Archive | March 2011

My Prayer Today

Lord, my heart is heavy right now for so many people.  When the situation seems so bad, and there is nothing I can do to help, all I can do is pray, and so that is what I am doing right now—lifting their burdens to You and pleading for Your intervention in these crises.  Lord, You know all about them, and have allowed these tragedies for some good purpose.  You want to work in their lives and draw them closer to Thee because You love them, but it is hard for us humans to watch them suffering.  Help us all to simply trust You to work all things out for the good.  Help us to cast all our cares upon You for we know You care for us and love us.  Help me to show these dear ones how much I care and to encourage and support them.  Please, Lord, give them comfort and peace, wisdom and strength and even joy in the midst of suffering as they feel Your loving arms around them.  Please supply the needs they have—physical, emotional, spiritual and financial.  Thank You for some answers to these prayers we have already seen.

We know we can bring these things to you, Father, because You have the power and authority to overcome all of earth’s trials and tribulation.  We worship You and love You and trust You because of Your omnipotence and Your everlasting love for us, Your children.  Thank You for walking with us through these trials, for carrying us when the way is too hard, and for never, ever leaving or forsaking us.  Thank You for Your faithfulness to us, even when we fail to be faithful to You. 

Please, Lord, heal our broken hearts.  We thank You and praise You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Call in the Night

A few hours ago we received a phone call—the dreaded call in the night or the early morning hours that wakes us up out of sleep and heralds an emergency and need for prayer.  This time it was not about one of our own close family members, but about the beloved brother of our niece Nicole.  Nicole is married to my nephew Brian and he could never have chosen a sweeter, more loving girl for a wife.  We all love her, and when she is hurting, we all ache with her.  Her brother Ryan was in a terrible car accident last night and my sister called to ask us to pray.  We don’t know much at this time—only that it does not look good.  He had critical injuries to the head and chest and was air-lifted to a hospital in Chicago.  Most urgent to Nicole was that she did not know if her brother was saved and she wanted us to pray that somehow he might get another chance to accept Christ as his Savior.  I stayed awake a long time when Cheree called, praying for Ryan, Nicole and their family, and the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning was to start praying again.  We are anxiously awaiting word on Ryan’s condition now.

Less than two weeks ago I woke up in the night to find an e-mail from a missionary in Japan asking us to pray.  A terrible earthquake had just struck that country less than an hour before, followed by tsunamis.  At the time he wrote neither he nor I had any idea as to the scope of the disasters, but when I received it in the middle of the night I began to pray.  As time passed and events have unfolded, of course, we have seen the awful devastation left in their wake and that continues to build leaving the people of Japan reeling.  It is hard to imagine trying to live through the horrific circumstances many hundreds of thousands of people now find themselves in—homeless, cold, hungry, thirsty, separated from loved ones, grieving…  Even many of those less affected are suffering shortages and uncertainty.  Events the last couple days in other parts of the world have shifted some of the focus away from Japan, but I continue to pray.

The missionary, in one of his updates since then, shared the testimony of Pastor Sato whose own church is less than five miles from the nuclear plant that is in such trouble.  Before their own evacuation happened, he and his wife had gathered all the relief supplies they could find and set out to help a group gathered at a church in Aizu.  What he wrote is moving, to say the least, as we read it and wonder how we would respond in the midst of such tribulation.  I’d like to share it with you:  

“About one-third of the 60 church members came from near the nuclear power plant, the radioactivity contamination testing not yet done they then joined us in the afternoon. At that time when we immediately started with a worship service, I began to hear their sobbing voices and I realized just how much each had passed through upon arriving here. In the evening we went to a nearby hot springs and shared the joy of bathing for the first time in five days. We were deeply touched by the kindness of the Aizu Church. One by one, trembling with emotion, I saw them call out and embracing each other saying “You alive!” and the flow of tears fell to flowing again.

And all that to realize, they have just started a Gypsy like wanderings, no longer having a home, and I ask these who left with just the clothes on their backs, “Do you need to launder anything?” and when they answer “We have NOTHING to wash.” I cannot find the words to respond to them. When I ask, I find that some of them have had nothing to drink or eat for 3 days; others had spent those days numb with cold. This drifting lifestyle has just started with the pressing need to secure gasoline and a place to stay. This large family of 60 people trying to live together, and making matters worse this is a nationwide emergency in which it is hard to make decisions, so we have decided to head north preparing to establish ourselves, anticipating a protracted situation. Perhaps as a result of exhaustion, there are those who have received I.V. in the hospitals, both the old and the small children, even as God’s people after the exodus, it looks like we will be traveling in the “wilderness”. Will we ever be able to return to that town? Will it become ruins? Will we be able to return in 2 or 3 months? When will we again be able to open our front doors to the church and our homes? All seems to be adrift; in the midst of feeling our way we unite our strength guided by the pillar of fire and cloud, no other option but to wander.”

