Waterworks in South India

I continued to find areas of South India to be very different than North India. Since signs of Christianity were rare in North India, you can imagine how surprised I was to see cars with Christian bumper stickers in South India!  One car had “JESUS” written in great big letters on the rear view window. I was told that there is still much resistance to Christianity there, but it is not as severe. There are more Christians living in South India because of that. I want to share about a fun visit I had to one of the Hope Homes. This particular Hope Home houses 42 children – 32 girls and 10 boys. The girls live in the larger building and the boys in the smaller one. Pastor T. and his wife started this Hope Home in 1999 with 29 children. They care for children ranging in age from six to 18. Neither the pastor nor his wife grew up as orphans. His family was farmers and probably considered to be in the lower middle class. Pastor T. said: “We ate regularly – unlike the children I rescue. But while growing up I saw hundreds of kids living on the streets. They were thin, dirty and restless. Even as a young person, I recognized the look of despair on their faces. I decided that I wanted to do something to help them one day!” Pastor T. sat with me as I interviewed several of the children. All of their stories were sad, but the kids telling the stories were not. Anisha was one of the stories I heard. She is now 18. Her father died of a heart attack when she was very young. Her mother had no choice but to take jobs as a day laborer whenever she could get one. Unfortunately, the work was not consistent so neither was more than one meal a day. They did not even have a home; they lived on the streets or under some tree that would provide shade from the hot Indian sun. The streets are a dangerous place for a child – especially a five year old girl. Anisha’s mother was terrified every time she left her small daughter to go work in the fields. Sharing the Gospel among some of the street people, Pastor T. met Anisha’s mother. That’s when she heard about his orphanage. She pleaded with him to take her daughter…

 That was 12 years ago!

Today, Anisha is praying that the Lord will open a way for her to attend a local nursing school. She is a beautiful, happy, healthy, grateful young woman who loves God with all her heart. She says, “He protected me from so many bad things by letting me come here to live!” When I asked the pastor if there was money for Anisha to attend nursing school, he said, “No, but God always shows a way!” He wasn’t worried and neither was Anisha! Oh how I envy such trust! What a gift! While I was interviewing some of the other orphans, it began to rain buckets outside. Within minutes, the electricity went out. I must tell you though, losing electricity at least twice a day in India is a common occurrence.  Without the ceiling fan going – there is no air conditioning over there – it was uncomfortably warm in that tiny office. I said something about how warm it was and the next thing I know they opened the door to the outside. That’s when literally buckets of water started pouring into the Hope Home! I was the only one surprised though. The pastor and his wife were quite nonchalant and the kids loved it. When I asked if this was normal, they said “Oh yes. Don’t worry Auntie. Once the rain stops the water will drain out of the house. We are all very fine!” I’m thinking to myself,

“You have got to be kidding! We need a construction crew in here!”

 I remained a little anxious simply because the water continued to get higher. It was about three inches when one of the older girls grabbed my hand and said, “Come Auntie, see the rest of the house!” Now remember, there is no electricity and I am wading in three inches of water. I have maybe 15 girls all giggling and watching me because I clearly had never experienced this before. We “waded” from one room to the other with a gaggle of giggling girls following me and enjoying the many facial expressions I must have had. Lol! By the time I got to the kitchen, I realized that they experienced “indoor waterworks” on something of a regular basis during the rainy season.  All appliances and anything that could be damaged by water were sitting on top of wood crates at least 18 inches from the floor. In the dorms, all the cots had legs that kept the beds at least 12 to 14 inches above the floor. The girls finally dragged me to a room that had large windows so the light was better. They had all kinds of questions about my hair, my family and the US. Then they ganged up on me and insisted that I sing for them. They refused to stop until I did. So, I sang “Amazing Grace” and they reciprocated with “How Great Thou Art”. Oh my! The angels in heaven could not possibly sound any more beautiful or worshipful! When it came time to leave, they didn't want me to go and I didn't want to leave either! I had water above my ankles, it was hot and sticky now that the rain had stopped, but I would NOT have traded my place with anyone anywhere else in the world. As I made my way toward the door I had 15 girls all trying to get hugs before I left. These children who have nothing have everything in my opinion. They have the joy of the Lord and they awakened the joy of the Lord in me that day! Even as I write this I am still overwhelmed by the blessing these children left on my heart!          
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Burned Alive!

Every Hope Home has a back story that is unique to the pastor and the specific needs that the Lord has led him to fill in his ministry. What a heart God has for the orphaned, abandoned and at-risk! How wonderful that He places that heart in the minds and hearts of others so His will is fulfilled.

This day broke my heart!

