Rising Up From Despair to Encourage Others

One of the first Christian songs that really spoke to me in 1989 after I dedicated my life to serving Jesus was a song titled Hope for the Hopeless by Sheila Walsh. I would listen to the song repeatedly as I prayed. When I would stop by the local Christian bookstore, I would look to see if there was a new CD by Sheila Walsh. She began to co-host a Christian talk show. Then it seemed like she just dropped off the scene.

As Christians we are not immune to health issues. Cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, are some of the physical ailments that we readily reach out to people suffering from them. We offer to pray for them. We empathize with them. We might even offer help in various ways.

Our bodies are interwoven wonders of God’s creation, but we live in a fallen world that has death and disease until the day our Lord returns. Our brains are part of our physical bodies. So if someone struggles with depression, anxiety or other mental health issue, perhaps we should be slow to judge or actually not judge at all. Mental health issues can have physical causes not only spiritual causes.

Whatever the cause, we are called by God to reach out to those struggling. God calls us to bear one another burdens. Jesus invited all who are weary to come to him to find rest. Yes perhaps the issue is connected to a struggle with sin, but the answer to sin is God’s grace and we are not to judge but to desire to help the person. The cause could very well be connected to a past trauma and the person is in need of supportive friends. The cause that we seem to be resistant to is a physiological cause whether it be a chemical imbalance, or other physical issues. If you have Netflix, check out the movie Brain on Fire about a young woman who people thought had bipolar or schizophrenia but it turned out an autoimmune disease was attacking her brain.

I admire Sheila Walsh much more now than I did when I listened to her song Hope for the Hopeless. The reason is how she is sharing her experience to bring hope to many. The reason she seemed to disappear from the Christian music/entertainment scene was she struggled with clinical depression. She sought out help and now shares her experience with others. She has a message the church/we can benefit from.

My hope is that we the church, those who profess to follow Jesus, will become more sensitized to mental health issues. The person struggling with depression might even be your pastor. I watch a video recently by a pastor who struggled with depression. If you want to watch his video click on- video

Here is an video of a fairly recent interview with Sheila Walsh sharing about depression and what helped her. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

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God’s Grace Working in Real Life

God has blessed me with being able to see him do wonderful things in the lives of many people such as the wedding I went to last weekend that I shared about. A young woman from Vietnam that others may have overlooked, God placed in my life to help. Over time she came to know Jesus, blossomed in life, and now is newly married with a promising career.

Sometimes I think we read the miracles recorded in the bible and only see those types of things as miracles, as God’s grace at work. Yet God is always at work in our lives doing things that seem implausible or not doable for us.

In my own life I have experienced that so many times in so many ways such as taking me from suffering memory loss, amnesia due to being sick, to being able to remember how to greet people in 30 languages.

I love real life stories of people who have overcome difficulty through God’s grace in their lives. One person is a vlogger on youtube that shares about her life experience to encourage others. Her name is Stephanie. She shares in one video about how she struggled with anxiety and panic attacks and how God helped her.

 

Her anxiety developed over the loss of babies while being pregnant, but she didn’t give up on her faith. She sought out God with her husband. Today she shared a video about God working a miracle in her life. I don’t want to give it away, so here is that video.

I love her videos because they are about her journey with God through difficulties. She shares with the hope of encouraging others. It makes me think about 2 Corinthians 1 where Paul writes about how God comforts us so we in turn can comfort others with the comfort we have experienced.

Stephanie also has a blog virtuouswomanblog.com  you can check out.

It is a blessing for me to read about God’s grace being sufficient for people going through struggles such as Lily who shares about her life living with an autoimmune problem that causes her to need a wheelchair. Her blog is retrospectivelily.com 

What is on my mind is that TV ministry people can make it seem like there has to be some major miracle for it to mean God is at work. Quite the contrary!! God is always at work in people’s lives. Whether it is giving us grace to live with a difficulty such as with Lily much like Paul when God said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” or helping us to overcome a struggle over time like he has done for Stephanie, God is always at work.

