Tag Archives: HOPE

North Vietnam: Under The Cover of Light

Under The Cover of Light was a difficult book for me to read. I mean, Vietnam was my war. Guys from my graduating class of 1969 were signing-up for military service before they finished their senior year!

And yes, I will never forget the funerals that took place in our little town.

Vietnam War POW

Vietnam was up close and personal for me.

Yet as tough a “read” as this story was for me, I am so glad I read this book. There are eternal lessons for all of us in Jerry Curtis’s seven and a half years of horror as a POW in North Vietnam.

The book has lots of military jargon and that really slowed me down, but once I got past all of that, I began to identify with the timeless truths woven throughout this story. The transformation that our prayers bring. The unity forged in the fires of shared suffering.  The inability of anyone or anything to keep us separate from the keeping power of Christ’s love—even in a pit from hell dubbed—Briarpatch.

Jerry Curtis asked all the questions any of us ask when we find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control.

But, in one of his darkest moments a fellow POW reaches out to him and he realizes,

“…the sacrament through the walls led Jerry to understand that wrapped up in any explanation as to why believers might experience horrific circumstances in their lives was OPPORTUNITY—opportunity to fulfill a God-glorifying task, heightened by or as a direct result of the horrific event itself. The tragedy either brought others across a believer’s path who needed to receive God’s light FROM the believer or who needed to see God’s light THROUGH the believer. Then, once engaged, that person perhaps would become a light bearer too.

Jerry realized he had been a conduit for God’s glory to an unknown and unseen prisoner, and an eternal truth surfaced in his mind: the deeper the darkness, the more brilliant the light.”

I am so glad I read this heroic story. We need to be reminded that there are still heroes in this world.

Honestly, the accounts of torture are tough to get through, but the spiritual message from this man’s experience is one we can all grow and benefit from.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.

Under The Cover of Light is available on Amazon or at your other fine book retailers.

A Closer Walk: A Storm That Terrifies

Have you ever been in a severe storm?

Man, I have. It was driving back from the airport in Wichita to Hutchinson, Kansas to stay with friends.

It was my first time in a “tornado watch.”

We left the airport under sunny skies but soon after a storm began to brew. It looked like we were driving into the wrath of God with pitch black skies in the middle of the afternoon. Lightning was hitting the ground all around us and the peals of thunder were so loud I thought the sky was splitting in two!

A storm unleashing its fury can be terrifying.

But what about spiritual storms?

They can be just as terrifying.

motoring through lifeWe can be motoring through life with our destination firmly fixed in our minds and “Wham!” we can find ourselves unexpectedly hurled into a cyclone of  emotional devastation wondering, “Where is God?”

That’s how I remember January 1999. My life turning upside down and inside out with all of my nice neat expectations shattered and in broken pieces all about me—caught in my own Hurricane Andrew.

Remember Andrew? Not only did Andrew erase everything in his path as he swept through central Florida, the tornadoes that spun off the main storm created all kinds of chaos and collateral damage.

That’s what I want to talk about.

Storms that catch us off guard. Storms that flatten and confuse us. Storms that test everything we believe and then leave us asking questions like, “Will I survive this? How will I survive this? Do I even want to survive this? What will I believe afterward even if I do make it through this?

What will survival look like?

I want to take you on my journey through a personal hurricane.

I want you to meet a God who walks in when the rest of the world walks out and marvel at a Savior who treads on the top of our storms.

I hope you will also hear a Holy Voice whisper, with a Voice so quiet that sometimes He must shut out everything else in our lives, so that only His Still Small Voice can be heard.

Okay, so here is where my story begins.

It’s January in the Central Valley of California. The weather is cold, foggy and miserable, which is normal for our winters.

I love my busy life. I have a job I love with people who are depending on me every day. I am tired most of the time but who isn’t in these stress-filled days we live in? When I’m feeling exhausted (which is most of the time) I chug another diet cola, get a new caffeine fix, and motor-on.

Flu is everywhere. It’s the season for flu. So I don’t think it strange when I wake up one morning feeling like I’ve come down with a “bug.” It’s a pain, but a minor inconvenience, not a devastating catastrophe. I curl up on my couch under my favorite quilt and resolve to endure a week of misery. But you know how flu is. As the day wears on I begin to feel worse until it feels like everything in my stomach is about to hurl, so I run for a bathroom. That’s the last thing I remember until I wake up on my bathroom floor lying in a pool of my own blood.

