This Little Light of Mine

Single Candle With Back Lit. Tranquil Scene

It had been a stormy week and I was praying. My heart was full of fears, dark thoughts and doubt. My faith felt rattled. I talked to God a long time and finally ran out of things to say. I couldn’t find the answers I was looking for. I ended my prayer with a question. “Lord, is there anything you want me to know?” I tried to listen. I was desperate for something. I waited… nothing.

Then… as if on a breath, this verse came to mind. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Matthew 12:20 NIV) The verse surprised me. My thoughts gathered around it. I thought about how you handle a candle whose wick is sputtering, about how you don’t grab it and shake it, but instead quietly approach, and gently blow.

A quiet approach. A gentle blowing. That is what I felt in response to the storm raging against my soul. In a moment I knew for certain that God was near and guarding my flickering faith. There was no, “what’s the matter with you” shaking. No harshness or rebuke. Just this impression, “I am here and I will keep your faith light burning. Don’t worry so.”

As I calmed down my thoughts drifted back over my week. I remembered some things that happened, and saw other ways God had been there cupping his hands around the light of my soul, shielding it from the snuffer. All that day I marveled over a God who would offer such undeserved kindness to such a weak and sputtering person, me. I still marvel. That’s who he is.

Who am I that you are mindful of me?  Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family that you have brought me this far? Although I am less than the least of all God’s people: this grace was given me, to preach… the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

                                             Psalm 8:4, 1 Chronicles 17:16 NIV, Ephesians 3:8 NIV

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

                                                                                    Psalm 18:28 NIV

The “Streams in the Desert” Sisterhood

 

Arms That Are Strong

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard…”
          Malachi 3:16 NIV

Recently I was asked to think back on a hard season of my life and recall a good or funny memory from it. I thought about when I quit my teaching job some years back, about the loneliness and confusion I felt as I set out to become a writer. Soon I began to smile and even laugh in my heart as I remembered three friends God gave me during that time. Two of them were going through some very hard and heartbreaking things; the other was our upbeat and wise cheerleader.

Our foursome kicked off when one of the heartbroken friends began raving to the rest of us about a devotional book she was reading. She would get so excited saying that it always had the perfect word for her discouraged heart. She even quoted to us from it. The book was “Streams in the Desert” and it wasn’t long before we all had a copy.

So began what I call “The Streams in the Desert Club.” Oh it wasn’t an official club. In fact it was very unofficial. But a meeting came to order anytime one might see another and say, “Did you read ‘Streams’ today?” (Our upbeat friend called it “Storms” since she thought the topics were always about something so stormy.)

In our club of four I knew I could count on four things: confidentiality, sympathy, prayers, and laughter. It was a sweet sisterhood. And though it’s been years since that time, I still smile when I think about us.

Here is a truth: In every trial there will be a blessing. In sorrow or hardship, you will find something sweet. Watch for it. Count on it. It is God’s way.

I’ll leave you with this passage from “Streams” today.

“The burden of suffering seems a tombstone hung about our necks, while in reality it is only the weight which is necessary to keep down the diver while he is hunting for pearls.”
-Richter

A Blessing in Disguise

MIRACLES ROOM

Would I recognize a blessing if it showed up on my doorstep?

Before Jesus came, God spoke to people through prophets, and one of those prophets was Elijah. One day God sent Elijah to the town of Zarephath so he would be taken care of, because a great drought had devastated the land.

Elijah arrived at the gate of Zarephath hungry and thirsty (and just in time for a divine appointment). A widow was there and he asked her, “Will you bring me a little water to drink?” The widow went to do as he requested and Elijah called after her. “Bring me a piece of bread too please.”

She stopped, faced Elijah, and cut to the quick of the situation. “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. I have one drop of oil and a handful of flour and that’s it. I was just going to use it to cook my son and me our last meal before we die.”

Harsh conditions! But Elijah was not taken aback. He did not flinch and say, “Oops sorry, never mind about the bread then.” Instead he said, “Don’t be afraid!” And “Do just as you were going to, but make my bread first. Then make some for the both of you. Because God has said that you will not run out of provisions until the crops return to this land.”

Wow.

It was a strange sort of blessing God was giving this widow wasn’t it? He didn’t arrange for a strong man to show up with a giant vat of oil and a 50 lb sack of flour. I mean that would have made everything clear from the beginning right? That’s how a blessing looks right? God gives us money, a new job, a new car…

God had something different in mind.

This blessing would not be a giant one-time provision. This widow wouldn’t wake up to see (and fawn over) a full jar of oil. And she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone taking her king-sized bag of flour.

