A Faithful Friend

standard September 6, 2017 1 response

Just then some men came, carrying on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed.  They tried to bring him in and set him down before Him [Jesus].  Since they could not find a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the roof titles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus.  Seeing their faith He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18-20)

Have you ever experienced paralysis in your life?  The kind of paralysis where one debilitating episode comes after the other.  Your body aches all over, even though your muscles have long stopped working.  You struggle to pick yourself up off the ground, but to no avail.

And then you hear that there is a man in town who performs miracles.  He goes by the name of Jesus, some are even calling him the Son of God.  Every fiber of your being knows that your healing lies within the building that is close enough to hit with a stone…that is, if you could throw a stone.

And as you lie there simply defeated, your friends walk in and gently place you on a stretcher. They inform you that they are taking you to meet this Jesus.  Just as your hope begins to soar, it is immediately dashed as the realization that the chances of your friends getting you inside the jam-packed building to where your healing lies are slim to none. There is not an inch of room to spare.

But your friends are not ordinary.  No. They are extraordinary.

They look at the seemingly impossible situation and find a way to climb the walls with you on the stretcher, remove part of the roof, and lower you into the room where the Son of God is teaching.  But you didn’t end up just anywhere in the room.  Amazingly, you are placed at the very spot you need to be: in front of the only One who is capable of forgiving your sins and healing your limp body. 

This is all because of your friends, who saw your need as greater than their own. You know that they each have things they would like to ask of the Son of God.  They could use miracles in their own lives, but their selflessness and desire to see you restored took precedence.  They are faithful friends.

And Jesus, seeing their faith, grants the healing and forgiveness that you have desperately hoped for since the paralysis hit.  You will never be the same.  Your healing came because of the self-sacrificial love of your friends who were willing to do whatever it took to place you directly in front of your Savior.

Now that you are healed, will you do the same for others?  Are you willing to be a faithful friend?

Lord, would You allow me to be a faithful friend to others, pointing them to the only One who can heal them and forgive them of their sins, Jesus? Thank You also for the friends that You have placed in my life who show me Your love continually.      

An Anchor for the Soul

standard August 8, 2017 2 responses

Summertime is in full swing, as is the air conditioning and the consumption of sweet iced tea.  Here in the deep south, one of our favorite summer pastimes is to take long boat rides down the river, sometimes water skiing for hours on end, and other times fishing until our heart’s content. It is always great fun to slather on the sunscreen and fellowship with friends and family, enjoying the day without a care in the world.

However, I know firsthand that in an instant the weather can change and a severe thunderstorm can appear out of nowhere.  This exact thing happened when I was on a family redfishing trip in the deep marsh off the coast of New Orleans.  One moment we were soaking in the warmth of the sun, and the next we were fleeing to find shelter from the pelting rain.

We raced to the nearest boat dock and hurriedly put our anchor down to keep us from slamming into danger.  And as we huddled together waiting for the storm to pass, we were thankful for the sense of security that the anchor provided us with while we waited and hoped for the sun’s return.

This situation reminded me of the imagery of a sure and firm anchor that the writer of Hebrews gives to illustrate the promises of our faithful God.

“So that…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope – like a sure and firm anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:18-19)

He lets us know that when the storm rages, it requires more of us than simply to remember the promises of our unchangeable God, but we must also “seize the hope set before us.”  We reach out our hand and take hold of something sure and firm.  Something that is bigger than the wind and the waves. It is hope.

It is hope that centers us.  Hope that keeps us from crashing into the bank.  Hope that keeps our eyes on Jesus instead of our circumstances.  Hope as an anchor for our frightened soul.

The storms of life will undoubtedly come our way, usually when things are moving along just fine.  We may be caught off guard at first, wondering where is God in our time of need.  But then we remember that He has given us His promises as something firm and sure to keep us centered.

He has given us hope to seize.  He has given us Jesus as an anchor for our soul. 

God, You are my refuge when the storm rages. Help me to seize the hope that You have given me and to look to Jesus as the sure and firm anchor for my soul. Amen.

What’s Your “Word” for 2016?

standard January 13, 2016 6 responses

Years ago at the church I attended, our pastor would always encourage us to adopt a specific word for the year.  I thought this was a great idea in theory, but I never took the time to actually implement it.  Boy, was I missing out on a simple joy that this life has to offer!

Speaking of joy, fast forward several years to 2015 where my friend Lesli adopted the word Joy for the year. You may remember her post JOY: A Choice, Not a Feeling.  I watched her take this word and run with it. And guess what? Joy permeated her entire year.  And not just hers but also those she came in contact with.  It was truly a joy to be around her.

Another good friend of mine chose the word Love to focus on for the year and she noted how crazy it was that she would see the word everywhere around her…in her news feed, on her favorite brand of clothing, and in verses of Scripture that she had read a hundred times before but never really noticed the word love.  It got to where so many others knew her word was Love and they would send her text messages or post to her Facebook wall whenever they saw the word.  How nice to be known to others as love!

So how does one go about picking a word for the new year?  Well, there are several ways.