We started out by visiting a Hope Home where the children whose mothers were set on fire because of dowry disputes are now living.  Pure greed is hideous when you see the damage it does to everyone involved. At Hopegivers these women are called”dowry castaways.” I’ll explain a little about this cultural practice in this blog, but you can also visit the website www.hopegivers.org and see pictures and learn more about this horrendous practice.  Hopegivers opened its arms to rescuing these women and their children nearly three years ago. Dowry, although illegal in India, is still practiced. A man and his family require that a bride’s parents pay a dowry for the privilege of marrying their son. The dowry consists of money, jewels, land – anything of value. Often the bride’s parents cannot pay the whole dowry up front so an agreement is drawn between the parents so payments will continue after the marriage ceremony. Like all of life, the best laid plans….  If the bride’s parents fall upon hard times and can’t continue with the payments, the husband and in-laws demand that the bride pressure her parents. If the bride’s parents can’t or won’t comply, the husband and sometimes the in-laws will beat and torture the bride. Their misguided thinking is that by abusing the girl, this will somehow get “blood out of a turnip!” They are counting on the parents to feel sorry for their daughter and find a way to pay the rest of the dowry. If the husband does not get the financial response he is looking for, he kicks the wife and any children from that marriage out onto the streets. The daughter and grandchildren generally will escape to her parent’s home. Indian culture says that a married daughter returning to her parent’s home brings shame on the family name. Most parents send their daughters and grandchildren back because of this tradition. Sometimes they send them with a little money to appease the husband. Unfortunately, there are times when there just isn’t any money to send back with her, but tradition is stronger than her safety. They call the murders “kitchen accidents.” Indian women wear loose fitting clothing and cook on open kerosene stoves. There are genuine kitchen accidents, but in the case of dowry it is not an accident. Kerosene is thrown on her and she is lit on fire by her husband. The neighbors probably know instinctively which is accidental and which is not. After all, they have probably heard the  beatings go on for weeks or even months prior to the “accident”. The husband wants her out of his life so he can marry again for another dowry. He doesn’t want to mess with a divorce. He would rather she die! The kids are kicked to the curb because the next wife does not want to raise another woman’s child. We met some burned women who survived and came to meet us at a Hope Home where many of the children live who have lost their mothers because of the “accident.” They were burned but have healed enough that they can care for their own personal needs. These women are living with relatives while their children live at the Hope Home. The relatives will only keep the woman, not the children, and they demand that she earn money in order to stay with them.  They are all poor, so realistically, they couldn’t feed her kids and her as well anyway. Thank goodness for Hopegivers who is prepared to take these children in and raise them. The pastor in this first Hope Home is teaching approximately 30 of these women how to sew! He has one sewing machine – foot pedal – that each woman takes a turn using. He has someone from the city come out to teach them. They make saris, Punjabi’s and other clothing they sell in order to support themselves. They come to visit their children at the Hope Home whenever they can. We visited another Hope Home where this pastor has distributed over 30 sewing machines to women who escaped being burned. They were being abused and tortured due to dowry demands and could see the writing on the wall. They ran away before the abuse turned into murder. These women are supporting themselves by making and selling clothing, doing dishes and housework for the wealthier in their communities. . It’s a hard life and the work is not usually steady, but they are alive and no longer being abused. Their children, in most cases, are living in one of the Hope Homes where they are guaranteed three meals a day, protection and an education. (orphan sponsorship on website – www.hopegivers.org). We left this Hope Home and went to the hospital where we met four women who are recent burn victims. Pictures you see online are devastating, but when you are standing beside the bed of a living, breathing woman with 80% of her body burned it is a visual one will never forget. I stayed in the room long enough to pray for them and then I had to leave. I did not want to break down in front of them. One woman was burned so badly that she couldn’t move her arms, legs or her neck. She could barely move her lips. Her eyes were the only part of her that gave away her thoughts as she watched strangers circle her bed to pray for her. One insignificant infection could take her life quickly. Maybe that is a blessing because she will never be able to care for herself. There were three other women in the room. One was burned from her breasts to her hips, another down the side of her leg and face and another on one arm. How God’s heart must break! Hopegivers introduces these women to Jesus and then we pray that - although they were burned here on earth - they will not suffer burning for all eternity. At the end of this day I was emotionally spent and ready to go back to the hotel! “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” Psalm 3:7                                
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AIDS: The Abandoned Children