Let’s not wait until there is some monumental miracle to thank God and share with others what God has done. People are looking for real connection these days. By sharing our real life struggles and how God has worked in our lives, we can open up opportunities to attract people to Jesus.

I hope you take a little time out of your day to watch Stephanie’s two videos and to check out her blog and also Lily’s blog. If you do, you will be blessed.

Thank you for reading. God Bless 🙂

 

 

Being Supportive of Others

I read a blog yesterday that caused me to reflect on Moses in Exodus 17. Israel was in the midst of a battle and as long as Moses’s arms were raised up, Israel was winning, but when he got tired and his arms lowered, Israel started losing. So 2 others, Aaron and Hur, held his arms up and the result was victory for Israel.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The reason I thought about Moses needing support from Aaron and Hur was because of reading a post by a woman named Jennifer who adopted a little boy that lived through trauma the first years of his life and how she needs to draw from the Lord to nurture her adopted son past the effects of the trauma. Her blog is Beauty From The Ashes. The link for the post is Hope in the Struggle. After you read it, please pray for her and her son. It is wonderful that she would adopt a small child who went through trauma in life.

She is being Jesus to her precious little boy even though it is hard at times. It makes me think about the need all of us who follow Jesus have of support from each other. Living for Jesus and especially seeking to serve him these days is not easy.

We all need the prayers of each other in the body of Christ. There are other ways to come alongside people. Practical things like a phone call to check on someone, taking someone for coffee, meeting the needs of others, or even kind words of encouragement. As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

There are times we need the support of others just like Moses did and there are times we need to support others like Aaron and Hur did. In the body of Christ there are no lone rangers.

We need each other in Christ’s family.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As a blogging community we can pray for each other. If we read about someone the Lord has freed from addiction, we can pray for that person for strength to continue. If we read about someone struggling with depression or anxiety, we can pray for that person to experience the Lord’s presence. If we read about someone grieving the loss of a loved one, we can pray for God’s comfort. The list goes on and on.

Please join me in praying for Jennifer and her precious little boy this week. Let’s look for ways to encourage those around us in our churches. Let us not grow weary in doing good. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless

 

 

Music Mondays- Scars to Your Beautiful By Alessia Cara and I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco

Last September I went to a Harvest Moon Festival at Antelope Park here in my home city Lincoln. It was put on by the Asian Community Center. In the past it would have been only groups from East Asia, but much to the Center’s credit they have included people from other parts of Asia such as the Yazidis from Iraq and Syria. There was a performance by some Yazidi girls that grabbed my attention and made me think.

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The girls, high school age, danced a routine to the song Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara. I had not heard the song before that but as I watched the girls dance and listened to the lyrics, I thought about Yazidi girls and women. When ISIS came into their area, they kidnapped girls and young women and forced them into horrors I won’t go into in this posting. The thought that these Yazidi girls were free to perform in public with no fear of being targeted hit me, so I searched for the song on youtube. So yes, I am sharing a secular song in this post because there is an important message in it.

With so much focus on outer appearance in our culture, sadly the people who struggle most are girls and women. Yet God sees beauty in all girls and women and desires for them to be his daughters.

Physical scars can also leave emotional scars. But there are also scars we cannot see that are spiritual and emotional scars from being victims of abuse, rejection, struggles with addiction etc.

There are women whose blogs I follow that I respect for how they have been willing to share about how God has brought emotional and spiritual healing into their lives.

I think of the young woman who bravely shares about how Jesus helped her overcome anorexia in her blog Beauty Beyond Bones at beautybeyondbones.com.

I think of the young woman who shares about ho God helped her overcome violence against women and speaks up for women in her blog The Voice of Peace at thevoiceofpeace18.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God helped her overcome depression in her blog Called to Be A Writer at calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com.

I think of the woman who shares how God has helped her overcome addiction in the family in her blog A New Life at anewlife256599767.wordpress.com.

