Archive | January 2016

Wings

I’ll be taking off again into the wild blue yonder this Friday, winging my way once more to Ecuador. I am very excited to go—although less than excited about the journey itself.  This will be my fifth trip to Ecuador.  I love each opportunity I have to visit Laurie and Fernando and my seven beautiful grandchildren, and I am so grateful to the Lord and to my husband Bob for making it possible.  If only I could skip the flying part…Copa-Airlines-Flying-To-Belize-City-Chaa-Creek

I know—I’m an ungrateful wretch! Thank the Lord for modern jets that make it possible to leave home in the morning and be in South America in time for supper!  A hundred years ago when a missionary left home, it could be many years, it could be never, that his family saw him again.  Maybe in another hundred years, should the Lord tarry, we’ll be able to climb into a molecular transporter of some sort (think Star Trek) and arrive at our destination in a matter of minutes! Beam me up, Scotty!

Until then—even a one day trip wears me out! It’s all the preparation and getting to the airport; going through check-in and security; getting to the correct gate and waiting around for hours (all alone usually); catching a connecting flight (hopefully); finally arriving—and hoping your baggage did, too!  I guess it’s a little like having a baby—there’s a lot of pain and suffering that goes into it (on a much smaller scale, of course!), but in the end, the reward is wonderful!

The actual flying part doesn’t bother me at all. By the time I finally sink into that seat—aah!  At last, I can just sit back and relax!  I am not a nervous flier, and although the novelty has somewhat worn off, I still find flying way up there above the clouds rather enjoyable.

I’ve always enjoyed looking out the window as I fly. The most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen was while flying over Cuba.  Seeing the Rocky Mountains from above is a totally different perspective of one of my favorite parts of the country.  Looking down on the great American desert was a new experience for me, and I love having a sea gull’s view of the ocean as I fly from L.A. to Santa Barbara.  There’s just one thing—the best views come when you sit in front of the wings.  Over it, you get nothing; behind it, some of the view may still be blocked.

I was thinking about this the other day and wondering what kind of seats I will get on my upcoming flights. I am flying Copa Airlines this time, and I do not get my seat assignment until I check in.  Will I sit in front of the wing, over it, behind it?  Bummer—I like to choose for myself ahead of time!

And then the Lord brought something to my mind—the best seat of all is under His wing! 

wings6The Psalmist talks about being under the shelter, the shadow of the wings of the Lord. As I looked at several verses in the book of Psalms I saw three aspects to being sheltered under His wing.

First, we see that the shadow of His wing is a place of faith and trust.  Psalm 91:4a says, “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust…”   It is a refuge of protection. “…my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge…” (Psalm 57:1) Just as a mother hen gathers her chicks in the time of storm or danger from predators, God shelters and protects His children so that they need not fear when they put their trust in Him.

The shadow of His wing is also a place of joy and contentment. Psalm 63:7 says, “Because you are my wings7help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” When there is no fear or worry, we can experience the peace, joy, and hope that only our Heavenly Father can give.

Psalm 17:8 says, “Keep me as the apple of thy eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings…” In His sheltering wings is love. I think of a loving mother tenderly cradling her child; a father enveloping his child in a big, warm hug.   Our good, loving Heavenly Father cradles us with His loving kindness, His watchcare, and His tender mercies. “Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.” (Psalm 25:6)

When I step on that plane Friday morning, regardless of where I am sitting, I want to feel safe. I want to be able to just relax.  And I know I will be thinking of the reward at the end of my journey—seeing my loved ones again!  In this journey of life, the best place to be is in the shadow of His wing.  It is a place of faith and trust, joy, contentment, peace and love!  What a way to fly!

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W.A.I.T.

fotos con esteban 2 063My daughter Laura, her husband Fernando, and their seven children are missionaries in Ecuador. They live in a modern city—Cuenca—in the Andes Mountains. Well, let me qualify that—there are parts of the city that are modern, and other parts that date back to (Spanish) colonial days and earlier. The most contemporary architecture you could ever hope to see often sits next to buildings that date back one hundred and fifty to two hundred years or more. Huge, expensive homes are often adjacent to poor Indian shacks. Many of the streets are still cobblestone. And much of the infrastructure (sewers and the like) is just old. It is common for the water to be turned off for hours at a time in different neighborhoods just so that the hydroelectric plant above them in the mountains can keep up with the demand. Building materials, even on the newer buildings, are often shoddy. As beautiful as Cuenca is (and I love it), it sometimes feels as though one iscuenca-ecuador-6 stepping back in time at least fifty years.

