Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Finding Hope

“All of us need hope to move through life. We become especially aware of this when faced with circumstances beyond our control. When our lives are falling apart, where do we find hope to move ahead each day?” (Excerpted from Lesson 4 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life.[1])

Suffering and trials come in all forms, from serious health issues to extreme poverty due to war and political turmoil. I am familiar with life-threatening and life-altering health problems. Raella, however, has lived under the threat of war, poverty and starvation in her country of South Sudan. She is suffering things I know nothing about.[2]

But I do know the way to hope is the same for both of us.

How can I say this with certainty? I didn’t think it up myself. It comes from an authority much higher than me. In fact, it comes from God himself.

Listen to what Paul, under the inspiration of God, wrote in Romans 5:1-5 (HCSB):

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Photo by Gertop

Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord brings us peace with God and ultimately hope, as the Scriptures here reveal.

But there’s more! God is the God of hope. I got that right out of the text too. Romans 15:13 (HCSB) says:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Faith in Jesus Christ brings us into the place of peace with God, who fills us with joy and peace so that by the power of his Holy Spirit who comes to live in us, we overflow with hope!

Hope originates in God. It becomes our own through a restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures say in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have discovered that this Word is Jesus, God come in flesh to bring us redemption, forgiveness of sins and peace with God. We call his coming into the world as a human, the Incarnation.

Raella has discovered this truth too. In fact, she has seen “the Word (become) flesh” through a group of women. She has seen Christ Jesus in the women who lead the She Is Safe (SIS) Transformation Group she joined[3].

Through this Transformation Group Raella learned skills to start her own business so that she wasn’t dependent on a job that didn’t exist. She learned good business skills and saving and lending practices along with the other women in the group, so they can help one another. She also learned other vital life skills.

In her own words Raella says: “Today I have saved enough with my new business to rent a small house. My children are in school.” (This is significant where primary and secondary education is not free as it is in our country.)

Raella is lifting up her life, and the lives of her children, above their trying circumstances.

She and her children have a safe place to live. They have food to eat. The children are getting an education. All because Raella found the SIS Transformation Group and because she has worked hard to put into practice what they have taught her. Make no mistake, Raella has very little of this world’s wealth. She works hard at her business to bring home and save enough for a roof and food and education.

But business skills are not all Raella learned in the Transformation Group. She learned about the God who loved her enough to send his own Son to die to provide for her salvation.

She knows it is true because of the women giving of themselves to teach and train her in the Transformation Group. These SIS trained leaders are “incarnating” the Word of God, putting flesh on the timeless truths of God’s Word.

Because these followers of Jesus found a way to bring new skills and the Good News of Jesus Christ to Raella, and hundreds of women like her, she now has hope. These Transformation Groups are the “hands and feet” of Jesus to the Raella’s of the hard places in the world, places like South Sudan.

Raella’s testimony doesn’t stop with being filled with joy and gratitude for the good things in her life as a result of her training. Out of her poverty she also tangibly lives out her gratitude: “My first offering is always to God because he has given me hope.”

My heart was smitten when I read her words. Am I as grateful as Raella is for the grace of God in my life, for the hope he has given me? Is my first offering–skimmed off the top of my finances–to God because he alone has given me hope?

God has given me so much in every way. Am I living out his truth the way Raella and the Transformation Group leaders are, even in their unimaginable circumstances in South Sudan? Am I putting “flesh,” my own flesh, on the truths of God, living them out sacrificially for others every day?

Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 remind me that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

God help me—God help us—to whom much has been entrusted, to be faithful and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May we be found putting his Word into practice every day so that the Raella’s around us see Jesus in us, and find hope.

In upcoming posts I hope to share with you some ways God is leading me to live out his truths here in southern California, as well as give you updates on the progress of the writing and publishing saga of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty.

Stay tuned.

[1] Brokenness to Beauty is available here on Amazon as well as other online outlets. The Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty is in the final stages of writing, soon to be published.

[2] Not her real name.

[3] Transformation Groups are self-help groups led by She Is Safe-trained local women. Learn more about the ministries of She Is Safe at SheIsSafe.org.


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Surprise!

God is always surprising me.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to present a workshop on prayer at a women’s retreat, I silently gulped and said, “Yes, Lord.” Then I responded (audibly) in the affirmative to the lady asking me if I would do the workshop.

It is humbling to have someone ask me if I’d do a presentation on the subject of prayer. I’m still a learner in that field. I always will be, of course. And to consider speaking publicly, well, that is nothing short of miraculous.

