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Archive for the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ Category

Tony always loved team sports. In his teens he focused on football, and at the University of Minnesota he distinguished himself as a talented quarterback.

 

 

But no pro team picked him up after graduation in 1977. He finally signed on with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent.

Over the next three years he played for three different teams.  His career seemed to be going nowhere.  And at the end of that third year Tony anticipated transitioning from football to something else.

But his alma mater drafted him as assistant coach for their team. And the following year he was offered the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

 

Over the next fifteen years, Tony held two different coaching positions with two more teams before becoming head coach for Tampa Bay.  The Buccaneers did well for five years, making it to the playoffs three years in a row, 1998-2000. But the fifth year did not go well, and Tony was fired.

Now what, he wondered.

Within days Tony’s question was answered.   The Indianapolis Colts offered him the position of head coach. And in 2007 they won the Super Bowl. Tony Dungy became the first African-American coach to achieve that distinction.

 

Then-President George W. Bush receives an honorary jersey from the Super Bowl champs of 2007.  Quarterback Peyton Manning is to the president’s right, Tony Dungy is to the left.

 

It certainly hadn’t come easy. But after thirty years of ups and downs and hard work, Tony had finally achieved a long-held dream.

Tony’s story and the experiences of countless other persevering people have proved:

 

“The desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

–Proverbs 13:4b NIV

 

However, there is much more to that proverb than success in one’s work, as valuable as that is (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

 

 

And there’s much more to Tony’s story than a struggling football player who became a successful coach.

Tony is a Christian. And while he taught and trained athletes all those years, Tony was diligently applying himself to desires of eternal value.  He always felt that Christian principles were more important than everything else. Whatever position he held, Tony kept his faith at the forefront.

Proof of that statement lies in the choices he’s made—on the field as a calm, self-disciplined coach and off the field as a dedicated servant of God.

 

 

He’s been the national spokesman for “All Pro Dad,” and has worked with a number of organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors of Life, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Prison Crusade Ministry.

In addition, he and his wife Lauren have adopted seven children to round out their family of three biological children.  They also established the Dungy Family Foundation that works with Christian organizations, including pregnancy centers and youth ministries.

Tony says he loved coaching and winning the Super Bowl, but that was never his ultimate objective. “My purpose in life is simply to glorify God,” he says.*

 

(Tony receives the prestigious American Spirit Award

in November, 2007.)

 

There’s the secret to satisfaction in life.  Those who diligently desire to glorify God are the ones fully satisfied in their spirits.

But diligence requires effort—efforts such as:

 

  • Conditioning of the mind (Romans 12:1-2)

 

 

Tony would be the first to tell you the positive impact of scripture study in his own life. To highlight its importance, he put a Bible in his Hall of Fame locker, prominently displayed on the top shelf.

 

  • Humble submission (1 Peter 5:6)

 

 

Tony surrendered his expectations, knowing that God would bring fulfillment to his life, though not always in the ways Tony anticipated.

 

  • Patience (Galatians 6:9)

 

 

All the while Tony was playing football and coaching, he was learning to be a man of integrity, self-discipline, and courage.

Years spent in the public eye has also provided Tony a unique platform for: 1) mentoring players and coaches, 2) speaking at meetings and conferences on such topics as integrity, personal discipline, and overcoming adversity, and 3) writing books, including Quiet Strength and Uncommon–all endeavors of eternal worth.

 

 

  • Allowing pressure to achieve purpose (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

 

 

At the onset of each setback in his career, Tony wondered what God was doing. But he knew God could be trusted.

Then came the most painful setback of all—the suicide of his son in 2007.

Even then Tony did not falter. He allowed the pain to press him closer to his Heavenly Father, and he set about to use the tragedy as a way to honor God and help others.

In the final analysis, satisfaction is the outcome of diligent surrender to God’s purpose and diligent rest in God’s providence.

 

 

Just ask Tony Dungy.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, for brothers and sisters like Tony Dungy who diligently spend their time and energy in usefulness to you, and all for the praise of your glory.  May I, too, diligently follow the narrow path of such uncommon people.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org (2), http://www.georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.bibleversestogo.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.macdill.af.mil; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com.)