No. This blessing would be daily. And personal. Every day a little fresh flour and oil would appear, enough for her needs. God would never forget. He wouldn’t miss a day. Each morning there would be a new mercy. Each morning a gentle whisper, “Yes, my eye is still upon you little sparrow.” How sweet is that? This would be a special relationship.

I have found myself thinking about how I would have responded had I been in the widow’s situation and Elijah asked me for some bread. I feel pretty sure I would have lost it, snapped, and said something like, “You’re kidding right? My husband has been taken from me. My land has dried up. And now God wants my last meal?”

I wonder how often I have misjudged God. Been insulted by a request he made of me. A request that was meant to bless. I wonder what I have missed out on while trying to guard, what I thought was surely, my last dollar, or my last nerve, or my last bit of energy, my last hope… my last drop of oil.

Are you down to your last drop of oil? Will you be open to receiving a blessing in disguise?

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!  Amen.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Romans 11:33-36 NIV

 

Ka-linga-linga

Possible Not Impossible

When I was living and working in Lusaka, Zambia there was an area of town known as Kalingalinga.  Kalingalinga was considered a bad and dangerous neighborhood.  And although I drove thru there to get to work each day, I was warned never to go thru there at night.  There was no telling what might happen.  Even the Zambians were afraid of it.  I learned this first hand when a friend of mine gave Huey, a Zambian, a lift home one evening.  For the sake of time, my friend cut thru Kalingalinga.  And even though Huey made jokes about us passing thru there, I could tell he was genuinely uncomfortable (he wasn’t the only one).  The whole time I lived in Zambia I never gave Kalingalinga much thought.  To me it was just a place to avoid or be afraid of.

 Fast forward 22 years.  I am living in Roanoke, Virginia and my husband finds out that some Zambian singers will be performing at our Jefferson Center.  Since he and I met in Zambia, we decided to go and hear them sing for old time’s sake.  The Zambian Vocal Group was delightful.  And their music was so uplifting.  Most of the songs were spiritual and introduced with words of faith.  During the intermission we talked with the group members and bought a CD.

When the concert was over and we were driving home, I did what I always do when I get a new CD, I read the cover jacket.  And as I did, I stumbled across these words, “Our vision is to make a difference in the community we came from.  This community called Kalingalinga….”  I caught my breath astounded.  I felt humbled, convicted, and happy all at once.  A little neighborhood I judged God-forsaken, God had come to.

The concert was over, but the lesson was just beginning.  What was God saying to me?  I think he was saying that every day while I was driving thru Kalingalinga and judging it hopeless, he was speaking a different word over it.  He was saying, “You just watch.  This story isn’t over yet.”  When I read that cover jacket and realized where those singers had come from, it was like God had flashed me a smile and winked.  It was like he was inviting me to find the Kalingalinga in my life today, to find that place I avoid, or fear, or dread.  And instead of doubting, trust.  Maybe even trust enough to stop the car, get out, and join him in turning the tide.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.                                Isaiah 43:19 NIV

 

Click on this link to hear a song from the Zambian Vocal Group   

 

Reader,

Do you have a Kalingalinga story?  I’d love to hear it!    

 

 

Perfectly Knit

Oct2013 014

Wanting to make a scarf I went to a small shop for supplies.  I bought some knitting needles and chose a soft yarn in pomegranate red.  Now, imagine with me that while I am delightedly knitting my scarf, it develops an attitude, finds a voice, and begins saying things like…  “What are you making me into?  A little scarf for a little neck?  I’d rather be a sweater.  And who picked this color?  Didn’t you see the yarn with the shimmers in it?  I want to shimmer.  Will I be a long scarf?  Because if I have to be a scarf I want to be a long scarf, a very long scarf.  Will I have a fringe?  All the scarves have fringes.”

Of course my little scarf did not, and could not, say such things.  But if it had, I would have offered this rebuke, “Whoa now, let’s remember something.  I am the knitter and you are my creation.  I like scarves.  Don’t you understand how beautiful you are to me?  I have plans for us.  One day it will be very cold and I will need you.  I will wrap you around that little neck you mentioned and go out in the chilly air and you will keep me warm.  You’ll be perfect.  You won’t be so long that you get caught in my car door or drag on the ground.  And, you will feel nice against my skin.  Shimmery threads can be scratchy.  Besides keeping me warm you will provide a cheerful burst of color in a cold dreary season.”

Have you ever scowled at the way you are made?  Wished you were made of tougher fiber?  Wished you had a more glamorous quality?  Or just wished you were… different?  Your Creator would have you know that he thinks you’re beautiful and that he designed you the way you are for a special purpose.