That I can say “yes” to speaking in front of people, and on the subject of prayer, is a wonder to me on two fronts:

1) I can physically do it and

2) I have material already compiled from which to draw to put together such a presentation.

A few years ago I never could have agreed to talk in front of people for an hour. I have MG (myasthenia gravis, a severe muscle weakness) and have been extremely weak for most of my life. The miracle is that I have been stronger for the past eight-plus years than I have been since I was thirteen years old, and I now can do public speaking!

Even though I planned this workshop to be an interactive Bible study time, not an hour-long lecture, I still had to do a lot of talking. My ability to speak this much is the gracious and miraculous work of God. It is the answer to many prayers prayed over the span of more than forty years.

I also had what I needed to present in the prayer workshop. A few years ago I had finally said “yes” to God about writing the book Brokenness to Beauty (and I’m now writing the Bible study guide to go with it; a work in progress), and I had already thought through and written much of the material I used for this workshop on prayer.

Though I wasn’t at a loss for what to say, I did earnestly pray for direction from the Lord to narrow it down. Volumes could be said about prayer (and volumes have been written on prayer), but it certainly wouldn’t fit within that one hour time frame. I needed to speak to what these ladies needed to hear. Only God has that information. He again answered prayer.

Most important to me when I speak or teach is to direct women into the Word of God. If they forget what I say but hear what God says in his Word, I will have been successful.

I initially thought I was going to the women’s retreat (hosted by our former church) in order to take it all in for myself, enjoy the beautiful mountains around the retreat center, and especially to see many dear friends I hadn’t seen since moving from Bakersfield to Colton last fall.

As it turned out, not only did I get to do those things, I ended up with the privilege of serving God by serving the women who came to the prayer workshop. What a great weekend we had!

 

Did I mention God is always surprising me?

I was mighty tired after driving the three hours it took to get to the retreat center, the busy weekend and the three hour drive home, but I give thanks to our great God for giving me the strength to do it. He truly “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Photos of women’s retreat by Alayna Condon and Lindsay Long.

Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com.

 


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GOD IN THE SHADOWS

A few weeks ago I read a prayer letter from a friend who serves with a major mission agency and knew I wanted to share her thoughts with you. I asked and received her okay to do so, with slight changes to conceal my friends’ and their mission’s identity since they work in sensitive areas of the world. Her topic is of universal interest and application. I trust her words of wisdom and insight will encourage and challenge you as much as they did me. My thanks to my friend for allowing me to re-post her letter below.

I get anxious. When I anticipate giving a talk or carrying out a big responsibility, when I am in transition between job roles, when I am concerned for a friend in need … my mind wrestles with possibilities and ‘what if’s. I can easily tire my husband by emoting about these anxieties, even when he understands that I am an external processor. It doesn’t do any good to just suppress this, or pretend that I don’t feel these things—anxiety likes to make its home in my mind.

As I look at the Psalms, I notice that King David also got anxious. He had plenty of reasons to: with huge responsibilities, enemies chasing him down, trying to kill him, undermining him, taunting him—and with his own doubts and fears chiming in as well.

Re-examining the Psalms gives me hope, as I notice the recurrent theme of David turning his heart to God in the midst of his anxiety.

David asks God: “Where are You in these shadows around me? Show me the truth about these persuasive negative thoughts. Un-divide my heart (which is pulled in many directions by fear, discouragement, anxiety) so I may trust more fully in Your love and power.” David allows God to re-frame situations; to re-interpret what is going on when things look dire. David uses his anxiety as a signal that it is time to seek God and listen to His voice.

I’ve discovered freedom and transformation recently as I confront anxious feelings, and ask God to show me what they are made out of. He helps me name specific thoughts that are triggering the anxiety. Then I ask God to expose the lies and speak truth to my heart. No darkness stays dark when I give God permission to show where He is. Then I set my will to agree with Him about what is true in that situation.

For example, recently I was in a foreign country on a missionary coaching visit to our teams there, unexpectedly needing to carry out the coaching on my own. This is because my husband had not been allowed to board the plane due to his passport photo being damaged by an encounter with the washing machine.

My stress level was high due to this last-minute change in plans: Anticipating all the taxi journeys I’d need to negotiate with minimal knowledge of the local language and my unreliable internal compass, needing capacity to listen with discernment to each missionary family’s current situation … basically needing to function as my husband might have without his gifts! These thoughts hounded me: “I’m all alone in this, I can’t be him!” Emotions triggered by these thoughts wore me out before I could even begin the week.

