Still Waiting

by Mary Beth on May 22, 2018

 

In review of

Ann Swindell’s book:

 Still Waiting

Hope for when God doesn’t give you what you want.

 

Ann writes to offer encouragement and hope during times of waiting,

specifically through the story in Scripture of a woman acquainted with bleeding.

After many years of suffering with silent questions due to her ongoing wrestle with bleeding and perhaps pleading for help,

we learn the woman pursues Jesus for a miracle and for hope.

At some point as we grow towards maturity in life and in our faith,

we also learn patience and waiting in a lingering season of struggles and long-suffering.

 

We yearn for change towards healing and restoration.

 As we leave room for the grace of God to sanctify us, long suffering not only challenges our adherence to persevere,

but over time we learn His gentle mercies truly comfort and refine our unique and ordinary lives through the process.

The grace of God is a deeper refinement of the heart,

with purpose to bear fruit in the direction of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

It’s also the love of God working in us for His good pleasure,

through a clear conscience forming godly character,

to press on and stand strong in the faith and love of God-

while living in a culture of instant comfort, rugged individualism, and accepted narcissism.

 

As believers in Christ we live in the already and not yet,

through Christ we’re apart of the kingdom of God yet waiting for Christ to return for His own.

We give glory to God as His image bearers especially in a season of waiting, just as

creation waits and even the angels wait for the sons of God to be revealed.

 

Three points I’ve continued to ponder and relish from Ann’s creative writing:

 

First, when waiting makes you broken, weak, and aims to claim your identity,

this season holds potential to lead us to God and His character of goodness, strength, and sufficiency.

For in our waywardness and weakness, He is strong and ever present with us.

While we wait we’re tempted to believe there’s no action or activity,

but this is where the grace of God carries our faith and very life.

Yes, but how do we learn to wait well? Who wants to linger longer in waiting?

Swindell tells her story of trusting God while she wrestled through years of personal struggles,

with vulnerability, wisdom, and personal cost.

She stands upon Christ and His divine power for everything in life.

 

Second, our desire to be “normal” circles back to a search for identity. We are each uniquely and wonderfully made,

for love, value, acceptance, and approval in Christ. However our minds understand this fact,

our hearts easily yearn to falsely gain what is already made secure as image bearers and children of God.

If God is with us in our everyday struggles in being human, let us rest in His compassion and everlasting love.

Finally, the lingering whys surface during long suffering.

Why does God not answer our prayers as we hoped, either to heal us or remove the painful circumstances?

Ann offers through her journey, clarifying questions to probe deeper into our hearts during unanswered prayers:

What road will we take, one of offense or obedience?

Will we allow ourselves the freedom from shame and the freedom to accept pain?

Ann writes, “Yes, I got hurt and frustrated and angry about what He wouldn’t do for me.

And yet I always came back to this: God is God, and he loves me and cares for me.

Why wouldn’t He heal me, I didn’t pretend to know. But where else would I go (John 6:68)?

He is the Word of Life.”

Enjoy Still Waiting

as Ann inspires us to consider the love of God, to love one another in biblical community,

and to apply the wisdom and hope in Christ during our secret battles and sufferings.

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In Your Midst

by Mary Beth on May 1, 2018

Mighty Right Hand

is dedicated to my cherished mother,

Shirley Marie.

Although Shirley Marie lived an ordinary life,

 she shined an authentic, godly witness

to the sincere love, compassion and mercy of Jesus.

She loved justice and mercy, while walking humbly with God.

A persevering saint,

with a strong faith in our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Shirley Marie was a novice writer,

eager to grow and wrestle in the gift of creativity writing.

It is in this very remembrance,

I delight to honor her and to some degree,

continue to affirm our mutual calling and bond as writers.

Through many trials she endured to the glory of God,

running her race as a faithful servant and steadfast prayer warrior,

who echoed a rare and fond intimacy with our great God.

Often I knew God was in her midst.

The word midst, means in the middle.

God is right in the midst or middle of our ordinary, daily lives.

 

Gifted author, Henri Nouwen,

affirms her experience:

“Prayer is not a pious decoration of life,

but the breadth of human existence.”

 

 I cherished any opportunity for hot tea with her,

especially quieter hours of the late evening.

All alone, we would giggle and discuss our answered prayers,

the reality of heaven, or our love of Scripture and books;

and of course our family affairs.

It’s no surpass to those who knew Shirley Marie,

she was born on Valentines Day.

How fitting for a woman of such depth,

tender love, wise insight, and godly passions.

Yet, at the age of only forty-nine,

the world was not worthy of her anymore.

She is with Christ, truly savoring His presence;

awaiting the right time for our reunion.

I miss her deeply,

and long for the glorious day when

we’ll reunite in pure joy, peace and celebration.

*

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.    

Jn. 12:24

*

As a poet and writer,

I penned this poem in remembrance;

a healing balm on a cold and long winter morning.

And of course, a hot cup of lady grey tea was a must.

*

Mother of Pearl

Many years past

Life welcomed you into heaven.

 A raging tremor to us;

Full of questions, struggles and shock then.

Yet life this side of glory

Is dry thirsty land.

Filled with longing, often waiting, seeking-

The touch of Abba’s hand.

A walk of faith in

His tender embrace:

Faithful, true, and abounding in steadfast love.

Yet you dear sister, see face to face.

With tender eyes I now understand

Trials you suffered with pain.

You know fully and are fully known,

All glory to Jesus name.

Your pure heart and presence I miss immensely:

In our home, with tea or daily disciplines.

Yet, somehow I feel you with me,

As one who cannot explain the wind.

Countless and faithful years it was evident

You prayed as a warrior.

In weakness and frailty, yet confident

In the strength of our Savior.

