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Am I a Soldier of the Cross?

September 13, 2017

The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be:

“Devoted for life.”

−Adoniram Judson

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Am I a soldier of the Cross—

A follower of the Lamb?

And shall I fear to own His cause,

Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize

And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?

Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace,

To help me on to God?

Since I must fight if I would reign,

Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,

Supported by Thy Word.

−Isaac Watts

 

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Weak Kneed

September 8, 2017

“I like you when you’re weak.”

 

It was in between Composition 2 and Spanish 101 that I decided I needed a break from the monotony of college textbook labor. Finding one of the cushy chairs in a quieter spot of the library, I pulled out “Unseen” by Sara Hagerty. She was describing an afternoon in her laundry room when she suddenly felt overwhelmed, incapable, and unsuccessful in her attempts to attain her goals. In the muddle of her swirling, negative thoughts, the voice of the Lord broke in and said, “I like you when you’re weak.” That phrase jumped right off the page and followed me down the hall to class.

Later, as I sat at my desk, the Lord whispered, “I showed you the Truth of that statement earlier today.” And I recalled a dream from earlier that morning…

 

The busy highway was icy and covered up in snow. Driving was dangerous…and I was at the wheel. The wind blew harder and vision was becoming alarming limited. Cautious, scared, I pulled off into the emergency lane. Through the blur of swirling snow, I saw a friend walking along the road, right in the midst of the storm, so I signaled him with a road flare to come help. Upon reaching the vehicle, I told him I couldn’t drive anymore. I was too hard for me…too much. Without a word, he motioned for me to slide over, jumped in next to me, and took the wheel. Easing out into traffic again, he put his strong arm around my shoulders and held me close. I could rest. I was safe.

 

This is who Jesus wants to be for each of us. He wants to be the One who jumps in the seat alongside us and takes the wheel when we can’t navigate the road on our own power, intellect, or reasoning. He shows up striding through the storms, walking on the water, and becomes our strength when we are crumbling from human weakness. Not only does He take control of the situation, but He puts His arm of security and protection gently, yet firmly around us and we can lean hard on Him in perfect peace and rest, trusting in His ability to guide us straight and true; even when we can’t see the way ourselves.

A loving father enjoys being able to help his children. My Dad loves when we come to him asking for his expertise or assistance on something that is new to us, but old hat to him. It gives him an opportunity to teach, take part, and pass down valuable skills. Or, think of a lover who delights in having opportunities to “be a knight” for his “fair lady”. Men are the protectors and appreciate their lady’s “weakness” so as to show/prove to her how he can care for and protect her. Women can be strong for their men as well as we stand by them. Sometimes our men will be battered and beaten from toil and cares; women step in to sooth, to comfort, and to encourage them to get back up when they fall.

 

In thinking of their child, the parent says, “Ah, I like it when you are weak. That’s when you ask questions and want my help.”

The lover says, “I like you when you’re weak; because then you make me want to be strong.”

God says of us, “I like you when you’re weak, because it is only then that you obtain true strength that can only come from leaning hard on Me.”

 

Our society and culture declares that weakness is detestable, to never show the soft underbelly, or the vulnerable parts of yourself. Yielding control, practicing humility, admitting defeat is considered an act of yellow-bellied surrender. That’s why the Kingdom of God was called “upside down”. It is contrary to the thinking patterns of the world. It is the least who will be great, the tender who will be the strongest. It is the weak kneed, those who fall to their knees in prayer, who will shake the whole world and ultimately win a victory over Hell itself.

***

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

−2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NASB)

 

Weekly Devotionals!

August 9, 2017

Good Day Dear Readers,

       God has blessed me with being asked to write weekly devotionals for Daughters of Promise Magazine. If you would like to receive a bit of challenge and encouragement from Scripture every Monday, then hop on over to

https://www.daughters-of-promise.org

and scroll down to “Join Our Weekly Meditations” to sign-up! I would love to meet you there and share the joy and Truth of Jesus with you. Walk with God today!   -Samantha

 

“No photographs, please.”

July 28, 2017

Dear Reader,

After almost four years of writing here, I’ve decided it’s time that you are given an explanation for what is obviously lacking from this humble blog. Ever since its entrance into the cyber world, this blog has endeavored to remain unpretentious and discreet. By that I mean: no pictures. Oh sure, a picture will appear once in a great while when it suits my fancy, but on the whole, visuals are purposefully absent from the digital scene. If you’ve ever wondered why (as I have myself at times) I offer these reasons for the curious reader.

