A Longing Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:10

 

It was 3 years and 3 months ago today.

My sister and I had traveled to Nashville, TN, to pitch an idea to a publisher about creating retreats-in-a-box, kits with everything a church needs to have an in-house retreat. Our retreat was entitled YOU-nique: Embracing God’s Design for You.  It’s purpose: to help believers realize that they were born ON purpose FOR a purpose so we need to live our lives WITH purpose.

On the morning of our meeting, my sister rose early and, thinking I was still asleep, took her Bible into the bathroom for a time of reading and meditation.  A few minutes later, she came out running, shaking a piece of paper, and screaming, “It’s here!  It’s here!”  After scaring me half to death and then calming down, she explained.

A few months earlier, Cyndi and her daughter had attended a Mother-Daughter Weekend event in Houston, TX, hosted by Mercy Ministries of America and the singing group Point of Grace.  They went to see Point of Grace; they returned talking about Mercy Ministries, a non-profit organization that helps young ladies overcome life-destroying habits, situations, or abuse (see post article “Mercy Has a Face,” dated 11-2-09).  That morning Cyndi had pulled out of her Bible a brochure on the ministry and realized Mercy Ministries’ (MM’s) corporate headquarters was based right there in Nashville, TN.  “We have to go and visit them!” So she called, set up an appointment, and got directions.

While meeting with the publisher, I shared with him my firm belief that, while women come in for a retreat, some type of ministry must flow out from it; therefore, each retreat needed to have a mission action project.  “Take, Mercy Ministries, for example,” I said.  “YOU-nique’s message tells us that we are God’s very own works of art, giving the learner a greater sense of self-worth.  And because MM deals with girls who have very low self-esteem that results in acting out in dangerous ways, then doing a project for MM would be a great mission project.”  The publisher liked our idea and promised to give it consideration.

We left the publishing house and headed out to find Mercy Ministries.  Though MM did not do tours on this particular day of the week, they listened to Cyndi’s heartfelt plea and relented.  We were blown away by all they do to help not only enrich lives but to literally save the lives of these beautiful young women.

Before leaving the campus, Cyndi and I looked at each other and said almost in unison, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come back here and lead these girls through the YOU-nique retreat?”  What an awesome dream!

Fast forward 3 years and 3 months.  Here we are again, my sister and I.  We are in Nashville, TN, scheduled to visit Mercy Ministries tomorrow.  Though the retreat-in-a-box idea did not become a reality, the study book YOU-nique: Embracing God’s Design for You did get published by another company!  And Cyndi and I are scheduled to lead 17 MM counselors and program directors through it tomorrow.  They will serve as a jury, so to speak, to decide if YOU-nique is something they could use for their small group counseling sessions in all their homes, both here in the US and abroad!

Cyndi and I had a dream over 3 years ago; we did nothing to bring it about.  God remembered our dream and He worked it out far better and far faster than we could have ever imagined.  By a miraculous chain of events that could have only been orchestrated by God Himself, we had the opportunity to meet Nancy Alcorn, the founder and president of Mercy Ministries.  Less than 3 weeks after meeting Nancy, here we are, only a few hours away from a “longing fulfilled.” 

This God of ours: isn’t He something?!praise

Not to us, O LORD, not to us

but to your name be the glory,

because of your love and faithfulness.

Pslam 115:1

Precious Little Secrets

 

As I sit here on my couch, drinking  my last cup of coffee for the morning, all I can say is, “God, you’ve done it again. You’ve wowed me beyond words.”

God has shown me much favor the past 2 weeks.  Again and again, I’ve looked up and said, “God, I don’t know what else you could do that you’ve not already done.”  And it’s as if He said, “Well, I know.  How about this?”  And I’m wowed all over again.

God has done some pretty wild and wondrous things these past 14 days. And He’s done some precious and personal things, too.  I’ve shouted aloud to my friendsHEART about the wild and wondrous, but I think I’ll keep the precious and personal to myself; keep them just between Him and me. 

If you’re married, you might  know what I mean. It’s like those precious little secrets between you and your spouse: an intimate moment, an inside joke, a learned lesson, and so on. Later, even much later, you can be in a crowded room and hear, see, or smell something that sparks one of those memories. You look at your spouse and find he’s already looking at you — and smiling.  You laugh together without ever having said a word. You know what he’s thinking, but it’s a secret. A precious, intimate moment between bride and bridegroom. 