Laurie and Fernando have had more than their share of house problems. Most of the time they are plumbing issues—broken pipes inside concrete walls and floors, faulty pressure regulators, broken sewer lines, chronically backed up toilets and showers—or leaky roofs, water coming in under the doors, etc. All that moisture means that in nearly every house they have lived in, they have fought a losing battle with mold, to the detriment of their health. They are being driven from their home once again.

This will be their third move in three years. Trust me, trying to find a house for a family their size that they can afford, that is in decent shape and will meet their needs (a study for Fernando who is a pastor, room to homeschool the kids, etc.), that is in a safe area of town, that does not already have a mold problem—is not easy. It took them almost nine months the last time. They have been looking since September this time when the sewage lines broke somewhere under their house and mold once again starting to grow right through the floors–and not to mention the stench—made them realize they could not stay. The city could not find the problem, plumbers were no help, the builder had no idea what to do without ripping through the concrete floors to try to find the source and Laurie and Fernando felt they just could not live through it again with all their children exposed to that. They started packing even though they had no idea where or when they would be going. Laura told me, “We feel like Abraham and Sarah—the camels are loaded, the tent stakes have been pulled up—now show us where to go, Lord!”

Many people have been praying with them concerning their housing needs. Fernando and Laurie knew they just had to get their family out of there (Fernando, Matthew, Melissa and Katie have all been sick for many weeks and Sara and Gabi have been affected by the mold, too.) They were sitting among boxes stacked all over, but still they waited for some direction from the Lord. We pleaded with Him, but when it seemed to some He was silent and no answer came, His answer came through loud and clear—WAIT!

It is difficult sometimes to wait—especially when you see your children getting sick. It is tempting to run ahead, or force open a closed door. Pressure mounts from others who are trying to help, or who have their opinions. Weeks pass, and then months, and still the Lord seems to say “wait”—but for how long? Waiting means resting in the Lord, but when we are restless to get this show on the road, it is sometimes hard to just relax, let go and trust. But that is what the Naranjos (and we) have had to do—simply wait on the Lord.Naranjo house

And this week they found a house—the house the Lord has been preparing for them all along!

We are truly rejoicing over the answer to our prayers—far and above what we even dared hope for! It is a brand new house at a price they can afford with an abundance of space for them all (including Fernando’s study and homeschool area) and many pluses—a playroom for the little ones, plenty of storage, outdoor space, a nice, quiet neighborhood set higher above with gorgeous mountain views… When one of their cousins mansionheard about the new house, he said, “Oh, so they’re getting a mansion over a hilltop!” Hardly—but they do feel extremely blessed to have found this new earthly home in which to lay their heads.

What does it truly mean to wait on the Lord? I have used the letters of the word WAIT to give us a simple outline.

W – Will of God. Waiting on God means that we are willing to accept His will above our own. It is tempting sometimes to try to force open closed doors, or to do things that to us seem logical and right but may be what God knows is not the best thing for us. Submission to His will means being content with what He chooses for us rather than insisting on our own way and desires. We know we can trust His choices for us because of who He is—our Father who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3); our Rock in whom is our security (Psalm 62:1, 2); the God of all wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). He is holy, just, good, merciful, gracious, omnipotent, omniscient—in short, everything we need in whom to put our trust. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

A – Anticipation. Waiting on God calls for eager, confident expectation, believing that He has something good planned for us! “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.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God’s will is always worth waiting for! Waiting on Him is the definition of hope—a hope that has a firm foundation. “And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.” (Psalm 39:7) Just as we know the sun rises in the east each morning, we can wait on Him, resting in our confident hope in Him. Psalm 130:5, 6 says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth waitwait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.”

I – Instruction. Waiting on God requires us to seek guidance in His Word and prayer, and at times through godly counsel. While we pause, waiting on Him, we need to be still and listen to Him speak to us through the Scriptures. Often times the answer is right there. Sometimes He uses a message, or the advice or counsel of other believers to help direct us, but that counsel must always be in line with God’s Word. Lamentations 3:21-25 says that He is good to those who wait on Him and seek Him, and whose hope is in Him. “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the wait-on-the-lordsoul that seeketh him.”

T – Timing. Waiting on God means we are trusting Him to do things in His own time and way. In these days of instant gratification, high speed everything it is difficult for us to sit passively by and simply wait. Psalm 37:7 says, “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him…” Patience is often in short supply in our culture. We want to hurry God along; have Him answer our prayers quickly, when sometimes His answer is actually neither yes nor no, but wait. By its very definition, the word wait implies the passage of time. God does not look at time in the same manner we do. A month to Him is nothing. He knows the beginning from the end. When we are seeking answers, direction, provision we need only rest in Him and wait for His timing.

Waiting on God brings blessing into our lives—rest and peace, strength, contentment, faith—and builds character—patience, self-control, discipline. Do not be weary in waiting on God! It is well worth the wait!