My heart breaks for these people…and still for the people of Haiti…and for all those suffering devastation and despair as the result of natural disasters, war, famine, and all that this old, sick world throws at them.  Ever since the Garden of Eden man has suffered the consequences of sin.  It won’t get any better.  In fact, it will get far worse before the end.  And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.” (Mark 13:7, 8)  Jesus told his disciples (and us) then to watch and pray.  He went on to say, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”  (Mark 13:32, 33)

The call to prayer often comes in the middle of the night.  How many times have I woken with the feeling that there was someone in particular for whom I needed to pray?  Perhaps those are the most valuable times to pray of all.  I am not distracted by other things or people—it is just me and God. 

Do you remember the night before His crucifixion when Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray while He went further into the garden to speak with His Father?  They fell asleep instead.  “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Matthew 26:40, 41)

Jesus tells us to pray fervently, with perseverance.  “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.  (Ephesians 6:18)  “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)  The word “watch” implies standing guard.   The Amplified Bible says it like this, “Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving.”

I think often about the privilege it is to pray—to bring our requests and praise and thanksgiving personally to the God of all creation.  How wonderful it is that we do not need a go-between to approach His throne!  He invites us as His children to come to Him.  It is not only our privilege, however—something we can take or leave, foolish as that may be—it is our responsibility.  We should be praying for our own spiritual needs and God’s working in our lives.  We are to pray for one another—our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We are to pray for the lost and for those who are hurting.  We are to pray for the work of the Lord. 

There is not much I can do to help those victims in Japan or Haiti.  I cannot be up at the hospital in Chicago even to comfort Nicole or help her brother—but I can pray.  James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [or woman] availeth much.”  God hears those prayers and answers when we faithfully stand guard, even in the night watches, and pray.

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.  (I Peter 4:7)

Cinnamon Toast, a Cup of Tea and Little Pearls of Wisdom

Heaven welcomed a beautiful woman this week and a true prayer warrior in the spiritual battles of earth.  Wanda Mae Frink went home to be with the Lord after 91 years of loving and serving Him.  She will be sorely missed by her family and all those who loved her.  Her intercession for all of us on her prayer lists will be missed as well.  I know she faithfully prayed for Bob and me and our children for decades, even after moving a thousand miles away.

 I can only imagine the reunions that took place on Heaven’s shores this week!  Mrs. Frink had so longed for Heaven for many years.  Her husband, Pastor James Frink, passed away almost thirty-four years ago. Two daughters, Carol and Ruth, were waiting for her there, also, as well as two beloved grandchildren, Debbie and Eric, brothers and parents.  I could not be sad to see her slip away for I know her greatest joy of all was to see Jesus Himself! 

 The reunions here on earth this week were sweet as well.  The family brought her back here to Hessville Baptist Church for the funeral and to be buried next to her husband.  She had five children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  To see them all gathered together, along with many from the church who loved and revered her, to honor her was sweet and nostalgic for me, for I was close to the Frink family in my youth and even on into my adult years.  It was a blessing to reconnect with them, most of whom I had not seen for some years.   The love they showed me, even from the younger generation, when I was there to support them made me feel special and honored.  How like their mother and grandmother to reach out and love others before self!

 Mrs. Frink was my pastor’s wife for almost twenty-five years.  Her youngest daughter, Ruthie, was my best childhood friend from the time she was five and I was six until she passed away two years ago.  I spent many a Sunday afternoon, many a Friday night and Saturday having sleepovers with Ruth.  Older brother Jimmy and his friends teased and tormented us.  Big sisters Mary and Betty pretty much ignored us (until we all grew up and became dear friends as well.)  Pastor Frink would give us nickels and dimes to go to the candy store.  And Mrs. Frink in her sweet, gentle ways welcomed me always and made me feel like one of her children.

 The kitchen in the parsonage was tiny and crowded when more than two people tried to work, but it was there that I remember Mrs. Frink standing at the sink washing dishes while Ruthie and I dried as she would talk to us and try to teach us good things about the Lord and His Word.  Ruth liked to tease her mom and I can still hear her soft, little laugh—often laughing at herself.