These are excellent blogs to read. I hope you check them out. I think this is on my mind because of my courageous student who will share this evening about escaping with her family before ISIS came.

Being a victim can leave scars. Jesus still has the scars in his wrists, feet and side from when he was crucified on the cross. His scars are there for our healing. He does not want to leave us as victims though. He wants to give us freedom over the abuse, addiction, or anything else that would keep us down as victims.

I wrote about scars and how his scars can heal ours in a previous post- scars.

That brings me to the second song I would like to share, I Am No Victim by Kristene DiMarco. She sings about how we are what God says we are, so we are not victims. It is a powerful song that can bless and minister to our souls.

Hope your Monday is blessed.

Having The Faith of a Mustard Seed She Achieved Her Goal-My Friend Ko from Burma

Jesus compared a mustard seed to having faith in that the mustard seed is small but grows to be a tree. If we have faith, even a small amount, we can do great things.

God has blessed me with opportunities to meet and help refugees from literally all over the world. It is especially meaningful for me to see how they progress with their new lives in America. I love going to their celebrations such as weddings and birthdays and also experience their holidays. There is special significance for me in going to graduation celebrations. High School graduations are life markers for anyone, but a high school graduation for a young person who came to America as a refugee as a child with his or her parents is HUGE.

Saturday afternoon I visited the home of my friend Ko. She graduated from high school on Sunday, so she had a party with her family/extended family on Saturday.

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me with Ko

Ko came here as a child with her parents from the refugee camp in Thailand. Her parents are from Burma. Her father was in a class I taught the first several months after they came here. With everything her family has overcome through the years, Ko’s graduation is a major highlight. I have spoken with many refugee parents, who like Ko’s mother, work in places like a meat packing plant focusing on the future of their children. For Ko’s parents, her graduation makes their sacrifices worth it.

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Ko with her proud parents

Ko will go on to become a nurse. I joked with her that if she is ever my nurse to remember to bring me ice cream. Her graduation is a major achievement because it means that she learned English to be able to then study regular high school courses in her second language English to achieve her goal. She is a quiet hero in my mind. It takes courage to go to a high school where she was the only student from her language and country. Step by step she trusted in Jesus to achieve her goal. I am so proud of her.

I have had the privilege of knowing many young people from other countries who have come as refugees, gone on to graduate high school and then on to college. I know young adults who came here as refugee children who are now in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school, and one who got her MBA and CPA and another one who graduated with her Masters Degree in Architecture.

So if you happen to meet an adult from another country with limited English, not dressed the best, living a low income life, don’t be quick to judge. Their kids might be your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, accountant etc someday. I know because I see it all the time. If you take the time to get to know a refugee family, it could be a wonderful blessing for you.

Ko has accomplished a lot in her young 18 years and will continue to accomplish a lot trusting in Jesus all the way. That is the faith of a mustard seed put into action 🙂

Music Mondays- I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

Jesus said in John 16 that we will have problems in this life but encourages us that he has overcome the world.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have no guarantees in this life. As I spend time with refugees, I am constantly reminded of how life can be turned upside down in seemingly an instant. A man from Bosnia shared with me his pain over the fact that a neighbor he had often played cards and drank coffee with turned against him during the genocide there in the 1990s.

I will never forget my friend from Korea, an international student, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer only months before he would have finished his Phd and died a few months later.

Following Jesus does not make us immune to problems in life. My first serious battle with autoimmune began when I was studying for the ministry in the 1990s. In this life we will have struggles, disappointments, illnesses, along with the joys, accomplishments, and celebratory moments. This life is a mixed bag.

Jesus gave another promise that is encouraging to me. He promised he would always be with us in Matthew 28-  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he who has overcome the world has promised to always be with us. Even if others abandon us, he will be with us.

