Category Archives: Inspiration

Flowers & Arrows

Maureen Hager

William wore a hair shirt
somewhere around Italy,
shows you what I know about saints.

Little picture cards litter
the chaplain’s desk,
flowers and arrows pierce the heart.

A yard and B yard assemblies,
melting pot of hot heads
and maimed spirits.

We gather to pray here,
two or more
the math of heaven.

Just a closer walk;
the forgiven getting up,
time after time, doing time.

We leave one chair open
for who went before,
and who comes after.

Each lost sheep
makes a sound only
the Shepherd can hear.

I REFUSED TO HONOR DAD

Falling in love changed my view of Father’s Day.

The third Sunday in June is supposed to be a day to honor our fathers and thank them for all they’ve done for us. Instead, that day always been tough for me.

I had a hard time forgetting all the things my dad did to me when I was growing up. So finding a Father’s Day card that wasn’t all mushy and loving and telling him he was a great dad was difficult. Most years I didn’t get him a card.

Dad died when I was 40, and I still hadn’t forgiven him. I had buried my feelings, thinking that was all I needed to do to get past the hurt.

Little did I know that my future husband would force me to make the change that would forever alter my life, my attitude, and even my looks.

A month before our wedding, my fiancé decided that “we needed to talk.” Not a good sign in a relationship, but I figured we better just get it over with.

“I’ve heard you talk about your father and seen ‘green smoke’ coming out of your mouth,” Bryan said. “And your eyes send fiery daggers. I won’t allow that hatred to poison our marriage, so you have to forgive him or we can’t get married.”

“If I haven’t forgiven him in 35 years,” I said, “what makes you think I can forgive him in 30 days?”

“Not my problem,” he replied.

Since I really loved this man, I decided to go to a bookstore, get a book on forgiveness, read some of it, and tell him I had forgiven Dad. I could work on the actual forgiveness later.

It only took reading about half the book to realize that forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who hurt me and everything to do with me. I had allowed Dad to control my life far too long, and forgiving was a way for me to take back my life. I finally got it!

When Bryan picked me up for dinner that night, he took one look at me and said, “You forgave your dad today, didn’t you?”

“How can you tell?”

“Your eyes are clearer and you look happier than I’ve ever seen you. Looks like you got rid of a big weight you’ve been carrying.”

Father’s Day has never been the same since. I can now thank God for the father that I had most of the time and for all that I learned from him and because of him.

Even if our dads weren’t the greatest, we can still find something to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

The Command to Honor Your Mother and Father

courtesy bing

Honor your father and mother (remember, this is a commandment of the Lord your God); if you do so, you shall have a long prosperous life in the land he is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16 (TLB)

The command God gave his people to honor our mother and father is the only one with a promise…that it may go well with you.

At it’s basis, this command deals with the care of our aging parents. We are to respect and honor our parents at all times, but especially as they age and become more dependent on us as their children.

inuitIn many societies the care of the elderly is a group effort. Everyone pitches in as they can to help provide for the needs of those who have reached a stage in life where they can no longer do for themselves.

The younger generation goes beyond the boundaries of their own personal relations knowing in time, when they are unable to care for themselves, others will come alongside and assist them. It is a perpetual circle of honoring, respecting, and caring for those who need assistance.

With the mobility of our society, more times than not, families are spread across the country and across the world. Rare is the family that stays in the same geographic location their entire life.

With mobility comes distance and that distance often makes it difficult for children to take the kind of care necessary to assist and provide for their aging parents.

In my family, my parents retired to southeast Georgia to care for my mother’s parents. In doing so, they moved away from my sister, brother, and me and our families. My sister and her family now live in central Florida. My brother and his family remained in Maryland. My family and I now live in south Texas.

This arrangement wasn’t the easiest, none was it the best of situations. Fortunately, my parent’s church family stepped up and provided when we couldn’t.

Is this command only for those of us with parents? Or is it broader than that?

The Bible tells us to take care of the widows, orphans, and those who are weak.

That courtesy bingcommand goes beyond our family members. God’s concern for his people is much wider. We are called to care for those who are more dependent and in need of assistance. Whatever that may look like.

As the day of celebrating our fathers approaches, honor them by all means. But don’t stop there. We need to look around us and identify those in society who are having a difficult time and ask ourselves, is there anything we can do to help meet their needs and lighten their load?

If we are honest, I believe our answer will be a definite Yes.

I wish you well.

How Honor Matured Through One Simple Text Message

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It began with a prayer journal entry—my asking God if writing was His desire for me.