 

*https://www.I/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success.com

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cantonrep.com/special/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success
  2. https://www.faithwire.com/2018/08/30/former-nfl-coach-tony-dungy-one-of-the-reasons-god-has-me-at-nbc-is-to-give-christians-like-nick-foles-a-voice/
  3. https://www.l/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success
  4. http://www.bpnews.net/22595/tony-dungy-voices-the-pain-and-lessons-from-his-sons-suicide
  5. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2007-01-31-0701300302-story.html
  6. https://billygraham.org/story/tony-dungys-31-year-faith-journey-to-canton-ohio/
  7. http://www.enccylopedia.com/people/sports-and-games/sports-biographies/tony-dungy

 

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Anyone sitting in the camp meeting that night in 1850 would never guess they were in the presence of greatness-in-the-making, as a thirteen-year old girl prayed to receive Jesus into her life.

After all, she had three strikes against her: she was female, black, and a slave.

But strikes mean nothing to an all-powerful God. He had grand plans for Amanda Matthews, although even she was not aware for a long time.

First, God released her from slavery. Amanda’s father worked nights selling brooms and mats he made, after completing his duties on the Maryland dairy farm where he resided. The money he earned was finally sufficient to pay for his own freedom, and then one by one, the freedom of his wife (from a neighboring farmer) and their five children.

They moved to Pennsylvania and became part of the Underground Railroad, helping other slaves escape to freedom. During that time, Amanda’s heart was expanded by empathy for others and her spirit strengthened by courage.

 

 

Second, God provided opportunity for Amanda to practice his presence and grow in intimacy with him while she worked as a domestic servant.

Later in her autobiography she described the benefit of those years:

 

“…Though your hands are employed in doing your daily business;

it is no bar to the soul’s communion with Jesus.

Many times over my wash-tub and ironing table, and while making my bed

and sweeping my house and washing my dishes,

I have had some of the richest blessings.”

–Amanda Berry Smith

 

Amanda faced more than her share of heartache. Her first husband never returned home after the Civil War, her second husband died of stomach cancer, and four of her five children also died.

Though God certainly did not cause such hardships, he used them to accomplish good purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

(www.quotefancy.com/quote/12006/C-S-Lewis)

 

To assuage her grief and depression, Amanda immersed herself in church activities and camp meetings.  Such occasions not only ministered to Amanda’s aching heart, but provided preparation for what was to come.

Under the leadership of a camp meeting preacher, Amanda was invited to sing (with her expressive, deep contralto voice) and also to speak. She was a commanding presence at nearly six feet tall. But her captivating smile, well-told stories, and clear, biblical presentation soon garnered her more invitations to other churches and revival meetings.

Not that everyone was taken with her. Amanda experienced rejection and racism, as well as prejudicial treatment because she was a woman.

“But I belong to Royalty,” she said. “I am well-acquainted with the King of Kings. I am better known and better understood among the great family above than I am on earth.”

 

 

Others saw and appreciated “God’s image carved in ebony,” as Amanda was sometimes called. Bishop James Thoburn once had occasion to kneel near Amanda during a prayer meeting. Suddenly he heard her singing.

“I looked up,” he said, “and saw the colored sister…with her hands spread out and her face all aglow…Something like a hallowed glow seemed to rest upon the dark face before me, and I felt in a second that she was possessed of a rare degree of spiritual power.” *

Invitations here in America eventually led to invitations abroad—not a typical experience for nineteenth century Americans, much less for a former slave. Amanda must have smiled, perhaps even sang for joy, at the impossibilities God engineered for her.

 

 

In 1878 she traveled to England and stayed for two years, then sailed for India and ministered there for eighteen months.

Finally she spent eight years in Africa, working in churches, traveling by canoe from village to village to share about Jesus, and advocating for better treatment of women and children. While there Amanda adopted two boys.

In 1891 Amanda returned to the United States and settled in Chicago, perhaps at the urging of friends there. Several years later, Amanda began to pursue God’s next venture for her: to establish an orphanage for black children.

By 1899 the dream had become reality, and the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home was officially opened in Harvey, Illinois with thirty children.

Funding was provided in part by donors, including Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears and Roebuck, Inc. Another valuable source of funding: Amanda’s newly-written autobiography which sold widely.

By 1912, Amanda’s failing health began to interfere with her ability to handle orphanage affairs.  She was 75 years old.  But God provided a couple willing to take over for her, and Amanda moved south, at the invitation of a wealthy supporter and real estate developer, George Sebring. He provided for her a cottage in his community, Sebring, Florida.

On February 24, 1915 as the result of a stroke, Amanda Berry Smith went home to heaven, to her King of Kings and the great family above—many of whom reside there because Amanda was obedient to God’s call on her life.

 

 

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, God, let me be gripped with the same spirit of intensity and excitement as Amanda Berry Smith. Keep me mindful that every encounter can be a divine appointment with far-reaching impact. May I also be obedient to your promptings.

