Category Archives: Inspiration
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me have your attention. I have a status update for passengers on flight 1047.”
My connecting flight had already been delayed three times. Surely this announcement would be good news.
“We are making a gate change and bringing in a new aircraft. Please proceed to Gate C 7. Departure time is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.”
I looked at my watch. It was only 5:30. I sighed….more waiting. I picked up my bag and trudged down the corridor with a mass of grumpy travelers.
At the new gate I pulled out my book and began reading the next chapter.
I was jolted back to reality by a screaming child. He is expressing my feelings perfectly, I thought. The wailing increased. This was one unhappy kid. The child’s mother tried a variety of tactics to calm him. All were unsuccessful.
People sitting nearby moved to seats farther away. Passengers with headphones turned up the volume on their iPods. Others rolled their eyes, shook their heads, slumped deeper behind their newspapers.
Except one woman. I watched as she got up from her seat and walked toward the frazzled mom and her shrieking son.
She smiled, sat down, and opened her purse. Reaching inside, she took out a small bottle.
It was a bottle of bubbles. She pulled the tiny wand from the liquid and gently blew bubbles in to the air.
The child watched, mesmerized. And he quit crying.
The mother smiled. I smiled. Smiles were everywhere. That little bottle of bubbles had transformed the whole scene.
“Bubbles” is not a biblical word, but “love” sure is, and I think that bubbles and love had a lot in common that day. Not just bubbles, though. Bubbles in the hand of a person who was willing to enter into an uncomfortable situation when the rest of us had retreated.
“Love is patient, love is kind….” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
For 28 years I have volunteered to let someone stick me with a needle and remove some of the precious fluid that keeps me alive.
Thanks to Robbie Short, who needed an Eagle Scout project in 1986, I’m a blood donor. I was his guinea pig, so to speak. And after I gave blood for the first time, Robbie received his Eagle Scout award, and I became a life-long blood donor.
The last few years I’ve been a specialty donor. That’s because I seem to be an over achiever when it comes to platelet production. Donors must have a minimum platelet count of 150. Mine was 316 last month.
When I donate platelets I’m connected to a machine that collects approximately 10% of the billions of platelets in my body. The whole process takes about 2 hours.
Once the needle is in my arm and the machine starts whirring, I begin to pray for the “whoever” who will be receiving my platelets. Since a literal part of me is going to help a cancer, cardiac, or transplant patient, I can be confident that my prayers are needed even though I will never meet the person who benefits from my donation.
The last few years I have made sure to schedule an appointment to give on Good Friday. The analogies are obvious and plentiful:
- I donate a portion. Jesus sacrificed all.
- I sit in sterile comfort, He agonized on a cross.
- I am praised, He was reviled.
- I have minimal discomfort. He died.
- I pray my blood will help a few people live….His blood brought life eternal.
When I give blood on Good Friday next month, I’ll continue my practice of praying for the “whoever” who will receive my donation. I’ll have both my Bible and my heart open, praising Jesus for loving me to death and back, a “whoever” desperately in need of his life-giving blood.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
“Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!” (Romans 5:9-11 MSG)
A few days ago a friend asked if she could come to my apartment. I don’t like visitors to see a messy house and thus began to clean in case she wanted the “grand tour” of my two-bedroom apartment. It’s funny how we tend to “hide the evidence” of our lives when we think someone on the outside might disapprove of what they see.
As I was cleaning, I remembered that there were apples sitting in my windowsill. I received a case of apples a while back and they ended up on my windowsill as that is the coldest place in the house. While that was a good place to store them, it also meant that they were forgotten as my curtains are normally closed. Eventually they began to go bad, but being in a cool place there was no smell to the rotting fruit. Even knowing they were going bad, I thought I could cut the bad parts off and still use them…but would never think to cook them when I actually had the time to do so.
Since I did not want my friend to see the apples, I began to gather them all in a bag so they could be thrown out. I realized that they were beyond salvaging at this point. As I removed them from the windowsill, there were marks left behind on the stone. I tried to wash off all of the evidence, but some of it would not come off.
As I saw the marks that were left behind by the rotting fruit, I was reminded of how sin leaves behind a mark in our lives. How many times have I allowed sin to take hold in my heart because it began as what seemed like a good idea? How many times have I thought that I could “redeem” my sin and still turn it into something good? How many times have I closed the curtain on sin in my life, hiding the evidence from myself and others, pretending that it was not there because I was not willing to take the necessary steps to fight against it?