O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Isaiah 64:8 NIV

Spurred on by a Hobbit

A Hobbits Home

“Adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine.”

That’s a quote from The Hobbit a Tolkien story that is one of my favorites.  In that story a homebody hobbit named Bilbo is recruited for the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a noble adventure. But the hobbit is terribly fearful, often tempted to turn back, and frequently wishing to be in his cozy home with the tea kettle singing.

Listen to some of these chapter titles. “Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire,” “Riddles in the Dark,” “Fire and Water.” Good gracious, the hobbit had to walk through some tough chapters on the way to a glorious finish. But guess what? He made it. And before it was all over, he found his courage and defeated a great enemy.

When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit he intended that it reflect the Christian life and our spiritual journey. So it teaches us about the kinds of days and experiences we will have as we go forward with the call God has put on our lives. From the little hobbit we learn that we will not always feel strong or brave as we move forward in faith, but we should keep moving anyway. Feelings are not our master. Sometimes we won’t get the things we are used to, served on time and in the way they were before. The hobbit missed his delicious meals, his comfy couch and his evening tea time.

Yet, in the midst of it all the hobbit found delight in some unexpected and wonderful blessings. Because, although there will be rainy days, hungry days, and scary days, God will have some surprising and delightful provisions for you along your way. One of them is friends. The hobbit knew the joy of good companions, companions with a similar purpose seeking the same end. So, get yourself some Christian friends. The hobbit also knew the wonder of coming across a warm little house (when he was cold and wet) with dinner on the table (when he was absolutely starving) and a sublime bed to sleep in (just when he was at the end of his little rope). When you think you can’t go on, God will do something to fill your cup and give you the rest you need. Just remember to accept the provision when it comes your way. It will strengthen you for the days ahead and keep you from becoming a bitter traveler.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 NIV

You Don’t Drink Alone

Tea Cup

My niece Anne gave me a cup. The china is Lenox, the pattern is Chirp, and the cup was given to invite me into a fellowship. Aunt Bee started this fellowship that has one mandate: use the cup to drink your morning coffee and remember each other as you do. A beautiful and simple idea.

Our Lord Jesus drank from a special cup. It was a cup of suffering and pain. A cup full of hard things to swallow. It was a cup of trusting God when things get really difficult. A cup of keeping your vision when darkness closes in. It was a cup of sticking to the plan when the plan isn’t fun. A cup of doing things God’s way even if it seems unfair. It was cup of persevering during times of loneliness and betrayal. It was a cup of forgiving. And above all, it was a cup of salvation. Jesus drank from this cup.  And he and said his followers will drink from it too.

Can you accept this cup? Will you decide to walk through hard times God’s way? If so, one of the first joys you’ll know is that you never drink alone. Jesus knows what you’re going through and He is with you. I am too.

“For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.”

Hebrews 4:15 NIV

It’s Not Too Late

Man Waiting on Bench

I like the story of Jacob and here’s why. Because even though he started his journey on the wrong foot, God let him know it wasn’t too late to put the right foot forward. Now that’s good news for everybody.

Jacob left home on the run. He lied to his father, schemed against his brother, and is on about a 500 mile walk to his uncle’s when he stops to rest for the night. With a stone for a pillow he falls asleep. Now you’d think with all that’s gone on he’d have a nightmare about his brother catching up with him and killing him right? Instead he has the most wonderful dream. And the dream is from God.

In the dream God does not give Jacob a lecture, though he may have earned one. In the dream God does not tell Jacob all the things he should do to make amends, though that is probably what I would have done. In the dream God does a surprising thing, he gives Jacob his blessing. He says, “I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. And many people will be blessed through you. I am with you and will watch over you and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”

When Jacob woke up he was amazed. And his thoughts went something like this, “Wow. God is here? God is giving me His blessing? God is making me these promises? Well then, I accept Him as my Lord and will worship Him.”

When Jacob got up from that place he was still on the same journey. He still had a long way to go and many steps to take. But he was a changed man. When he put his next foot forward I think he was encouraged instead of afraid. I think He was hopeful instead of doubtful. And I think he was thinking about how everything would somehow work out, because God had said so.

Here is good news. Good news for a person who has started anything on the wrong foot. All is not cursed. It’s not too late to find God on this journey you’re on. He’s still there for you. Watch for Him. Listen to Him. Trust Him. Worship Him. This is truth for your travel pilgrim. Will you lace up these mercy shoes and walk on?

       “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…”  (Genesis 28:15 NIV)