 

*Chris Armstrong, http://grateful to the dead.com/2010/11/07/poor-black-and-femaile-amanda-berry-smith-preached-holiness-in-the-teeth-of-racism/

 

Sources:

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/37-1_065.pdf

http://blackhistorynow.com/amanda-berry-smith/

http://greatawakening.blogspot.com/2010/01/amanda-berry-smith-gods-image-in-ebony.html

https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/amanda-berry-smith-turning-obstacles-gospel-opport/

http://satucket.com/lectionary/amanda_smith.html

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefacy.com; http://www.flickr. com (Sapphire Photography); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org)

 

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The eagle that soars in the upper air

does not worry itself how it is to cross rivers.

—Gladys Aylward

 

That’s a worthy quote to keep on file, don’t you think? I love the imagery of flying high through life close to God, the One who empowers us to traverse challenge.

But I wonder, who is this Gladys Aylward? Author? Teacher? Did she soar in the upper air? What rivers of challenge did she have to navigate?

A bit of research revealed that Gladys’ life began in the challenging river of the working class in London, 1902. By age fourteen she had to leave school and become a maid, to help support the family.

Two events changed her course, however. One, Gladys met Jesus at a revival meeting, and two, she became impassioned about China, after hearing a pastor speak of several missionaries who worked there.

 

(Millworker in Henan, China, 1930)

 

Gladys’ thoughts turned toward China frequently and to the millions of people who had never heard about Jesus. She longed to be one of those to tell them, so she applied to the China Inland Mission.

Gladys was turned down. They said she didn’t have the aptitude or education necessary to learn such a difficult language as Chinese.

The rejection was a deep disappointment, but it did not stop her. She spent four years working extra hours, scrimping and saving every possible pence from her meager wages, in order to pay her own passage.

During that fourth year, word reached Gladys that an elderly widow missionary, Jennie Lawson in Yancheng, China, was in need of a helper.

Several months later, in October of 1932, she set out on the dangerous, weeks-long journey through Europe and Russia, mostly by train. (Passage aboard a ship would have provided a shorter, safer trip, but train travel was cheaper.)

 

 

When Gladys finally arrived, she found Jennie—not directing an established mission, but living alone in a ramshackle inn. Within a year, however, Jennie, Gladys, and their Chinese cook and friend, Yang, had completed the needed repairs.

The two missionaries were finally able to host the mule drivers who caravanned through Yancheng, transporting their various wares.  In the evenings, Jennie told Bible stories to the guests.

It wasn’t long before Gladys was also telling the stories. She learned Chinese quite readily while conversing with Yang and the muleteers—a feat she later called one of God’s miracles.

 

(Gladys Aylward)

 

No sooner did their situation become secure than Jennie fell, and died several days later. Gladys couldn’t sustain the inn on her own. But God made provision for her to stay. The Mandarin of the area offered Gladys a job, inspecting women’s feet!

 

(foot-binding shoes)

 

A law had been passed in China forbidding the ancient custom of binding girls’ feet in order to keep them dainty and small. The practice also caused lameness and pain. Gladys accepted the position, eager for the opportunities it would offer to tell people about Jesus.

But life still did not settle down into a comfortable, peaceful routine, as Gladys faced a number of seemingly impossible situations. And she soared over them all with God.

When a prison riot occurred, the Mandarin sent for Gladys—all 4’ 10” of her—to settle the inmates. God gave her the wherewithal (in spite of her fear) to command attention, ask a representative of the prisoners to explain the reasons for the riot, and then act as liaison with the prison guards to improve conditions.

 

 

In 1937, the war between Japan and China grew into a full-scale conflict. Gladys became a spy for her Chinese countrymen. Her foreign status gave Gladys the ability to cross into Japanese-controlled areas. When they became aware of Gladys’ espionage activities, a bounty was posted for her capture—dead or alive.

One time, Gladys narrowly escaped the bullets of her Japanese pursuers. As she hid in some bushes, Gladys used her padded coat as protection, wadding it up like a shield.

But the day came, she had to seek sanctuary elsewhere.  It was not just her life that was in danger; Gladys was concerned for the orphans who now lived with her at the inn.

She chose to flee to a government orphanage at Sian. When word spread through the community of her plan, other orphans were brought to her, so they too could escape the war zone. Soon 100 children had gathered for the trek—mostly four to eight years of age.