Sin leaves a mark in our lives. Even after it is confessed, there are still consequences. Confession is not a time machine that allows us to go back in time and choose not to commit the sin. Confession brings forgiveness, but it does not erase the past.
And now, I have a choice. Do I look upon those marks and dwell in defeat because of my past sins? Or, do I look upon those marks and dwell in forgiveness and grace, seeing those marks as a reminder to not make the same mistakes again.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Father.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2)
(Apple image courtesy of Morguefile.com)
According to the World Population Clock, at 7:55 this morning, there were 7,150,855,447 people on the planet.
This week I am staying in the home of 1 of those 7,150,855,447 people. Her name is Cathi. And I am in awe.
That may not seem like an awe-inspiring statement, but it actually is. Nearly ten years ago, Cathi walked into a class I was teaching. That’s where our friendship was birthed. Neither of us planned it, neither of us knew it was going to happen. Only God knew. Since then we have shared lots of life together: much joy, and plenty of sorrow. I am so grateful that God had the idea of our friendship.
I had no idea she would walk into my world. Cathi is 1 of over 7 billion people on the planet. And by God’s design, she is my friend!
Several years ago I was told by my boss that I needed to meet with a lady name Liz to plan an event. So one day Liz and I met at a restaurant to talk about the upcoming program. But “somehow” we realized our mutual love of the Lord, and it was a long time before we started talking business.
That’s where God birthed our friendship. It was a season when we both were crying out to God, seeking His wisdom for the future. God knows the importance of an understanding encourager in times like that. Mine was named Liz, chosen by God out of 7 billion people!
One day I was going to meet Liz for lunch and Cathi uncharacteristically invited herself along. Turns out, it was God’s plan for Cathi and Liz to meet. And that’s where their friendship began.
God has been busy in the years since I met Cathi and Liz. Liz founded Love UnVeiled, a ministry that equips and empowers women to find their identity in Jesus Christ. And guess what? Cathi serves on her board of directors.
God answered the cries of my heart, too. I am an advocate for homeless elderly in Romania. Cathi is a faithful supporter and encourager of my calling.
Out of 7,150,855,447 people in the world, God brought Cathi and Liz in to my life. And then He connected them. Three lives brought together for His purposes, for our good, for His glory.
It is impossible to know what our lives would look like if God had not connected us. But I am in awe of what has happened because He did…
And it makes me wonder: Who might God bring into my life today?
By Jennifer L Griffith
“I have been sponsoring a child in Africa for years. I still sponsor her … through Mission of Mercy. Is that now Children’s Cup? Her name is Gcinile N__. See if you can find her.”—This message came via text message from my friend, Patty, back in America. She’d just gone through some papers and found the most recent picture of Gcinile, and had that “ah ha” moment. Swaziland, Africa had been my temporary home for a month at that point.
I’d traveled to southern Africa for Children’s Cup to serve for a few months. God had opened a way for me to experience the work that Children’s Cup is doing for the vulnerable and oppressed children in a land overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS orphans and poverty. It was at this perfect time that Patty made this connection. Like most Americans—including myself not that long ago, the cultures and struggles of this continent blend together collectively as “Africa.” Most of us rarely make a distinction between the borders of over fifty unique countries and populations. Yet, as massive in size as Africa really is, it became awfully small, in a God way, that very day. I’d received Patty’s message as I left the cottage to go on a hike with friends. One just “happened” to be the person who oversees the child sponsorship program in Swaziland for Children’s Cup, which also includes One Child Matters [formerly known as Mission of Mercy]. I knew immediately that God had set up this divine “coincidence” long before He commissioned me to, “Go … to Swaziland,” for such a time as this.
Upon our first day back at the office in Mbabane, I had the location of Gnicile’s CarePoint. These are the designated places where food is prepared for the sponsored children by volunteer cooks from the community. Facilitators hold preschool and Bible studies here, and arrange for sick children to see the mobile medical team every six weeks. Within a few days, I learned that Gnicile had lost her mom 18 months earlier, and her father had passed away six years before. This is an all too familiar plight of the children in a country where UNICEF estimates that 26% of the entire population are HIV positive. It’s believed to infect nearly 50% of the population, including the children, and has effectively wiped out the current parental generation, leaving many to fend for themselves. Yet, Gcinile is one of the blessed ones. She lives with her grandmother/gogo who adores her. Most of the orphans are at the mercy of their community, each other, or the streets.
