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Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

It happened one summer day when all three kids still lived at home.  I’d been working at my desk for awhile and came out to the family room to find snack dishes and glasses here and there, Legos strewn across the floor, craft supplies littering the table, as well as bits of belongings strewn on the counter between kitchen and family room.

(At least it wasn’t THIS bad!)

At that moment one of those precious children asked, “Mom!  Since you’re up, can you get me some ice for my glass?”

To be honest, the details of the above event are hidden in the dust of several decades. What I do remember clearly was my response to the perpetrators of a grand mess and a thoughtless request.  In a sonorous tone worthy of Cinderella’s stepmother I announced:

“LISTEN!  I am NOT your SERVANT!!”

No sooner had I barked that declaration, than the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper, “Oh yes, you are.”

I knew what he meant.  Not what the three children would have liked—a personal maid to clean up after them and keep their things organized.

No, God was talking about denying myself in order to develop them.  In that moment it meant (calmly!) directing them in a family room overhaul.  Such a feat required some teeth-gritting, let me tell you.

Since those days, I’ve learned a few things to improve my attitude as I serve others, so Cinderella’s stepmother appears less often. 

God actually makes it possible to embrace servanthood when we remember:

We’re serving Christ.

He sees the daily grind of discipline we expend on our kids, the messes others make that we clean up, the kindnesses we perform when no one’s looking, the work we do for the benefit of others.  But we tend to forget our invisible audience of One [1].

We’d do well to remember:

The real test of a saint is not one’s willingness to preach the gospel, but one’s willingness to do something like washing the disciples’ feet [2].

Oswald Chambers

Second, nothing is insignificant when we’re serving God; no effort is wasted.

We might not see positive results from our efforts, but God promises our work on behalf of others will never be for nothing.

Ask someone, “Who was influential in your life?” and the answer will usually include a quiet, modest person who made themselves available, listened more than talked, hugged warmly, and joined in celebrating or grieving with loving interest–insignificant efforts in the eyes of some, but not to that one, and not to God.

In addition, God has designed us so serving others fosters great satisfaction—an actual rush of endorphins—as God fulfills another promise: 

Third, small acts of service may result in a grand conclusion.

When men do anything for God, the very least thing, they never know where it will end nor what amount of work it will do for Him. Love’s secret, therefore, is to be always doing things for God, and not to mind because they are such very little ones.

Frederick W. Faber (1814-1863)

Alcoholic John Baker finally hit bottom when his wife told him to get counseling or leave.  John left.

But soon he was attending AA meetings and finding his way back to sobriety, reconciliation with his wife, and God.  The meetings were certainly helpful but other members mocked John when he revealed his Higher Power was Jesus.

Meanwhile, John’s reunited family began attending church and a Spirit-inspired idea began to form.  What if there was a place where Christians could find healing from their hurts, hang-ups, and addictions?

With his pastor’s blessing (You may know him—Rick Warren!), John spent many hours preparing for his first group to complete a 12-week, 12-step program based on scripture. He included his own humble confessions.   

Would anyone come?

Forty-three people attended.  Now, thirty years later, 35,000 churches worldwide host Celebrate Recovery groups; over seven million people have been impacted.

 

And though John Baker unexpectedly graduated to heaven in February of this year, the grand conclusion of his work is still pending [3].

So is ours.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O God, compel me to always be serving you—even in the least things—with passion and delight.  Guide me to act wherever and whenever you desire, that I might be a part of your overarching purpose.


[1] Audience of One, a song made popular by Big Daddy Weave

[2] from My Utmost for His Highest

[3] https://celebraterecovery.com/about/history-of-cr ; https://www.celebraterecovery.co.uk/pastor-john-bakers-testimony/

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The internet offers plenty of advice for maximizing time and effort in order to achieve success. The suggestions include:

  • Prioritize and protect your agenda.  Identify the crucial tasks for each day and focus on those items first.  Limit interruptions; shut down distractions.
  • Build an efficient routine into your schedule to streamline how time is allocated.
  • Pursue your own goals; don’t let others set them for you.
  • Network—especially with influential people who can expedite your success.

Jesus failed to follow any of that advice.

Instead:

His agenda shifted often, and he allowed frequent interruptions.

People interrupted his teaching and traveling all the time with requests for miracles.  Jewish leaders interjected questions while he was speaking.  When he tried to take the disciples to a quiet place for rest, the crowds followed, eager to hear him preach. 

And out of compassion, Jesus complied. [1]

Sometimes even his interruptions were interrupted.

