Tag Archives: a right heart: real life stories

I prayed for healing…and this is what I got.

Melissa @ awriteheart.comI remember sitting in a church service about two years ago, in the back of the auditorium with my husband and a few friends. I could see my dad in the second row where he always sat, singing and raising his hands in worship to the Lord. I prayed for healing for him as I watched him that Sunday morning…and eventually I got exactly what I prayed for. But not in the way I expected.

My dad had been troubled for quite some time up till then. For many physical and emotional reasons, he was becoming less and less himself – more anxious, less able to cope with the stresses and changes of life, less able to enjoy what and who he loved. He was rarely at peace…He was restless, always searching for something it seemed. It wasn’t by choice – there had been circumstances in the past that had physically changed him. But regardless of the source of his problems, he was becoming less and less able to live free from the burdens his mind laid on him.

So I prayed that day in church as I watched Dad sing – for his physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. For restoration of relationships. For wholeness. I said to God, “Do whatever it takes”, and I remember the moment after that because I realized what I had just said to God…and I meant it. I wanted God to do whatever it was going to take for my dad to be healed. For his life to be whole. I knew that the cost could be great, but I was willing to take the chance.

A few months later my dad started slurring his speech, and he started walking more like an old man than the 61 year old that he was. He started losing his balance, and even falling sometimes. All of a sudden it was very clear that something had happened inside of his body. Tests and scans were done…There was no mass, no infection, no tumor, no imbalance that would cause such a change. And we were left with “dementia” – non-specific and unpredictable. He had a Parkinson’s-like condition as well, and his needs quickly escalated. Within a short time he was in a nursing home.

I prayed for healing…and look at what happened.

At first glance perhaps you’d say that God just said “no”…And maybe He did. But even if “no” was the answer, I think He wanted us to trust Him to fulfill that promise we find in Romans 8:28, that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him. Maybe He wanted us all to see that His healing comes in many different forms.

1620826_10152625054397645_4613765575691345274_nDuring the time that he was so debilitated, Dad needed my mom…He needed her in a way he never had. And she cared for him. She was tender toward him. Like most marriages, their relationship wasn’t perfect – but because of my dad’s needs I could see them growing closer – putting the past behind them and dealing with this new challenge together. I saw forgiveness. I saw surrender. I saw true love. I saw healing.

Dad died less than a year after I prayed that prayer…in his sleep, in the quiet. Mom and I went to see him that night last August, and he looked peaceful – there had been no struggle or fear or pain. He went home – home to Jesus, whole and renewed. Healed in every way.

1511514_10153781007155457_753299338_oAlmost a year after his death, my dad became a part of my daughter’s salvation story. She’s private about emotional things, and after he died she was quiet…very quiet. But something happened in her heart that changed her during the time following his death, and she decided that she wanted to trust Jesus as the leader of her life. She is healed – redeemed forever from the penalty of her sin. (Watch the video below of her salvation story and baptism.)

I know that there are many people reading this who are praying for healing for themselves or for someone they love, and I write it not to dissuade you from those prayers but to encourage you to see what healing can mean in the eyes of the only One who can see all of time at one glance. We see this vapor of time that we call our life, but He sees everything and everyone – and how it all fits together in light of eternity. Trust Him to heal HIS way, to use the “no’s” for good, and to take what we would never have chosen for ourselves to paint an ever expanding picture of how great and mighty He is.

I prayed for healing, and this is what I got.

1795416_10154294796710457_224403745214707738_oI got the healing of not just my dad, but also of my mom and daughter who I love so dearly. A favorite quote of mine by St. Augustine says, “…I was born into this life which leads to death – or should I say, this death which leads to life?” and the more I experience the more I know it to be true. It isn’t our gain that profits us, but our loss…The death of us – our sin, our flesh, even the literal death of our bodies – those deaths lead to freedom, healing, and true eternal life. We may not always get what we ask for from God, but as followers of Jesus we can trust Him to work all things – yes ALL things – together for our good.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]It is well with my soul, Melissa[/custom_headline]

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4 things to remember while waiting

Colette @ awriteheart.comI waited patiently in a long line and was relieved to finally be next to pay my bill. Then I watched as a man walked in front of me, bypassed the entire line and stepped up to the counter.  Didn’t he see the rest of us waiting? Didn’t the cashier see the rest of us waiting?  The lady behind me mumbled a complaint and rolled her eyes.  I was surprised at how annoyed I felt but decided to  give him the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe he didn’t notice us or maybe he was in a big hurry.  I took a deep breath and waited….some more.

I wonder if everyone dislikes waiting as much as I do.  Research tells us that an average of 62 minutes a day is spent waiting.  Waiting for appointments, in lines, in traffic,  for tests, for results, for phone calls, on hold, for vacation,  for wedding days and babies to be born.  That estimate may be true for the tangible waiting.  But what about waiting for grief and depression to leave or hearts to heal?  I suspect that much more than an hour each day is spent waiting for these types of things to lift.

So many people in the Bible waited.  Moses waited for promised miracles, Hannah waited to be pregnant, The Israelites waited for deliverance.  Job waited for his trial to end, Jehoshaphat waited for victory.  Leah waited to be loved, Michal waited for David.  Paul waited in prison, Joseph waited to be reunited with his father.  And Anna waited for the Messiah to be born.