In quiet moments, I journaled and asked God to name the thoughts, and then to speak His truth to them. Deep in my heart He spoke calmly and clearly (things any observer might think are obvious!). After naming the thoughts, He reminded me of His Presence being with me to give me rest, of all the friends who would help if I just asked (thus, “alone” was not a true description at all), and that of course He had brought me there to minister to people through who I am (so, I didn’t need to be my husband).

Although every taxi journey that week did involve being lost for half the time (inexperienced drivers, obscure addresses, as well as drivers taking advantage), I eventually reached my destinations and had rich times with each team member. I facilitated a large group meeting … in my style.

Although I found it necessary to confront anxieties frequently, joy and love met me each day.

In recent years several dreams have reinforced this lesson: how differently one situation can be interpreted depending on the emotions-and-thoughts lens through which it is viewed.

In one dream I was driving passengers down a country road, in a hurry to be somewhere. Anxiety was all around us; the heat and stillness was ominous.  It seemed that enemies were nearby or some natural disaster had just occurred. Up ahead a car had pulled off the road, with people bending over it. My anxiety increased – they, like us, seemed also to be fleeing, or they possibly might hurt us. In fear we took the next right turn, moving on.

But what was the threat? I awoke with intense anxiety, unable to pinpoint why.

So, I closed my eyes to revisit the dream, asking God to shine His light and show His truth. The sequence of events replayed with all the same details. Only this time I recognized that it was a summer afternoon, sunny with no wind. We were just driving through the countryside to take a walk somewhere beautiful.

The other car was just others also out to enjoy the countryside. Everything was surrounded by calmness and the freedom of a day off.

The only difference between the two dreams was the lens through which I viewed things: whether I was sensing threat and danger, or assuming that all was peaceful.  The truth is I can look for God and let Him reveal where He is, even in situations that are fraught with imminent danger (as the Psalmist could).  God’s Presence is ready to greet me (and you!) in every dark corner, transforming every shadow into a place of insight (“Here I am,” He says).  Every twinge of anxiety can lead to growth in trust.

King David said, ‘Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

John said, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Shadows will always be present in and around us. So let’s look for Him in the shadows. Allow Jesus to spread His light to people though you today.

 

 

 

 


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Cosmic Necessity–to write is to Move?

There must be a cosmic reaction to the act of writing which produces the necessity to move from one location to another. While writing Brokenness to Beauty we moved twice, once across the country, the next time across town. The distance of the move is almost irrelevant; you still have the same amount of work!

Now, while I write the Bible study guide for Brokenness to Beauty, we will be moving once again.[1] This time we are moving to southern California or “down south,” as they say here in the central valley. Having lived in the east most of my life, I have to do a quick mental switch from thinking of “the South” back east to the south part of California!

So now I am once again trying to downsize, going through the same stuff for the umpteenth time, trying to decide if I keep it or toss it. So hard! I am not a packrat but neither am I natural purge-r. I still have things my kids made while in school and now I am adding things my grandkids make! I think they call that sentimental.

I have several journals, all partially filled. I’m not a natural journal-er either (I’m making up these words as I go). I started reading the journals and decided I have to keep these little books. They are like records of the heart, keeping tabs on where I was and where I was going.

I also decided to begin sharing some of these journal notes, or “journey notes,” with you.

In May of 1995 Randy and I moved to West Virginia, establishing a home base for Mustard Seeds and Mountains, the community development organization we founded earlier that year. This would be our home for the next 17 ½ years. My friend Carolyn gave me a journal when we moved. Six months later I started writing in it:

November 13, 1995

I’ve decided to start writing down some of the thoughts which come to me from reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures. I had started a systematic, meditative reading of the Word of God beginning with Genesis, earlier this year. In places God spoke to me powerfully. All throughout Exodus and Leviticus God gave little glimpses of insight. Unfortunately, I did not write these down, the same with Numbers and Deuteronomy.

As I read I was impressed with the knowledge and depth of meaning and spiritual richness in these books, especially Exodus and Leviticus. I felt as though I was in a canoe skimming over the surface, and down beneath me were the stores of riches to exceed all riches. I had a sense of the immensity of the person and wisdom and knowledge of God.

The physical symbols God gave—sacrifices, rituals, festivals—are “shadows” of the heavenly realities. What we live and experience are as vague and ungraspable as shadow, substance-less while infused with substance. The heavenly realities are Real. Though unseen, they are true, everlasting substance.

