent series

~~~

I’m linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday:

Day 31: Continually crushing

crushing your kingdoms

Every day for the month of October, I have participated in a 31 day writing challenge and today is the last day! If you would like to read all the posts in this year’s series, click here for the index post.

One thing I’ve recognized this month is that, while on this earth, we will never completely crush our kingdoms. We have the sin nature in us, always at war within us to regain control, to put self back on the throne. It’s part of the sanctification process that we continue to journey to be more like Christ.

To fight against this tendency, we need to learn to preach the truth about God to our hearts. Tim Chester, in the book, You Can Change, identifies four life-changing truths that we can cling to in this daily struggle:

  1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
  2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
  3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
  4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

This is a continual process. We are to be continually crushing the kingdoms of our own making as we grow closer to God. You can follow these steps as you grow.

  • Acknowledge: I’m completely sinful, but I’m completely loved.
  • Admit: I see the sin in my own life and I own that it’s wrong.
  • Determine: I choose turn from the sin to not do it anymore.
  • Recognize: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought.
  • Rejoice: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought, but he’s a bigger Savior than I knew.

Thank you for journeying with me this month. I hope you will continue with me as we continually crush our kingdoms and build up God’s kingdom.

Day 30: Seeking the True Kingdom

Fall LeavesYou may be asking yourself what the deal is with all this kingdom talk. It’s not normal in our day and age to talk about kingdoms. Why should it matter?

When we live for ourselves, we are focused on things that satisfy ourselves. At our worst, we hurt others to achieve the things we want. At best, we are seeking only our own good – or the good of others to promote our purposes. All of this falls short. In Isaiah, it says that the good things we do are equivalent to filthy rags:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Forget the good things we try to do, which clearly don’t amount to anything worthwhile – our iniquities or sins sweep us away like the wind carries off dead leaves. A few chapters earlier, Isaiah speaks prophetically of Jesus as being crushed for our iniquities:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

God caused his son to pay the penalty of our sins, death, in our place. In exchange, we are given the righteousness of God. By faith in his name that exchange happens, and we are reconciled to (restored to a good relationship with) God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Once that reconciling has occurred and relationship is restored, we are then free to focus on building his kingdom rather than our own. From the passage of scripture mentioned in Day 8, we set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. We put to death the things in us that build our own kingdoms. In their place, we:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If you’ve never done this, would you join me as we seek the true kingdom, the kingdom of God? Recognize that your best attempts at being good are still like filthy rags in the eyes of a holy God, accept that God took the responsibility for your sin and exchanges it with the righteousness of Jesus, and then, turning away from the earthly things within you, seek to live a life focused on the true kingdom, with God on the throne.

~~~

Tomorrow is the last day of the series. You can view all the posts on this index page:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 28: When longing for approval

Hopefully by now, you’ve identified which of the four root idols is your stumbling point, having used the reflective questions from last week. Thank you to everyone who commented with such openness about the root idol you see in your life.

Zephaniah317

Here’s mine: approval. Big time. Maybe 90% of what I do is done in light of what someone else will think of me. How I dress, what I buy, my ever-so-witty statuses and tweets. I blog (sometimes) so you, reader, will be moved to comment or like or share.

If you’ve ever said something nice to me in person, I probably treasure it and mull it over again and again. If you’ve ever had a negative or harsh word to me, well, like a cow chewing its cud, I ruminate on that hurt repeatedly. I worry almost constantly about whether or not someone likes me.

Here’s a ridiculous example from this week:  I grew up listening to Christian Contemporary Music. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons here; I would posit there’s good and bad CCM. Today, I listen to a mix of music with some CCM still thrown in, though frankly not much. In my car, I typically listen to music on my iPod connected to the stereo though bluetooth. When my iPod dies because I forget to charge it, I tend to default to a CCM radio station, for lack of anything better. This past Sunday, my car needed to be moved, so I handed over the keys without thinking that my iPod was in my purse. What that meant is that once the car moved far enough away from the iPod, the bluetooth disconnected and the radio turned on. Tuned to a CCM station. With the volume on loud.

*cringes*

See, I go to a rather hipster-y type church, with a lot of artists and musicians. Of whom I have great respect. Some of whom, at times, have been vocal about their disdain for CCM. And, so, I’ve been mortified since Sunday to know that one of two people might think I was jamming to CCM. Because I care about what others think of me. Because I find my worth by being loved and respected by people I love and respect. Because I have an idol of approval.

