Tag Archives: encouragement

And Giveth Again…

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My precious Grandma Vicki….

I am proud (in the puff-up-your-chest, walk-a-little-taller, American sense of the word) of some aspects of my heritage. For instance, my maternal great-grandmother’s name was Mamie (rhymes with Jamie) and  played the steel guitar. Yep. Ballin’.

And my paternal grandmother, Vicki Jo, is just as awesome. She lives in a double-wide trailer decorated from floor to ceiling in the most beautiful, south-western fashion. Dried chilis hanging from the front porch. Painted cow skulls hanging in the dining room. Woven Indian blankets on the couch. She taught me how to make cherry pie from scratch, raised six children almost exclusively by herself and every fall the pioneer woman gets herself a doe-tag (hunting license) and shoots a doe elk from her kitchen window.

That being said, the thing that reminds me the most of my Grandma Vicki is southern gospel music. And I’m talking about those oooooold hymns played in that bouncy way, like “There’s Power in the Blood” and the ever great “Victory in Jesus”. Grandma Vicki plays the piano so well; her passion and talent in music has infused itself deeply in our blood, bearing fruit over generations.

Why am I talking about my grandparents? Well, a good number of years ago I decided to explore through some hymnals and I came across this goldmine. I’ve never heard it sung live; as a matter of fact, only recently had I ever heard someone else even sing it. I am always so encouraged by the words, deep life-giving truth. And in honor of my beloved Grandma (who still records Gaither music specials on VHS tape), I’m including both the lyrics and a video for you to be encouraged as well.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

My most favorite hymn. I can hear these words over and over and over again. The faithfulness of our Never-Ending-Generous God is so amazing that I cannot help but cry tears of grateful worship.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

            His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
            His power no boundary known unto men;
            For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
            He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932)

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maranatha: come, O come, Day 14

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“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy… the will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” Isaiah 35.1-6

Yesterday was a gift. The one small day in between two bigger events, I approached with wondering how to best refresh and relax in the time given. And God orchestrated it perfectly. I had friends with my, in my own space, all day long. Music was played, much laughter flowed, even Disney games and cat-naps showed themselves. And the icing on the cake was privilege of having a dear friend over for dinner. Whenever she and I get together, we are both so encouraged. Even though there’s an age gap of more than 20 years between us, life experiences have allowed us to understand the soul-deep struggles and heartaches within one another in a powerful way. One of the many things we discussed last night was the concept of joy. When I was in high school and things were very painful for me most of the time, I began to see how “consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds” could even be possible. As explained in the next verse in James 1, joy means that nothing is wasted. God sees my pain, He knows my pain, and He will make sure that none of it ends up for nothing.

That’s why I love verse 4 of today’s Advent reading. The only way I can be strong when I feel crushed, the only way I can be courageous in the face of gripping fear, my only hope for strength and steadiness is the promise that my God will come. Jesus is with my in my pain, He will be with me on the other side (if there even is one), and, even more gloriously, He is coming back to herald in the day when this will all be over. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly.

Wangki Mairin: God Whispers in Costa Rica

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Not the sunset I refer to in this post, but one from the night before…

Yesterday was a classic, roller-coaster day. I say “roller-coaster”, because in the course of 5 hours, my life managed to turn inside out, upside down and then return back to “right” again, and I say “classic”, because this sort of thing has happened too often than I’d care to remember. Once again, I was blind-sided by a turn of events from someone very close to me, only this time, all my information was gleaned from the internet. I was thousands of miles away from home, and my life was changing faster than I could hope to catch up. Then, all of the sudden, everything was “fine”; it was like nothing ever happened. Again, classic.

As you can imagine, my emotions were a wreck. Like so many times previously, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. It was all just so confusing. So complicated.