So today I would like to share a song by Kari Jobe with you, I Am Not Alone in hopes that it helps us remember that whatever circumstance we are in that Jesus is with us. I hope your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Books that have impacted me- Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza

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I love reading books, all kinds of books. Some books I have read for entertainment or escape into a different world such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Some books I read to grow in my faith. But biographies or autobiographies about people who have been through difficult ordeals and made it through with God’s help are special for me to read. One such autobiography that impacted me is Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza.

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I found Left to Tell, or perhaps I should say Left to Tell found me, at a time when I was wrestling with staying in Lincoln to help refugees and immigrants. I was pulled in two directions, go teach English in another country or stay in Lincoln. I love being in other countries and have had several trips of a month or longer in other countries, so the thought of living in another country teaching English has always been appealing to me. But at the time I read the book in 2008, there were already thousands of refugees living in my home city of Lincoln.

In her book Left to Tell, Immaculee shares about her experience of hiding in a bathroom for months during the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s. She shares about how she grew close to God through prayer while hiding in the bathroom. She also shares about the horrors of the genocide, and what happened after the genocide as she sought to start life over again.

The book impacted me because it helped me think more vividly about the experiences that many of my refugee friends have been through. Many of them have escaped genocides in places like Burma, Iraq, and Sudan or have been subjected to oppression in places like Vietnam, Ukraine, and Iran. It was because of reading Left to Tell that I had peace in the decision to stay in Lincoln and help refugees here.

I had the chance to meet Immaculee in November 2011 when she came to do a retreat at a Catholic High School here, Pius X High School. I went to the Friday evening segment where she shared her story. I was able to thank her for her book and share with her what it meant to me.

What books have impacted you?

Moms Are Heroes of the Common Everyday That Make Up Life

Growing up in a family with a mentally ill mother, Mother’s Day was always a day that I dreaded each year as I would see happy families celebrating their mothers. They always seemed so lucky and I would wonder why I had the one I had. Her moods were unpredictable and she was highly manipulative.

After coming to Christ, I began observing people in church and in life. I have always taken note of moms with their kids not because I was looking for a mom, but because I wanted to understand. What have I taken away from observations? Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens.

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Every weekday morning during the school year, I watch the moms in my class have the courage to study a difficult language to learn, English,  because they want to help their children. I am an eye witness of their daily effort to help their kids. They are low income, but they do the best they can to have a safe and nurturing home for their children.

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I have a friend at church whose husband died of cancer and watched from afar her courage as she kept her kids going through extremely hard times. One of her sons just sang with his high school choir at Carnegie Hall. She has one son in college, one about to begin college, and one in high school the one who is in the school choir. My friend faced the day to day struggles of being a single mom and trusting Jesus in the struggles. She had to be the only ‘taxi’ driver in the family, the only one to take them to doctors’ appointments, the only one to discipline when needed and encourage when needed.

The list could go on to become several books if I listed each mother that has impressed me with the way she has faced the common everyday things in life, hardships, sickness, school problems etc that her children have had. Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens and also heroes of the big things.

Moms know pain, not just the physical pain of childbirth, but also the spiritual, emotional, and mental pain of raising children in the down times. This makes me think of Mary the Mother of Jesus when Jesus was only 8 days old in his earthly life and a man told her, “a sword will pierce your soul too” to indicate that she would suffer grief and sorrow because of Jesus. She was there watching him die on the cross. She experienced great pain.

Moms know the joy of seeing their children grow and develop and the joy of seeing their kids succeed at something for the first time. Moms know the joy of adult kids coming to visit them after being gone for a long time. Can you imagine the joy Mary had when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection?

So if you are a mom and reading this, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Going With The Flow- Conversations While in the Water

Love Saturdays for several reasons; 1-I can sleep late 🙂 , 2-I see my friends at my Saturday morning ESL reading group, and 3-I never know what God will do on a Saturday 🙂 🙂 🙂

Yesterday I got up about 8:30, not the terrible 6:30 during the week 😦 lol, and spent some time praying over my day. I asked Jesus to lead me to who he wanted to connect me with that day and to help me show his love to those I would encounter.