You see, in recent years I’ve struggled with guilt. For twenty years I felt called to teach adult bible studies and the feedback from class participants gave me confirmation I was on the right track—God’s track. Then, several years ago, my love for teaching began to wane. The spark I’d once experienced standing behind a podium was now being experienced every time I sat down to bang the keys. Could something that makes me feel like a giddy teenager be of God, or was it instead the enemy trying to distract me from God’s true calling on my life? I continued to write more than teach while the inner struggle on how to honor God and His desires refused to budge.

I was growing weary of asking (wondering if I’d heard Him clearly) and I was pretty certain He too was weary of confirming every fleece I’d thrown at His feet for the past five years. Nevertheless, earlier this year, I sat down with journal in hand determined to hear from God and quiet my constant inquiries. My entry ended with this:

Heavenly Father, will you lead the way? I only want what You want. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a teachable spirit to discern Your ways. I love You, Pappa. 

As my pen swept over the final “p” in Pappa, the phone beeped, alerting me to an incoming text. It was from my dad: 

“Good morning sweetheart. I often think of you on these rainy mornings that I love so much. I see you with pen in hand with a steaming cup of tea or coffee…loving the quiet sound of raindrops as you listen for a special little message to put on paper. I love your writings very much but I love you much, much more.” Dad

And there it was. 
My heavenly Father speaking directly to me 
through my earthly one.

Tears trickled as I picked up my pen and began to write what God had just cemented in my heart:

Father, You are delighted when I write! You even love my writing! But you love me—your daughter—much, much more. 

dad

My dad with the family’s first granddaughter, Piper.

God peeled back the curtain of uncertainty, allowing me to see the situation through His parental eyes. I delight in my two sons simply because they are mine. However they choose to use their God-given gifts to glorify Him will bring a smile to my face. Why couldn’t I believe this truth for myself in relating to my heavenly Father?

It’s not so much about the gifts, but rather, the heart that motivates the desire to use them. This is what God had been trying to tell me all along.

A sense of honor for my dad matured in unexpected ways as God’s plan unfolded through his timely text message that morning.

The days of my asking God to confirm whether I should be doing this or that with my spiritual gifts ended that morning. Freedom has come to stay, for His delight in me is grounded in the truth that I am His daughter, created in His image and for His glory, just like you. Whatever way we choose to use His gifts will bring Him great pleasure.

How has your heavenly Father used your earthly father to bless you?

Father, thank You for the surprising ways You use others to speak truth into our lives.

For in him we live and move and have our being. ‘As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay Images

Berry My Heart at Bended Knee

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berry2

Fruitful or Fruitless

Picking green as vengeance
against a late life strawberry rash.

My backyard crop, a
political substitute for water sucking lawn,
off limits.

The alternative is to wash and bag
each ripe berry as a gift.

Fruitless, or fruitful,
each in my hand.

Lessons from Hebrew

Hebrew Bible
 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a lesson in Hebrew. This is a lesson from Hebrew. Hebrew class to be exact.

Two years ago I signed up for a Biblical Hebrew class. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In my loftier moments I daydreamed of reading the Old Testament in the original language. In reality, I liked the idea of pointing to a page of what looked like chopped-up stick men and telling someone, “This says ‘Abraham’.”

That’s just cool.

And so my foray into Biblical Hebrew began. I was pretty sure that once I mastered the alphabet, the rest would be cake. After all, being able to pronounce the word you’re reading is half the battle, right? I dedicated myself to hours, days, and eventually weeks of learning the alphabet. It turned out to be harder than one might think. For starters, there’s not entire agreement about how many letters are even in the alphabet. Then there are letters that look different at the beginning of a word compared to the end. And letters that sound differently if they start a syllable. And letters that don’t make any sound at all. There are also letters that sometimes act as vowels and sometimes don’t, and vowel pointings that used to not exist but eventually did…

Have you ever seen one of those 3-D images that at first seems like nothing but geographic shapes but the longer you study it, the more you see the deeper image underneath? Lines and spaces begin melting into shapes and suddenly you’re staring at a wolf, or a leaping dolphin. That’s what learning Hebrew is like. The harder I studied these mysterious shapes, the more I could pick out familiar symbols. Months into the class I could finally point to a section of the page and say, “See this right here? This says ‘Abraham’.”

I still think that’s cool.

I was having so much fun I signed up for semester number two. With the alphabet, some verbs, and a few key phrases under my belt, I was feeling pretty good. Until about the second week of class.

“You’re probably wondering why this has a qamats instead of a patah,” the professor would say.

Actually, no, I was just impressed that I recognized it was a qamats.

“This symbol here is an atnah which marks the midpoint of the sentence meaning which can cause the vowel to be lengthened.”