Part III First Day in Andhra Pradesh: After a hot shower, a few hours of good sleep and a healthy breakfast we headed out for our first day in Andhra Pradesh. We visited several Hope Homes (orphanages) over the course of the next few days. I will share one in this blog and one in the next that made a huge and permanent impact on all of our hearts. AIDS Children’s Home: The AIDS Hope Home for children is still under construction. We drove to the construction site to meet the pastor, his family and some of the children who will be living there very shortly. When we got to the site, there were 30 or 40 children lined up on either side of the dirt road singing for us. They each had little bags, cups or their hands filled with marigold pedals that they threw at us as if we were some kind of royalty. All of these smiling children were born to HIV positive mothers. The disease is active in only six of them right now. When this Hope Home is completed, it will house 65 children. Most of the children we met that day have already lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. The majority of them don’t understand that they too will one day die from this disease. www.hopegivers.org to see pictures; click on blog and  Blogger without Borders! God gave this pastor, his mother and wife a tender passion for these kids. Their desire is to provide a loving home to these children for as long as they live. Several of the children – who have already lost their families – live with the pastor and his family in their one room home. This Hope Home will protect many other children from being abandoned to the streets once both parents are gone. Unfortunately, when the community learns that the parents died as a result of AIDS, they isolate the child in order to protect themselves and their children. With widespread illiteracy, most don’t understand that touching someone does not spread the disease. If Hopegivers does not take them in, these children will starve on the streets before the disease ever kills them. Mary and Patrick, my American friends,  had a blast blowing up balloons with the kids and playing a game of keeping the balloons in the air so they wouldn't break. All of the kids were jumping around and screaming and yelling – wonderful laughter filled the air. While they played, I interviewed the pastor about several of the kids he is caring for who are already in stage 3 of the disease. They are the ones that tire very quickly. I watched as one of the children stopped jumping around and sat down to watch the others play. The pastor says he knows whenever the disease is progressing in a child. The child's energy level decreases and they begin to have a whole host of physical issues somewhere in their bodies. Symptoms vary from impaired vision, headaches, backaches and of course, unexplained weight loss. Four months ago the Indian government stopped providing medication to community centers around Andhra Pradesh for distribution to the HIV positive children. Community leaders have asked when the government will restart the program, but they have not had a response. Unfortunately, the six children living with our pastor are getting worse without the medication. Since we were going to be traveling another three hours to visit another Hope Home, we had our peanut butter sandwich and bottled water in the pastor’s home. It sits right in front of where the Hope Home is being constructed. At some point during our visit with the pastor, I noticed that it got very quiet outside – very unusual when there are 40 children playing. When I walked outside to see what was going on I discovered a sea of 40 little bodies lying on colorful blankets and mats taking their mid-day nap. Some of the younger children were snuggled up with a buddy and already sound asleep. Others were quietly resting until lunch. It was a beautiful sight! As we walked to our vehicle, the pastor’s mother walked up to me with tears in her eyes and asked if I would please let others know about these precious children. I promised I would tell everyone I could. I reached over to hug her and we both melted into tears. This family’s unconditional love and compassion for these children is incredible. They have so little, but they are sharing everything they have with children that have nothing and no one! I can’t begin to imagine how heart wrenching it must be to love and care for a child that you know will ultimately die in spite of everything you do for them. How many of us would risk that kind of love for a stranger? NOTE:  The next blog will be about our visit with the dowry castaway women – burned by their husbands in order to acquire money from another bride and her family.         
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Part II: Kota to Andhra Pradesh India

 By the way...Hopegivers’ ministry spans all across India! With approximately 30,000 pastors and over 51,000 churches, the Good News of eternal life is shared in earnest wherever a Hopegivers Bible College graduate is willing to step out in faith. Their only possessions are a bicycle, a Bible and a one-way ticket to their new life. These brave, adventuresome, godly graduates are committed to introducing as many as possible to Jesus.   
  We (Mary, Patrick, Jyothis and Chotu) left Kota around midnight on a train that would take us 27 hours to reach South India. Outside of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and rickshaws, trains are the most economical means of transportation when traveling long distances in India. The railway cars are divided into air conditioned cars and those that are not. The air conditioned cars also have sleeping berths. The cars that are not air conditioned are like cattle cars! People are practically sitting on top of each other, many sitting on the floor, and frequently people ride on top of the trains! I’m very grateful I didn’t have to ride on top!  Can you imagine how vigilant one needs to be in order to spot tunnels when riding on top of a train? By the way, I love sharing my experiences on the train. It’s not like any travel experience you will have in the states. As we waited for our train to arrive, I noticed that Jyothis (our translator) was anxiously awaiting a call on her cell. When she got a call, her anxiety level clearly heightened. After my fourth ask, she finally told me that Mary and Patrick’s reservations were confirmed, but mine, hers and Chotu’s were not. I attempted to calm her anxiety by suggesting that we just catch the next train. Evidently, in India, the situation would not improve by waiting for the next train. We would need to get on this train and do a lot of praying! I was told that firm reservations must be made at least 60 days in advance; we somehow missed the cut off date. I wasn’t sure how I felt about standing for 27 hours, but Jyothis was confident that would not happen. Rats:The train was late so I found my eyes looking up and down the tracks watching for it when I saw some movement – a lot of movement – below me. There were rats! Hundreds of them! Well-fed and running back and forth on the tracks just four feet below the platform where we were standing. I didn’t notice this unsettling phenomenon at the Delhi railway station, so why here? These beady eyed, ugly, creatures were abundant at the Kota train station. You need to understand that I freak out over a little field mouse getting into my house and these were RATS!!! My curiosity, tempered with terror, had me wondering about how high they could jump. Could they span four feet? I guess my face gave my terror away because Jyothis asked if I was alright.                                      Alright? No, I wasn’t alright! As calmly as possible, I asked why so many rats?  Answer? In this part of India, rats are considered a god; it is a crime to kill one. Instead, people catch and then release them. We do that for fish in the states too, but fish have boundaries – like lakes and rivers! These rats have no boundaries. All of a sudden standing for 27 hours on a rat-free train didn’t sound so bad. The longer I stood there the more disturbing were the images I had of a “super” rat living among the many. Could he jump the span of the four feet that separated me on the platform from them? Just about the time my imagination had my heart rate speeding up, our train arrived. Thank God! We boarded the train at little after midnight, my nerves still jangling from being entertained by rats. But I had my trusty rubber shoes on, so I was at least prepared for the bathrooms. I sat at the end of Mary’s bed waiting for a seat or a bed – whichever came first. It kept her up, but she didn’t seem to mind.  I was just happy I was in a rat-free zone! Due to the persistence of staff, about four hours into our trip we all got either a seat or a bed for the balance of the trip. God is good! Traveling to Andhra Pradesh: The menu for this trip was very simple. We had peanut butter and bread, peanut butter on crackers, or a spoonful of peanut butter chased by bottled water – breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was safety first. Spoiled taste buds that normally demand a wide variety were not allowed to argue. I did change it up a bit with a bag of chips and some cookies. Oh yes! My rubber shoes again. They were a godsend! The train was packed with hundreds of humans that needed to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. The bathrooms should have had revolving doors installed for a trip that long. In my earlier blog, I failed to mention that one does get a choice between a hole in the floor or a “western” sit-down toilet. I chose the western style. By sitting I didn’t risk being tossed around like a marble in a jar inside the tiny closet bathroom. The train was fast and made no attempts to slow down around corners. There was LOTS more “mixed” water on the floor this trip. By the time I returned to the states, my nearly 100 hours of train travel had caused me to adopt my rubber shoes as a permanent wardrobe piece. They will go back with me on my next trip to India! At 2am, 27 hours later, we arrived in Andhra Pradesh. We were met by the pastor and several ministry workers who crammed our very tired bodies and eight large pieces of luggage into two vehicles. We looked like the Clampette’s on the Beverly Hillbillies series with luggage stuffed in the back and stacked extremely high on top of the vehicles. Since this was my third trip to India I was familiar with seeing three to five people riding on a single motorcycle or bicycle. I had no doubt these young men would get us and our luggage safely to the hotel. Mary and Patrick had filled extra bags with soccer balls, art supplies, candy, balloons and other fun things so they could play with the children we visited and then leave everything behind for them. Although it was bulky traveling to A.P., nothing was left by the time they headed back to the states. What they left behind made several hundred orphans very happy! I am still fascinated with the rickshaws. One frail man – perhaps in his 50’s or 60’s –  rides a bicycle that tows a buggy with two or three people crammed into it. How is that even possible
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India and Curling Irons!

