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Archive for July, 2011

We’ve heard the warning, “Don’t pray for patience.”

It seems as though that prayer is always followed by trials and tests designed to try our patience to the max and in the process we’re supposed to  become more patient.

“I’ll never pray for patience again,” we solemnly vow as we lay in a bedraggled heap at the end of the trials.

Well, this week, I discovered there’s a similar prayer which isn’t for the faint of heart.

Last Wednesday, my daughter, her husband and their six children set out on their 1200 mile journey from Florida to our house here in PA. It wasn’t a vacation trip – Josh had a job opportunity about 100 miles from us and they decided to combine business and family time in the trip.Of course this grandma’s heart beat with anticipation at seeing all my grandbabies again as well as with hope that they might soon live within day-trip distance.

“God, give them a safe trip,” I prayed as they started out Wednesday morning.

About three hours into their trip, the phone rang. “Mom, is dad there?”

Oh no! Something’s wrong. They never ask for Dad unless there’s car trouble! My gut knotted up and my respirations increased as I handed Dan the phone.

The van stalled out as they were travelling on the interstate. They weren’t even out of Florida yet! Envisioning a costly repair which might make them turn back, I began to pray more desperately for them on their trip. “God give them a trip full of miracles and bring them safely here!”

Uh-oh. Poor choice of words.

What I failed to realize when I prayed that prayer was that in order for a miracle to happen, there has to be an impossibility first!

The van broke down a total of four times on the trip – and each time it was the SAME PART! Each time, the situation was a little more desperate as their finances were taxed by unexpected towing, taxi and motel bills.

With each breakdown, things seemed to go from bad to worse as they experienced difficulties in communication with their auto club. The extreme heat wave hitting the east coast threatened to cook them as they sat stranded along the road.

Time delays became a problem too as the two day trip lengthened into four days. Auto parts stores and garages closed on Friday night and Saturday afternoon  making it difficult to get the necessary repairs done in a timely way.

It began to look like Josh would miss his interview and preaching service at the church – the main reason for the trip when Josh was unemployed!

But their trip was filled with miraculous provision as kind strangers stopped to help. When the enemy threw lemons, God  made lemonade. Not only did Josh make it to his interview, the family was amazed at how God orchestrated it all!

Even now as we pray about fixing the van, the miracles are still happening. The necessary part (the real culprit in the breakdowns) is an expensive part on back order at the dealer’s garage  and no one knows when it will be able to be shipped.

Yet, our local mechanic was able to locate a used part at a substantial savings. Just another miracle in a string of miracle clad events!

“God give them a trip full of miracles.” It’s not a prayer for the faint hearted!

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Fear, the paralyzing kind that keeps us from accomplishing God’s will in our lives,  has been a hot topic lately in several of the blogs I’ve read.

Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote that we won’t accomplish our goals if we wait until we overcome our fears. In the world of marketing, someone else may beat us to the punch if we hesitate in fear. But he also suggested that fear can help us to produce our best work if we harness its energy without letting it rule our hearts.

Writing expert Cec Murphy told the story in his recent blog of an author who interested several publishers in his book, but was never able to finish the last chapter because of fear. Needless to say, his manuscript never saw the light of day.

Been there, done that. Thirty-five years ago, I sent for a course from the Christian Writer’s Guild. I completed the first five lessons with no problem as they dealt with the mechanics of writing. But when I got to the lessons on marketing my work (submitting it to periodicals), I balked. The thought of an editor reading those submissions scared me silly It would have sounded the death knell for me as a writer if not for the patience and persistence of my heavenly Father.

God did not give us a spirit  that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 New Century Version (NCV)

God isn’t the author of that  paralyzing fear that sometimes overwhelms us. He didn’t put it in our hearts.  For some, fear results from a flawed sense of being. They believe they’re not good enough or that they lack some other essential ingredient at the core of their being.

Others, like the author in Cec’s illustration, have difficulty dealing with the imagined outcomes of their actions. He had suffered chronic depression before beginning the book and feared he would lapse back into a depressed state if he finished the last chapter. He couldn’t move past that fear.

Even if we determine to trust God and not to be afraid, we may still experience the feelings of fear. It’s difficult to turn off our emotions, but with a willing heart, we can overcome them. 

A wise person once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it.” Use the emotional energy of that fear to spur you on toward overcoming the thing you fear.

For some that means doing a 180 degree turn, staring into the face of their fear and doing the very thing they are afraid of. For others it means chipping away at their resistance in baby steps, building confidence along the way.

Both ways work when we  hold onto the hand of our heavenly Father.

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I took a short jaunt in a missionary’s shoes the other day as I read Ilona Hadinger’s blog. She admitted to feeling “stupid,” especially when she first arrived on the mission field.

She writes, “In our own culture we can teach, administrate, serve, prepare, communicate, etc. In the host culture (Mexico) we are temporarily handicapped. This causes us to have a lower view of ourselves because we can’t think, speak, or understand the same way those in our new setting do.

“Inside us our capabilities and talents scream to get out and produce! No, we’re not stupid, but we feel that way. Humility has to take it’s long, winding course and shed those “stupid” feelings along the way.”