While answering a question of John the Baptist’s disciples one day, a ruler intruded upon the conversation, begging him to come and raise his daughter from the dead.  En route to the ruler’s house, another interruption occurred when a woman touched his robe in hope of healing.[2]

It’s a wonder he ever arrived at his intended destinations.

Jesus had no routine.

Scripture seems to indicate Jesus lived in the moment—teaching, building relationships, healing, and performing miracles as opportunities presented themselves.

However, Christ did make time for important habits, including seclusion, prayer, and worship.[3]

Jesus’ overarching goal in life was to accomplish his Father’s goal.

“For I have come down from heaven

not to do my will but to do

the will of him who sent me.”

–John 6:38

Jesus set his sights on the joy awaiting him, when all earthly pain, frustration, and humiliation would be over and he’d be seated at the right side of his Father’s throne.[4]

Jesus built relationships, not a network.

At the end of three years, he’d assembled 120 followers.[5]  That’s an average of 40 per year; less than one per week.  Not very impressive.

Yet Jesus was the most successful Person who ever lived because:

True success is excellent living—

when a person’s thoughts, decisions,

and actions honor God.

–Chrystal Evans Hurst[6]

And Christ accomplished that perfectly.  

Now, thousands of angels encircle his throne, giving Jesus praise, honor, and glory because of his triumph over sin and death.[7]

What about us?  Are we focused on the culture’s view of success or God’s? 

Do we accept—even celebrate—what he chooses to do through us and then leave the results to him?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, help me to be a failure like Jesus! I confess that worldly standards of success cloud my vision of what true excellence entails:  obedience to you. Remind me you know what you’re doing and you do all things well; circumstances are not reliable indicators.  I reaffirm my trust in you whose works are always perfect.

(Jeremiah 7:23; Proverbs 19:21; Deuteronomy 32:4)


[1] Matthew 9:18-19; 21:23-24; 20:29-34; Mark 6:30-34

[2] Matthew 9:14-26

[3] Mark 1:35; Luke 4:16

[4] Hebrews 12:2

[5] Acts 1:15

[6] Kingdom Woman Devotional, Tyndale House Publishers (2013), p. 49.

[7] Revelation 5

Art & photo credits: http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.freebibleimages.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

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(In honor of Women’s History Month)

 

Hannah More (1745-1833)

 

The odds were stacked against her.

Like all young women of eighteenth century Britain, Hannah More would have to choose between marriage and a select few occupations for females. Universities did not accept women, most professions were closed to them, they couldn’t serve in government or even vote.

Yet the case has been made that Hannah More wielded strong influence in important arenas of her time. How could that be? God paved the way.

 

 

First, he gave Hannah a quick mind and a schoolteacher father who taught his five daughters at home. As the girls grew into womanhood Mr. More helped two of the older sisters open a boarding school for girls in nearby Bristol. Hannah attended for a while, but at age eighteen, became one of the teachers.

In addition to the ability to teach, God gave Hannah a gift for writing. Even at an early age she was composing poems and essays. Later she began to write plays for her students—dramas that included life lessons.

In her early twenties, Hannah became engaged to neighboring landowner, William Turner. Three times the wedding date was set; three times he backed out. The third time Hannah broke the engagement. To assuage his guilt, William gave her a monthly stipend, enabling Hannah to move to London and focus on her writing.

 

(www.azquotes.com/author/10363-Hannah_More)

 

God also provided opportunities for Hannah to meet people of influence. With her intelligence, wit, and charm, she was often invited to dinner parties and became a member of high society.

Meanwhile she made the acquaintance of John Newton, the slave-ship captain turned preacher who wrote Amazing Grace. They enjoyed a life-long friendship.

 

 

Newton was a member of the Clapham Sect, a group of passionate Christians, eager to release people from the oppression of poverty and slavery. One of the sect members served in Parliament, William Wilberforce. He, his wife Barbara, and Hannah also became friends for life.

 

     

William and Barbara Wilberforce

 

Hannah already despised the slave trade and joined the Clapham community. Their strong commitment to Christ greatly influenced Hannah and the practice of her faith took on greater importance.

At the suggestion of Wilburforce, Hannah wrote a poem to raise awareness about the treatment of slaves. It was published in 1788. One passage described the capture of Africans:

 

The burning village, and the blazing town:

See the dire victim torn from social life,

See the sacred infant, hear the shrieking wife!

She, wretch forlorn! Is dragged by hostile hands,

To distant tyrants sold, in distant lands.