Northern and Southern India: October 21 to November 13, 2014!  Join me: Delhi to Kota; Kota to Andhra Pradesh; Andhra Pradesh to Kerala Most of you know that my passion after family is writing. I have had the privilege of writing with and for Dr. Samuel Thomas, President and CEO of Hopegivers International for nearly 6 years.  I try to go to India each year so I can interview orphans, Bible students, pastors, lepers, widows, and dowry castaway women so our beloved donors always have fresh and up-to-date information about what is happening in the ministry. Many may not get the opportunity to visit the Hopegivers’ mission field, so we are always looking for ways they can visit through stories, pictures, videos and blogs of those who can go.  My desire with this blog is that you will see, smell and hear about my other passion - Hopegivers International!   There were three legs to my trip. I invite you to tag along with me and experience the fun, the tragedy and the amazing things the Lord is doing in India.  Delhi to Kota: Although this was my third trip to India, every visit serves up new experiences. Before leaving the airport, we were asked if any of us had issues with asthma. Fortunately, none of us did. Evidently, we arrived during Diwali – the Indian Festival of lights. It is India’s biggest and most important holiday.  It is celebrated enthusiastically with lots of lights, candles, gifts and fireworks. It is like celebrating Christmas and the 4th of July all rolled into one event, except this is a Hindu holiday. It was very late when we arrived in Delhi so the lights – which were strung on every tree and building within view – made for a very colorful trip to the hotel. We had just missed the loud thundering booms of hundreds of fireworks, but we would not miss out for the next few nights. If you are an “early to bed and early to rise” person like me, the next few nights would play serious havoc with sleep. Fireworks went off well after midnight each of the next four nights. The sky was  thick with the stale smell of smoke that  saturated the air. My throat started to burn even though the walk from the terminal to the car was a short distance. I was exhausted – a 16 hour flight will do that to you – and I was anxious to collapse into a real bed instead of sleeping upright on a plane. I guess I didn’t get enough sleep or I would have noticed my curling iron hiccup a few hours later. Hurrying to meet everyone for a late breakfast, I put a chunk of my hair in the curling iron and immediately smelled smoke – inside the room! It took me a few seconds to figure out that it was coming from my head. When I tried to get the curling iron out of my hair, it wouldn’t budge. The smoke was literally billowing from the side of my head and the smell was nauseating. My only option at this point – obviously in total panic – was to yank the curling iron out of my hair. Along with the curling iron came almost 3 inches of my hair still wrapped around the barrel of the iron and black as coal – I am a blonde. Yikes! We all joke about men with their comb-over issues? Although my hair is thicker, I joined the proverbial “comb over club” that morning in Delhi. I was just praying my hairdresser in the states could figure out how to re-do my hair and hide the missing chunk! After breakfast – and a lot of laughing over my new hairstyle – we headed for the train station. We were going to Kota so we could attend the annual Pastor’s Conference. Pastors from all over India would be attending this event. The trip to Kota takes approximately seven hours on a train. There are a lot of stops, it’s bumpy, the pillows are ¼” thick and the bathrooms on the trains are a short-term mission trip all by themselves. Let me stimulate your imagination a bit without going into great detail. Dr. Samuel strongly suggested we wear rubber shoes that can be washed once we arrived at our final destination! Why? He didn’t go into a lot of detail other than to say we would be much more comfortable using the bathrooms on the train if we followed his advice. I was going to wear tennis shoes, but Dr. Samuel has never steered me wrong, so I wore rubber shoes. You see, they don’t provide toilet paper in many areas of India, especially on trains. Water from a spray gun is the preferred way of cleaning oneself. Needless to say, I chose the “western” method and brought toilet paper in my bag! Because of the water “mixture” on the floor of the bathrooms, rubber shoes turned out to be a brilliant idea. I can get used to a lot of things when I travel out of the country: humid temperatures, hard beds, small pillows, and food I can’t eat, but the bathroom situation is one of the more difficult for me. Go ahead and laugh! I’ll just pray you get to experience it one day soon. Lol! The train does serve a variety of freshly cooked Indian food, but I was warned not to eat any of it. Although the taste going down would be wonderful, the experience a few hours later would not be. They use their water – not bottled water – and although the food is cooked, the chances are very high that I would not be enjoying another meal for a couple of days if I risked it. I brought my own snacks and stayed out of trouble for once. I was asked to speak at some of the breakout sessions during the Pastors Conference. I felt so unqualified to even attempt to encourage or teach anything from the Word of God to these amazing pastors and Bible students. What do I know about suffering and being persecuted for my faith? What could I possibly offer that would encourage them to “keep on keeping on” when I have never walked in their shoes? The only rejection I have experienced is my husband not noticing I have a new hairstyle! It was humbling because I knew - and they knew - I had no experience with the kind of persecution they deal with every day. The Lord was very gracious. I simply shared things He is teaching me about forgiveness and unconditional love when those you care about betray you. I also shared how the Lord is bringing contentment into my life about who I am and where I serve. He does not make mistakes; He is not a wasteful God. Whether I think I might be more effective elsewhere or not, God has me and each of you right where He wants us. He planted us where we can do the most good if we will obey Him and serve out of love for Him and others. As always, the Holy Spirit was faithful because I obeyed in spite of my insecurities. Several of the pastors thanked me for encouraging them and giving them something to think about in their situation. Can you believe it? My last day in Kota was spent interviewing some of the pastors who attended the conference.  Oh my gosh! What wonderful stories of salvation, persecution and true miracles that are taking  place on the mission field every day! I was overwhelmed with God’s hand on me and others and I had only been in India four days! P.S. When I got back to the states, my hairdresser did a great job of helping me drop my membership from the “comb over club!”  Plan
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We Need Change!