Right…

Or I’d be trying to parse a word and he would say, “This is a doubly weak verb. Only one of the three letters is actually present.”

Right… So tell me again why I spent all that time learning the alphabet if these ancient writers didn’t even bother to record two out of the three letters of a word?

“Sometimes Hebrew doesn’t make a lot of sense, but you’ll have to take that up with God. After all, He wrote it,” the professor would say with a grin.

So much for learning the alphabet and eating cake, I thought.

challenges sign
In this way, God’s plan for learning Hebrew seems to be similar to God’s plan for life. (Image by Janet Beagle)

Learning Hebrew is hard, but I don’t think this is unique to Hebrew. It seems like everytime I learn something new and think things will get easier there is an even bigger “something to learn” that takes its place. In this way, God’s plan for Hebrew seems to be similar to God’s plan for life. Just when we master one lesson, there are new challenges that force us to refine our understanding. Just when we start to feel comfortable with how things are, there are disruptions that force us into new situations. God never lets us sit idle too long. He’s never content with us merely learning the alphabet; He wants us to learn words, and sentences, and grammar rules. And then He wants us to apply it.

Our life is a constant series of lessons, and God is our head instructor. He sends people into our life to inspire, motivate, and encourage us. He sends challenges into our life to develop and refine us. And He sends moments of reflection into our life to help us catch our breath, gauge our progress, and keep us moving forward. There’s a life lesson knocking on each of our doors right now.

You don’t need to read Hebrew to learn the lesson God is teaching you.

 

Janet Beagle

Janet Beagle, Ph.D.

 

Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.

 

Theresa “Pinky” Garrett: Clowning Around is Serious Ministry

Theresa animal ministry copy

Three and a half years ago, I shared the ministry of Theresa “Pinky” Garrett here at Inspire a Fire. A lot has happened since that time.

For more than 20 years, Theresa has been traveling to Ukraine to minister to those who not only need a Savior, but who also need help in order to survive. In 2012, Theresa was the one who needed help to survive. She was diagnosed with aggressive stage two breast cancer and underwent multiple surgeries, as well as lengthy chemo and radiation treatments.

But even during those long months of treatment and recovery, Theresa’s heart has remained with the Ukranian people. Praise God, He supplied exactly what she needed, and on May 11, 2015 she will finally have the opportunity to make her 22nd trip to Ukraine, taking much-needed supplies and funds that can make an eternal difference in families.

Years of Devastation in Ukraine

Theresa’s heart breaks for the Ukrainian people. They lost their farms through years of government-run collective farming, their crops locked behind closed doors in their own barns—barns to which they had no key—while millions of Ukrainian people starved to death.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 wiped out 1300 villages, prompting the Russian government to give the Ukrainian people their own country.

Twenty-nine years after the accident, the death rate still exceeds the birth rate two to one. Eighty-five percent of the Ukrainian people live well below poverty level, and doctors—the highest paid workers—make only about $100 American dollars a month. Three hundred thousand Ukrainian children live as orphans, dependent on others to survive.

The Master’s Mission: Replacing Devastation with JOY Boxes

That’s where The Master’s Mission steps in. A key element of the ministry is the distribution of JOY Boxes, which stands for Jesus, Orphans, and You. Pastor Rooks, founder of The Master’s Mission, quickly discovered boxes of gifts provided a way to gain permission into Ukraine and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each box contains a Gospel track with the Plan of Salvation in their own language, a toothbrush, comb, pens, toys, candy, hat, scarves, and gloves. What an exciting treasure this is for the children! Many have never seen such things. Most have never heard the Gospel.

Stories of God’s provision through the boxes abound. One year a little girl began to cry when she opened her box. When the translator asked what was wrong, she said, “I asked God to send me a doll and He did!” With over 6000 boxes distributed, God made sure she got her doll!

Another time a little boy jumped up and down and yelled as he grasped an object and pulled it out of his box. He had seen a billboard in town advertising Bubblicious Bubble Gum, and had asked God to let him taste a piece. Guess what was in his box? Yes, a pack of Bubblicious gum!

Clown Ministry Spreads The GospelTheresa Pinky and Cilly

Theresa started her Performing Clown Ministry in 1995, serving in orphanages, schools, hospitals, and churches. But knowing that the borders could close at any time, they knew they needed to train Ukrainian people to be Professional Clowns so they would be able to carry on the ministry. In 2002 Pinky’s Gospel Clown School International began, and we have trained five classes—about 80 clowns from all over the former Soviet Union—to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Family Food Boxes

Donations help feed families physically through the Family Food Box Ministry, where each box also includes a Bible…to feed them spiritually. Their goal is to have enough money to provide at least two dozen Bibles during each mission trip.