 

#1. I love words. I don’t love cameras.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed at all to those ingenious devices that capture a moment of time for all of time to enjoy. My brother is an amazing photographer (plug: http://www.skysailphotography.com) and he continually astounds me with what he is able to recreate though the lens. I thoroughly enjoy a good photograph and contentedly browse the National Geographic contest winner’s reels. But…photographer I am not. My brother’s skills I have not, but I can create the same image on paper. Why?

 

#2. Because, as a word crafter, I endeavor to create a picture in your mind, not on the screen.

All good writers can capture the same scene as a photographer, only through a different medium. We must help the reader to, not only see the image before them, but to feel, hear, taste, and smell it. I aspire to develop writing skills and habits that can place the reader within the very heart of what is happening on the page as if they were there themselves. In practicing how to actively and accurately describe what it is being pictured, you as the reader can make that scene come alive in your own mind and become an active participant through your own imagination. This is practice for both you and me.

 

#3. To challenge a short-attention span society.

Scroll through any Facebook or Twitter feed and it’s pretty well guaranteed that you will skip right on by those longer videos and interesting articles that you “save for later” and then never come back around too; but show us a stream of catchy memes and we’ll be ‘lost in space’. Longer readings simply take too much of our coveted time and we don’t have time for that (not all at once anyways). I love word play and always try to finagle it into blog post titles to make the reader look and think twice, but I’ve never felt the pressure to use pictures to grab attention. If a reader wants to hear what I have to say, they will come.

 

#4. “It’s taking too long to load!”

Dial-up. A foe if there ever was one. When I began this blog, I was (and still am) blessed with high-speed internet. Some of my readers were not so fortunate. Plain and simple, I chose from the outset to avoid uploading pictures with posts because it was causing problems for readers with slow internet. That’s logistics folks. My apologies.

 

I hope this short dissertation has answered any lurking wondering’s you may have had. And thank you for being Readers. For sharing in the thoughts that rumble around. For being long-suffering when verb-tenses weren’t always right, or when we went rambling along bunny-trails (but some of those were fun weren’t they?). Thank you for coming into the fields with me to meet with the Lord. I hope we will have many such adventures in the future.

The God Who Sees Me

July 2, 2017

“Hi. What is your name?” the young man asked.

After an uncertain pause, I respond, “Samantha.”

 

            I’m back to work again after taking a slight hiatus for school. It’s good to come back to familiar faces and duties, and being able to settle right back in as if you’d never left. But, sometimes I wonder if I missed out on something since I’m not doing “bigger things”. Am I where I’m supposed to be? How does one remain godly and “rejoicing evermore” among constant worldly influences and negative attitudes? Is this work somehow “less than”?

            Today I didn’t have much time to think, seeing as the store was packed out for the chaotic monthly Sale Day; with clothes constantly needing to be put out on the sales floor, having to learn the ropes for new responsibilities, and customers asking for help…it was a very busy day. But, now that I’m back at this job again, I have prayerfully determined to stay aware. To keep eyes open for God and for the people God wants to reach out to through me. Every work place is a mission field; but today, I was the recipient of a missionary…

            The clothes on the mobile rack seemed to multiply instead of diminish as I sorted and hung them on the floor displays. My back and legs were aching something terrible. There had been many customers stop me today, so when I heard an “Excuse me?” I didn’t hesitate to turn around, fully prepared to direct another disoriented shopper.

            Looking me right in the eye, a college aged man paused as if collecting himself and said,

            “Hi. What is your name?”

            This was new…uncertain of what his intentions were, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and told him my name. A brief pause (What does he want??) and he declares,

            “I saw you over here and…”

            My thoughts are already interrupting him and I think, “Ah, it’s the Mennonite question again, right?” But no.

            “…and the Lord told me to tell you that He is pleased with your work and that what you are doing matters. I just felt that He wanted me to tell you that.”

            A bomb could have gone off and I wouldn’t have moved. God had an audible blessing…for me? from a complete stranger? who stepped out in bold obedience to be the Messenger of that blessing? Wow. But it didn’t stop there.

            “Can I pray for you?” he asks.

Of course!

“Is there something you would like prayer for?” he continued.

            “I want to have joy in the work.” was my reply. “To be a blessing and witness to those around me.” And I want it so much.

            “Can I pray for you right now?”

            Right now, in the middle of the store? Right now, where fellow employees might see and heckle me later about “that guy”? Right now, when there are customers all around?

“Sure.”