I’m laying there trying to figure out how bad I’m hurt. What happened and why does my face feel like I’ve been kicked by a mule?

I holler for help so a family member can call 911. Minutes later paramedics are putting me in the back of an ambulance and I am on my way to an emergency room at a local hospital.

a storm that terrifiesAfter three days of running tests my doctors come to my room to share their results. Starched white coats with grim faces and official looking clipboards begin to paint me a picture black and bleak.

They tell me of the health issues they believe I am facing.

Their findings were all based on erroneous information but that will only come into the light—later.

My doctors get it all wrong but in the meanwhile…

Me? I’m doing my best to listen and not freak out!

I try to listen hard to what these men are saying, but their “conclusions” don’t fit with the facts that I’m remembering and the evidence on my face.

In addition I am missing the most important thing I need. I don’t have the “inner peace” I depend upon when making life-altering decisions.

These doctors are telling me I need to begin a drug therapy program immediately, but when I ask them about side effects, they freely admit these drugs will cause great harm if they are the “wrong” stuff.

So I tell my doctors, “I have to pray about this.”

They just stare back at me in stunned silence. These men are used to being obeyed without question. They do not take it well when I tell them, “No, I will pray first—then we will talk about what to do.”

They argue with me but I stand my ground. They threaten dire consequences but I stand my ground. They storm out in anger but I am still holding on to my ground!

I want to talk to God FIRST.

In the middle of my storm I reach for the Gideon Bible next to the bed, trying my best not to panic.

Praying  a desperate prayer I say, “God I am in DEEP trouble. I don’t know what to believe. You HAVE to show me what to do—and I mean RIGHT NOW!”

I don’t usually talk to God like that, but when you’re caught in a TERRIFYING storm flowery prayers are the last thing on your mind!

After I prayed I opened the Bible to Isaiah 51 and this is what I read,

a closer walk“I, even I, am He who comforts you… so what right have you to fear mere mortal men, who wither like the grass and disappear? And yet you have no fear of God, your Maker? ~ You have forgotten Him, the One who spread the stars throughout the skies and made the earth. Will you be in constant dread of men’s oppression, and fear their anger all day long? Soon, soon you slaves shall be released; dungeon, starvation, and death ARE NOT YOUR FATE.” [Isaiah 51:12-14 TLB]

I closed the Bible and said, “Okay God, that’s good enough for me.”

 

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Abandoned Faith: Enlightening & Hopeful!

Abandoned FaithWhen you first look, Abandoned Faith is not a book you expect to be brimming with hopeful strategies. Yet that is exactly what this book delivers! It provides lots of facts with correlating interviews and surveys on millennial’s and the many problems they face.

I don’t usually enjoy reading a book filled with lots of statistics. Yet as I read this one, I began to see how all that information could help parents and churches by giving them the “how  to” in developing an effective prayer and action strategy to reach these kids .

  • Abandoned Faith brings hope to parents  and churches who are despairing over what to do about their wayward millennial’s.
  • It encourages them to release all shame for past mistakes, surrendering their millennial’s to a God who is able to bring them back home to the Faith.
  • It invites them to stand on the irrevocable promises found in God’s Word because He loves millennial’s and He will be faithful to them.
  • And finally, it provides creative ideas for reaching out with real and tangible ways to provide help for our millennial’s.

I loved that!

It’s obvious the authors have a deep and abiding love for these young adults. I appreciated their frankness, and at times, bold and brutal honesty. The ways they addressed the failures of parents and the Church head on. Perhaps it is time for some much needed “tough love.” Today’s Church needs more effective ways of reaching out to our millennial adults. Ways that are relevant to their unique needs. I think this book provides a good starting point.

When interviewing Mark Hall, someone McFarland considers a front line expert on millennial’s, he asked Hall if he was optimistic that millennial’s will be the generation to bring revival to America. He responded, “[Christian] millennial’s love God and accept that Jesus is the Son of God. But they are not in love with the church. They will not give as cooperatively through the church budget as they will a particular cause. They are online givers for the most part but will give where they see ‘fruit.’ Can millennial’s bring revival back to America? If we continue to embrace the exclusivity of Christ, maintain authentic relationships, confront pluralism, and preach the gospel, then yes, spiritual renewal will come. Don’t expect a breakout event like the old crusades where sporting venues were packed out. Expect it to look more like the church in the book of Acts.”