I have been working through the Old Testament for several months now. I am profoundly struck by the desire of God for everyone in the OT to have eternal life (Ezekiel 18:23). I really thought that this "Divine Attitude" for mercy rested primarily in the New Testament. Go figure! Although I have "read" Scripture many years, it has just been the last three years when I have truly studied it.  A big difference! God didn't just become loving after Jesus was born! He has been loving from the very beginning. All through the OT I see how He WANTS His people to repent and turn from their sinful ways. He wanted to forgive them.  He didn't want to rain down fire and brimstone to bring His people to their senses. It was unfortunately the only thing they understood. Today, all He wants is for us to stop our blatant disobedience. We've changed - not Him.  I think we have painted a picture of Him as being a just God who punished severely in the OT, but only until Jesus came along. Then He got all warm and fuzzy about the human population. There are a lot of us who need to grasp the truth about who He is and do it quickly. I think our grace period in this country might be running out. His wrath is as powerful and real today as it was centuries ago. He is no more or less loving today than He was when the Israelites walked those 40 years in the desert complaining. He hasn't changed - WE HAVE!! There's nothing wrong with Him so there's no reason for Him to change. We certainly can't say that. Well, at least I can't.    If it's too difficult to look inside to see if I'm viewing the world accurately, look outside and around you.  We don't keep our commitments - even the small ones. Could we be a more selfish society? NOT! We are self-righteous in our wrongdoing and justify our sinful habits "because that guy over there is a whole lot worse than me!" We kill babies, starve the old and sick, neglect our seniors, cheat, lie and blame it all on the "other guy." How often have you heard that relationships only improve if we do the changing? It's become such a common anecdote that no one takes it to heart any longer. We say it and then wait for the other guy to do the changing. God expects us to change! When I look around our country, state, towns and even in families I see the OT mirrored. If we do not get to our knees often and beg God to transform our character, I believe we will see much devastation in this country during our lifetimes.   We must all make an effort to resolve conflict. If I want something to change and God is convicting me of change, it only stands to reason that He is after ME to change! Quit looking across the table, to the person lying next to you in bed, across the street or in the White House. It's you He is after!   Trying to humanize God doesn't work either. If my God is human - I can't trust Him! I need God to be God - sovereign and eternal. No matter how angry He gets with me, I still want God to be God and do what He needs to do to transform my character into the woman He made me to be in the first place. I am grateful He is God. When the bottom drops out of everything else in this world, He will still be God.  I read a short commentary on Ezekiel that said: "God will not continually let people who claim to serve Him shame His name." I think we have some work to do!
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PRAYER ADJUSTMENT