As I pondered Ilona’s words, I realized I’ve experienced the same feelings at times. I felt “temporarily handicapped” twenty years ago when I first started writing because I hadn’t mastered the skills specific to the craft at that point. When articles came back rejected, I felt stupid and inept. I wanted to crawl under my desk as a rookie news reporter in northern New York because I worried my writing wouldn’t be good enough. LOL!

But I kept at it, writing, rewriting and learning. Just when I reached the place where I felt confident in my writing ministry, God led me into the foreign land of book marketing to promote Daughter of Scarlet to help raise money for missionaries like Ilona.

EVERYTHING changed again. I have to learn the language; to understand how to reach people’s hearts with the need of trafficking victims without turning them off and how to present my project effectively.

The tendency is to feel “stupid” because things are going slow and there is so much to learn. But the truth is, marketing is just another step in the process of becoming the writer God intends me to become.

I like how Ilona puts it,  “…each inability we experience is a step towards ability. Small at times, but a step nonetheless. In that way, we can walk in true humility, laugh at our mistakes and grow through the process.”

Lord help us put aside those Satan-inspired, paralyzing lies that we are “stupid” and help us to tackle each new challenge as an adventure in growing up in God!

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What does the word “Compel” mean to you?

I envision someone grabbing you by the collar and shoving you up against the wall, breathing down your neck until you do what they want.

But it doesn’t have to be physical. People also compel us to do things by using strong emotional forces like intimidation,  guilt or pity. Sometimes our children compel us just with their puppy-dog expressions. Ever been there? Yep!

But have you ever been compelled by love?

I read a great essay this week by a 16 year old gal who felt compelled to do something about human trafficking. Her essay, on the Project Rescue blog,  hit the nail on the head when she said, “Being compelled by God’s love is not a feeling; but an action.”

She read about trafficking in a teen magazine, then later she learned a shocking truth: that trafficking can occur anywhere – not just in New York City or overseas, It can and did occur in a city just 20 minutes from her home. 

God was creating an irresistible drive in her heart. “I soon thought about it almost every day. At school, I would daydream about it and at night I’d fall asleep with ideas forming in my mind,” she wrote.

The pressure to do something became so strong it drove her to prayer. “Through prayer and Scripture, it became clear what I was to do. God has planted this dream (to start her own non-profit anti-trafficking organization) within me and though my flesh may think it seems impossible, it is through God’s grace that I know I can achieve this dream.

Christian singer, Natalie Grant also felt this overwhelming pressure to do something about the global problem of human trafficking. She says her life was “wrecked” after she saw firsthand the needs of young women and girls who were being trafficked. Her life could never be the same – she HAD to do something. Today she is the head of the Home Foundation and Abolition International which fights against trafficking and aids those who are victimized by it. (The Home Foundation supports Home of Hope Texas which is one of my projects too. Smile)

I know how these gals feel. When I came face to face with the problem of human trafficking for the first time, my heart broke. I knew I had to do something and the idea for Daughter of Scarlet was born. God has continued to exert pressure on my heart whenever my purpose wavers.

Have you ever felt compelled by God to do something? To witness to someone? To give something?  The pressure Love exerts when it compels us may not be comfortable, but the joy of following through  on that compulsion is priceless!

May God get ahold of our hearts so strongly that we are compelled by His love to serve. What ARE we waiting for?

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“Pop, frizzle,sizzle.” In neighboring back yards, the fireworks flared all around our small town America home. It was pretty, even though they were the small displays rather than the huge public shows in other locations. What a fitting end to a wonderful national birthday celebration.

But my rescued Brittany Spaniel, Danny, didn’t agree. The exploding missiles unnerved him, causing him to pace all around the room and pant with anxiety. It seemed odd since we believe he is a retired hunting dog.

No amount of soft words and comforting pats seemed to help ease his fears as the fireworks and his anxiety increased.

Quickly, I got his Thundershirt, a specially designed spandex type coat that could be fastened around him with Velcro strips. According to its manufacturers, it is supposed to swaddle the dog, easing his anxiety. Within moments, his labored breathing slowed to normal and he lay down to relax in his favorite place under my craft table. Wow! It really did work.

As I smiled down at my furry buddy, the Lord spoke to my heart. There were times I acted just like Danny, with my frantic pacing and hyperventilating over things that happened outside my control. Or when I refused to let go of control, trying to work things out myself.

When my worries consume me, He’s right there holding out promises from His word. It’s my spiritual “Thundershirt,”  designed to wrap me tight in His loving care; to calm me down and reassure me that He’s in control. When I wear His promises of comfort, protection and provision, I feel secure and the anxiety does lessen or disappear.

The difference between me and Danny B. Dawg is that  Danny can’t put the shirt on himself. He needs me to fasten it on him. But when I worry, I’m the one who needs to reach out, take God’s reassurance and wrap it snugly around myself. And God designed me with the ability to refuse His help.

Why would I want to try the D-I-Y method of dealing with anxiety, especially when Jesus offers comfort, help and peace? Lots of reasons – but suffice it to say, I do like his comforting wrap a whole lot better!

Lord, when I’m fretting over things in my life, help me to accept your comfort and help. Wrap your arms sung around me. Fill my heart with your promises until I feel secure. Amen!

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