Mrs. Frink was like that.  She was quiet and soft-spoken; never, ever pushy or drawing attention to herself.  To this day, whenever I read I Peter 3:3, 4 I think of Mrs. Frink, for she exemplified it in her life.  “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”  When I think of a gentle woman, I think of Mrs. Frink, and I often wished as a young pastor’s wife that I had more of her soft-spoken, gentle ways about me.

The last little pearl of wisdom she passed on to me I will remember always.  Bob and I were just starting out on deputation to raise our support as home missionaries and Mrs. Frink stopped me one morning after church.  “Cindy, I will be praying for you!” she said.  (I knew she would!) “As you go into the ministry never be afraid to open your home to others.  Even if you have no money and can’t afford to offer them more than a cup of tea and cinnamon toast, it is the fellowship that counts, not your home or the meal.  They want and need your fellowship.”  It was a simple bit of advice, but I have always kept it tucked away and been encouraged to be hospitable regardless of our circumstances.

Mrs. Frink was influential in many lives, although perhaps she would be the last to say so.  One friend told me, “I always thought of her as my spiritual mother for she was the one who led me to the Lord.”  Many others said, “I always knew she was praying for me.”  She was the example of the sweet, submissive, supportive pastor’s wife that I wanted to be.  Even after I grew up, I and almost everyone I knew called her “Mrs. Frink” rather than Wanda, which in some ways might seem strange since there is no one else that I still address that way.  She certainly was never stuffy or proud or unapproachable.  I think, perhaps, it is because of the respect, even reverence, we’ve all always had for her.  

I think often of the influence we have on the lives of others.  Rest assured—our lives do cast a shadow of influence all around us and touch every life with whom we come in contact, either for good or bad.  I am sure among the reunions Mrs. Frink is enjoying in Heaven today, there is a long line of people who are standing in line to tell her how she influenced them for the Lord and to thank her for her life’s testimony.

The Apostle Paul recognized the influence women can have for the Lord on others.  He said in his letter to Titus, “The aged women likewise [be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience – vs 2],   that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”  (Titus 2:3-5)  He reminded Timothy of the godly influence of his mother and grandmother when he wrote, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (II Timothy 1:5) 

Paul exhorts us all—men and women—to “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”  (I Corinthians 11:1)  Actually, the New American Standard Bible uses the word “imitator.”  He was following Christ, being an imitator of Christ, and he prayed his influence would cause others to follow and be imitators of Christ as well.  He said in Philippians 3:17 and 4:9, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example…Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (NLT)  As Christ influenced and set the example for him, he wanted his fellow believers to be influenced by his example.  We then, in turn, are to go on and influence others.

It is a blessing when we hear before our funeral service, how our life or our example has influenced someone’s life for the Lord.  Several people came up to Bob at the funeral home, and again later at the church the next day to me, to say how his life and testimony had made a difference in their lives or touched them somehow.  I know he felt humbled and grateful to hear those heartfelt words.  I am sure many people over the years said similar things to Mrs. Frink. 

This morning, as I have cinnamon toast for breakfast in honor of Mrs. Frink, I am reminded to be sure to take the time and effort to tell the people who have influenced me for the Lord how much I appreciate and love them for their care for me, for their wisdom or their godly example.  I am reminded, as well, that every day there are people all around me who hear the words of my mouth, see my actions and are watching my life.  Do they see me imitating Christ?  Are they encouraged to follow Him because of what they see in me? Are have I been a bad influence?  May I leave a legacy behind that will have people lining up at my funeral and on Heaven’s shores itself to say, “She touched my life for Jesus!”

Standing on the Promises

It seems to never fail.  Whenever we have a week of special joy and blessing and we are walking on the mountaintops, the very next week we are embroiled once again in spiritual battles that would rob us of our joy and cast us down into the deeps once again.  Last week we were rejoicing in the birth of a new little granddaughter.  This week we are fighting discouragement and hurting for different ones in our family.

Today is Julie’s birthday and that in itself is a cause for joy.  Julie’s name means “youthful spirit” and we couldn’t have named her more appropriately.  She was a giggler as a little girl, and even now as a wife and mother and thirty-seven year old woman, laughter and fun and just the sheer joy of living come easily to her.  She loves to play games with her children.  She still has a sense of adventure and is ready and willing to take on a challenge.  Julie finds a childlike joy in the little, simple things in life and in God’s creation.  She is mature and a beautiful example of godly womanliness, but when it comes to entertaining her children (and her mom!) she is not too mature to resort to silliness and occasional song and dance! 