I believe that the most agonizing wait in all of history started in Matthew 27:46 when Jesus was nailed to the cross and He said the words “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”.  The sin of mankind was placed upon him and caused him to lose sight of his Father and of truth.  Sin does that… It blinds.  I can’t imagine what his followers thought when they heard those words.  They waited for him to show himself strong, to reveal himself as King.   But instead, at that moment he let out his final breath.  His spirit was gone.  Gone.  Even though they had been warned, I bet this wasn’t what they expected to hear him say. They continued to wait.  Mary Magdalene waited at the tomb and after three long days an angel finally appeared to tell her that “Jesus is risen”. (Matthew 28:17)

The waiting had to be horrendous. Waiting usually is. So often it feels like abandonment or betrayal.  Or like being forsaken. There is such fear in those words… abandonment, betrayal, forsaken.  Although the feelings are real,  truth doesn’t lie in feelings. In order to endure waiting, in the really hard places of life,  we must remember the following things:

God is El Emet: The God of truth

Going through a difficult time of waiting I was sick at heart and very discouraged. A friend said to me, “God doesn’t always deliver us”.  No sooner had those words left  her mouth,  I looked up at the television to see a beautiful scene; water flowing among nature and calm music playing.  The words written in bold letters on the screen were “And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (2 Samuel 22:2) Smiling, I chose to replace my friends words with those of the most high God.   During times of discouragment our tendency is to look at feelings and circumstances.  But Gods promises trump everything; promises like loving us with an everlasting love, or that He will never leave us nor forsake us… or the other thousands of promises He gives in Scripture.  Yes, He always delivers, in His way and in His time, because He is the God of truth!

God is El Hanne’eman: The Faithful God

I asked God during a trial “I have served you and trusted you to watch over my loved ones. Doesn’t my faithfulness and trust towards you count?” Before I could take a breath, the phone rang and the answering machine picked up. I heard an older ladies voice, and recognized her as a casual acquaintance from church.  She said ” I felt led to call you. I just want to encourage you to keep serving God the way that you do. It doesn’t go unnoticed. I just wanted to tell you that.”  The trials in my life have very little to do with my expectations of God.  But it has everything to do with my faith in him. With just a few words from someone I barely knew who was obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, at just the perfect time, I was given strength to endure and to continue on.   God promises to strengthen us during seasons of waiting- Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)   He is The faithful God!

God is El De’ot: The God of Knowledge, the One who knows

I was jogging steadily on my usual running  path. This particular morning I was heavy hearted. An overwhelming trial had come upon me.  I asked God “how could anything good come from this? How could you ever be glorified in this ugly situation?”  That’s when I saw it. A beautiful flower in the midst of ashes. Real ashes. Acres of marsh had recently burned down. The entire city of Rochester had watched the awful televised fire, afraid that it would reach houses and people. It took firemen a couple of days to contain the fire. In the middle of the black ashes, after just a few days, a beautiful flower was growing.   It took me by such surprise.  I stopped my run and snapped a picture of it as a reminder, a living reminder.  That God knows…he knows my heart and cares.   That day he showed me, at such perfect timing, in answer to my questions that He promises to bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  He knows our thoughts before we even speak them.  Oh yes, He is the God who knows!

God is El Roy: The God who sees

My husband was driving me to the doctor to find out my test results. Melanoma had  been found three weeks earlier. The waiting to see if it had spread was awful. The what-ifs and the what-nows were working to destroy my peace.  Matt pulled over to the side of the road. I was irritated because I wanted to get this day over with. I wanted to be done waiting.  Didn’t Matt realize that?  I certainly didn’t want to be waiting on the side of the road for him to do who knows what.  I didn’t voice my opinions but instead I watched. He was getting something out of the grass and fumbling awkwardly.  I saw him rescue and gently cradle a bird with a broken wing. A sparrow of all things!  And the song burst  in my head “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me”.  Oh my, what a living picture that was being created for me of Matthew 10:29-31. I was comforted in an instant and knew that no matter what the outcome,  He sees and He knows. God knew exactly what I needed.  Yes, He is the God who sees!

We are promised that all things work together for good to those who love God. So often we must wait for the good to be fulfilled.  In the midst of  waiting….in the daily things and in the the bigger stuff…. may we never forget that He is faithful, He knows, He sees, and He is  truth.  He is our El Hannora, The Awesome God of ours!

Psalm 27:14  Wait on the LORD: be strong and of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]While I’m Waiting, Colette[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/6465169545_619c9099d5_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Enter to Win Our June Giveaway![/custom_headline]

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giftbasketkateThis gift basket includes a “Foster Happiness” designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!

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never give up!

Melissa @ awriteheart.comI work as a nurse in intensive care, and the vast majority of our patients have cardiac related problems. A woman came in some time ago in need of a big surgery – she had a couple of valves replaced, and after her surgery she had one complication after another. She was older but active before she came to us, and she just wanted to get home…but at every turn it seemed as though she hit roadblocks. We couldn’t get her off the ventilator, which was helping her to breathe. She had bad reactions to some of the medications we gave. Because she couldn’t breathe on her own and couldn’t eat normally, she was fed through a tube. After a time she did improve, and from a medical perspective she had gotten past the most critical part of her treatment. But by then she was depressed and discouraged by the length of time it was taking her to recover. She was sick of needing so much help, sick of not eating on her own, sick of not breathing on her own, and sick of not being free to do what she had done before. Two things happened: she stopped believing that she could recover, and she allowed her anxiety to get the better of her. She stopped participating in her care, and mentally gave up. This is the story of not just this patient, but of many patients…The struggle goes on so long that they can’t see the end goal, and so they stop hoping, and stop trying.