As I read I realized how little I truly understand and grasp of the spiritual realm. To “walk” through these pages of holy writ is an exercise in humility. It helps me put things into perspective.”

This is how I began, as I recorded my thoughts and impressions about the Word of God and what it was teaching me. Of course, it was the Spirit of God teaching me as I read and thought about the words of Scripture. And he continues to teach me as I go back to the Word regularly.

Next blog post, taking a break from packing and writing the Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I’ll share more from my journal notes, including favorite passages of scripture, like Exodus 34:5-8:

5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.[2]

Deep, eh?

To be continued.

[1] More on that later

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

https://www.biblegateway.com

 


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Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ” (Repost)

Last week I clicked on the link to read Susanne Maynes’ latest blog posting (you can read it on her blog here). Susanne is one of my blogging friends whose articles are thoughtfully written and rich with truth. I respect Susanne’s writing so much I asked her a few months ago if she would read and write a review of my book, Brokenness to Beauty, which she kindly did. You can read it on Amazon reviews (click here to read her review).

After I read one of Susanne’s postings, I often leave a comment, letting her know how much I appreciated what she wrote, how it encouraged me in some way. It’s sort of like a verbal “high five,” digitally sent hundreds of miles from my computer to to hers.

This time I read Susanne’s blog post and not only thanked her for saying so well what I believe and have tried to live, but told her I wanted to repost her blog post. She enthusiastically gave her assent. Thanks, Susanne!

Below is what Susanne had to say about a very important issue for us today:

Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ”

Have you ever read through the whole Bible chronologically just to get a feel for the over-arching story of God? If so, you may have noticed the same phrase which stood out to me this time around.

cross-from Susanne Maynes' blog 800x532

In my read-through for 2016, I was struck by the  New Testament theme of  “Obey the gospel.”

Nowhere did I read,  “Accept Jesus as your Savior.”  Nowhere did I see an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart.” No, the call of the gospel is to die to the old, selfish way of life and rise to an entirely new life in Christ.

How do we do this? By means of obedience.

Please hear me out before your “legalism” trigger goes off.

It bothers me — nay, troubles me deeply — that the Church has reacted against rule-keeping to the point where we no longer talk about obeying the commands of Jesus.

Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” — John 14:15

Real faith is more than just accepting an offer for forgiveness. That’s the starting point, but it’s our obedience to Christ that demonstrates a changed life.

However, we’ve allowed pop psychology to worm its way into our thinking. We’ve bought the notion that Christianity is a self-improvement plan, the ultimate 12-step program, a way to feel better about ourselves and to fulfill our potential.

So we advertise a gospel that is really only half the story.

We talk about a Savior who has mercy on us and died so our sins could be forgiven. This is wonderful news — but there’s another dimension to it!

Jesus doesn’t just forgive us. He empowers us to live a different life. A holy life. A life that spreads the fragrance of his beautiful name in the earth.

God’s goal for us is not to make us comfortable and happy, but rather to transform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 12:2 and Corinthians 3:18).

Going back to my New Testament reading, I’ve placed our theme in italics here:

  • Romans 10:16 refers to the importance of preaching the gospel, and says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel…”
  • 2 Thes. 1:8 refers to the second coming of Christ and God’s judgment on “…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
  • I Peter 4:17  refers to God’s judgment beginning with believers, and “…if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

That’s just a smattering of references to this idea, but do you sense the seriousness of the apostles on this topic? They’re telling us that some people will not obey the gospel — and that’s bad.

Did you catch the wording? It’s not that some will not “accept” the gospel. It’s that they won’t obey it.

One comedian describes how, as a boy, he would whine endlessly about a toy he wanted until his mom relented — whereupon all his pleading and grousing quickly turned into a flippant, “Thanks, Babe!” as he ran out to play.

Too often, we demonstrate a “Thanks, Babe!” attitude towards the Lord Jesus. Problem is,  we can be guilty of inviting unbelievers into a flippant, shallow faith — a faith that fails to produce change.

Paul writes this to the believers in Corinth so they will follow up on their promise to send a generous gift to another church:

“…others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ… —2 Corinthians 9:13

Wow! I want obedience to accompany my confession of faith. I don’t want to be a “Thanks, Babe” kind of believer.

You?

Visit Susanne’s blog at Susanne Maynes: Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion. Check out her website. She has good things to say, and write.

Leave me a comment; go to Susanne’s website and leave her a constructive comment about this post. Share it with others. This is a message we need to hear.


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How many ways to show love for our city? Let me recount some.

