Stuff to know

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sufficient Courage

Lately have struggled with some dark days.  Maybe you are in a hard place right now. Philippians chapter one has been salve to an aching soul for me today and as I read through it-
I began to dissect it piece by piece for the reality of which it is. Paul’s letter from prison has much to offer a suffering confused and frightened soul. I offer you the insight God showed me as an encouragement to anyone who finds themselves imprisoned today and is looking for the door.

Black lettering is scripture with aqua highlighted passages that I write what God encouraged me with.  (It’s a little choppy in places-sorry)

Paul’s letter to Philippi
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear”

What many would consider bad or unfortunate (here Paul’s imprisonment) actually advances the good – it advances the gospel THE TRUTH- 
And it encourages other believers to proclaim  without fear

We see that what was meant for evil, pain and punishment only spurs on the good, the truth and increases faith.
But the cool thing here to is that is banishes fear
WITHOUT FEAR- the boldness has to  come

“The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Paul not only has physical torment he gets social torment as well form outside the prison.  And he blows it off and focuses on Jesus.  Jesus is preached and this is awesome but   he doesn’t sling into neutral like “Oh, Oh- so good okay. God you got this, I need a nap now”
- No he moves forward with it and chooses to REJOICE.

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage”

He makes a decision “Yes” I will continue (keep on) rejoicing.
Paul knows that prayer makes a difference and that God is providing His Spirit no matter the circumstances he is in.
God is there and He isn’t holding back!!

How often my circumstances are so minimal compared to Paul’s and yet I can’t find an ounce of joy.  You may be going through something horrible. Something I’m not and maybe even something close to Paul’s situation-
Pastor Saeed is and his wife is also suffering so much.
Your brothers and sisters, around the world or around the corner are suffering for and with Christ.

 The enemy is exactly that -your enemy; he is not for you he is against you- so don’t be shocked by your plight. 
Don’t guilt yourself or condemn yourself or feel sorry for yourself. And try, try hard to not figure out why- because the answer to why may be simply because your ARE GODS-

 But do not be shocked.
You can take hope in this truth that your God is exactly that:

And He takes all things
ALL things and uses them for the good of those that love Him according to His purpose.
You know that purpose: the one where HE loves you the most- the one where He gave all He had so HE could be with  you.

Paul goes on to say “expect and hope”-
He is not dreading, pleading, fretting or –
here we go -“worrying”.
That would be my personal pet right there
Worrying.  I mean 90 % of what I worry about does not happen so it must be working right?  (Someone throat punch me here)

No, he expects- he is ready
 and he hopes-he is longing and counting on
 – even if he does not see.

And here is the part that gives me hope--
no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage
He is not going to have regret,
 Or feel stupid or be ashamed about anything he trusts God for -
On the contrary
He states that He will have sufficient courage.
Not a drop mixed with panic and fear but
Sufficient – enough
Enough trouble?
Enough fear?  Not even in the equation.


Where is he going to get that?  Where am I going to get that?

I try to work a little pattern like this:

  • Not going to be shocked- Going to remember whose I AM.

(and I am not throwing a pity party as if I am the only one with such horrible trouble)

  • Going to choose to rejoice-

Even when I see no reason-even when I don’t feel like it-
In fact some days through my dark times I just have to say “screw it” I’m going to be happy just to be spiteful in the face of depression.
The law of contrary behavior sometimes works for me here- act the opposite of what you feel and eventually your feelings catch on

Ask God to give you His Spirit
 Ask for prayer from your brothers and sisters

The maintenance plan:

  • Continue
Don’t stop rejoicing, don’t stop trusting,
Be like shampoo:  rejoice-trust- repeat

Paul states:
“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. 

Sometimes this is the only prayer available when we are suffering:

To have fruitful labor.

Let it bring forth what you desire God and accomplish what You will – do not let it be for nothing- do not let me get in the way.
Let me learn, let my days be filled with fruitful labor for you
Let not a single tear, fear, pain or sorrow or sin go unattended by your sweet grace. Let your Spirit transform all my moments into monuments for you.

Paul continues
“I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

He knows that this suffering is NOT in vain. He is willing to be poured out for others, just as Christ was.  He realizes and trusts that God is using his present circumstances for His kingdom, for His children
For progress and joy in God Himself.

He then states:
“Your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
The glory to God and the relationship with Jesus prospers on account of this time in his life. 

The world is watching, your children are watching.  Will I trust God to grant me His sufficient courage to continue fruitful labor for His purpose?
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
 I want to say this is what happened with my life.
I’ve failed many times but I want to be prepared, to be determined from here on out to conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.
 To make that choice and to trust God's provision of courage for me.

“ Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has beengranted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that and now hear that I still have.

Paul reminds the courage-less once again to not be frightened – in any way.
 That it is so powerful to NOT fear that it is a sign of destruction to your enemy and a proclamation of your salvation!!
That is a powerful reason to give courage your best.

Finally Paul sums up by saying that it has been granted, given, to you not only to believe Christ for all things but to suffer for him as well.

Now this sounds like we want an "opt out" button here- but it’s not about signing up for this suffering or that blessing.

It’s about suffering and blessing being in all lives-
Believers and unbelievers alike.

But the believer has a privileged choice.

To take suffering as a granted privilege to bear fruit for His God.
To be a vessel of hope and courage for others.
 It’s a way to encourage and to love others because you are letting  His sufficiency into you.