Just prior to our day trip to meet Gcinile, we went shopping. Patty had asked me to find out her needs and buy them—a blanket, shoes, socks, school uniform, pants, shirt, sweatshirt, etc. And, knowing how precious chocolate and knick-knacks are to the children, I sprinkled in the extras. Items taken so for granted in America that are a treasure to the children in Africa.
Words can’t describe how much joy filled my heart as we drove a mere two hours to bless this child and make the connection. One that began continents, oceans, hemispheres apart, nearly ten years earlier. And, we planned the visit on the day of her Bible Camp to observe this annual event. Since I’d arrived in Swaziland, I’d witnessed the dedication, prayer and hard work of the Discipleship Team. They had 21 CarePoints, representing thousands of children, to serve through camps across this small country. As a spectator, I watched as Gcinile memorized a Bible verse while playing a game with her peers, missionaries, and interns from the Global Leadership Academy. Though I didn’t know her, her timid reactions lead me to believe that she knew I was the white stranger who came to meet her. The camp ended with a dance off between the young and the old. And when one of the volunteer cooks took a turn dancing, I videoed this colorful experience as the children clapped and cheered her on.
After the festivities, I met Gcinile and her grandmother/gogo. Her gogo volunteers as a cook for the CarePoint five days a week. I knew Gcinile was in good care. As I walked alongside of Gcinile down her rutted dirt road, I noticed holes worn through her thin flip-flops. Her heels hit pebbles and dirt with each step. I smiled, knowing that she’d soon receive two new pairs of shoes, and some socks! Winter was on its way. With no electricity or heat, the jeans and sweatshirt would be more than just an addition to her wardrobe. They would be needed to keep her warm. Gcinile stood at the only door to her gogo’s one room home. She slowly unpacked the gift bag with little expression. Children in Swaziland are not used to receiving gifts. They do not always know how to respond. Yet, when she saw the pink zip up sweatshirt with a heart and LOVE across the front, her face lit up! This moment drove home how similar girls are across the globe. Pink, LOVE and hearts all speak to our souls, no matter the language barrier or where we call our home. Girls are GIRLS all the same.
Before I left, Gcinile said, “Tell your friend thank you for all of these things. I will continue to pray for her and ask the Lord to bless her more.”
Unspeakable joy filled my heart. To be the conduit between my friend in America and her sponsored child made my whole time in Africa complete. No other experience brought me more fulfillment and joy than this moment. Patty, like most who contemplate or follow-through with sponsoring a child in the different country, had fleeting thoughts through the years. Does the money that I send truly reach the child I chose from a board of hundreds of faces? Does she really exist on the other side of the world? Patty gave in faith, and the fruit of her giving was revealed through my trip to Swaziland.
“‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matt 25:45
When I got back to the cottage that night, I reviewed the photos taken, as well as the videos. As I watched the clip of the dance off, I sat in awe of God as I realized that it was Gcinile’s gogo who I’d captured dancing for the crowd. God let me know that this encounter was arranged by His hand, long before I found Gcinile in “Africa.” I stay in AWE!
Click here to see Gcinile’s gogo dancing in Swaziland, Africa.
Alabaster crystals cascade from heaven, drifting upon the breath of God. Their presence penetrates the winter bitterness with reminders of beauty – reminders of grace. Harshness becomes soft and easy. Cold becomes a warm embrace. Winter brown becomes glorious white.
Old, crusted, hardened things become new.
And so it is with the Lord.
His grace pours from the streams of Living Water, washing, immersing the child in the Father’s love. Pure and perfect light glows from the places once dark with sin. Wholeness replaces brokenness. Joy replaces defeat. Life – brand, spankin’ new – replaces death.
And just as the barren earth, forlorn by winter brown sleeps blanketed by alabaster crystals beneath the stars, so the child of God sleeps, blanketed by His love.
Yes, old things become new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away;behold, all things have become new.”