[pullquote type=”right”]We are unsatisfied and unhappy, but we don’t want to work for anything better because no matter what we’ve ever done before, nothing has ever really seemed to help. [/pullquote]
We do this same thing in our lives sometimes, don’t we? We struggle for a long time with the same old things…The same old relationship problems, the same old kid problems, the same old health problems, the same old sin problems, the same old addiction problems. Every day we look into our mirrors and see what we saw yesterday, and the day before that. No progress. And after a long, long time, we stop seeing the possibility of change and we settle into a chronic unrest about our situation. We are unsatisfied and unhappy, but we don’t want to work for anything better because no matter what we’ve ever done before, nothing has ever really seemed to help. We stop believing that recovery is possible because of our past experience, and we give up completely on the future.

That patient and I had a little chat after a few days of me taking care of her. I looked her in the eye and put on my “let’s level with each other” face. I told her that she was improving, but that she would never really get better if her mind and heart weren’t in the game. I told her that she had to work for a good ending and believe that she could recover. If she really wanted to get home, she would have to do difficult and even painful things. It was within her reach, but only if she was willing to put her all into it. She pondered it all, and for the rest of that day we worked  on breathing and moving and staying positive. Unfortunately others sometimes make the opposite decision, and despite their physical healing they never really live the way they did before.

[pullquote type=”left”]We can’t give up and just let it all fall apart.[/pullquote]Let’s level with each other, here and now. Whatever you’re going through and whatever I’m going through is never going to get better if our minds and hearts aren’t in the game. We can’t give up and just let it all fall apart. We’ve got promises – promises from GOD – that tell us why we shouldn’t give up! Look at just a few…

Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not be faint.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

[pullquote type=”right”]God is not a dispenser of wishes. But when we obey and persevere through the circumstances of life and trust Him with the outcome, He promises great things – things we can count on.[/pullquote]In these three passages (which are only three out of many) what does God promise to us when we persevere through trials and struggles? In Isaiah He promises renewal of our strength; in Deuteronomy He promises the constant companionship of our God; in Romans He promises perseverance, character, and hope in the absence of shame. God doesn’t promise that you’ll get exactly what you want, and He doesn’t promise that the end will be just as you hope it will be. He doesn’t promise that we will always be comfortable or that we will see the purpose of things the way He does. God is not a dispenser of wishes. But when we obey and persevere through the circumstances of life and trust Him with the outcome, He promises great things – things we can count on.

Like the patients that I care for, we have to keep the end goal in mind – even when we can’t see it. We KNOW what the end will be for those of us who trust Christ as the leader of our lives and the forgiver of our sins. Our toughest battle has already been fought and won by our Savior, so keep in your mind’s eye the end that God promises to those who believe. Keep praying, keep fighting, keep working, keep surrendering, keep loving, keep asking, keep seeking, keep trying, keep trusting, keep believing…Get your head and your heart back in the game, and believe that God will do what He promises!

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Standing on the promises of God, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/6465169545_619c9099d5_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Enter to Win Our June Giveaway![/custom_headline]

Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of June and be entered to win a basket full of gifts! On mobile scroll to the end of any post to subscribe…On a desktop, subscribe on the right sidebar or in the footer below. OR just use the “Contact Us” tab in the main menu and we’ll do the work for you!

If you’ve already subscribed, enter by tagging a friend under any post on our Facebook wall @ https://www.facebook.com/awriteheart and encourage them to subscribe!

giftbasketkateThis gift basket includes a “Foster Happiness” designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!

Sign up today!

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a lesson learned in the dust

FullSizeRenderWhen you look at me you see an introverted brunette. A lover of antiques, photography, strong coffee, and my totally amazing farming husband. A little deeper though, overflowing the capacity of my heart, is a place. A people. An experience that forever altered my view of the world, beauty, and life.

I was born into a family of 2nd generation Christians. I grew up in church. The Bible was fed to me by day and played on my tape recorder by night. At the age of 4 I asked God to forgive me for pinching my sisters and taking short cuts on my chores, and God forgave me of my sins. As I grew up, I grew away from what I had always been taught. I didn’t run away, start drugs, or live immorally, but I began to doubt the reality of my faith. I began to struggle with cynicism and bitterness; I wandered and pretended for years. During my senior year God used Psalm 139 to grip and destroy my hardened heart. Little did I know that God was forming those “ashes” into the stage from which He could begin His work.

The following May found me on a plane bound for adventure. I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I was about to see, but no amount of self-coaching could have taught my heart these new emotions I was about to experience. When our plane finally landed, this place was no longer just an outline on a map. It was real, and about to wreck my heart forever.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]It was ZAMBIA.[/custom_headline]

I wish I could tell you the exact moment it happened. My new point of view came together in pieces. A mosaic. Feelings of helplessness, giggling dark skinned babies, and broken particles of my old calloused heart are what make up this work of art that God has put together. I want to share with you one pivotal moment that my mind will forever have bookmarked.