How should we pray for one another? What does the fervent, effectual prayer of man or woman really mean? (James 5:16) When a good prayer (in our opinion) doesn't yield a good answer (in our opinion), does that mean prayer through us is ineffective? No, I'm not a Bible scholar - I just spend a lot of time reading the Bible, but here is my take on prayer.  I think it starts with accepting the truth that God is sovereign. Since I have grown to believe that more and more with each passing crazy circumstance in my life, prayer has begun to make a lot more sense. First:                                   Prayer is for our benefit – not  God's!  God already knows what our needs and wants are. He sees the beginning from the end so He knows we need a job, we are having health issues, relationship problems, or are in danger of some loss. So why pray if He already knows our needs? Because it builds our trust in Him – that He will deliver us. But He will answer us in a way that serves His purposes which includes our growth spiritually – sometimes materially or physically – and the growth of others in our lives who are watching to see what God will do and what we will do.  We teach our children through repetition. It is a scientifically proven fact that children need repetition so that certain connectors in the brain eventually fuse and they finally grasp some skill or truth. We are not talking about deliberate disobedience; we are talking about learning to tie shoes, brush teeth, make beds, and repeatedly introduce God to them as the real deal. If  we develop the habit of praying over everything, we will  eventually look for His answers in Scripture and even in our daily lives. Our faith develops and we tend not to miss what He is teaching us. Not a person of faith you say? Not true. You sit at a red light every day and have faith that it will eventually turn green so you can go.  We all have faith in something. I prefer faith in God over man. I’m not disappointed nearly as much!! Second:                          Prayer is not just a laundry list of requests; it's much deeper!  I will continue to pray for jobs, healing in bodies and in minds. But I’m learning to pray for something beyond those requests. Because I do believe that God knows best, that He has a plan and I don’t have His crystal ball, I don’t know if my request will be granted just the way I have asked. I’ve lived long enough that I have either experienced or observed that He will sometimes allow difficulties to enter into our lives. Sometimes He allows His child to get turned down for a needed job, there is a delayed healing or even increased conflict in a relationship. He's after something in that individual that you and I can’t see because we don’t have His crystal ball.  Sometimes we even get angry with God over unmet needs. Some of us become so distraught that we give up on prayer all together for awhile. That decision is not His will; it is yours. He did give us the freedom to accept or reject Him.   I'm beginning to ask Him to surround my friends with godly support - with people who trust that God is sovereign. I pray that my friends will go into job interviews having prayed over everything and then walk out knowing that God is ultimately in control. I ask for patience during the healing process; for the strength to approach a painful time and diagnosis knowing that God is in control. I ask that the joy of knowing that the Lord is in control truly become the strength that my friends need in order to repair a marriage, battle some illness or to persevere in looking for a job. I want them to be aware that they are never alone – not for one second.!  I’m learning to accept - not as often as I’d like - that all outcomes are God's responsibility. The journey is mine, but the good and the not so good things that I meet along the way are allowed by a God who wants me to be the woman He created me to be. I fully intend to live out this life look forward to one day hearing Jesus say, "Welcome home good and faithful servant!"  By the way, I just have to add this. Not every trial is from the devil! I know there are some who believe that. The devil's motives are always to kill and destroy. Now, think about your past hardships. Aren't you stronger today because of them?  Do you really think he would bring hardship into your life that could potentially strengthen your relationship with the King of kings?  Not! I believe there are three sources for trials: 
  1. The devil. He  does bring havoc in hopes of drawing us away from God.
  2. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own actions.
  3. Always! God allows both of the above for our own good; never, ever to hurt us. 
Consider adding a few more seconds to your prayer time so you can ask for a "heart" change in yourself and in your loved ones. It's harder and takes a little more time, but it will build both character and faith in you as you ask for those same things in others. As our faith and those for whom we pray gets stronger, it brings a supernatural peace to our world - a world that is anything but peaceful today. This peace will come to each of us because we don't have the last word - God does and I find that very comforting!  
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Don’t Bury It!

I'm sure many of you assumed I had either died or had given up blogging. Well, neither is true!

