Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Don't Quit

Mother Teresa once said, “God didn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.”

Her words are an encouragement to me. It’s exactly what I believe . . . and yet I sometimes lose site of God’s plans because my own get in the way. Being a writer means I work a lot of hours for very little pay. This doesn’t apply to all writers, just about 98% of us. :-) And in light of Mother Teresa’s work my contribution seems insignificant.

I’m sure God doesn’t see it that way. Writing is what He asked me to do, along with a variety of other tasks. And so I persevere in an effort to be faithful to Him. I love to write, but . . . there are times the work seems endless and the compensation meager. And I lose heart.

When I’m thinking about the “work” and lack of reward it’s a dead giveaway that I’m not tuned in to God, but rather I’m thinking about me. When I set my heart on God He reassues me that He’s working in me and through me—using my efforts in His great plan. Just the idea of being included is mind boggling. I feel humbled and grateful and can barely believe that the God of the universe wants me to be part of what He’s doing. I feel swamped in His love and am honored to be counted as one of His children.

There are days, for us all, when we simply endure, push on, and obey. It is these times when God does His best work—refining us and stretching us beyond ourselves. And although we may not see the fruit of our labor it’s there. And a day will come when we stand before our Lord and we’ll see the wood, hay and stubble, but we'll also see the fruit and receive our reward.

If God calls us to something, we need to do it. The difficulty lies in believing in Him rather than in ourselves. It’s all part of growing up. Growth requires courage. Sometimes it hurts. It always requires endurance. The good stuff never comes easily.

My dear friends push on, be faithful and trust God, then wait expectantly for what He has in store for you. I’m sure it’s something spectacular.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Shipwrecked Faith

Recently while reading the first chapter of First Timothy I came across a verse I’ve read before, but this time it seemed to jump off the page, and I saw it with new eyes. I love that about God’s Word—the learning never ends.

Verses 18 & 19 in Second Timothy One say, "Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith."

What does a shipwrecked faith look like? My mind carries me to a picture of a ship on a broad ocean. Dangerous rocks are spotted far off and don’t appear treacherous. The waves then carry the ship closer and the crashing thunder of breaking surf can be heard. Finally the ship is carried onto the rocks and broken by the power of the sea. The ship sinks and ends its life on the ocean floor.

Like a ship at sea, we take gradual steps toward being shipwrecked. First we’re vigilant and wary and understand that trouble lurks “out there” somewhere. But sometimes we are carried away by the folly and temptations of the world and are unknowingly dragged toward calamity. Do we pray? Do we seek God? Do we know what’s at stake? If not, we’ll suddenly be overcome by the consequences of our choices and lose our grip on faith.

The Holy Spirit directs us through our conscience. When we are pierced or stirred by our conscience we need to listen. We need to pay attention. If we ignore His voice the day will come when we’re not certain whether something is right or wrong. And we will tell ourselves it’s not a big deal—all things are relative. But they are not. God’s Word is our standard.

Living with a shipwrecked faith is torture, so perilous that Paul went on to say in verse 20 that he handed over Alexander and Hymenaeus to satan because of their blasphemy. Our unwillingness to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit will drive us into satan’s hands. He waits, salivating.

This could be a tragedy, but there is hope. Suffering often restores relationships, especially those with God. When we find ourselves in the deepest pit, God waits for us. If we are willing, He will lift us out and set us on solid ground.

So, before you decide to disregard that voice inside think about the rocky shoreline that lies in the distance. We have options and although we’re unable to live perfectly we can live lives that inspire others and please God.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Love Sacrificially

Because of my "job" I'm privileged to hear from a lot of special people. Just this week I received a note from a dear friend, Jeannie St. John Taylor. She remembered my blog about Enduring Love and had a story she wanted to include. It's one I feel compelled to post. Please read and enjoy.

The Great Man
© Jeannie St. John Taylor

Even as a young child I sensed greatness in my Uncle Eldon. I remember wondering if he used the bathroom like the rest of us; surely he was too great for something so earthy. When I questioned my mother about it, she assured me all humans had to do those things, and Uncle Eldon was human.

As I grew older and viewed him more realistically, I still saw him as a well-respected man who excelled in his profession, but I knew he wasn’t superhuman. In fact he was very human, which his final years clearly revealed. Childless and completely alone after my aunt died, he moved through the halls of his nursing home in a wheel chair and yet, amazingly, his attitude still shone with greatness.