389211_402422273135262_2120319288_nI will never forget their faces. Scratch that. I can never forget their faces. Plans had been interrupted for that day for my team, and we stopped at a daytime “home” for abused children. God doesn’t make mistakes. I know for certain this “interruption” was orchestrated by God Himself. There were probably 40 souls present. All of these precious children came to this home for love, support and protection during the day and then had to return to their abusive homes at night. My heart screamed out knowing that these little ones would have to leave the safety of this place in just a few short hours to endure the horrors of “Hell” for yet another night. When we emerged from the bus, swarms of dirty, unkept children greeted us. One by one each child approached, shook our hands and curtseyed at our feet. What a humbling moment as these “untouchables” paid such respect to us who had never known hunger. Us who had secure and loving homes, stable upbringings, and every felt need provided for. My heart ached as I longed to grab their tiny hands, and show these bleeding souls who really deserved the recognition. Who the real brave ones were. We sang a few songs and tried to make them smile; but these children were serious. The nights of abuse etched deeply on their faces. I wanted to come in, snap my fingers and rescue every one of them from these horrors. The helplessness was suffocating. When our time was up, we walked back to the bus, shrouded by children who had given us all their love and trust. My thoughts ran wild and untamed. Outside my window was a little boy looking especially alone. He reminded me of my cousin Lincoln who was 3 at the time. Just then, like a bolt of lightning, the thought raced through my mind.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]“What if that was Lincoln out there?”[/custom_headline]

562613_402424019801754_295080829_nThe revelation took my breath away. I sat there willing myself to not glance back into his sad eyes as the bus began to pull away. The kids began chasing after us waving and yelling their goodbyes. I couldn’t hold it back any longer and the tears began to flow. I turned around in my seat and watched as those tiny faces chased us until their legs couldn’t run anymore, and disappeared into the billowing dust. I couldn’t shake that God whispered question from my head. “What if that were Lincoln? What if that was ME?”

Sometimes my weak human mind falters. Has my Father missed this tiny village? Has His omnipresent eyes somehow forgotten to check on these despised children? Why have I never been truly hungry? Why do I have a house with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer? Why do I belong to a family full of healthy people? How does it seem that the cards have been dealt so desperately unfair? God WHY?

In my weakness, God’s gentle answer revealed His strength. Not one child in a grass hut is unseen, ignored or without purpose. Not one tear falls uncaught. There is not one sleepless night where He is not there cradling their heart. He has them all in the palm of His hands and their names on His tongue.

My heart has been broken and rebuilt by dedicated bush pastors, cheerful blind villagers, brave malnourished children, and the prayers of weak lepers. It’s only by God’s grace I was born where I was. It’s easy to ask God “WHY”, but it’s not so easy when He asks that question back to us. The Bible reminds us in Luke 12:48 “to whom much is given, much is required.” God has redeemed us to be His hands and feet. What an honor!

God doesn’t have to bring us to Africa to make a difference in this world. My story is deeply entwined in Zambia’s grass huts in the same way that others are rooted in a personal tragedy or Vacation Bible School. Every story is unique. Hand crafted. The key is, what are we doing with those God orchestrated events? It doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. In fact, all through Scripture we see that God specializes in the small and mundane. He simply calls us to act. Share a smile with the cashier at the grocery store, leave change and a Bible verse for the next person to come to the laundry mat, invest in the child who can’t fit in at school, visit the lonely widow in the nursing home. No act is too small that God can’t use it in mind blowing ways. He just calls us to plant the seeds. He will take care of the watering.

This introverted doubter flew to Zambia to change lives, but left changed instead. My eyes have been opened to the reality of suffering all around me. It’s not just across the ocean – it’s here even in our own neighborhoods. May we strive to make our corners of the world better places.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For the sake of the world, Kate[/custom_headline]

Kate Foster is 23 from Rochester, NY and recently moved to Athens, MI. She is a lover of Jesus, her husband Ethan and dark chocolate. She dabbles in many things but enjoys crafting, decorating, and photography. You can browse her work at www.etsy.com/shop/fosterhappiness

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Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of June and be entered to win a basket full of gifts from our guest blogger, Kate! On mobile scroll to the end of any post to subscribe…On a desktop, subscribe on the right sidebar or in the footer below. OR just use the “Contact Us” tab in the main menu and we’ll do the work for you!

If you’ve already subscribed, tag a friend under a post on our Facebook wall @ https://www.facebook.com/awriteheart and encourage them to subscribe – the more the merrier!

giftbasketkateKate’s gift basket includes Foster Happiness designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!

Sign up today!

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7 ways to achieve happiness

Colette @ awriteheart.comI sat with a friend who has seen more than her fair share of struggles and sorrow.  Not that there is a fair share. Four years ago she wept as she stood by the casket of her 20 year old daughter. Her daughter’s vibrant earthly life had ended when she was kayaking with a friend. They fell into cold water and hypothermia took them both.  How does a mother endure such heartache? Recently we talked while she sat in a hospital chair.  She was attached to tubes filled with medication that dripped into her body; we are hoping that this will stop the leukemia. Her children and husband are really, really hoping. She looked at me with only one beautiful eye, filled with such amazing peace. The other eye had recently been removed due to other health issues. The visit with my friend was refreshing and filled with laughter and good…no, great… conversation. It was she who inspired the laughter and the great communication. She was happy.