 

 

They walked through the mountains for twelve days—on rough, little-used trails where they could remain hidden. Some nights they spent with welcoming hosts; other nights they slept on the mountainsides. Most of their cloth shoes wore out before they reached Sian.

Miraculously, all of them arrived safe and sound, except Gladys, who was suffering from typhus and pneumonia and collapsed into a coma. She almost died, but did finally recover.

And as soon as she could, Gladys returned to what she loved: helping others in need and telling everyone about Jesus.

Gladys Aylward certainly proved she knew how to soar in the upper air, with God as her strength. And he did indeed carry her across many rivers.

Postscript:  Among the many that accepted Jesus into their lives as the result of Gladys’ efforts, was the Mandarin of Yancheng.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

May I also soar, O God, resting in the confidence that you will never leave me or forsake me. You have promised to be my Helper. May I focus on you, my loving and powerful God, and not my circumstances, because you are the Lord of every situation. 

(Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 13:5-6; Ephesians 1:11)

 

(Some of you may recognize Gladys’ story. It became the basis for a movie in 1958, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/gladys-aylwards-impossible-mission-to-china-11630754.html
  2. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/73.html
  3. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward
  4. https://urbana.org/blog/gladys-aylward

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.org;  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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(Wilfred Grenfell, 1865-1940)

 

Dr. Wilfred Grenfell listened to the ill fisherman’s labored breathing. He took note of the patient’s fever-flushed cheeks and chill-induced tremors. The diagnosis: severe pneumonia, and possibly tuberculosis as well.

With little equipment and scant supplies at hand, Grenfell was unable to save the man. Left behind were the man’s wife and six children, subsisting in a tiny sod house.

 

 

Who would care for the destitute family? Everyone in the fishing village of Battle Harbor, Labrador was barely surviving. In fact, up and down the coast similar tragedies occurred frequently because of the primitive living conditions.

The year was 1892. Dr. Grenfell had just recently arrived on the northeastern coast of Canada.

 

 

Over the next three months of summer, he treated about nine hundred people for a variety of medical conditions. And God used those experiences to stir him into action—action for which he had been preparing Grenfell for his entire life.

During his childhood, Wilfred’s parents, Reverend Algernon and Jane Grenfell, provided a strong Christian upbringing for their four sons. Grenfell then studied medicine at London Hospital and London University under the mentorship of the highly respected Christian surgeon, Sir Frederick Treves.

 

(Sir Frederick Treves)

 

But a life-changing moment occurred for Grenfell in 1885 when he attended a tent-revival meeting held by D. L. Moody. Grenfell accepted Moody’s spirited challenge to serve Christ with passion and courage.

Not long after, he heard the Cambridge Seven speak—famous student athletes at the time, serving as missionaries in China. Wilfred felt further inspired to follow God’s leading toward Christian service.

 

(The Cambridge Seven in Mandarin garb, 1885)

 

Upon graduation from medical school, Wilfred joined the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, on recommendation of his mentor and board member of the mission, Sir Frederick Treves.

The RNMDSF already provided floating libraries, clothing stores, and chapels. Now Grenfell could add medical services to the other benefits.

 

(The Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen,

still in operation since its founding in 1881.)

 

His travels with the mission brought Grenfell to Labrador where the living conditions were so dire he felt compelled to do what he could to improve them.

In addition to offering medical care, Grenfell held simple church services, preaching what he remembered from his father’s sermons. Numerous people chose to follow Jesus; others were strengthened in their faith.

Over the course of the next four decades Grenfell built six hospitals and opened seven nursing stations. He established fourteen industrial centers, a number of churches, and  four boarding schools.

 

 

At first, the Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen financed his work. But it soon became necessary for Grenfell to raise monies himself. God equipped him for this aspect of the work also, and very quickly he became a successful fundraiser and charismatic speaker.

One close-call adventure Grenfell relayed often on his speaking tours, and it finally became a book. (He wrote more than thirty books—all for the support of his mission work.)

 

 

In April of 1908 he found himself drifting out to sea on a chunk of ice with no hope of survival. He’d been dog sledding across the frozen Hope Bay, headed for a remote community in Newfoundland where a young boy needed surgery.

But conditions on the bay changed overnight while he rested. The ice began to break up. Though Grenfell tried to jump from one ice chunk to another in order to return to shore, he soon realized it was wasted effort. The floe was moving too fast.

 

(Drift ice off the coast of Labrador)

 

For a day and a night, Grenfell continued to drift. He was sure the rough seas would make rescue impossible. But a small group of fishermen in a boat did spot him and came to his aid.