After my morning group, I went to Madonna Proactive to do my water exercise. When I first got there, no one was there, so I thought- “oh another day alone, maybe I will get more writing ideas.” But God had an appointment for me. I LOVE it when God surprises me with a divine appointment.

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As I was walking, I saw a young woman who works there part-time. I hadn’t had a chance to chat with her for a few months, so we waved and I stopped to chat with her. Megan will graduate in May with her Masters degree from Doane College. She played volleyball in college and has been involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FCA.

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Megan is a delightful young lady who loves Jesus. It was exciting for me to hear that she will join FCA as full-time staff reaching out to high school/middle school coaches and athletes. We chatted off and on as I did my water workout. We talked about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in ministry, so we do not lose heart in the tough times. I am confident Megan will do great working with coaches and youth. A few links for Megan and her ministry.

Nebraska FCA

my.fca.org/meganfletcher

I left feeling so encouraged to know a quality young person is devoting her life to serving Jesus and reaching out to youth and coaches.

As we were talking, I noted two women walking around the aqua track. I told Megan, “I bet I can greet them in their language.” The women came around by us and I asked them where they are from. They told me they are from Tajikistan, so I greeted them in Russian with Previet Caudula, trying to spell it phonetically 🙂 , and they smiled and then told me they speak Russian but Persian is the first language so then I said, Chootoree- again phonetic spelling attempt 🙂 , and they were surprised.

I love divine appointments whether they are for encouraging a fellow Christian or for sharing Jesus with someone. Divine appointments have a special way for me to see God is working in the moment. At those times, I feel close with God as he guides me to who he wants me to connect with.

So it was another typically unique Saturday for me. Each Saturday is unique in my life, which makes them typical but all unique.

Hope you have a blessed Sunday and please check out Megan’s link and pray for her.

Saturday- Another Typically Unique Day in My Life

Typically unique? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

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What I mean by that is having unique days in my life is a typical event for me. God has blessed me with the opportunity to meet, befriend, and spend time with diverse cultures on a daily basis, but there are some days that stand out more for me.

Today was one of those days that stands out for me. I went to meet some friends at The Egg and I for breakfast and while I was sitting in my van, I checked my facebook and saw I had a message from one of my friends in Brazil. She wanted to know if I could meet them Monday afternoon for coffee. She is coming to Lincoln with her husband and little girl.  So even though it was a cold rainy morning, the day after a warm shorts wearing day, my day started on a very positive note.

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Then came breakfast with my friends Tram and Tai from Vietnam. During breakfast, Tram, the bride to be, gave me my invitation to their wedding in June. We reminisced about the days that she came to my weekend groups at my church when she was in high school hoping to go to college. She has since graduated from college and also gotten her MBA and CPA. She has a nice position with a business here. Tai also graduated from college and is working in IT. So my day got even better with the conversation and to be honored that she gave me the invitation in person.

Next I drove to pick up Marc a young man from Haiti to bring him to my Saturday morning reading group at my church. We had fun joking on the way. At church my friends from Iraq and Japan joined us for the reading group. Five cultures interacted with already and one more to go.

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After I dropped Marc off at his home, I went to visit some Yazidi friends, a family, to have lunch with them. The picture has only me in it to safeguard their privacy due to them being refugees. The wife cooked a delicious wonderful lunch of briyani, fish, soup and salad. The husband and I had a great conversation over lunch.

After lunch, we sat down in the living room to talk. It was fun to play with their three small children, the oldest being six, and to hear their laughter. It was especially meaningful knowing what they had been through to hear laughter in their home.

So six different cultures in the span of seven hours, on a Saturday of friendship, laughter, learning, and GOOD FOOD, makes today another typically unique day for me. I do not know many people who have days like this, but God has blessed me with many such days.

When I think about all these diverse cultures, it gives me new appreciation for when Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

What kind of typically unique days do you have?