Not long ago I sat with another friend. If I were to compare the lives of these two women, they were similar in many ways.  Both are middle aged moms who have a long history of knowing Jesus.  This friend is healthy and active but she, like my previous friend, has endured difficult losses in life. Our visit was filled with her bitter complaints; so many “why me’s” and “its not fair’s”.  Nothing I said to counteract the negativity seemed to be heard and the conversation left me feeling sad, empty and drained. Two woman who both felt heartache deeply; one happy and one miserable.

Why is it that some people can be single, sick, barren, or struggling and still be happy? Some might say it has to do with personality.  I disagree.  The following list contains seven wisdom-filled treasures that I learned from my happy friend.  I believe these are the exact reasons why a person can be happy!

1. She spoke of the goodness of God.

I don’t think she intentionally did this.  She was doing what came natural to a person whose faith is deep and real.  She said,  “God is always so good to me.”  “God is so good to give me this beautiful hospital room. It’s like being at a 4 star hotel with a gorgeous view of the city.”  “God was so good to prevent the last medicine from arriving. He knew that I shouldn’t take it. It would have made the leukemia worse.”   Happiness is the result of understanding and appreciating God’s goodness.

2. She spoke of the sovereignty of God.

She went down a mental list of the times that God took care of things in her life. She never asked why me? or why is God doing this or that? She spoke about trusting God because he is good and she trusts that He has everything in her life planned out perfectly….for her good and His glory.   She said “The same God who delivered David is the same God who will deliver me. One way or another he will deliver me”.  Happiness is the result of knowing that God is sovereign and always good.

3. She spoke of and showed genuine concern for others.

I asked her what she was struggling with most. She thought for a moment and then quietly answered, “My husband and my kids.  I want them to be ok”.  Her focus was not on herself one single bit. She asked about my three sons and their lives. She spoke so kindly of my boys and shared a couple memories of them. Yes, her focus was, amazingly, on others.  Happiness is a result of being others oriented.

4. She never complained.

I never heard one complaint come from this woman’s mouth. She had every reason to complain. Life wasn’t exactly going the way she had planned. The Bible tells us how much God hates complaining. It brings death to situations instead of life. It causes God’s blessing to leave. Remember the Israelites? Every time they complained God removed himself; every time they praised and thanked him his blessing returned! Happiness is most defenitely a result of not complaining.

5. She praised and thanked God.

In spite of her many trials and in the midst of this one, she praised God.  There is power in praise.  God inhabits (dwell, to sit in) the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). I couldn’t count the praises to God from my friends mouth that day because there were too many.  She was genuinely happy and I left happy…because Gods presence is in praise!  She wasn’t complaining about what she doesn’t have, but was so very thankful for what she has! Happiness is a result of praising and thanking God in and for all things.

6. She focused on God and submitted herself and everything concerning her life to Him.

The nurse had brought her a long list of potential side affects from the chemo.  She never looked at it but instead put it on the night stand and covered it with her Bible. What a great picture of surrender. God is the most high God and is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. She put herself under whatever God chooses for her life. There is an amazing peace when we surrender to Gods perfect will and it radiated from my friend.  Happiness is a result of willing submission to the Creator God.

7. She spoke of hope.

She reminded me of the story of Jarius’ daughter in Mark 5 and how this father trusted in Jesus alone to heal his child.  Interestingly enough, she wasn’t thinking of the story for herself. Our conversation was on prodigal children and how parents must keep their eyes and hope in Jesus alone, just like this story in Scripture. “While there is breath, there is hope” she said with a smile.  Happiness is a result of hoping in God.

7WaystoAchieveHappinessHappily-ever-after isn’t a result of anything temporal. It’s not in a person or in a romantic relationship. In fact, true, sustaining happiness is unachievable with out the seven things above. Happiness is a result of faith and hope in a loving, personal, sovereign, and faithful God. Other things and people will fail us and He never, ever will. I realize that it’s not how satisfied we are in this life with things and situations that result in happiness. The answer lies in our relationship with a holy God and if He is satisfied with us.

Psalm 42:11 Why art thou cast down O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Satisfied in Him, Colette[/custom_headline]

*This life story was used by permission.

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six awesome things we can learn from little kids

Melissa @ awriteheart.comWhen each of my three children were toddlers, there were so many moments when I thought to myself, “I need to be more like them!” In Matthew 18:1-4 Jesus even drew attention to the attributes of children, and told us to be humble and teachable like they are! Here are six things about little kids that we as adults can learn from.

They’re IN THE MOMENT.

My husband and I went to P.F.Changs restaurant a while back and we had to wait to be seated. There were probably twenty adults and a handful of teens in the waiting area, and every single face reflected the blue glow of a phone screen. Once we were in the dining room I even saw people on their phones while eating. These people were AT the restaurant, but they weren’t really THERE…Their minds were somewhere else.

six awesome thing we can learn from little kidsKids are where they are…When they play, they’re so involved that they forget to go to the bathroom. When they eat food they love, they enjoy it so much that they don’t think about how much of the food is all over their faces. When they sing, they sing with all the volume their little bodies can muster. Maybe every so often we should do the same thing and just be where we are – no phones, no multi-tasking, no planning ahead. Maybe we should just enjoy what’s right in front of us instead of worrying about what we’re missing or what’s coming next.