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Nan’s Bio: Using the written word and the spoken words of her heart, Nan Jones assists fellow believers in discovering the essence of who God is in their darkest hour. Her devotional blog, Morning Glory, has become a place of community for Christians to find encouragement in God’s Word and comfort in His presence. Nan is also available to speak at conferences, Bible studies, ladies’ retreats, mother/daughter teas–any event where two or more are gathered in His Name. No event is considered too small or too large. To read Nan’s devotions, please visit Morning Glory. For information on speaking engagements, please visit Nan’s website at www.jubilantlight.com.
Snow image courtesy of Morguefile.com
We’re all quite ordinary, confined to our skin, defined by our limitations. We rehearse our boundaries. We know how tall the walls of our shortcomings are. We’ve counted the financial, emotional, and occupational bricks in our way. And one large hurdle is our little faith.
We’ve forgotten that earthly strategies are reversed in God’s Kingdom. We’re not required to be tall and mighty; it is by our God we run through a troop and leap over a wall. It’s not in the exhibition of our special gifts that victories are won; it’s in our bending to His extraordinary ways that great things are done. In us, through us, to others. In His economy, yielding causes us to conquer.
Moses, a man of like passions, performed wonders before Pharaoh, won the loyalty of millions, and led an entire nation through desert places to the brink of disaster only to see an uncrossable body of water open up at the tip of his staff.
Yet he didn’t consider himself a gifted speaker or a fit leader. He begged God to choose another. His countrymen were distrustful of him demanding to know who had appointed him their judge. His adopted family hunted his head because of his betrayal. Moses did not appear to be voted most likely to succeed.
Fortunately, success isn’t dependent on the opinion of others or the sum of our capabilities. It’s determined by the direction of our hearts.
Moses had a heart bent with passion for God and compassion for others. He empathized with his enslaved countrymen, inserting himself into their disputes. He defended the mistreated women at the well of Midian, making himself both their rescuer and servant, drawing water for them. And when God showed up in the desert, Moses turned aside from his task at hand to behold and contemplate and respond to the display of God’s presence, a fire that burned without consuming.
And we come to think upon Moses as extraordinary. A man out of our league. Let’s keep our perspective clear. It is GOD that is out of our league! But He condescends. His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth looking to show Himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is toward Him. His eyes roam the world looking for faith. Not for remarkable abilities or enlarged bank accounts. Not for self confidence or introspective souls. He looks to see who looks back. Who turns aside to see, to contemplate, and wonder and adore.
God performs His wonders in all places, but few turn aside to see. His mighty acts are done and it pleases Him to accomplish many of them through common vessels. Ordinary people.
Who are then regarded by other ordinary people as extraordinary, simply because they yielded to an extraordinary God.
If we’re invested in our pursuits because we long to be amazing, our eyes look inward, and our lives become as narrow as our gaze. If we’re invested in pursuing the Amazing One, our eyes look outward and upward, and our lives become as rewarding as our vision.
By Jennifer L Griffith
Rachel looked down into a valley from her sister’s house. Living on a hillside in Zimbabwe, she could see the Tongogara Refuge Camp about a mile away. The Mozambicans sought a safe haven as civil war raged through their own country. But at age eleven, Rachel fought a war of her own. She’d left her father’s home of neglect only to find herself in another. Her older sister promised to take care of her and let her attend school. Instead, Rachel was secluded, hungry, and responsible for keeping the baboons out of their food. The camp had captured Rachel’s curiosity, but her sister forbade her to go because it was for Mozambicans. Not people of her own.
But desperation had a stronger pull than her sister’s restrictions. Rachel snuck out of the house and down the hill, barefooted, wearing nothing but tattered clothes. She hungered not only for food, but for protection. For community and someone to simply care.
Rachel entered the camp and walked through a sea of people. She saw families clinging together, and yearned to be cherished by her own. As people passed around her, she spotted a white man wearing a safari hat walking toward her. Fear rose up inside. She’d never stood close to a white person before, and this man was a “giant.” Rachel tried to run around him. Instead, she ran right into him.
The small girl cowered, expecting he would scold her for such a mishap. On the contrary, he wrapped his arms around her, giving her the first hug of her life. He said something to her, but when he let her go, she ran away, confused by such kindness from another person.