Julie and her husband David are two of the finest, most godly people I know.  They walk by faith and strive always to keep the Lord first in their lives and family.  To see them discouraged this week is unusual.  They have been on the journey to adoption for three and a half years now and, although they have finally been approved in El Salvador to adopt up to three children, things have seemingly come to a screeching halt once again.  They are waiting to be matched with a sibling group, or even a single child, out of the thousands of orphans languishing in orphanages in that country, but it has been months since they have heard a word, and even their adoption agency seems to have dropped the ball.  They are wondering—will it ever happen that they will finally bring home the children they are so willing and ready to make a part of their family?

Anyone who has tried to adopt internationally knows what a long, arduous, emotionally (not to mention financially) draining uphill road it is.   Julie and David understand God has a plan and a timetable for His will, and they are perfectly willing to wait for that time if that is His will—if they only knew that eventually it would happen.  So far it has not seemed as though God has closed the door on the adoption, but if that is His plan they, in their humanness, wish that He would close it sooner than later so that they could move on.  They feel like the family has been on hold for the last few years, and now the three children they already have are growing up.  Family dynamics are changing as it would relate to bringing in new siblings.  Their hearts and their minds have not changed in longing to adopt, and they would joyously wait, but this week at least, the uncertainty is getting to them.

Laurie and Fernando are going through similar battles in a different vein.  Satan would love to destroy the work they are doing for the Lord in Ecuador, and lately the slings and arrows have been especially hurtful.  It has always been a constant struggle there, but when some of the worst things the devil bombards them with are betrayal and unjust attacks by those who are supposed to be Christian brothers and sisters, it is especially difficult to not be heartbroken and discouraged.  Those who are trying their hardest to serve the Lord and who are bearing fruit for the Lord wear the largest targets on their backs for Satan’s attacks.  The road for those servants of God is often the most difficult, filled with trials and sorrow.  God uses those things to refine them into gold and to help them to grow, but it is not easy or fun to go through.

They, too, are struggling with uncertainty—not knowing how the Lord is working or if He is changing their path or ministry.  They are due to come home in June for a short furlough and deputation, but are unsure how long it will actually be.  There are decisions that must be made about their house and belongings—should they leave it all as is, in the hope that they will be able to return in less than six months, or give up the house and put things in storage in case it stretches out to be longer than that?  The uncertainty on top of the hurts lately has them crying out to the Lord for strength and hope and joy.

When my children are hurting, I hurt as well.  All week I have been trying to encourage them (and myself) with the promises of God.  It has been a blessing to me to have so many of His promises in Scripture come flooding back to my mind, and to see in His Word the examples He has given to us of great men and women of God who were discouraged and how God uplifted and strengthened them.  Jesus Christ Himself, of course, who was unjustly accused and persecuted and ultimately crucified.  The apostle Paul who has a whole laundry list of things he suffered for the name of Christ in II Corinthians 11.  Elijah who was so discouraged he sat down under a juniper tree and told God He might as well kill him.  Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah who pleaded with the Lord for years for a child before He finally gave them their heart’s desire.  David who was pursued and persecuted by Saul and other enemies.  Daniel and Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego who stood up for God and were unjustly punished because of it.   Joseph who spent years in slavery and prison in spite of being a righteous man.  Job who lost it all because he feared God and walked with Him.

Two of His promises that echoed through my mind all week long were Jeremiah 29:11“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” and Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  What a blessing to be reminded that God is not at all uncertain of our future!  He has a plan for us and it is good!

God’s promises are true and sure.  He cannot lie.  He is faithful to keep His word.  “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (II Corinthians 1:20)  Some other promises in which I found comfort and encouragement this week are:

Deuteronomy 31:8“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Psalm 32:8“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

James 1:5“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Matthew 11:28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24 -“Faithful is he who calls you, and he also will bring it to pass.” 

Romans 8:37-39 – “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

My husband used to like to quote Oswald Chambers when he preached.  One of his favorite quotes came from this passage in My Utmost for His Highest:

“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says – ‘Well, supposing I were in that condition . . .’ We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, ‘Except ye become as little children.’ Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

‘Believe also in Me,’ said Jesus, not – ‘Believe certain things about Me.’ Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.”

“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.”  The nature of the spiritual life is to walk by faith.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.  Do I trust Him?  Can I trust Him?  Of course, I can.  I can stand firmly on all the promises of God.  Promises for good.  Promises of love.  Promises to comfort, lead, protect, provide, strengthen, and never forsake me.  Promises that are rock-solid honest and true and that will never fail. 

Praise God — I am standing on the Rock of Ages today and all His precious promises!