They remember everything.

I’m always amazed at how my kids remember who gave them each and every toy that they have…They remember who took them for ice cream, which kid was sick yesterday at school, and the vacation we took four years ago. It makes me feel special when they remember things about our experiences that even I have forgotten. Remembering is a discipline for adults, and our brains aren’t soaking up information like those of little people, but we should make a point to remember what is important to us and to others. It makes those around us feel special.

They forgive AND forget.

There are days when I really believe that my kids are going to hate me. There are those impatient, short-tempered, pull-my-hair-out, just-yelled-at-daddy days when I’m pretty sure they’ll think differently of me. But they never do. They forgive me immediately! They never act as though I owe them anything, and the next morning they see a new day ahead of them instead of an awful day behind them. It’s hard to forget, but be generous with your forgiveness – just like Christ is with you.

They love like crazy.

Whether it’s a stuffed toy that they adore or a person they see every day, small children love with every fiber of themselves. They don’t consider the risks, and they don’t ever think about whether a person is doing “their part” in the relationship. You KNOW they love you – they make it obvious to you and to everyone around them. They give big huge hugs. They seek your attention. They are excited to see you, and sad when you leave. They talk about you. They imitate you. They ask about you. There is NO QUESTION that you’re in their little hearts. I think if we loved like a little kid for seven days, our whole life would change.

They don’t compare.

six awesome things we can learn from little kidsMy kids have a multi-racial extended family, as well as friends with physical disabilities. They rarely mention differences between themselves and these other individuals. They’ve asked for explanations here and there, but otherwise they don’t see it as something important enough to discuss all that much. Physically, racially, and economically, kids just see people as people. No better or worse. They find value in people not because of how they perform, what they look like, or how much they own, but because of who they really are. We, too, should see people first as people, instead of categorizing, comparing, and labeling.

They are who they are.

My daughter used to go to the grocery store with me wearing an IronMan costume. Every time. People loved it – they waved and she waved, and she thought it was just the best thing ever. No one else in the store was wearing a costume, but she wanted to wear it anyways. No regrets, no apologies, no embarrassment.  Psalm 139:13-16 says that God saw us and knew us before we were born, and formed us to be who we are . There ARE things that we shouldn’t be proud of – sinful things that don’t please Him. But He made us to be unique people, and sometimes I think we’re more apt to conform and change who we are so that we fit in to the group around us. Be proud of the person you were made to be, just like my little girl was proud to be IronMan.

Most of the time we think of kids as just what they are – kids! After all, they’re the ones who are learning to be more mature, and rarely do we consider them role models. But maybe we should learn a thing or two from the simplicity and authenticity of little children, and be just like them!

Matthew 18:2-4 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

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how could anyone do this?

How could anyone do this, especially a parent?  My brain tried to wrap around the facts:  An adorable, 4 week old baby boy with creamy, ivory,  bruised skin….and a broken arm.  I instantly felt angry seeing the damage to his body and I cringed thinking about the invisible wounds to his soul. What kind of person intentionally breaks the arm of a newborn? With a heavy heart I looked at this child and wondered why God allows awful things to happen?  Pain, abuse, sorrow, death.  And baby boys with broken bodies and souls.[blockquote type=”left”]My mind silently screamed, “It was never supposed to be this way”.[/blockquote]Infants are meant to be cuddled and cared for and protected by parents who love them.  Tears were created to express happiness and hearts were meant to only feel joy.   Then in the Garden of Eden so much changed.  It was laid out clearly: choose God and life or choose sin and death.   There had to be a choice because true love doesn’t deny choice.   The people before us chose sin.  The people at present choose sin.  And the people in the future will choose sin. Because of those choices, awful things happened, and are happening, and will happen.  There are consequences.  Temporary and eternal consequenses; the death of so many things. I saw the consequences that day.  An infant boy with a broken arm.

But wait…. I also saw something absolutely beautiful.  I saw living grace: I watched a young foster mom as she tenderly and protectively cradled that tiny baby boy close to her heart.  No one would ever have guessed that this child wasn’t her own.   It brought tears to my eyes as I observed genuine love being poured onto such a precious child.  He was swaddled tightly, his belly was filled with warm milk, and finally  after 4 weeks of torture and insecurity, he was sleeping safe and sound.  I watched ashes turn beautiful; Psalm 61 being played out before my eyes.   I saw a living, breathing picture of salvation.  Of Jesus.  Of Gods promise in Psalms “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up”.

[pullquote type=”right”]The Promise-keeper always keeps his promises. He promises that there will be a day when all wrong will be made right. [/pullquote]The Promise-keeper always keeps his promises. He promises that there will be a day when all wrong will be made right.  Until then we get the unbelievable privilege of imaging our Savior and living out the Gospel.  Yes, we may be immersed in a world of sin.  But we are also immersed in grace.   We would never be able to understand sin or grace fully without being directly in the midst of it and really seeing it up close and feeling the effects deeply.

Oh how I thank God for beautiful foster moms who live, breathe and walk such a vibrant and vivid picture of such amazing grace!

Sleep well, baby boy.  Now I can sleep too.