That’s what I’m feeling right now as I sit here and look up at my Bridegroom.  Without a word, He knows what I’m thinking, what my heart is feeling. And though I can’t see it, I can feel His smille. A precious, intimate moment with my Husband.

At this moment, I know I am absolutely loved.

At this moment, I know I am absolutely secure.

At this moment, I have absolute peace.

At this moment, I have absolute  joy.

[You can go now, but I think I’ll just linger here a little while longer.]

Mercy Has a Face

Consider the statistics:

  • 1 in 3 girls becomes pregnant at least once before age 20.
  • 1 in 5 young women struggles with an eating disorder.
  • The number of girls seeking help from self-harm practices doubled last year.

Hurting young women in staggering numbers crying out for help.  What’s the answer?  Mercy.

Mercy Ministries (MM) is a Christian non-profit organization that offers a free-of-charge Christian residential program that helps young women between the ages of 13-28 who face life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, physical and sexual abuse, depression, and unplaned pregnancy.  MM provides these young women the opportunity to experience love, forgiveness, healing, and God’s transforming power.  It also offers transitional care, including life-skills training and assistance with housing, transportation, job placement, and school applications.

Having worked 8 years for the state of Tennessee at a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls, MM’s founder and president Nancy Alcorn9_nancy_alcorn saw girls released from the facility only to return again – or die.  Nancy knew the only agent of true change is Jesus Christ and was determined to provide a sure hope and lasting healing for these young women. So in 1983, she moved to Louisiana and opened the first Mercy house in West Monroe.  MM operates on 3 guiding principles: 1) the girls come free-of-charge so that they’ll know they are loved and that MM is not making money off their pain; 2) MM accepts no money with strings attached, including any federal, state, or local government funds; and 3) all contributions made to MM will be tithed (10%) and given to other ministries.

How well does it work? Just a few months ago, an independent firm conducted an extensive survey to find out just how effective MM truly is.  What they found was staggering: a 94% success rate! That’s right; 94% of the girls who graduated from MM testified that Mercy Ministries changed their lives and that they have not returned to their old lifestyles or addictions.  These graduates can be found attending colleges, building diverse careers, working on the mission field, being godly wives and mothers — all the while sharing the message of freedom found only in Christ Jesus.

Almost 27 years after it began, Mercy Ministries (now headquartered in Nashville, TN) operates homes in Nashville, St. Louis, West Monroe, and Sacramento, as well as in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Peru, and Australia. And Nancy’s not finished building yet!

Yes, Mercy has a face. It’s the face of Jesus Christ shining through the face of Nancy Alcorn, through all Mercy’s girls who’ve found freedom in Christ and who extend it to others, and through all those who have supported this life-transforming ministry known as Mercy Ministries. 

How about you? Does the mercy of Christ shine through you?

For more information on Mercy Ministries or to make a contribution, visit www.mercyministries.com.

(Information on MM was taken from the brochure Mercy Ministries: Lives transformed. Hope restored.)

Wimps in Giant Clothing

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,

but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty…”

1 Samuel 17:45

Giants. They’re everywhere. Problems that seem to have no answers. Enemies that seem larger than life. Deep, dark valleys that seem insurmountable. When facing a giant, look very closely: most giants are really just wimps in giant clothing.

Take Goliath, for example.  A Philistine champion who stood 9 feet tall, Goliath was covered from head to foot in armor: a bronze helmet on his head, a 125-pound coat of scale armor on his body, and bronze graves on his legs. He held a spear as big as a weaver’s rod with a 15-pound point at the end, along with a bronze javelin slung on his back. And as if all that weren’t enough, a shield bearer stood before him.  Pretty fierce presence, right?  And it was working.

King Saul and all of the Israelites were dismayed and terrified at the sight and sound of Goliath. Each morning, the Israelites would take their battle positions and start shouting their war cry. While they were still shouting, Goliath would come out from the Philistine camp and defy the Israelite army, calling for Israel’s champion to come out and fight him one-on-one. And every  morning Israel ran in great fear back to the camp. This went on for 40 days.

Enter a young shepherd boy named David, sent by his father to bring his 7 soldier-brothers some good home cooking. When David arrived, he couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. “What?” he asked.  “Who is this guy that has the gall to defy the armies of the living God?” Reports of David’s comments reached King Saul. David & GoliathDavid appeared before the king and said, “Let no one lose heart. I’ll face the giant!”