Later, he described his rescuers as five men “with Newfoundland muscles in their backs and five as brave hearts as ever beat in the bodies of human beings” (Adrift on an Ice Pan, 1909).

Two days later, Grenfell was able to perform surgery on the young boy, who was brought to the local hospital by boat—a much more satisfactory solution.

In addition to his accomplishments and great adventures, Grenfell’s full life also included disappointment and doubt, trouble and sorrow, even failure. But he knew where to find strength and encouragement:

 

“The word of God is the Christian soul’s best weapon,

and it is essential to have it with him always.

In doubt it decides; in consultation it directs;

in anxiety it reassures, in sorrow it comforts;

in failure it encourages; in defense it protects;

in offense it is mightier than the mighty.”

–Wilfred Grenfell

 

Thus empowered, the great doctor accomplished his divinely appointed mission–day by day, year after year—with passion and courage.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

That is what we desire as well, Father, to accomplish the mission you’ve divinely-appointed for each of us. May we embrace with faith, courage, and passion the possibilities you present before us, in honor of you, and because your pleasure always becomes ours as well.

 

(P.S. The winter after the ice floe rescue, Grenfell met Anna MacClanahan of Lake Forest, Illinois. They were married in November of 1909, and she quickly became Grenfell’s private secretary, editor, and adviser. They had two sons and one daughter.)

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/grenfell_wilfred_thomason_16E.html
  2. http://www.canadianchristianleaders.org/leader/wilfred-grenfell/
  3. http://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/sir-wilfred-grenfell
  4. http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/wilfred-grenfell-fully-sir-wilfred-thomason-grenfell
  5. http://www.grenfellhistory.co.uk/biographies/wilfred_thomason_grenfell.php
  6. https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/grenfell-mission.php
  7. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/fifteen-canadian-stories-wilfred-grenfell-the-daring-doctor-who-brought-hospitals-to-newfoundland

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com;www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com.

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of South Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23:

 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

 

 

Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel ready this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time, to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes.

 

 

 

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

 

 

Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us–just in time.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for every trial, you have prepared great mercies of endurance, strength, and wisdom.

I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile.

You are more than a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

 

(Revised and reblogged from 5-28-15.  Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.)

 

 

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Micki and I first met at church, and within moments it became clear: this woman would make a great friend. Not only did she exude warmth and smile easily, she asked questions.   Good questions.  And then she listened intently to my answers.

Fast forward a few years from that initial encounter. God did bring Micki and me together, and we’ve been friends ever since—over ten years now.

To know Micki is to experience loving acceptance from her heart, hear godly wisdom from her spirit, and receive splashes of joy from her effervescent personality.

You would not know that this well-balanced and vibrant person has suffered much pain and loss.

With Micki’s permission I am sharing with you her story:

At one time or another during her youth, Micki lived in the same house with an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a person suffering from mental illness.

In addition, she is an incest survivor and rape survivor.

“When you are abused by a person who should represent safety and security, and no one comes to rescue you, your entire world shifts,” Micki explains. “All the foundational undergirding and security a healthy child experiences is taken away. The world becomes terribly unsafe, with no one to trust or run to. And even though it is the abuser who is wrong, it is the child who feels dirty and bad.”

Those dreadful circumstances, however, were not the only tragedies to enter Micki’s life. She endured the trauma of teenage pregnancy and a doomed marriage as well.

“My first husband was a good and honorable man, but he was so wounded by his own childhood, he could not express love. For five years I was married to a man to whom I would say, ‘I love you’, and from whom would come silence. A man I hugged who couldn’t hug back. A man who regularly moved away from my touch.

“He never abused me, never fought with me, always provided for me, but his rejection was like a cancer, slowly eating away at my self-esteem. At that time I didn’t know he’d been wounded. I only knew he couldn’t stand to touch me, and the conclusion I drew was he must have discovered the truth—that I was dirty, unlovable and ugly.”

Micki recognized the damage in her life from living with an alcoholic, so she began attending Al-Anon, the sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Through that program, Micki was drawn to people with this light inside them—people who seemed happy despite their desperate circumstances—people who appeared to have a handle on that “Higher Power” the Al-Anon leaders taught about.

Of course, those people who radiated that Light were Christians, and in due time one of them led her to Jesus. She didn’t know it, but that was Micki’s first step toward wholeness.

Not long after she became a Christian, someone asked her, “Do you know how special you are to God?” She remembers sobbing because, how could ANYONE, much less GOD, think she was special?