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, tp proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison  to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God to comfort those that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD , that he might be glorified.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]If we are the body, Colette[/custom_headline]

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breathe hope

Colette @ awriteheart.comI stood at the top of the icy, steep mountain wondering how I ever let my three boys and husband talk me into this.  Matt, my husband, said “Best way to learn; just go to the top of the highest slope and head straight down.  Follow me, there’s no place else to go but down!”   You can imagine how that statement went over with me, the cautious and prepared soul that I am.   I’d never skied before and barely knew how to hold the poles.  So after that last statement of his I found myself alone, by my firm request, at the top of an icy, steep mountain, with skis that I couldn’t maneuver and no way down.  I took my skis oBreathe Hopeff and tried walking.  Who designed ski boots???  That was pure torture.  I fell and slid and fell some more.  I sat down and tried to scoot down.  That didn’t work either because it was so icy and steep.  And did I mention that there were wooded drop offs on both sides of the slope?   I sat down and didn’t move for one straight, cold, miserable hour while the tears froze onto my cheeks.  I prayed and told the Lord that I couldn’t do this.  The sun started going down and an angel appeared in the form of my kind friend, Wally.  Embarrassed, I said “Wally, I can’t do this.  I can’t ski down”.  He said so calmly, “If you will just trust me I will get you down”.  He told me to put my skis back on and said “You can do this. Just let me do the work but you have to trust me.”  I held on to him for dear life.  I closed my eyes the entire way and he somehow did what he promised. Later he passed by me in the warm and cozy lodge.  He winked and said “I had no doubt you could do it!”

[blockquote type=”center”]Hope. It brings strength when you’re weak and help when you’re alone. It makes the impossible achievable.[/blockquote]

I was 20 yearBreathe Hopes old and had been in active, pitocin-induced, painful labor for the past 24 hours.  No progress.  Nothing was going the way it was suppose to.   I thought I was prepared for labor and delivery.  I had read books and taken classes.  No one told me what to do if things didn’t go like they were supposed to.  I felt a panic rise up with in me.  I wanted my mom.  I wanted this to be over.  I didn’t want to do it anymore.  My husband had tried to help me.  But as he slept on the concrete floor, underneath my hospital bed I fell into complete despair.  I heard a lady in the next room screaming and heard the nurse say that she was ready to deliver.  I couldn’t imagine how much pain she must be in since I still had 10 centimeters to go and my pain was already unbearable.  I gave up in my mind.  I began to cry quietly just as an angel-nurse appeared.  She pulled a chair up to my bed and  asked me to look at her.  She was beautiful and kind.  She told me that she had gone through labor three times. She said “You can do this. All you have to do is trust me and do what I do”.   She continued, “keep looking at my eyes and breath exactly like I do”.  That precious stranger sat with me for three straight hours.  She breathed with me and  spoke quiet encouragement to me the entire time.   She held my hand as I was wheeled into the operating room for a cesarean delivery.  The next day she walked into my room as I held my newborn son and smiled so sweetly “I told you that you could do it!”

[blockquote type=”center”]Hope.  There is something amazing about hope.  Hope brings a fresh determination. It softens turmoil.  It brings encouragement and changes perspective.  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the LORD is. Jeremiah 17:7  [/blockquote]

In my office, I counsel facing  a sign that hangs over and behind each person that sits and talks with me.  It is the word “hope”.  As they leave the office they walk under a door frame that bears the same word, “hope”.  I ask God to bathe them in hope.   Because I know that in every difficult situation and in every single persons life there must be hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow and hope that a trial will come to an end.  God always delivers his children.  God tells us that when there is not hope it makes the heart sick. (Proverbs 13:12) There must be hope in order to endure.

If you are without hope and struggling today, please know that God is good and that God loves you.  Remember that weeping may endure for a night but joy does come!  Like my friend and nurse told me, You can do this!!

If you are in a good place, breathe hope into others!  Breathe hope into the hopeless and remind them of the promises of Jehovah, the one who delivers and hears! Remind others of Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Hope is reminding people that God creates beauty from ashes, that joy will come in the morning, that storms always cease and a new day is coming.  Hope is the lifeline thrown to the drowning.

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. Psalms 71:14

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]My hope is in you LORD, Colette[/custom_headline]

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this side of heaven

Melissa @ awriteheart.comMy dad died this past August, and since then I remember things about him out of the blue…I remember how he loved putting cheese puffs in yogurt (ugh), how he played catch with me when I was my oldest daughter’s age, how he loved being with his family, and most of all how he loved music. Certain songs take me to a place where I feel like he’s right with me. He loved the great classics about heaven – “I’ll Fly Away” was one that he sang a lot, and this one:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me through heavens open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

I loved hearing him sing those songs, but when I was a little girl I didn’t get it – why a person would sing such a thing when in between here and heaven’s open door is death.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found more and more that the thought of breathing my last breath with this vessel of a body I’ve been given, and then in that same moment being born into eternal life in the presence of my Jesus who I’ve longed to see with my eyes for what seems like my whole life – well, it’s a welcome thought. I don’t wish death upon myself, nor do I look forward to separation from the people I love – I want to get old and wrinkly with my husband, and I want to see my kids grow into adulthood…I want them to have my love as long as they possibly can, for the sake of their happiness and security. But the thought of leaving this life doesn’t frighten me like it did, and I know that God loves my family infinitely more than I do – I trust Him with their futures more than I trust myself.