With shaky handwriting, he’d sign his Christmas cards, “Jesus is indescribably wonderful! This might be the most wonderful Christmas season ever! The eternal, almighty, all loving Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What a mystery! What a miracle!” When he broke his hip and could no longer leave his room, he cheerfully proclaimed Jesus’ love to visitors. I never heard a single complaint when I called across the country to chat with him, all he wanted to talk about was Jesus. He told me he prayed for each of my children by name every day, and I knew he spoke truth.

So when he passed away at age ninety-one, I cried and Googled his name: Dr. Eldon R. Fuhrman. Several pages popped up – 5,640 hits in .024 seconds. Most of the sites revealed podcasts of vintage messages, one listed a New Testament commentary my uncle had written and Wikipedia said he’d been elected president of Wesley Biblical Seminary in 1977 and stepped down to teach in 1985.

But it didn’t tell why.

Yet the why of his resignation as seminary president and eventual retirement from teaching while still mentally and physically capable of doing the job he loved tells the story of his greatness.

Just a few years after my uncle resumed teaching in his late sixties, Aunt Blanche began her gradual descent into dementia. Some forms of dementia, though sad, are almost sweet. I knew one woman who sat in her wheelchair swaying from side to side humming hymns. My aunt’s dementia was of the more difficult sort. So even though my uncle still wanted to work, he retired. Aunt Blanche needed him. She was his responsibility and far more important than his job; she was the love of his life. He would be the one to care for her.

He and my aunt left their gracious Mississippi home and occupied a small apartment in an assisted living facility where meals would be prepared for them. For the next fifteen years, Uncle Eldon dedicated every waking moment to my Aunt Blanche. When she grew too ill to continue living in their apartment and had to relocate across the courtyard in the nursing home wing, he rose early every morning and walked across the courtyard to eat breakfast with her.

After feeding her oatmeal and toast he’d take her for a drive. They’d park across the street from the seminary dorm named for him where he’d pray by name for each young man living there. Afterwards, he’d take her with him to his apartment for the rest of the day, returning her to the nursing home just before curfew. The only peace my aunt knew came when Uncle Eldon held her hand; he was her security. She was his treasure.

He fed her every meal. He longed to simply be with her and comfort her; she was distraught when he had to leave for the evening. Long after anyone else saw the elderly woman as attractive, he spoke almost reverently of her. “She is so beautiful,” he once told my mom in an awe-struck voice. “sitting there with her snow white hair and pearls . . . she’s beautiful, just beautiful!” And he meant it. She passed away two Julys before he did, and he never stopped missing and loving her.

Yes, my Uncle Eldon was a great man, but not for the reason you might think. While others may have considered him a man of note because of his educational accomplishments, my uncle achieved true greatness because he loved sacrificially; he overflowed with the love of Jesus.

Thank you, Jeannie, for this beautiful story of an exceptional man.

If you'd like to read more from Jeannie St. John Taylor you might try some of her books, which I've listed below.

Grace and Peace to you from God.


Culture Proof Kids . . . Building Character in Your Children
Am I forgiving
Together Forever
Am I Praying?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Enough For Today

While in the midst of physical suffering or sorrow, we sometimes feel that even one more day is more than we can manage. When we find ourselves in that place, what should we do? There are lots of solutions, but the one that is most helpful for me is to not look at tomorrow or the many more tomorrows that stretch out before me in a line of unendurable hours.

God offers a beautiful example of how we can do one day at a time. When the Israelites escaped pharaoh and wandered into the desert God provided just enough for the day. Manna was was given in the morning and quail in the evening. When the Israelites tried to horde or save for the next day their stash turned into maggots. Yuck!

God’s example says, trust me for today. I will see to tomorrow.

Sounds simple enough and for some it may be. Me—I’m a planner. And I worry myself into a stomachache with regularity. Today, I’m going to contemplate on God’s provision for the Israelites. His Word has the power to transform my thinking. So, today I’m not thinking about tomorrow. Today is all I need to trust for. God will meet with me today, and when I get to tomorrow, He’ll be there too.

Rest in him.

Grace and peace to you from God.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Dream

Saturday mornings should be leisurely. I love to stay in my pajamas, cuddle up in my chair with a blanket and a cup of coffee and watch a movie. That kind of morning is rare and treasured. I lucked it out today and settled down to watch an old movie—October Sky. It’s the true story of Homer Hickman, the son of a Virginia coal miner, who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to send off his own rocket.