The Pass-It-On Animal Ministry

In 2010, Mrs. Jane Blackwell developed the Pass-It-On Animal Ministry. Raised on a farm herself, she knew families could be self-sufficient if they owned animals. Through donations, Theresa and the team are able to buy cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. This provides milk, dairy products, and meat, and allows them to sell the products for income as well.

But the ministry doesn’t end there. When the first female animal is born, it is passed on to another family, providing food and income for them. We’re praying for donations to sponsor an animal and help families become self-sufficient.

The Masters Mission Continues

The Masters Mission has mission teams throughout the year, going not only to Ukraine, but also to Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico. They also assist ministries in Kentucky and South Carolina. If you’re interested in donating or being part of a mission team or learning more about The Master’s Mission, please visit the website, www.TheMastersMission.net.

If you’d like to specifically help Theresa’s May 11, 2015 mission trip and ministries, please send a tax-deductible donation to The Master’s Mission, P.O. Box 338, Ware Shoals, SC 29692. Every donation counts, no matter how big or how small!

Go ye therefore and teach all nations. Matthew 28:19

Theresa’s bio: Theresa “Pinky” Garrett is a delight to know. Celebrating her 33rd year in430079_342112782488512_63286453_n clowning, she’s a seasoned performer and an accomplished ventriloquist. She began Pinky’s Gospel Clown School in 1991 to teach new clowns “Excellence in His Name.” Pinky has taught how to do ministry in churches and seminars, and performs with her sidekick “Cilly.” Her Gospel Clown Skit Books are used in fifteen countries and are available in 3 languages. This is her 22nd year to travel to Ukraine where she is a part of The Masters Mission. She has had her International Clown School for five years with over 80 clowns in ministry throughout the Former Soviet Union. She continues to teach and perform for state conferences hosted by the Baptist Convention. You can reach Theresa at tgar676@aol.com.

Teeth of God

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I clipped blue iris,
those little teeth of God,
the day your grandson died.

Like spears in a vase
the cut stems still
take water.

The window light,
filtered by glass,
frames life.

Two weeks on the planet,
we’re too weak, to stand
alone.

Springtime…a Time of Renewal

Springtime.

Green leaves. Budding flowers. Singing birds. Renewal.

Here in my part of Texas our azaleas have bloomed and faded. The trees all have their leaves. Loquat fruit hangs heavy on the bough. The grass is greening up. The Easter Lilies are above ground. Pollen is dreadful.

I love to stare at God’s wonderful creation and notice the subtleties that abound. Especially during the changing of seasons.

One day there are leaves on the trees. Next day they have fallen.

One day the trees are bare. Next day buds are sprouting. One day tiny orbs form. Next day fruit appears.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Each fall it is the same old thing. The azaleas go dormant and look rather pathetic. But then the spring arrives and the bushes are full of gorgeous beauty.

Not long after they bloom, however, the flowers begin to fade.

I’ve often considered uprooting the azaleas and planting something different, but I never do. I enjoy their beauty however briefly they bloom.

Does God look at us the same way, I wonder?

In those seasons of our life when we just aren’t as strong, as healthy, as vibrant as we once were, when things become a bit dormant, does he ever wonder if it’s time to uproot us and plant something else?

Perhaps, like me, there are areas of your life you’ve allowed to become dormant. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally. We mean to do such and such. We intend to complete this or that. We want to be faithful to complete the good work God began in us. We really do…but life gets in the way.

Or we become discouraged.

Or fearful.

Or lazy.

Or…

The Bible says even though our physical being is gradually decaying, a fact we can’t reverse, our spiritual being is renewed day after day.

Every spring God works on the inside of the trees, plants, shrubs, bushes in the yard and renews them to burst forth at just the right time in glorious splendor.

He does the same with us. He works on the inside to renew our spirits to burst forth to display the work of a mighty Creator.

This spring might I suggest each of us take inventory of our spiritual garden and see if there is any dead wood we need to trim to make room for new growth?

I wish you well.

 

Knee Stain

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Drops swell at branch tip
to catch bubble light and, glass like,
wink to the waiting grass.

Even with scrubbing
the new dirt of the strawberry hill
paves the crease in my finger skin.

Between pig pen, and prodigal proof,
I garden with the angel of Eden,
hoping to keep a foot in the gate.

Put down roots, pull up weeds
hoping for another hand
on the wheelbarrow.

Father and Son team,
such a threat to the devil,
such a joy in the spring wet mud.

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