[pullquote type=”left”]Heaven will be amazing, not because of the streets of gold but because I can lift my eyes to see my Jesus.[/pullquote]Along with my fading fear has come an increasing homesickness…a longing to see the Savior that I’ve worshipped for the vast majority of my life. Almost every day the thought crosses my mind that if I could only sit as His physical feet, all would be well. That homesickness overwhelms me especially in difficult times, when I can’t help but see how very desperately I need Christ, and when I truly feel the weight of my little corner of the world on my shoulders. “I want to go home”, I say to Him…The tears come and I just wish I could see Him with my eyes. Heaven will be amazing, not because of the streets of gold but because I can lift my eyes to see my Jesus.

So in the meantime…

While we wait this side of eternity, what can we do on those days when we long for that eternal home? I think the thing that makes the most sense is to do the same thing that we will do when we get there – worship. In spirit and in truth we can worship Christ here, sing to Him in a loud voice here, shout His praises here, and lay our crowns at His feet here. Close your eyes and think of what it describes in Revelation, thousands times thousands singing the praise of Jesus, who conquered death to save us from our sin by His blood…Think of the throng like the roar of many waters, shouting hallelujah! I can’t wait, but in the meantime I will worship with the knowledge that I will spend all of eternity doing just that.

Worship.

[pullquote type=”right”]Let this world fall away, and see nothing but Jesus if only for a few moments. Be grounded in Him, be centered in Him, lay this life at His feet.[/pullquote]Worship in times that try you and confuse you. Worship in times when sin overwhelms you. Worship in times when others forsake you. Worship in times when joy overflows. Worship in times of health and in times of sickness. Worship in times of plenty and in times of need. Worship in times of war and in times of peace. Worship when no one hears you, and when everyone is listening. Worship with emotion, with tears, with laughter, with your whole self. Let this world fall away, and see nothing but Jesus if only for a few moments. Be grounded in Him, be centered in Him, lay this life at His feet.

I wonder if my dad sings “That world WAS not my home” now that he’s home in heaven…but one thing I know for sure is that he’s worshipping. Just like me.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]In spirit and truth, Melissa[/custom_headline]

 

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what I learned from a lying beggar

Colette @ awriteheart.comMatt and I were hurrying as we drove to our next errand. Almost at the exact same time we saw  him; an elderly man that looked to be 80 something. He stood on the side of the rode at an entrance to the expressway and held a small, red gas can. Thinking the man had run out of gas, Matt, without hesitating, drove out of his way, making a u-turn, to rescue him. He asked me to clear my things away so that we could give him a warm place to sit.

As we got closer we saw that another car had already stopped to help. That’s when we realized that he was not a man whose car had run out of gas, but that he was using the gas can as a ploy in order to pan for money. We were both quiet.

I wasn’t happy with my private thoughts that day. I instantly judged that man about how he was tricking people into stopping. And almost as fast as my judgment came….a lesson took shape. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the following things:

It’s a good thing…No, its a pretty great thing, that I don’t get what I deserve.

I realized that we play judge, jury, and executioner in our heads each time we see a person begging. We think they just might have a nice car sitting around the corner when they are done “working”. And if not, then what did they DO to end up on a corner begging? They must have done something that they should not have done! What if eternal life and blessing were based on deserving? What if I got what I deserved? I’d love to have a talk with David, Moses and Paul on the subject of “getting what we deserve”. Grace has been shown to me over and over. I am so thankful for that grace and that requires me to always show grace to others.

Giving to the poor is lending to God and He promises to repay the loan.

I realized that we assume beggers will not spend our money wisely. Surely he will spend it on a drink or drugs and therefore we do nothing. Jesus doesn’t say “as soon as you figure out how they became beggers and how they will use the money, then give to them”. Nope. He says “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” (Proverbs 19:17) Wow….God calls it lending. If there’s one thing I have learned about God, it’s that He is a giver and true to His Word.

Taking care of needy strangers is taking care of Jesus.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says “For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me. …Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” This is a very humbling thought to me. I wonder if God places opportunities before us on a continual basis. Will we go by and not make eye contact or will we give something, and it may be something other than money, to a person in need?  It could be that the individual beggar is poor in spirit, in hope, in health.

I am convinced that God isn’t so much concerned with our piddly five or ten dollars. He is concerned with our hearts….Whether we have a giving and generous heart or a stingy, judgmental and self-centered heart. We will not answer for what the beggar does, but for what we do or don’t do for the beggar.

I made a decision that day. I will never again drive or walk by a person in need.  Never.  That very same night Matt and I attended a business dinner.  I have to be honest, all I knew was that we had been invited through a client to support something called the Sojourner’s House.  I had no idea what the cause was before we walked through the door.  Our office manager had gotten tickets and said that it was important that we attend.  That is all I knew.  Lo and behold, the mission of the Sojourner’s house is ministering to homeless women and children. I smiled as I watched their presentation video.  I smiled because I knew that the Holy Spirit had prepared me just that day by watching  a lying, begging little man. I may not have known the cause for the dinner that night, but God sure did!

In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren , Christ says, ye have done it unto me. (Mathew 25)

~For the Least, Colette~