Micki was so blinded by her past she could not fully grasp God’s personal love. But gently and tenderly over a number of years, he led her toward emotional and spiritual healing, that moment in time when she could finally accept God’s warm and gracious love.

Micki participated in her healing through enthusiastic Bible study. Where once she found scripture rather meaningless, the new Micki reveled in the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement she found within its pages.

Prayer became a lifeline as she navigated the rough waters of challenging family relationships and a stressful job.

Later, ministries at church became a source of great fulfillment. God has put her on a healing team and the planning team for women’s retreats, given her Bible study groups to lead and young women to mentor, as well as put her at the podium occasionally to speak. She has impacted hundreds of lives throughout the three decades since she said “yes” to Jesus.

As he so often does, God took the great brokenness of Micki’s life and created beautiful wholeness.

Then God took her wholeness, broke it open and poured it out, to multiply the beauty in others.

It’s what our God loves to do.

 

Micki and me, April 2018

 

 

 

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Johnny reached for the highball near his workspace, even though it was only 10:00 in the morning. It was a necessity, he told himself, to help release his creativity and wit. How else was he supposed to come up with new ideas day after day?

He had thought a new home in the country would provide inspiration, renewed energy for his work, and the tranquility he longed for. But once he and his wife Bobby settled on their 150-acre estate, with a huge, wood-paneled studio overlooking a 25-acre lake, Johnny found himself just as unhappy and uninspired as before the move.

 

(Not Johnny’s and Bobby’s lake, but perhaps similar)

 

The success he’d achieved, the fortune he had acquired, the entertainment he pursued did not provide the satisfaction he’d expected.

Not long after settling into their new home, Johnny and Bobby decided to address its one drawback: there was no television reception. They purchased a satellite system.

The company sent a father/son team to install it—a process that became more complicated and time-consuming than anyone expected. The father and son stayed in the large studio for the days it took to complete the task.

As work progressed to hook up the several TVs in the house and one in the studio, the two men tuned in to a Christian station. Johnny found himself drawn to the screens, listening to the likes of D. James Kennedy, a well-respected preacher and author at the time.  Johnny had been a believer in Jesus when he was young, but had drifted away in adulthood.

The more he listened, the more he remembered what he’d learned years before in Sunday School: God made us humans and loves us. But we are sinful, and sin separates us from him. So God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to die in our place. And those who believe in him receive the incredible gift of eternal life with him in heaven when we die (John 3:16).

 

 

Johnny began reading the Bible and felt his doubts, dissatisfaction and fears melting away. In their place he noticed a deep sense of peace and purpose.

Part of that purpose was to allow his rekindled faith to impact his work as a cartoonist. He began to include Christian references in his highly successful comic strip, “B.C.”

You might remember it. Simple drawings of cavemen, dinosaurs, ants, and other animals inhabited a very stark habitat. The genius wasn’t in the drawings; it was in the puns, irony, wordplay, and dry humor that Johnny Hart produced for fifty years, from 1957-2007.

For example, in one strip, a caveman says, “God, if you’re up there, give me a sign.” In the next frame, a huge neon sign sits crookedly and slightly buried in the sand in front of the caveman. It has obviously just fallen from the sky, and it reads—in big capital letters—“I’M UP HERE.”

Of course, Johnny was criticized for those strips that affirmed Christian beliefs. His response to such reproach was to ask a question:

“What purpose would I serve if I had the answer to the mystery of life only I did not tell it for the sake of what other people believe (1)?”

One of Johnny Hart’s strips about the mystery of life moved me to tears.

It appeared on Good Friday, 1996.

There were simply four empty panels with no artwork and no conversation bubbles. The first panel was gray, the second a shade darker, the third darker still, and the last frame was completely black. That final panel carried the simple caption: Good Friday.

Such a simple presentation, but overflowing with meaning. For me, the progression toward black was symbolic of Jesus’ experiences that day—from betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane to an unlawful trial, a flogging, a crown of thorns, a heavy cross to carry, and the worst torture man has ever devised: crucifixion. The land was shrouded in darkness that day for three hours (Mark 15:33).

But oh, it is Good Friday, because that darkest deed of history became our bright victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

 

 

And because of Jesus’ profound sacrifice, we do have hope, peace, purpose, and more.

Johnny Hart would want us to know.

 

Note:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Sources:

1) https://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/572-newsletters/the-buzz/4671-johnny-hart-i-did-it-his-way

2)http://jeffjenkinsocala.blogspot.com/2008/07/bc-comics-censored.html

3) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flicr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

 

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