He and three of his friends set out to fulfill a dream. Homer’s father and most of the folks in town see their vision as foolishness. The boys are ridiculed and made fun of, yet they persist. They have good analytical minds, but that is only a help in carrying them toward their goal. It’s tenacity, determination and the will to stand against the tide that makes the dream attainable.

Failure follows failure as the boys work toward their dream. But each explosion or misfired rocket teaches them something that enables them to plow toward success. In the end, they did succeed. Homer received a national science award, which opened educational doors and countless opportunities. He became a NASA scientist and was part of the team that put together our U.S. Shuttle program.

I love stories like this. Life is filled with challenges, successes and failures. For some, disappointments strengthen their resolve, but others are like a house made of straw—the slightest wind blows them down.

We give up on dreams intimidated or embarrassed by the opposition. It’s been my experience and that of history’s that those who persevere will accomplish great things.

In Homer Hickman’s life there were a handful of people who cheered him on, people who believed in him when no one else would. We need to stand with each other, pray for one another, encourage and cheer each other on toward our dreams.

Scripture tells us to uplift our brethren. Just as the Holy Spirit points us always to the Savior never toward Himself, may we also be more concerned with building up others rather than ourselves. There is great joy in witnessing the success of dreams fulfilled, even those who are held by someone else.

Grace and peace to you from God.

Bonnie Leon

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Lions & SPIDERS and Bears Oh My!

Three days ago my husband and I climbed into our jeep and headed to an isolated pond in the forest. I love to fish so was thrilled to settle into a comfy chair on a dock that floated on the edge of the tree-mirrored pool. I cast out my line and waited.

The air was hot, but the trees that hugged the bank provided shade and the breeze that stirred the forest cooled my skin. Deep throated calls of bull frogs accompanied bird song. I felt as if I were being serenaded and thanked God for the special moment.

In the midst of my peace, however, something lurked. It wasn’t a bear or a cougar, although they might have been nearby. No . . . it was a spider. I was unaware of the creepy-crawly, otherwise I would have been doing my “Oh my gosh, it’s a spider dance.” I don’t like the little critters. Without my knowing it, he bit me.

My hand itched and I rubbed it against my pant leg. The itching intensified, but I tried to ignore it, thinking an especially toxic mosquito had drilled into my flesh. After a while, the hand started to ache and holding the pole became painful. Ignoring the discomfort, I remained in my peaceful state of mind.

Once back in the jeep I looked at my hand and was stunned to see something that resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy stuck to the end of my arm. By the time we made it back to the house the swelling had spread to my wrist and lower arm, and my hand was red and heated.

Upon closer examination I discovered two little fang marks left by a not so friendly spider. Eewww. The hand and arm ached, but there didn’t seem to be any other “terrible” symptoms so I decided against an emergency room trip.

As I write this my hand is beginning to look more like itself and the pain is gone. My spider encounter reminded me of 1 Peter 5:8 & 9 which says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Even while in serene surroundings, in the midst of beauty, a lion prowls, hoping to destroy us. I know a spider bite isn’t anything like a lion bite, but while I wasn’t looking, just like a lion, that spider got me. God tells us to be aware, to be diligent, and to stand firm.

We don’t need to fear. God is on our side. So, enjoy the wonder but be prepared for lions with destruction in their hearts.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Do Not Fear

Matthew 8:23-26 says, "Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! Jesus responded, Why are you afraid? You have so little faith! Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm."

This is a powerful and familiar passage.

Obviously the storm referred to here is treacherous. The disciples believe they’re about to drown. They go Jesus asking him to save them and what is he doing—sleeping. How does anyone sleep in the midst of a deadly storm?

This is a beautiful picture of absolute trust. Jesus is so closely connected with His Heavenly Father that He’s absolutely unafraid, so much so that in the face of death he's asleep. He knows not to worry. Jesus rebukes his disciples and then rebukes the storm and it obeys Him.

Unlike us, Jesus is more than human. He is God. However, we’re called upon to see Christ as our example. That’s intimidating. After all, we’re just humans. Nevertheless scripture is clear in that we are to love one another, endeavor to be stronger, more faithful, trusting and all the rest of what Christ is. So when the storms of life strike do we walk in faith or do we cower and quake?

If we're quaking, perhaps we need to remember that our heavenly Father has not lost sight of us or our circumstances. In Him there is rest even in the midst of the worst storm. Rest in Him.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Quote—Fear not that thy life shall come to an end but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.