The last part I highlighted remind us that Paul is writing this while still in chains, not a year after when the memories are weaker or life has gotten back on track- but in his now- his right this second  now-
While he was attending the 62 A.D. Suxfest.

It gives me hope and intent to persevere when I read and seriously study this encouraging letter.
 Some days just need more than others and this helps.

 I do not know what specifically you are going through but I do know the One who has granted you this season has also granted you sufficient courage for fruitful labor.

Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!”
Psalms 31:24

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Find your Sisters

The world can be a disturbing place.  There is currently so much turmoil going on, especially in Egypt.

The tension between Muslims and Christians and whatever force is in charge right now (it is hard to keep up) has turned violent.
 There are now up to 58 Christian churches, orphanages and community centers that have been destroyed, along with Christian businesses.

Catholic Nuns have been paraded through the streets and mistreated.

This is bad news, not just for the Christian but for all.

Whenever mankind seeks to conquer each other - it is always bad news.

I am a follower of JesusChrist.
These are my brother and sisters that are being persecuted.

There are people of other religions that are persecuted for having a different faith than their tormentors.
These are my brother and sisters as well.

This morning as I woke up in America I began my day in freedom.
Freedom to do what was on my list.
Laid Back Jane has a Eastern Shore  Leadership retreat at the Delta this morning.
They will be out in all the Alabama humidity , canoeing alongside the state bird: the mosquito and trying to avoid the gators.

Have I mentioned how overjoyed she is about this?

Anyway at the parent orientation we took our place at a table.
Soon the room began to fill up and a small woman in a  long flowing outfit and white scarf draped over her hair and swirled around her neck sat next to me.

I smiled. She smiled.
My mind began thinking about world tensions.
I thought "I wonder if she is Muslim?"

I suppose one could say "Why must I state the obvious" but I have met people from all over the world that keep a culture but not a religion. Or keep a religion but not the culture.

I once worked with  woman who was  Catholic but had an arranged marriage according to her culture. It was so fascinating to hear her story.

So I began wondering about this woman.

Where was she from,?
Did she speak English,?
What is her faith?  

and a few superficial thoughts as well

Isn't she hot all the time in that outfit?

I wonder if she likes lattes? (hey it was drizzly outside , I was thinking Starbucks)

and a few other thoughts creeped out as well

If she is Muslim does she hate Christians?

So as I sat there  allowing my mind to run a gamut of 20 questions.

I decided if I really wanted to know anything about  this woman I should just talk with her.

I am not one for loss of words- so I got this.

Me: " There is a really good turn out today"

She: " Yes, it looks like there are many participants"

She has a slight accent, but it isn't a southern, cajun or British. My deciphering skills end there.

As I am playing dialect detective , she speaks again

She: " I hope there are some other children from my sons school that are attending."

Me: " Where does your son go to school?"

** as a side note I am discovering that she must also be highly educated because she is speaking my native language far more beautifully than me.

She: "Bayside Academy"


Me: " We also attend Bayside. My middle daughter is a Junior ."

I am slowing down my speech and using fancier words at this point , I know I know

She: "Oh I am so glad there is someone else here form Bayside. Which child is your daughter?"

The kids are all congregating at another table .
She and I exchange information on our children and point out who they are, talk about our school, ask how many children we have, how long have you lived on the eastern shore and other inquiries.

Lots of good ole hen talk = like any two women

So here's the skinny:

I find she is from India, her parents have past but her husband's parents are still living in India.
 She has been in the states for 30 years now.
 She has one brother in the mIddle East, one in France and a sister in Oregon.
They only get back to India about every 5 years due to the expense.
The last time they went with the whole family for a wedding and is was lovely.
Her husband is in agriculture, she has 4 children: one pursuing a PHD, one in college two in high school. She has a Masters Degree.

We exchange names and both have to ask the other to repeat it twice so we pronounce it correctly!

She was kind.      She was friendly.      She was easy to talk to.

She is proud of her children.     She is close to her family.

She is married . She values education.  She honors her upbringing.

We are really not that different.
We value many of the same things
We both love our family.

I never had any preconceived ideas or suspicions toward her.
  I just wondered about her and about the world and how we view,  treat  and trust each other.

 And how in the world can 2 women,
 one a world traveler in Indian dress with a covered head possessing a Masters degree
one in Gator shorts and bright orange T shirt with a slightly sassy southern accent and  dollar store readers
can sit next to each other in a kind and peaceful conversation when half way around the world humiliation, cruelty and violence reign?

The article I referenced above listed the unacceptable atrocities of mankind but it ended with this bit of information :

"A Muslim woman who once taught at the school spotted Manal and the two other nuns as they walked past her home, attracting a crowd of curious onlookers.
"I remembered her, her name is Saadiyah. She offered to take us in and said she can protect us since her son-in-law was a policeman. We accepted her offer," she said.

This is how 2 different women of life sit together and get closer to unity .

We  find our sisters. 
We extend our hands.
 We accept the offer.

This is how is has been done for me:

Jesus found me 
Jesus extended His hand
I accepted it.

This is how I want to and am called to do for others.

I think that maybe nun helping Muslim woman was at the 5 rivers Delta this morning.

I don't know, I  never found out her religion.  It just didn't seem to matter .