As life with her sister grew progressively worse, Rachel continued to escape to Tongogara. Yet, the giant white man had not returned, though deep inside she hoped he would. By winter, the camp had become more than a safe haven for just the Mozambicans, but also for Rachel and other children from her community. A common desperation led them all to the same place, just from different wars.
- By winter, Rachel saw a white van return to Tongogara. She wondered if the white man who’d hugged her had come back. She ran barefooted back to the camp, shivering in the cold. The man had returned, and she caught his eye again. He approached her, but this time she didn’t run. He offered her a coat and shoes, and poured her a cup of hot tea from a thermos. As steam rose up from the cup, she thought it was magic and wondered if this larger-than-life man was really an angel.
Snuggled warm in her new coat with her feet now protected from the elements, and filled with more hope than ever, Rachel hiked back up the hillside home. But her sister took away her coat and shoes. She accused her of gaining disrespectful favor to receive such gifts. Her sister sent her back to her parents due to her rebellion. Rachel knew that her sister had taken her physical gifts, but could never diminish the touch she’d felt she received from God through the giant white man wearing a safari hat. And little did she know at the time, their spirits would cross again.
When Rachel returned to her parents home, she was thankful to go back to school, even if wearing a uniform held together by multicolored patches. But her father told her she needed to find a husband rather than go to school. She spiraled into rebellion and into the arms of an older man who promised to marry her. Instead, he left her pregnant and in shame, hiding her pregnancy until she gave birth. Her father’s words, “Even if you die, you are not my daughter. I disown you. I don’t want to see you,” sent her into the streets. A year later, her daughter was taken from her by her family. And men, including her father, had proven to be unreliable, unforgiving, and ruthless.
Rachel went to work for the sugar cane industry where God placed someone in her life who lead her to Christ. After sharing her testimony of rising above hardship at a church, a man and his wife offered her a place to live with them in Zimbabwe. They needed help with their growing family. When this offer came more than once in 2000, Rachel moved in with them. As part of their family, she experienced the unconditional love and acceptance she hungered for. Later, she moved with them to Mozambique, and while working on her college degree 2007, she was prompted to check her HIV status. She told herself that she would only shed tears [of joy] if she was “negative.” When she learned that she was “positive,” she turned to Jesus. She changed her degree to Applied Psychology for HIV, and Rachel chose to help others thrive, not drown in self-pity. God then prompted her to share this news with her estranged father in Zimbabwe. He cried and asked for forgiveness. Their relationship then started on the road to healing and restoration, where it remains today.
God’s path eventually lead Rachel to Healing Place Church—Swaziland. She sat under the guidance of then pastor and Children’s Cup director, Ben Rodgers and his wife, Susan. Both mentored Rachel, and encouraged her to enroll and live at the newly completed Global Leadership Academy in 2011. While there, she was given a book written by the co-founder of Children’s Cup, Dave Ohlerking titled, Walk With Me: Through some hard places of the world. As she read of Dave’s mission work at Tongogara, she realized the identity of the man who showed her the agape love when she was just a little girl. The “giant white man wearing a safari hat” was not only the founder of the very organization, which molded her life at GLA, but he was the father of Susan Rodgers. A lady who had nurtured God’s amazing grace in her life in Swaziland.
- Rachel was never able to thank “the giant white man wearing a safari hat” on earth. Dave Ohlerking went to be with Jesus the day after Rachel helped Susan prepare for her parent’s return to Swaziland in October 2010. But she is forever connected to him through the eternal promise of God. Rachel is just one of thousands of lives touched by the giant heart of the man who said, “You can change a child’s life forever.” This is evident in Rachel’s life. She is currently the HIV Counselor for the Children’s Cup Medical Team. Her vibrant spirit now impacts the oppressed and vulnerable children of Swaziland, giving back what was gifted to her over twenty years earlier—Hope, whose name is definitely Jesus!
- Dave & Jean Ohlerking at Tongogara Refuge Camp in Zimbabwe
“Hope’s name is Jesus.”
Dave Ohlerking, founder of Children’s Cup
Serving the oppressed and vulnerable populations of Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe in southern Africa.
I was blessed to have spent several weeks alongside of Rachel during my time in Swaziland. She is rich in spirit and soul, and lives her life to serve. I am honored to call her friend! I look forward to seeing Rachel again… one day!