This past Saturday over 100 women from The Bridge Bible Church here in Bakersfield gathered and then scattered over the city in small teams to carry out the theme of our event, “Love Where You Are.” It was an outreach to downtown Bakersfield to show God’s love to the people of our city by doing good to and for the people of Bakersfield.

As we went, we looked for ways God was already at work in our city and asked ourselves how we could be a part of it. We saw God at work, heard stories of God at work in individuals’ lives, and did small acts of love to become part of what God is doing in our city.

One team of women went to the rescue mission (yes, God was already at work there) and cleaned up a patio and did crafts with the women residents. One of my friends on that team, Eurcell, literally gave the shirt off her back to a resident.

The lady working with her pulling weeds and sprucing up the patio, kept admiring Eurcell’s bright pink T-shirt with the scrolly artwork. Finally Eurcell asked her if she’d like to have the shirt, she did and they traded T-shirts! Eurcell’s generosity produced a gift of love to that woman living at the rescue mission.

Another team went to the city bus station, talked with folks, handed out coffee, snacks and free bus passes. Some of them even rode the bus and talked with passengers, prayed with some and listened to their stories. Many expressed gratitude for the kindnesses shown them.

One team of ladies washed windows and cleaned the bathrooms of local downtown businesses, pushing their cleaning cart from store to store. Then they handed out flowers to passers-by, surprising them and bringing smiles to their faces.

One of the larger teams went to the Teen Challenge womens’ residence, joined their worship time, had lunch with them and gave them all a new set of bed sheets. They spent time listening to and talking with the women in the Teen Challenge program, women ranging from teens to middle age, all passionate about living new lives free of drugs and alcohol. And all because God was already at work through the people of Teen Challenge.

Other teams of women went to the Pregnancy Center, Ronald McDonald House, delivered lunch to the local police and fire stations, and one team held a cookout and worship song-fest for the residents of a low-income apartment building downtown.

So many different ways to serve the people of our town, and by so doing say, “We love you, because God loves you.”

I was part of the Prayer Team. We made up “blessing bags” the night before in which were snacks, a Christian tract and a tiny Bible that was made up of one verse from every book of the Bible. A couple of the women on our team stayed back at our venue, dubbed “command central,” and prayed for all the teams who had gone out to serve.

The Prayer Walk Team!

The Prayer Walk Team!

Some of us prayer-walked the streets praying for our city businesses, government offices, downtown churches and their outreaches, and people we met on the sidewalks.

We approached people on the street, offering them a blessing bag and asked if we could pray for them. There were sad encounters, like the one with the young man sitting on a curb with a backpack. He had the look of someone who had been living on the street, an all too common sight here in Bakersfield.

He willingly took the blessing bag offered him by my friend, mumbling his thanks.  When asked if we could pray for him he muttered in the affirmative, nodding slightly.

My friend placed her hand on his shoulder and prayed for this young man,  asking for God’s healing of past hurts and spoke of the grace and love of God for him. He began to quietly weep, hiding his face with his hands and the blessing bag he was holding.

He told us his name is Tony[1]. We will keep on praying for Tony. God is at work here.

A block down from Tony we met Mary who was weaving a flower from a long, strappy palm frond. She showed us a finished flower, made by her ex, Tony. Yes, the same Tony sitting a block away.

Mary said she is tired of not being happy, of living on the street, of freezing at night under her blanket. She’s ready to move in a different direction to find happiness, although it was obvious she didn’t know which direction that might be.

My friend encouraged her to attend the church just around the corner. Mary looked skeptical, but we pray she will go. We know that is the right direction for her. They will receive her at that church. That’s why they are downtown, to seek out the lost and bring them to Jesus. God is at work downtown.

Our little prayer-walking team had a happy encounter too. More than one, in fact.

We gave a blessing bag to a man sitting outside a pizza place waiting for his order of pizzas for his son’s sports team. He thanked us for the bag of goodies and began to tell us how one of his sons, who had been attending a college up north, had been hit by a big F-150 pick-up truck and almost killed.

Miraculously God spared him, he recuperated, and finished his education. He later married and now has a new baby and has become ordained in the Christian ministry. His father, smiling widely, said he loves telling that story.

God was already at work in that family.

My favorite story came out of my friend’s boldness to go over to four skateboarding teenage boys. I do not easily initiate conversations with strangers so these street encounters are always a huge stretch for me. But I followed along as we walked to these boys.

The first young man, maybe fourteen years old, took the blessing bag my friend offered him, telling him “God bless you.” At those words his whole face lit up and he said emphatically “God bless you!” and gave her a big hug. Then he looked at me and repeated “God bless you!” and gave me a big hug!