 

As a result of reading Hannah’s impassioned account, thousands of people signed petitions demanding an end to the slave trade. The next year, Wilburforce used her poem in a Parliamentary debate concerning slavery.

Hannah helped the cause in other ways also. She encouraged a sugar boycott, since slaves provided the workforce on the British plantations of the Caribbean.

 

 

She even used her influence at dinner parties. Among people dressed in finery and focused on pleasure, Hannah would engage in cheerful banter, then pull out a folded piece of paper from her reticule, a drawstring purse.

“Have you ever seen the likes of this?” she might ask while spreading a print flat on the dining table—a diagram of the cargo hold inside a slave ship with Africans packed tightly together. The startling image helped garner more support for the cause.

 

 

Even as she campaigned for the abolition of slavery, Hannah took on another endeavor: education for the poor. She and her younger sister Martha established Sunday Schools since many of their students worked Monday through Saturday. (Child labor wasn’t prohibited in Britain until 1880.) They taught the three R’s and Bible lessons.

Soon three hundred children attended. Then adults were included and job placement provided. Within ten years, the sisters had opened sixteen schools, three of which still functioned into the twentieth century. Hannah involved herself in these schools for thirty years.

 

(Hannah More Academy, built 1834; closed 1974)

 

And of course, Hannah continued to write. She produced numerous pamphlets, plays of Bible stories that missionaries used around the world, as well as Christian novels and nonfiction. Her books outsold Jane Austen’s.

At age eighty-eight Hannah died peacefully in her sleep, just weeks after Parliament abolished slavery. The battle had taken forty years.

Even after her death Hannah’s positive influence lived on. She left the proceeds of her books, 30,000 pounds, for distribution to the poor—the equivalent of three million dollars today.

Hannah wrote in Practical Piety (1811):

 

“We must, while we keep our hearts humble,

keep our aims high . . . As God is unlimited in goodness,

He should have our unlimited love.

The best we can offer is poor, but let us not withhold that best.”

 

No one can say Hannah More did not give her best. May we follow her example.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/hannah-more/
  2. https://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-26-number-1/hannah-more-1745-%E2%80%93-1833
  3. https://www.str.org/w/hannah-more-guided-by-christian-convictions
  4. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march/hannah-more-powerhouse-in-petticoat.html
  5. https://religionnews.com/2014/11/05/hannah-karen-prior-evangelical/
  6. https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/the-power-of-a-poem-hannah-more-and-the-abolition-of-the-slave-trade.html.
  7. https://mylordkatie.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/hannah-more-a-heart-for-the-poor/
  8. https://www.citieschurch.com/journal/culture-shaping-faith
  9. http://christianwomenonline.net/2020/02/18/hannah-more-changing-the-world-with-a-pen/

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (3).

 

 

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Some of our excursions through town take my husband and me past a fountain called The Muse. In summer, water gently spills from the lovely maiden’s hands while a ring of water-arches play at her feet. But even in winter her graceful form draws attention.

 

 

Downtown a much grander, three-level fountain, Genius of Water, doesn’t just draw attention—the size demands it. In place of the mild flow of The Muse, streams of water plummet from the outstretched hands of a nine-foot woman. Below her, fountains shoot plumes of water upward, and lower yet streams cascade into a pool.

 

 

I love fountains, don’t you? Perhaps it’s the “calming call of splashing water reminding us to relax and breathe amidst our busy days’ distractions” (1).

Perhaps it’s their appeal to four out of five of our senses, beginning with their sound of peaceful, liquid-music. But fountains are usually lovely to behold as well:

 

(Buckingham Fountain in Chicago,

often listed among the most beautiful in the world.)

 

And who can resist wading in a fountain’s pool—if allowed—which includes the sense of touch?

 

(The Pineapple Fountain, Charleston, SC)

 

Sometimes on hikes through state and national parks we’ve discovered cold, natural-spring fountains. Nothing tastes sweeter after a long trek.

 

 

And because of their delights, it’s not surprising that a psalmist turned to fountains for a lovely metaphor:

 

 

Perhaps he chose plural form because we enjoy a constant flow of so many wonders :

  • God’s attributes into our lives—his love, grace, mercy, and goodness
  • Countless gifts—like peace, joy, comfort, and blessings
  • Empowerment from God, including strength to persevere, patience to endure, and the Holy Spirit to guide

All that refreshes is from God.

And then he offers us a gratifying privilege. We get to be revitalizing fountains in the lives of others.

 

 

What might that look like—or in this case, sound like? No doubt, encouragement, comfort, and wisdom should be included.