(The amusing thing is that just yesterday I posted two songs here, one of which is by a popular CCM band.)

The thing I need to learn is that I will never find my worth by being loved or respected by _____ people. At best, it’s like drinking salt water when you’re thirsty. It seems like it will satisfy as it touches your lips, but it only further dehydrates your body.

Instead, I need to focus my heart on finding love, respect, and worth from God – the living water that truly satisfies. As Zephaniah 3:17 says,

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

This is who I should cling to for affirmation. This is who I should desire to admire me. Oh, how I like that idea of someone rejoicing over me, loving me, and exulting over me with loud singing. And I would bet it won’t be to CCM.

~~~

We’re winding down the series on Crushing Your Kingdoms. You can catch up with all the posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

 

Day 21: What others are saying

God is Glorious

I’d like to share several things, mostly from fellow #write31days bloggers. They may or may not connect, but all have been impactful for me.

Beth, of Simply Beth, writes:

God does only good things. Although this is true, He will use our hardened hearts as an opportunity to demonstrate His power and to bring glory to His name. He will use everything to bring glory to His name.

She refers to the story of Moses to show how God accomplishes His purpose, even with stubborn people.

~~~

Jennifer Neyhart has blogged about C.S. Lewis this month. While Jennifer and I connected over a discussion on Eustace Scrubb, it was this post on longing in The Weight of Glory that really got to me. She quotes Lewis:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Jennifer concludes:

We were made for a whole, complete relationship with God, lacking nothing! So of course our heart aches for more than this fallen world can offer. And we know that God has set eternity in our hearts; he put the desire there so we would long for him and not be satisfied by lesser things. Praise be to God!

~~~

(Jennifer’s mention of Eustace, from The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, reminded me of a post I wrote on the stripping off of some sinful thoughts and behaviors – Stepping out of your skin.)

~~~

And on the waiting, Cheree Hayes reminds us:

Right now, things are not right.
Right now, things are broken…so broken.
Right now, you live here – on this fallen, muddy earth.

And right now, by grace through faith, you are also “seated with Christ in heavenly places.” You wait for His kingdom to come make its home on earth. You wait with Jesus in tears and groaning prayers, longing… You seek the things that are above. You are a citizen of the Kingdom. It’s who you are now. So you wait, eager for your faith to be made sight.

~~~

I hope you find some encouragement from these bloggers as I did.

I’m blogging on Crushing your kingdoms this month.

Click here to read all posts in the series

Day 19: Christ is King over Ebola

Ebola virus virion

Jeremy Writebol is a pastor and blogger. He’s also the son of Nancy Writebol, missionary and Ebola survivor. Jeremy wrote a powerful piece about how Christians should respond to Ebola in the US. ← I encourage you to read the whole post on his website.

I love what he has to say about Christ being sovereign over viruses:

Our theology must start with Christ and with Christ as King over all, including microscopic biology and viruses. Jesus is king over Ebola. This epidemic and global outbreak does not take him by surprise or warrant fear or trembling from the Godhead. Christ is king over Ebola. Additionally this does not mean that God is some evil, maleficent deity. Ebola is a product of the fall. It is a product of a broken and sin-filled world. Christ is still king over it, and he will bring justice and righteousness.

Since I’m writing about it, I encourage us all to be praying for this global epidemic. Join in here – this prayer was posted to praytoendebola.org:

 

 

This post is part of the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms.

Day 14: Hear our hearts cry out

I’m just going to put this right here.

Seriously, though, this song by Vertical Church Band recently shuffled into play on my iPod and I ended up listening to it about five times in a row. From the first word, the focus is solely on worshiping God. I love that. Please listen to it. I think you’ll like it, too.

Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
And You reign victorious over all the earth
Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
Yes, You reign victorious over all the earth

Let Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done
Here on earth as it is in heaven
And to Your renown hear our hearts cry out
Singing “Holy is the Lord”

God of Glory see Your victory story
In the lives of those who gather at the cross
Rock of ages be adorned with praises
As Your people raise their voice in thanks and love

Focus with me on the true kingdom right now. Hear our hearts cry out – Holy is the Lord!
Do you have a favorite song that focuses your heart on worship of our God?

crushing your kingdoms

We’re continuing to work through the series this month. Click here to view all the posts in the series.

 

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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