  1. Think of something that you’d like to work on in the new year.  Not just as a new year’s resolution, but something that you will carry with you throughout the year.  One great idea I heard was from a friend who wants to improve her self-discipline (i.e. putting limits on entertainment; doing the hard things first instead of procrastinating).  Now, that’s a word!
  2. Choose something you want more of in your life: Gratitude, Peace, Patience.  The list is endless.
  3. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a specific word. Now, of course I know that He will be at work in the above two ways as well, but this approach is just strictly having Him lead you to a random word.  Such was the case with the selection of my personal word for 2016: Hope.   A precious friend of mine gave me a stack of cards on HOPE.  At first, I was thinking, “I’m digging it. Hope for the future, and all that.”  But when I really sat down to think about it, there IS so much for me to be hopeful about in 2016.  Hope for my mom’s total healing from breast cancer.  Hope for my girls and their continued spiritual growth.  Hope for this new Bible study that has formed that I have the honor to teach.  And such an expectant hope of where God wants to take Reflecting Light as a ministry after my graduation in May.  The Holy Spirit whispered to my soul, “Take it, April.  Pick up the word Hope.”  So I did and I am loving what He is teaching me through this “not-so little” word.

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Once you have your word selected (or in #3’s case, given to you), take some time to look it up.  You can go to Blue Letter Bible and plug your specific word in and voilà…every verse containing that word will be listed and you can study it in-depth with their study tools.  It’s so easy and you don’t ever have to be intimidated by an old-school concordance again.

Lastly, let the word take up residence in your heart and in your actions.  If your word is gentleness, let it be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).  If it is self-discipline, memorize 2 Timothy 1:7.  If it is hope, then study the book of Jeremiah and learn exactly what God meant when He said He will give us a “hope and a future.”  The point is simply to carry the word with you throughout the year and let God teach you about it through His Word.  Nothing could be more fantastic.

I told you, Dear Reader, that our future is bright for 2016 and it can be richer with a simple word.  So, tell me, what’s your “WORD” for 2016?

El Salvador: Land of Physical Poverty Yet Spiritual Wealth

standard September 30, 2015 5 responses

Last week I testified to God’s faithfulness to allow me to participate in a Mission/Vision trip to El Salvador with Compassion International.  I had mentioned that it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was! Just knowing that I almost didn’t get to go made the whole experience extra sweet and special for me.  I soaked in every moment.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”

Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

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El Salvador is a beautiful land with rolling hills and lush landscape, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Ireland of Central America.” But despite its geographical beauty, it is a place where poverty runs rampant as do the gang members.  The problem seems to lie in the educational system: public grade schools are conveniently located to the students, but the high schools are sparse, requiring extra transportation costs.  Many of the families cannot afford this extra cost so the child drops out of school making them an easy target for the gangs to pick up as a new initiate.

Our group of women could feel the oppression as we drove through the littered streets.  Gang signs were present on poles, marking their territory lest anyone else try to lay claim.  We were told to put our cell phones out of sight or else they would most likely end up on the black market.  An armed guard or police officer was stationed at most of the establishments we visited.  The average family monthly income in the rural areas of El Salvador is $120.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s only $1,440 per year to support an entire family.  Yet even through all the impoverishment, I saw a land of hope.  And that hope lies in the faces of the children.

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The first Compassion center we visited was extremely new, only a few months old.  Casa de Pan (House of Bread) is run by Carlos and Candy who have a passion for the children and love them with an agape love.  You could see the gratitude that Candy had for the Compassion sponsors and she teared up several times when describing how much this center means to each child that visits it. It is a place where they can come twice a week to receive a meal (of which they usually save as much as possible to take back to share with their families), tutoring for school, and a chance to hear about how much Jesus loves them.  Most of them do not hear from their parents that they are loved, much less that they are smart or valuable. The center tries to teach them that they have a hope and a future in Christ.

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(The children sang “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” in English.)

After we visited with different families in the community, we returned to Casa de Pan to pray over those running the center.  But oh my were we in for a treat when Candy started praying over us with the rest of the center members praying out loud at the same time. The Compassion interpreter did an excellent job of translating, but it didn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong that it was all we could do to try to keep it together.  We had been to church…in the purest way! Praying for one another, lifting each other up to Jesus, knowing that He will supply every need.  These people are desperate for the Lord and it spills out into their everyday life.  It was a rich moment that I hope never to forget.

The Prayer at Casa de Pan

As I was leaving, I slipped Candy a $20 bill and told her that it was for the offering plate.  She was crying and telling me “Gracias, gracias, gracias!”  It struck me that I had spent more than that on a pedicure before I left, of which the paint was already chipping off.  I am sure that the twenty dollars I gave her went a lot further and will have a much more lasting effect than a pedicure ever could.  Candy had told me that through the church she and Carlos feed the entire community on Christmas Eve.  When I asked her where the funds for that came from she said, “The Lord always provides.”   That’s what I would call being “spiritually wealthy,” wouldn’t you?

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If you are interested in sponsoring a child from El Salvador, please contact me or visit compassion.com/elsalvador.  Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.