Now get this picture: The average adult Israelite is less than 6 feet tall and David was just a young man, probably more like 5’7 or so. Goliath was over 9 feet tall! (Put a yardstick on top of your head to get an idea of the difference.)  David was in simple shepherd clothing; Goliath was covered in armor. David had only his staff, 5 smooth stones, and a sling; Goliath had huge, heavy-duty weapons. 

In spite of Goliath’s ferocious appearance and words, David knew he was just a wimp. What tipped him off? Even with all his massive size and weapons, Goliath never came out from behind his shield-bearer! Wherever Goliath went, his shield-bearer went before him. What a big chicken! What a wimp!

David understood wimpy giants; their bark is worse than their bite. While Goliath moved toward David spewing his venomous threats and taunts, David calmly and confidently replied, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty…This day the LORD will hand you over to me…for the battle is the LORD’S…” Then David “ran quickly toward the battle line,” took out his sling and stone, and “without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine…”

When facing a giant of any kind, you need more than just a war cry, just a bunch of windy words. You need faith. A simple, smooth stone flung in faith hits its mark every time. Why? Because “the battle is the LORD’S”!

So no matter what giant you come up against, respond to it like David did: Run right up to the battle line, look it right in the eye, and declare victory in the name of the LORD. More often than not, you’ll find that the giant is merely a Goliath — a wimp in giant clothing!

 

A Nobody from Nowhere

“But, Lord,” I argued, “I’m a nobody from nowhere!”                 silhouette - small

How many times did I say this to God as an argument against starting a writing/speaking ministry? I’m a nobody from nowhere —  just a country girl who prefers bare feet to Pradas, a cookout on the patio to dinner at Delmonico’s, and a vacation camping in the Ozarks to a cruise around the Greek isles. (Okay, maybe not that last one!)

The truth? I was so fearful that it was not God calling me to write but my own flesh. I knew my pride; I battled it daily. I taught college Sunday School classes and loved it, and I think my students loved me. I relished in my women’s Bible studies and they seemed to enjoy them, too. I truly enjoyed the strokes to my pride they gave me.

How embarrassing would it be to write something, submit it, and then get rejected? Or, what if it was accepted, published, and then no one but my family and closest friends bought the book? I mean, who would want to read, much less purchase, something by a common Jane like me?

“No, God, I can’t write. I’m a nobody from nowhere.”

When I finally stopped whining, I heard God speak. “A nobody from nowhere? My child, that’s all I’ve ever used! Jeremiah was one of the poorest of Judah’s poor.  David was the baby of 8 boys and relegated to sheep duty. Ruth was a widow and an alien in Israel. Gideon was the least person in the weakest clan of Manasseh. Moses was a runaway murderer. Joseph was a young, imprisoned slave.  Abraham lived on the other side of nowhere. And Adam? Just a pile of dust.

“You see, my daughter, your focus is all wrong. This is not about you; it’s about Me. You may well be a “nobody,” but I am God. And I will be with you.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go…?”

And God said, “I will be with you…”

(Exodus 3:11-12)

When I picked my repentant self up off the floor, I knew He was right. I was too big in my own sight and God was too small. A “nobody” is “somebody” when walking arm-in-arm with God!

Let’s go, LORD!

“A Little T.L.C.”

Late one afternoon, I drove  into town to help my son drop off his vehicle for repairs. On the way, I turned off the radio and just talked to God. Lots of issues loomed heavily on my spirit.

One particular situation was requiring a great-faith action. I felt God had already made clear what I needed to do, but I was hesitating. Timing was the issue. I knew what to do, but when? I queried God: “Do I wait until You confirm this action before I move, or do You want me to take the step of faith first?”

As clear as if God were sitting in the passenger’s seat, I heard Him say, ” “TLC, Donna — a little TLC.” 

What did He mean? With my whole heart, I believe this was God’s word for me:

Trust Me.

Listen to Me.

Commit to Me.

I am not to trust a person, a possession, a paycheck — just God and God alone. Once I completely trusted God, then I needed to listen for and listen to His voice, discern it from all the noise and all the advice around me. Once I heard His word, I was to commit with my whole heart to what I heard.

Trust in the LORD and do good…

Delight yourself in the LORD…

Commit your way to the LORD…

Psalm 37: 3-6

Well, I did just as God said and gave Him “a little TLC” — I trusted, listened, and commited to Him. And you know what happened? He gave me “a lot of TLC” — some awesome tender loving care!

What a God we serve!
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The journey begins

“…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good

promises the LORD your God gave you has failed.

Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”   (Joshua 23:14)

 

About 12+ years ago, God began dealing with me about writing. I wanted no part of it. I enjoyed teaching my college Sunday School class and women’s Bible studies. Write? No time. No talent. No way. But God kept urging and I kept dodging.

As I sat in evening worship one night, something the pastor said prompted the argument with God again. In my mind I reviewed all the reasons why I could not do it and finally said — in my mind, of course buy CBD products “God, if this is really You telling me to do this — if it’s You and not my pride — then You’re going to have to make it as clear as the spoken word.”

At that very moment, my middle child who was 11-12 at the time, elbowed me. When I looked down at him, he whispered, “You need to write a Bible.” I said, “Keegan, we already have a Bible. God wrote it so we don’t need another one.”

He replied, “I mean a book. You need to write a book.” I held my finger to my mouth, indicating he needed to be quiet, looked back up, and then it hit me, “…as clear as the spoken word”! And thus the journey began.      

And then you know what God did? He up and moved us to South Carolina — 4 states away from home! From there we moved to Texas.  Now we’re back at home in Louisiana. How wise He was. As long as I stayed here in Louisiana, I was too busy for anything new, so He cut me off. South Carolina was to me as the Kerith Ravine was to Elijah: I was cut off from people and busy-ness so that I could spend time with and be fed by God alone. Elijah stayed 3-1/2 years in his ravine; I stayed 7 ( I’m a slow learner). What wonderful things God did during that time and what glorious lessons I learned.

I used to whine about how long it was taking for me to learn, to grow, to write, to be published. “God, You promised! Where is it?” He lovingly led me to stories like Abraham who had to wait 25 years to receive his promised son; or Moses who had to stay in his “desert ravine” for 40 years before he could be the promised deliverer of Israel; or Noah who faithfully followed God”s instructions for 120 years before the promised flood came. So, in God’s economy, 7 years is not long at all.Journey

And now the day is here! My first book went into print August 7! To God be the glory. He always keeps His promises! Accept His promises for you and let your journey begin!

This, too, shall pass

My hip is hurting this morning after tripping over a box in the hall last night. My house seems to be riddled with booby traps these days since my son moved back home.

While going through a nasty divorce, he was laid off from work, his apartment lease ran out, and his dog (his child!) went missing. Physically drained, financially shaky, and emotionally bankrupt, he moved home to heal and to get a new start. After setting some ground rules, I encouraged him with his grandmother’s favorite saying, “Keep your chin up, honey, for this, too, shall pass.”

Whether it’s a son, a friend, or a coworker, sometimes the problems of others spill over into your own life. How do you deal with it? As a servant of Christ, how do you help troubled people remain functional and productive? How do you help without taking the burdens upon yourself?Small pic

Consider these four suggestions for handling this ticklish task:  

Determine the extent of your help. Whether it’s giving them space, getting a group to provide assistance, or referring them to counseling, be careful to help and not to hinder. Too little help can create more problems; too much help can actually prevent them from coping. The trick is to find the balance and that requires planning.

Specify the lifetime of the arrangement. For example, set a time limit on how long you should provide assistance. Deadlines may not work in all settings; however, setting some guidelines helps keep the person’s focus on finding solutions.

Spell out expectations. In other words, discuss your plan of action with this person. Be specific on what you expect of him or her, what you are willing to do, and how others will be allowed to help.

Communicate diligently. Talk regularly about their progress. Focus on whether or not the help you’re providing is achieving its purpose. Make adjustments as necessary.

Sometimes we have to make adjustments in order to help others get through rough times. The key is doing enough to resolve the problems without doing too much and prolonging them.

As for my son, he’s gotten a job, is registered for school, and is smiling again. My prodigal has come home and the fatted calf is on the grill. So what if my grocery bill has doubled? So what if my dining room has been converted into a bedroom? So what if the corner hutch that used to house my antique crystal is now home to his boxers, tees, and socks? He’s worth it. Besides…this, too, shall pass.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (2 Corinthians 4:8, 17)

I’m Just a B.L.O.G.!

You’re witnessing a new experience for me: blogging!

A blog (short for weblog) is really nothing more than an online diary. It’s a chronological journal of personal thoughts and musings. I never was good at keeping a handwritten diary or a journal, but this electronic version might not be too difficult.

Please, feel free to peek into my diary as I pour out my heart to God and praise Him for how He works in the lives of His children.  And feel free to comment!

Come, let’s  be B.L.O.G.’s together —

Believers Lovin’ On God!

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