            He lays his hand on my shoulder (God knows my love language), and prays a blessing over this work, this daily grind that can sometimes feel just like that. Honestly, it all happened so unexpectedly that don’t remember very much, but what he prayed meant a great deal.

            On closing, we smile from having had the pleasure of sharing in the Spirit.

            “Thank you, Brother.” And he left. I wish now I would have affirmed him in his own obedience in stepping out so boldly, but his actions have left me with the challenge to not hesitate to do the same when my Father asks me reach out on His behalf in the future.

            The rest of the afternoon I had a newfound joy, a renewed vision, and smiled as though I had a secret. The Lord sees me, He is watching me at every turn, and He sees my desire to simply walk in obedience with Him. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, so I’ve heard. And if that’s the case (as I’m sure you will agree it is, dear reader) then, by the grace of God, every day I live will be spent for Christ and His Kingdom, in everything I do, in every place I am.

What about you? I challenge you to reach out and touch someone today as the Spirit leads. You’ll never regret it. And they will never forget.

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Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. –Matthew 5:8

 

Emptied Full

June 11, 2017

She told me that I would have to learn

To live with the ache;

That I would have to learn

To be at home with the empty.

She said that the struggle

Would always be with me,

But it would keep me soft,

If I let it.

I’m told that

Faces that turn my head,

But never face me in return,

Do not have to be the enemy.

They say that God can fill the spaces

Left gapping and waiting,

Waiting…

And I have to be okay

With the possibility of never knowing more.

As they instruct,

I yield,

Fall asleep,

Trust…

Then I break.

Starting all over again;

Giving it over,

Clasping grace in return.

And what if we never should know?

If we must learn to be “okay”?

But I want more than okay.

I want Christ in me−

The hope of glory−

And of every day of this life.

That is far more than okay.

It is immeasurably more.

And if He sees fit

To never remedy the ache,

May I be left empty,

So that I may know what it is

To be Full.

 

-Samantha T.

 

Even in the Fire

May 29, 2017

When one works in a general place of retail business, it’s quite common to hear popular pop music rotating in monotony through the speakers. Usually I just tune it out, but there was one song that caught my ear. I didn’t pay any mind until I heard the female voice declare, “I’ll walk through hell with you.” She had my attention. Most popular tunes speak of rejection, sorrow, shallowness, or the “Who cares, I don’t need you anyways” mentality. But here is someone saying that they were going to be there even in the hard times. That was unique. While I do not endorse popular music at all, or this particular artist, I wanted to share some of the lyrics from that song and my thoughts on them.

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And when you can’t rise, well, I’ll cry with you on hands and knees
‘Cause I’m gonna stand by you

Even if we’re breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through hell with you
Love, you’re not alone,

‘Cause I’m gonna stand by you

-Rachel Platten
*

I think I appreciated these words because they declared an unrelenting commitment. In a world where even Christians are no longer noted for their consistency and steadfastness (the divorce rate among Christians is shameful), this idea of holding on, of not running away, is powerful. Have you ever told someone that you are never going to leave them, no matter how hard it gets? Has anyone ever done that for you? Maybe you have faced financial disintegration, struggled in school, have had strained church relations, or had an adulterous spouse. Who was it that never gave up on you? or you stuck by them?

The people I desire to minister to in our community are a tough crowd. They have addictions, abuse, and demands. They are surrounded inside and out by the brokenness that is our mortal humanity. Splintered relationships and learning to depend on one self are a way of life. No one in their lives is dependable or reliable. And they probably aren’t very dependable themselves. Working with this group of people is going to require a devote commitment, a digging in of the heels to hold the ground and not retreat when the battle gets hot. Am I ready to make that pledge of remaining by the side of those who are waging war against Satan and sinful influences? Am I willing to walk through hell with these people so that they might find Heaven? Am I prepared to get down on my knees and weep with them? Is my love for them such that it will keep me by their side no matter how hard things may get?

While this song has good intentions, it fails to reveal the true Game Changer when it comes to being strong enough to stand fast. I do not have what it takes to walk through hell with someone. I cannot do that. The heat is too intense, the pain unbearable, the uncertainty undesirable. If it were up to me, I would turn tail and run from such a prospect. But we are not driven by such feelings. There is a fire that rages deeper and hotter within each Christ-governed soul that demands to be brighter than those hellish flames. It is the all-consuming power of Christ our King who infills us with His super human strength , by which power we can remain anchored to His Rock and abide unmovable in the faces of opposition. From that position, with our Lord and Savior ever by our side, we can boldly and confidently declare:

“Love, you’re not alone. I’m gonna stand by you.”