Among the “great cloud of witnesses”

I trust you see and celebrate

Each tear, thought and desire perceived.

His will of love so great.

Yet deep calls to deep, why Lazarus?

Abba’s love for you echoes and rings.

Trust and courage may cover our voyage,

Together we’re under His merciful wings.

All joy at the grand wedding.

Anticipating a dance with you,

In the fragrance of Christ.

We’ll sip tea together again,

Covered as morning dew.  ~mba

The Bible was written in tears, and to tears it yields its best treasures. A.W. Tozer

*

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.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.   Heb. 12: 1,2, Ps. 15.

 

“We are compassed about by a great cloud of witnesses, whose hearts throb in sympathy with every effort and struggle, and who thrill with the joy at every success. How should this thought check and rebuke every worldly feeling and unworthy purpose, and enshrine us, in the midst of a forgetful and nonspiritual world, with an atmosphere of heavenly peace! They have overcome-have risen-are crowned, glorified; but still they remain to us, our assistants, our comforters, and in every hour of darkness their voice speaks to us: “So we grieved, so we struggled, so we fainted, so we doubted; but we have overcome, we have obtained, we have seen, we have found, -and in our victory behold the certainty of thy own.” H.B. Stowe

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Ambition in the Great Commission

by Mary Beth on April 16, 2018

“I’m not interested in being perfect when I’m older.

I’m interested in having a narrative that’s really the most beautiful thing about women.” Jodie Foster

It is beautiful and inspiring to read many online narratives and trends attributing to professional women empowering women. We hold a great measure of ambition towards vision, motivation, and creativity in various seasons of life. We see an abundance of healthy female leaders who thrive at home and in the marketplace with business, education, nonprofits, creative arts, and the rising professions in technology.

Stephanie, our niece, is a catalyst of significant and gentle support with women involved in modern-day slavery, an evil bondage of commercial sexual exploitation in sex trafficking. Stephanie’s conviction and influence with women in challenging and complex situations, provides an opportunity for her spiritual gifts of mercy and wise counsel to offer strength, direction, and hope for a better life. As a young mom, she encouraged colleagues and friends to open their homes to sell jewelry created by rescued women as they pursue a sustaining career and healthy lifestyle. Stephanie beautifully illustrates Mary D. Poole’s quote, “Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.”

 

Lets consider the implications of ambition. For ambition is described as an eager or strong desire to achieve or succeed. Yet, as a biblical believer following Christ, we are called to look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. We all wrestle with the temptation to an allegiance of self-seeking ends. Selfishness in principle holds a desire for self in reputation, prestige or wealth by usury. In our fallen humanity, the natural bent is to go our own way outside the counsel of God, giving weight to a rugged individualism, narcissistic entitlement, and a “just do it” mentality for a successful life. This is a strong but old spell of worldliness from the Garden of Eden.

 

Ambition can be positive as we work out our faith. Although we rely on God’s strength and direction, faith without works is dead. It does take a certain level of ambition to proactively do what God calls us to do. It’s simply good to acknowledge where we wrestle with desire, especially if it aligns within a distorted principle of ambition to gain the world and lose our soul. A valuable question to ponder, are we seeking love, value, acceptance, and approval from the results of our ambition? By grace, we aim as diverse and godly women to walk worthy of the kingdom of God in our callings, practice of spiritual gifts, and life careers in community.

For our ordinary lives, ministry and careers must pour out of our identity in Christ.

Women are ambitious communicators entrusted with God-given spiritual gifts and competent skills in the workforce at home, local communities, and ministry endeavors each according to the measure of faith that God assigns. With distinctive stories and callings, women influence as writers, mommy bloggers, in financial giving, mercy, hospitality and teaching gifts, all gifted to lead and fulfill the Great Commission. The depth of beauty and fulfillment in our ambitious callings are endless in skills, talents, and education, however, to pursue fruitfulness at the cost of faithfulness is neither wise nor biblical.

Within biblical community, we learn to care, to listen, and to serve one another according to the Word of God. We know the Word of God is vital and active, trustworthy, sufficient, and able to anchor a soul in the promises of God. We glorify God in the limitless study His Word and accept it’s powerful affect in and through us, to empower steps of faith, to mature in our spiritual gifts, and discern open doors of substantial needs, which reside in life. Faithfulness leads into a sense of fulfillment and fruitfulness as we grow up into Christ.

As women, we know first hand how the gift of encouragement or mercy can influence our soul with a genuine smile, hug, or word of praise. So valued when we encounter circumstances that hold a season of trials or suffering in our own families, or with friends and neighbors. The needs are weighty, may God give us the grace to be bold in our prayers and humble to fan into flame the gift of God entrusted to us. Offer your gift on the waters, knowing He will multiply beyond all that we ask or imagine. When we love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we cannot help but to impact others for the gospel of Christ.

Phoebe is not only cited but also commended by Paul in the book of Romans. Paul considers Phoebe as a sister in Christ and as an honorable female serving the church, in addition to her astute business and estate. She was faithful and fruitful in hospitality, charity, and a willing servant in welcoming strangers into biblical community. Her life speaks a generosity and balance of work and ministry, worthy of respect. Phoebe looked not only to her own interests, but also to the interests of others. Paul engaged many to assist Phoebe in her humble and influential work of ministry. Her humility and encouragement in Christ, the comfort from His love, and her participation in the Spirit, offers the affection and sympathy Paul urges from Philippians 2. This encourages us all to complete joy being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Throughout the years, I’m thankful for the many rich memories serving side by side with other women in community to influence, comfort, and to be ambassadors with the love of God made more visible. May God in His mercy help us for such a time as this, to be women of pure heart, sincere faith, and a clear conscience as we hope for impact within our local communities, and globally for His glory.

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