He blessed each lady in our group and gave each a hug. The other boys, who were also given blessing bags and thanked the ladies, were not so outgoing and one bashfully said, “I don’t want to hug you ‘cause I’m all sweaty,” so those three boys gave us all handshakes and we all blessed one another in God’s name.

God was already at work in those boys’ lives. As we gave out blessings, we received blessings in return.

Later, when all the other work teams returned to our meeting venue we listened to some of their stories too, some happy, some sad. All these stories from these encounters are fuel for prayer, prayer for those who populate our city.

My prayer is that this day of showing love to our city will not end with the closing of our “Love Where You Are” event Saturday night, but rather will only be the beginning. A beginning of continuing–

“let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”[2]

We saw God at work in our city. We took opportunities to join him in what he is doing by small, daring acts of kindness and love. Now, as we continue to do good and pray for those we encountered, may we be reapers of the harvest. For there surely is a harvest.

Oh, and one of the stories from the team that handed out flowers is that the same skate-boarding boy who gave us all hugs, when given a flower by this team, asked if he could have some flowers, was given them, and proceeded to hand them out to passers-by on the street! Harvest begun.

[1] Names changed to protect privacy.

[2] Galatians 6:9,10, ESV. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. https://www.biblegateway.com


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Stones, slings and … a yard sale?

The last few pieces I posted here dealt with “lions and bears” and “Goliath.” As I read the passage (1 Samuel 17) for our women’s Bible study, I saw a metaphor for realities in our own lives.

I likened lions and bears to enemies that attack us personally: illness, disease, losses of all kinds–from jobs to death of loved ones–and more. Whatever can come into our lives and turn them upside down and inside out, I consider a lion or bear type of enemy.

We are all subject to lions and bears. In my book, Brokenness to Beauty[1], I deal with these enemies and share how we can successfully fight them, becoming stronger and better for having gone through the attack. Like David, we can learn to wield our weapons—prayer and praise and the Word of God—gaining spiritual strength, growing in faith and in the knowledge of God. We can bring glory to the Lord by our lives as we go through our personal struggles.

But who or what is Goliath? The more I read the 1 Samuel 17 passage, the more clear it became to me that Goliath is anything that directly attacks and defies the Living God on a larger scale, not just a personal one. I imagined the evils in this world as Goliath, evils that challenge us, God’s people, to stand and fight in and for his Name.

Fighting Goliath definitely will take us out of our comfort zone. It certainly challenged Saul and his entire army. Goliath’s challenge scared them spitless. So they didn’t answer it. They didn’t stand up to Goliath; they quaked in their sandals and ran backwards.

There are Goliath’s in our world to fight and based on Jesus’ words, he expects us to fight them (John 14:12-17).

A small group of women here in Bakersfield are taking up the challenge. They are one example of standing up to Goliath in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Since I am part of that group, I’ll speak of them as “we.”

We have taken up a big challenge to fight against poverty, abuse and neglect of  girls and women, ignorance, slavery of all kinds including sex slavery, illiteracy, and oppression. We are doing this on behalf of women in India whom we have not met, yet because other believers are on the front lines of this war, and we have heard the challenge, we have declared we would join the fight. The Bakersfield SIS Advocacy Group are the supply troops, if you will.

So we prayed about our next plan. And we had a yard sale.

SIS Yard Sale

SIS Yard Sale

SIS yard Sale

SIS yard Sale

The mighty weapon of a yard sale!

Well, no. Our weapon is prayer. And hard work. The yard sale is a strategy.

And God blessed it.

We in turn blessed 11 women in India to become part of a Transformation Group where they will learn skills, work as a group, gain confidence and the ability to become self-sufficient, be given a voice to stand up for themselves… and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s life transforming.

We only have 151 more women to bless at $10 a month for one year.[2] Ten dollars a month. Two cups of Starbucks coffee. For one year. Imagine that.

We few, we band of sisters in the Bakersfield She Is Safe Advocacy Group,[3] are learning to stand and fight Goliath–with prayer, hard work, and yard sales and bring glory to the Name of the Lord of Hosts.

Do you hear the challenge? Want to join us?

 

 

[1] Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life is almost out! Expect it early next year! More on that later.

[2] Want to join us? Contact me at jacquelinegwallace@gmail for info on how to bless one or more Indian women … for life and eternity.

[3] Learn more about She Is Safe and their opportunity to fight Goliath through an Advocacy Group at SheIsSafe.org