 

Words of Encouragement

 

“Correction does much,

but encouragement does more.”

–Johann Wolfang von Goethe

 

One day after school, the father of one of our previous students stopped in the classrooms of my fourth grade colleagues and me.  His purpose?  To tell us we were the dream team. His fifth grade son was flourishing and this dad wanted to thank us for the sound preparation the boy had received.

We hung onto his statement from that moment forward. Every time we became overwhelmed, distraught, or discouraged, we’d remind each other: “Wait a minute–we’re the dream team!”

Just four words, but flowing with life.

 

Words of Comfort

 

 

What an honor God’s given us to speak his comfort and contribute to that overcoming Helen Keller spoke of—words such as these:

  • “I am so sorry.”
  • “I wish I knew the perfect words to ease your pain, but please know I hate that you are facing these circumstances.”
  • “You are constantly in my thoughts.”
  • “This is my prayer for you…”

It doesn’t have to be profound; just heartfelt.

 

Words of Wisdom

One time when I hit a rough patch, God brought to mind a friend who’d endured cancer—twice. The words, “Why me?” had never left her lips. Instead she asked, “Why not me?” and trusted God to bring good out of the suffering.

My circumstances didn’t begin to compare with her cancer diagnosis. If M. could trust God through her trial, I could certainly do the same.

 

There’s another phenomenon that occurs as we become fountains of life to others:

 

 

As God pours himself into us, we pour ourselves into others, and he receives honor and praise.

In the end, that’s the greatest satisfaction of fountain-living: to be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12).

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew Williams, https://ndsmcobserver.com/2017/08/why-are-we-fascinated-by-fountains/
  2. Longfellow quote taken from “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie.”

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.maxpixel.net; wwwlflickr.com; http://www.needpix.com (2); http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Joanne examined the young woman again, hopeful that after another hour of labor, she would show signs of progress toward birthing her child. But change was imperceptible.

The prolonged labor was sapping the young woman’s strength.  If intervention didn’t occur soon, Lorsan and the baby would die.

Even so, Joanne smiled reassuringly at the mother-to-be and announced, “We’re going to get some help for you, Lorsan.”*

 

 

Joanne had been midwife for many women of the Biliangao jungle-village in the northern Philippines.  But she didn’t have the training or equipment for a C-section.

As a Wycliffe Bible Translator, her expertise lay in linguistics. Granted, her preparation for remote mission service had included a modicum of medical training, but certainly not for surgery.

Praise God we can arrange for help, thought Joanne. She asked her colleague Anne to use their newly acquired radio (no generator needed for this one) and call for an airlift from JAARS–Jungle Aviation and Radio Service.

 

(Founded in 1948; still in operation today.)

 

Meanwhile, Joanne prayed for her patient, and the villagers who’d gathered listened with wary attention.

Their faith was in the spirits of the jungle and the frequent sacrifices offered to appease them (even though the practice gravely depleted their food supply). The villagers were convinced that all trouble was due to angry spirits, including Lorsan’s difficult delivery.

Of course the JAARS operator who answered Anne’s distress signal knew the missionaries well. They were two of the most courageous women she’d ever met, living as they did in a remote, mountainous region, with people who’d been headhunters in the not-so-distant past.

 

(Mangyan village, Philippines)

 

But Joanne and Anne had been confident this was the people-group God wanted them to reach, and had talked the reluctant Wycliffe director in letting them go–despite their youth and gender. That was in 1962.

Now it was 1967. For five years Joanne and Anne had been learning the language, determining a way to transcribe it, and then translating the New Testament into the Baliangao language.

All the while they built relationships, helped the people as they could, and told them about Jesus.

The villagers were anxious for their language to be available in written form. But a New Testament about a new God? They had serious doubts about his significance and power.

Only a few villagers had accepted Jesus; everyone else feared what the spirits might do in retaliation.

The JAARS radio operator soon dispatched a plane to transport Lorsan to a lowland clinic. Days later she and her healthy baby were returned to the village.

 

 

The people were amazed that mother and child had survived.  Perhaps some also wondered at the kindness of strangers to help a young mother.

They began to ask Joanne and Anne, “Who is this God, the one you’re always talking about?” Among them were several spiritists–witch doctors–desperate for release from their fear and the evil spirits who tormented them.

Joanne prayed as they acknowledged God, the powerful One over all spirits, accepted Jesus into their lives, and committed to end the useless practice of sacrificial appeasement.