After experiencing much healing from the disease I suffered with last year, the Lord put me to work immediately! I have loved every second of the opportunity I have been given to lead a team in  ministry out of  Georgia and to continue to write about my Best Friend and Savior - Jesus Christ. Just this past week I took a bit of a step backwards in the "health" department. I'm not sure whether it is because I have been "trying to eat the elephant" in one big gulp or if the secondary disease I now have - Myasthenia Gravis - is messing with my body. Nevertheless, today as I rest more than I normally do on a Saturday, the Lord is showing me a bend in the road He has had me traveling. I can't imagine that winning a marathon, climbing a mountain or winning the Indy 500 could be anywhere near as exciting as knowing the Lord is speaking to and guiding you! Sometimes we take a job that we have been given and we do it reasonably well. Unfortunately, too often we don't take ownership of that job and make it better. We don't think about the next person who will step into our shoes one day or how raising our standards of doing the job could potentially change an entire organization! We just "maintain" or "manage" what we have been entrusted with.  I don't believe that is God's way! Six months ago I thought He put me in a management position to raise the level of efficiency and effectiveness in every day operations.  That is being acccomplished, but  I think I missed the other half of why He placed me in this position. I can't  help but think of the parable in the New Testament that talks about the Master who gave 5 talents to one servant, 2 talents to a second and 1 talent to a third person. The first two servants "grew" their talents and multiplied what they had been given. This pleased the Master greatly.  The third servant just maintained; he didn't take any risks and certainly no initiative.  He didn't care about the business as a whole; he cared only about hanging onto his job. He would come to work every day and make sure the talent was still buried in the same spot. I don't believe that the Lord healed me so I would simply maintain anything! He wants me to grow something for Him!  I believe it is critical to know one's purpose in life. But we Christians don't have to meditate, write out possibilities or even get several opinions based on geographic, skill or education levels.  Jesus clearly laid out His vision/purpose for us. We are to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth - and we can do that whether we are sweeping floors, the CEO of some huge company, or a missionary in a developing country. Now, our mission? That's different. How we are going to do the "vision" is something we each must mediate, pray over, fast and carefully listen for.  Although my first reaction when asked to work with a ministry staff was "I don't think so!" It has already become a blessing in a couple of areas:
  • First: The people on staff are "divine" appointments for me. He assigned me to love them - even when iron sharpening iron is necessary.
  • Second: He wants me to help them take their talent and show them how they can multiply it. I did get this part of my mission right six months ago.
What I didn't catch onto until recently was that He is still working on me in the "multiply" talent area! I was not to take this position and "manage" or "bury" this position by keeping everything and everyone safe and sound. I really missed it on the "management" side!  What good is there in keeping the status quo? None! The truth is that I never had any intention of managing anything other than myself over these past few years.  But God has a unique sense of humor and He never lets anything go to waste. He is a God you can't put in a box and He won't let you live in a box for very long either!  Why tell you? Because I want to be accountable - not just to the President of the ministry - but to those of you that I have shared my many challenges with in the past. Periodically, I want to share some major risk taken that the Lord has blessed or perhaps a risk taken that failed. I believe that when motives are right, God can even use failure to bring a blessing. If you happen to be bored with your job, or feel that you can longer grow in the company or business you are in, I thought my next journey might be an encouragement. It might be an encouragement of what NOT  to do as well as what does work. lol! By the way, this is not about building a name or reputation for myself. If I put a selfish spin on anything the Lord leads me into, it becomes damaged and it won't last. I'm so blessed to be 67 years old; if I were 37 I would still be trying to "make a name" for myself. In this season of life, I want to make a difference that builds the Kingdom of God both here on earth and for eternity. No, I'm not holy or wonderful or any of the words we use when someone says they are all about Jesus. I wish I were about Him every day and every minute of the day! Honestly, it is a struggle to keep me out of the picture - even at my age. That's what God is doing in my life - and perhaps it is what He is doing in yours too.  Take the place He has you in right now - work, retirement, family, neighborhood - and be an influence for Him. When I am gone some day, I don't want to be missed because I baked the most beautiful wedding cakes, or wrote the most heart-felt articles, or authored any books. I want to be missed because a piece of Jesus people had access to through me is no longer present.   Have a "thankful" Thanksgiving! We have so much to be grateful for; we are saved, loved, guided and comforted by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
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Who is YOUR Lord?