As the day comes to an end, Tom and Nutie ask me if I’d like to join them; they want to go to a new beach to celebrate our last night in Costa Rica (we had to leave Nicaragua for 3 days to renew our VISA’s). Anxious for a diversion, I agree and we all pile into the car, off to Playa Coco (Coco Beach). Tom heads for the basketball courts as soon as we arrive and Nutie, eyes on the horizon, says she wants to take a walk along the shore. I find myself a nice spot in the sand and sit down to read. I try a few different books (Kindles are amazing things), but I can’t sink into the storyline. My mind is miles away, stalled in neutral, unable to move past the major road block from that afternoon. “WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED???” Over and over, echoing in my mind. “Father, where do I even start?” Heartbreak so raw, so fresh I’m scared to even touch it. So I just sit. Time passes unnoticed.

I start to stir when I notice the sun is starting to set. “I’m at the beach, after all. Maybe it’s time to get into the water.” And as I step into the waves, God gives me an incredible gift: the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

Earlier that morning it had rained and it stayed cloudy for the rest of the day. Usually the skies clear up after a thunderstorm, but I didn’t think much of it; I had more than enough on my mind that afternoon. But as I walked into the water yesterday evening, I remembered that cloudy afternoons can make for the best sunsets. The show to come confirmed that fact. As I gazed at the awe-inspiring oranges, pink, purples, yellows and blues, my stalled heart was moved, and I couldn’t help but worship. “You are beautiful beyond description. Too marvelous for words… Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.” “I see your face in every sunrise… Oh, You’re beautiful.” “In the quiet, in the stillness I know that You are God. In the secret of Your presence, I know there I am restored. So when You call I won’t delay, this my song through all my days: There is no one else for me. None but Jesus. In the chaos, in confusion I know You’re sovereign still…” “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul, worship His holy name. Sing like never before, oh my soul. Worship His holy name”.

And as I continued to sing 10,000 Reasons, I remembered…

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me; let me be singing when the evening comes”.

I remembered that before my day began, I prayed a prayer that has almost become habit recently:

Father, I have no idea what the plan is for today, but You do. You hold today. Help me to walk with You in it, taking advantage of every opportunity, not giving in to cowardice or fear. Help me to recognize Your lead. Help me to abide in You.”

Whoa. Little did I know how incredibly fitting that prayer was! Mere hours before, I had no idea what lay ahead of me, but here I stood “singing when the evening came”.

All afternoon, as the hurricane rage around me, I prayed for God’s voice, for His clear direction. But He stayed silent. It wasn’t till I was standing in the ocean that I realized: I passed the test. I had surrendered the day into God’s hands, and I clung to Him in the midst of confusion and chaos. In that moment in the water, I felt His pride and pleasure over me. I did well!

Then the intense beauty of the sunset captured me. Such contrast. Whispers of cloud, hot pink from the setting sun, floating in a indigo sky; blue-black waves, kissed with pink in reflection. As the sun sank deeper, the contrast increased; it didn’t even look real. Could anything be this beautiful? And then, softer and more subtle than the ocean breeze, the Holy Spirit whispered this thought into my mind.

This is your life! As your circumstances become more and more difficult, as your surroundings grow increasingly dark, your life will shine all the more brightly for me, catching every ray and aspect of My light. I am a God of redemption. I use the pain and evil of this world, of your life, for my incredible good. This is your life. Watch, and worship. Be encouraged and be at peace.”

My heart was overflowing with love, admiration and speechless praise. Here stood hope. Here was joy painted across the skies in the very moment of my need.

Only in a tropical country can you watch the sun sink below the horizon (it sets so fast!). I scanned the skies, anticipating the incredible show to become muted and dissipate. But, to my great surprise, the contrasting colors grew even more vivid! And through them, I again heard the voice of my God speaking to me…

Take heart, Jessi. Just like I make the sky more beautiful after the sun has set, so I can do with you. Your life, lived in complete surrender and communion with me, can send forth sparkling rays to generations, even after your death. One life lived according to my plan can color the lives of countless in your family. I am a God who makes a heritage. Your life will leave a legacy.”

Nothing I could say, nothing I could think, nothing I could pray or sing could be the proper response to what I had just witnessed and heard. There in the Pacific, thousands of miles away from home, standing alone in the water, God met me in an unmistakable, unforgettable way.