Soon there were enough believers to start a church in Baliangao. Joanne’s village “father” and protector soaked up her Bible teaching and became a teacher himself.

By this time, Joanne’s coworker, Anne, had accepted a marriage proposal back in the States. The Wycliffe director recommended that Joanne leave also, but she refused, wanting to complete the New Testament translation for these people she’d grown to love.

While she worked, villagers traveled to near-by villages, telling them about the one true God and his Son Jesus. These neighbors were enemies who warred one another frequently. Many had died in the skirmishes.

But the message of a God who loved them (John 3:16) and offered peace of heart (Psalm 85:8), turned these enemies into brothers and sisters.

 

 

Bible classes grew into village-style conferences, and during the twenty-two years Joanne worked to translate the New Testament, she witnessed several thousand Baliangao people turn from fear of spirits to peace in Jesus.

As for the original village, they are now sending out a second generation of missionaries into other parts of Asia.

And as of February 2019, Joann was still serving God as a speaker with Scripture Engagement International, presenting workshops around the world.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

 

 

Joanne Shetler is certainly a heroine to consider and imitate–for her courage, perseverance, and faith.

 

*Real name unknown

 

Sources:

https://www.jaars.org/updates/my-story-jaars-was-there-for-me/

https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/june-2006/a-message-for-all-people/

https://bulletininserts.org/inspiration-from-a-bible-translator-whose-work-was-offensive/

http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/joanne-shetler 

https://www.westsidebiblechapel.ca/1_3_109_missions-history-joanne-shetler.html

http://magazine.biola.edu/article/16-summer/meet-the-2016-alumni-award-winners/

https://www.checkitout.org/check-it-out/speakers/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pikrepo.com.

 

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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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One Sunday morning years ago our Bible study teacher, Andy, gave each of us a pencil and a piece of paper with a large grid—4 squares across, 4 squares down. One square at a time but out of order, he guided us to draw various sized curves in various positions.

 

 

Sometimes he instructed us to revisit a square and add more detail.

 

 

 

The bits and pieces made no sense—just haphazard strokes accomplishing nothing–until the last few curves remained, and Andy told us to rotate our papers bottom side up.

 

 

 

 

 

Each of us was constructing a very recognizable Mickey Mouse.

And you can probably guess Andy’s objective:

God does indeed know what he’s doing, even when events seem random to us. Sometimes he reveals the reasons for nonsensical curves in our lives, as purposeful outcomes finally sharpen into focus.

Such was the case with Joseph in the Bible. The violent curves of his life story finally made sense when he became prime minister of Egypt.

To his brothers who had terribly mistreated him he said,

 

 

Quite often, however, God chooses to withhold explanation.

I have to wonder if he’s waiting until all his children are gathered together in heaven and then he’ll reveal the complete, awe-inspiring panorama of intricately wrought events, involving billions of lives over eons of time.

Andy Andrews, in his delightful children’s book, The Boy Who Changed the World, offers a glimpse of this panorama, as he tells the story of a farm manager named Moses and his wife Susan who raised an orphaned boy. Together they shared their love of plants with the child. That boy was George Washington Carver.

 

 

In addition to his many scientific achievements, George provided an important influence for a young boy named Henry, teaching him all about plants. Henry Wallace grew up to become the U.S. secretary of agriculture and then vice president of the United States.

 

 

Henry hired a young biochemist named Norman and instructed him to develop a high-yielding, disease-resisting wheat. Norman spent twenty years in laboratory and field research to achieve the objective. He also developed superior corn and rice.

 

 

More than two billion lives have been saved because of Norman Borlaug–and Henry Wallace who impacted Norman, and George Washington Carver who influenced Henry, and Moses Carver who inspired George.

 

 

Who else but God could have directed such events, connecting one life with another to create such epic results?

We, too, have the exciting privilege to participate with God.  There are grand possibilities in every encounter–to impact our corners of the world as Jesus’ agents, speaking on his behalf, acting in his name, and drawing people to him.

And at those times when the effort doesn’t seem to accomplish much, we can remember:

  1. 1. “God does some of his best work when we don’t think he’s doing a thing” (Priscilla Shirer, The Kingdom Woman Devotional, emphasis added), and
  2. 2.  God’s work in us and through us isn’t over until we’ve completed the last curve.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Father, I want to be a person who seizes the day under your instruction, who chooses to honor you in word and action. I want to be a participant in what you’re accomplishing, not just an observer. May I be faithful to follow your lead, knowing that in the end the results will be gloriously worth it.

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.sunraybook.com)

 

 

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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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