I woke up early a few days ago feeling “blah.” Being sick for so many months this past year taught me that the best “picker upper” is digging into the Word of God and expecting Him to speak directly into my life as I read and meditate. He never disappoints me! I’m working my way through 1 Samuel, but thinking that there might not be much in there for practical application to my life. Let me just say that I’m always wrong when those thoughts surface! This day was no exception. He provided a real whopper of a lesson. The Scripture is quite familiar to most of you, I’m sure. It was the application I received that thrilled me.  "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Samuel 15:22) The Lord told King Saul - through the prophet Samuel - to conquer and destroy every Amalekite and all their possessions. Although victorious, Saul and his soldiers came back to town dragging a “live” King Agog and hundreds if not thousands of sheep and goats. Maybe Saul and his men were going to offer all the sheep and goats to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving – maybe not. It really didn’t matter because that is not what God told him to do! God wants us to obey Him the way HE wants to be obeyed – not the way we think it should happen.  Partial obedience is simply not an option with God. • He tells us to tithe 10% - not 2% or 3% or 5% because we think that is more reasonable. • We are to love others HIS way – unconditionally. It’s much easier to love those who love us back or who follow the principal of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back.” That’s not God’s way! • We are to do our jobs HIS way – with integrity and full commitment. He expects us to give our all when we are on the clock. Unfortunately, many feel entitled to slide a day here and there because “I’ve been here more years than anyone else” or “I worked a couple hours over last week so I deserve this!” Really? That’s not God’s way! • He expects us to use our gifts and talents right where we are today – even if it isn’t our ideal job. He expects us to be fully engaged.  Working half-heartedly or with a sour attitude because “I’m not in the right job where people can appreciate how bright and talented I really am” is not God’s way! Verse 23 says “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”  How is that possible? Well, it is always idolatry when we assume lordship over our own lives. We assume lordship when we worship our own desires; when we do the things that make us feel good and refuse to do things tbecause they are simply “beneath us.” We want control so that we can be careful not to take on too many challenging projects. After all “I have had more than my share of challenges. I need a break!” When we live in God’s will, it sometimes does feel like the challenges just keep on coming! I will give you that. But honestly, are there any more of them then if we are not in God’s will? Probably not! Let’s face it. Life on earth will never be free of challenges. The difference between facing them with God versus without Him is grace. Grace is the gas that keeps us going; it gives us the courage to do it again one more day. If our challenges are a result of disobedience, don’t approach a solution the way Saul did. Repent and God will help you move on through whatever is facing you. It is His grace that gives us the strength to cope with and even utilize hard times for both spiritual and emotional growth. When we try to do this life on our own, we won’t build spiritual or emotional strength. If we even come out the other side of some challenge without God, we will eventually drop to the floor weak, discouraged and even bitter. Verse 24, 30 reveals who was “lord” over Saul’s life: "I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. … "I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel.” Aren’t many of us just like Saul? We disobey “a little” bit of God’s command because we don’t want the people around us to think we are weird. We want to fit it; we want “them” to like us, maybe even admire us. Our defense? “Of course I’m a Christian. Jesus is my Savior!” Maybe, but it doesn’t appear that He is our Lord, does it? Saul said, “I have sinned. But…” It’s that “but” that gave Saul away. It gives us all away. We get caught – we are sorry we got caught because we feel the humiliation of being caught. Repentance – what is required by God to warrant forgiveness and grace – is a very different reaction to being caught. Feeling true repentance will cause us to make every effort never to do it again. We turn from whatever thoughts, words or actions we committed that violated the will of God. If Saul had truly repented, he would have never asked Samuel to come back into town so that he could “save face” with the people. This is a journal entryies that I have read and re-read several times. I’m hoping it will stick! Reading it will bring it to mind for me, but it must be practiced if it is ever going to become part of me.   
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Wilderness Living (4)

I think I'm a "runner" - like Jonah in the Bible. He was the prophet that got swallowed by a whale (or a big fish of some kind) when the Lord tasked him to go to Ninevah. God wanted Jonah to warn the people in that city that He was going to destroy them if they didn't get their act together.  Jonah wanted no part of that assignment, so he ran away; but God had other plans!  Since becoming a Christian, my life has become a series of "instant changes." I think the Lord - who knows me much better than I know myself - knows that if I thought about some assignment long enough, I would head for the hills. I have been blind-sided numerous times since the early 90's. An "instant change" has often sent me scrambling into action or hitting my head up against a door He slammed on something I thought I would do for years.  For example: I was writing almost half of a local newspaper for over a year when one day - with very little warning - the paper was shut down. Hopefully, it had nothing to do with my writing! A few months pass and I find myself writing for a ministry - a dream job I had prayed for from the time I started writing. Again, no warning. I was asked one week to write for them and started the following week.  Eight months ago - over the course of 10 days - I was very ill with some mysterious disease no one was able to diagnose. Once diagnosed, I sat hour after hour in a chair feeling like my life of productivity was over. Yesterday, during my time with the Lord early in the morning, the reality of my healing hit and I couldn't stop sobbing. Not only am I healed, I'm sitting as I write this in another state working in ministry once again. I was sitting - quite contented - working from home and now, 10 days later, I'm sitting in another state with additional responsibilities.  It was only six weeks ago I couldn't travel more than 2 hours from my home without experiencing pain for several days. What a God we have! That's why I think I must be a runner like Jonah. God doesn't give me much information or a "heads up" warning prior to giving me an assignment.  He is simply protecting me from myself! I'm so grateful that He meets us right where we are - sick or well, young or aging, energetic or tired, willing or unwilling. Our heavenly Father knows best!  By the way, I am under no illusions! He will remove me from this season one day as quickly as He put me into it. I don't expect much warning. This is how my Master works with me and accomplishes His purposes through my life.   A dear friend recently told me that he wanted God  to "use him up" for His purposes while he remained on earth. After eight months of illness, I truly understand that desire - especially since I am much older than my friend. I have the same goal for the balance of my life. That kind of surrender was scary prior to my illness; it's now so reassuring.  I finally "get" that He knows best!  
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