The book of Acts? Wow! Now that statement gives me REAL hope!

My thanks to Focus on the Family and Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy and requesting my review. Abandoned Faith is available now on Amazon.

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Here?

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I live in the shadow of a mountain.

(A BIG one.)

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It’s an old volcano ~ semi-active. An ancient reminder that this place? Is a place where volcanic things happen.

My town? Is a very small town. Located in one of the poorest counties in California.

Our unemployment rate hovers around 25% all of the time.

(The percentage of hopelessness is much higher.)

This place? This is a place you want to be from, not a place you want to go to. Most folks just pass it by, while zooming down the interstate.

Most of our young who grow up here? Leave. They go off seeking opportunity somewhere else… because in truth? Why would anybody want to stay here; do anything here? Building on the crumbling ruins of what once was, and now—isn’t? Opportunities, miracles, hope? Highly unlikely you’ll find any here.

So, I have been waiting. Waiting to go. Waiting for another door to open… for a heavenly signpost to point somewhere… anywhere, else.

I wanted to be done with here.

Questions and Answers signpost
Does your dreamer’s heart keep secretly mumbling, “Not here God!”

Imagine my dismay when I heard God say to me,

“I will make all my mountains a way.”

A way? Here? (My heart sank.) Because yes, I was looking over there. To another place. A better place. A place that definitely wasn’t, HERE.

You see, wherever I look here? I do see only mountains. Mountains of deserted empty buildings. Mountains of obstacles and difficulty. Mountains of poverty and lack. Mountains of prejudice… mountains of sad events, with even sadder memories attached to them. I feel surrounded here by big black mountains—of impossible impossibilities.

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So God started sending me messages about mountains reminding me that we are in everything together.

That, wherever I am—He IS.

He keeps reminding me, my mountains, are His mountains. And today God said, “Yep! You got it exactly right,” then affirmed, “You are in the very place where miracles happen.”

“Here?” I said.

“…yep!” He answered.

(My heart sank further.)

This is not what I was hoping to hear. Perhaps it’s not what you want to hear either? Maybe that other “place” you are pining for? Is not God’s place for you either… even though, secretly? You keep hoping that it is.

So I wonder, “Is your place also an impossible place? Is God pointing you to an impossible task, right there, where you are? Are you the highly unlikely one, the no-way one, anyone-in-their-right-mind would choose one?” Is God asking you to accomplish an impossible dream? Does He keep whispering in your ear, “Nothing is impossible with Me?” [Luke 1:37]

(Yeah…me, too.)

So, I decided to remind God… (just in case He forgot) “LORD, this is “the place” my family compares to Lo Debar, remember?”

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For those of you who don’t know, Lo Debar was a small village in the Bible that was a horrible nowhere-place; a castaway-place; a place nobody wanted to be in—ever. Lo Debar means “no pasture” and as such, it is a place of no hope.

(Insert heavier sigh here.)

Okay, so then God reminded me of all those prayers I had prayed for (wait for it!) HERE. Yep. All those prayers that didn’t happen. All those prayers I gave up on… attempted to forget about. (Or, at least, I was trying to!)

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Don’t you just hate it when God reminds you of something you would prefer to forget, because that was then, and this is now?

But, I went to my Bible and read where He pointed me anyway…

God also says:

“When the time’s ripe, I answer you.
    When victory’s due, I help you.
I form you and use you
    to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order,
    to resettle families on the ruined properties.
I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’
    and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’
There’ll be food stands along all the roads,
    picnics on all the hills—
Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty,
    shade from the sun, shelter from the wind,
For the Compassionate One guides them,
    takes them to the best springs.

I’ll make all my mountains into roads,
    turn them into a superhighway…   Isaiah 49:11-12 MSG

Impossible! (I’m thinking) Highly unlikely God. Surely, not HERE Father. Please! (another heavy sigh escapes from my heart)

Then I “stumbled” upon this…

Okay God, so is this the signpost we’ve all been praying for?

(God whispered…”yep.”)

mountains

 

 

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