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Mirror, Mirror in My Hand

Mirror, Mirror in my hand

Who’s the fairest in the land?

 

Robbie!

 

dvds2If you’re a long time reader of Sundays with Cindy, you may know that our special child Robbie has some things that he really, really loves. Music is chief among those things that keep him entertained.  He has a small personal DVD player next to his chair and enjoys listening to his many children’s sing along DVDs.  I am always searching for new kids’ DVDs, not only for Robbie’s sake, but because I have to listen to them, too, hour after hour—after hour.

And of course, a boy can never have too many pillows stacked on his lap! If Robbie sees one of his beloved pillows across thepillows room he won’t rest until he has it in his hands once more—even if it means he has to somehow get out of his chair or bed and crawl for it himself.  It is not unusual to see Robbie surrounded by four, five, even six pillows!

Then there were the years you would never see Robbie without an apple in his hand. We never knew what it was about an apple that so appealed (no pun intended) to him—the color, weight, size, smell??—but even in his sleep, that apple was tightly grasped and woe to the one who tried to apple bagelsneak it away!

Eventually Robbie traded in his apple for a bagel. He never tried to take a bite of the bagel, but like his former love, the apple, it was always in his hand.  Blueberry was (and still is) his favorite—all those pretty purple polka dots and that yummy smell!  We would trade him a new bagel when the old one was as hard as a rock, but even with the new one in his hand, he could hardly bear to give up the petrified one.  We never have figured out what is so entertaining about an apple or a bagel!

Robbie has a new love these days, though! It is—himself!  Or rather, a reflection of himself.  The object in his hands now, hour after hour, day after day, is a mirror!  We bought him an unbreakable baby mirror a few months ago and it is his new best friend.  He can’t wait to snatch it up the moment he awakes for the day, and I can’t tell you how many times he has fallen asleep at night with the mirror lying across his face baby mirrorbecause he dozed off gazing at himself.  And he does much more than merely stare at his reflection.  No, he kisses himself, or blows raspberries, or makes funny faces in the mirror to entertain himself—and his daddy and me!

Watching Robbie with his mirror has Bob and me cracking up—and shaking our heads. It has gotten to the point now when I sometimes have to sneak the silly thing away and hide it.  Robbie has always had some autistic tendencies, but he is such a social, people-loving guy that we have never thought of him being autistic at all—until the mirror came along.  Now he will totally ignore us, totally wrapped up in his own reflection.  Sure, we think Robbie is a fascinating guy, but he’s carrying it a little too far!  And it hurts Mommy’s feelings, being ignored!

RobbieWe want Robbie to have a good self-image, and we are always telling him what a handsome guy he is, but now, if he could flex his muscles in the mirror, I know he would! You know what they say the difference is between men and women, don’t you?  A guy will look in the mirror, flex his muscles and think what a great-looking specimen he is, where a woman looks in the mirror and sees all her defects.  And that’s our Robbie—a fine-looking specimen!

I believe what “they” say. The mirror has never been my friend.  I don’t enjoy standing in front of a mirror.  I get my business done—doing my hair, applying my make-up—and then I’m outta there!  And full-length mirrors—forget about it!  Surely that thing hanging on the back of the door must be one of those fun house mirrors!  No thanks, I don’t really want to see my reflection with all its faults.

But what if a mirror could reveal something better, much more beautiful than the original me? What if when the world looked at me, they didn’t see me with all my imperfections, but they saw Jesus reflected instead?  Psalm 90:17 says, “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…Remember the old chorus “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me”?

 

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

  by Albert Orsborn

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When others—family, friends, strangers, even our enemies—look at our lives, do they see the unconditional, boundless love of Jesus exemplified? Do they see His forgiveness when we forgive?   Do they see us exhibiting His grace—unmerited favor—toward them?  Do they see His hope, joy and peace reflected in our behavior?

Mirrors reflect light. Jesus said that He is the light of the world (John 8:12).  As imitators of Him, He said mirrorChristof His believers, ”Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14a, 16)  Our light ought to reflect His light in this dark world.  Is our testimony a reflection of Him—an encouragement to our fellow believers and a witness to unbelievers?  Galatians 1:15, 16 says, “But when it pleased God, who… called me by His grace,  To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen.”  When others look at the mirror of my life, is Jesus revealed in me?

You might be the only “Jesus” some people see. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  Do others see Jesus living in you?

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Into the Unknown

New Year’s Eve is a time unlike any other in the year. Oh, I don’t mean because of all the hoopla of Times Square, or the sounds of party blowers and fireworks.  Goodness knows, in this house there was nary a peep of Auld Lang Syne, nor pop of the cork to celebrate at the stroke of midnight.  Bob and Robbie were asleep by 8:00 PM!  I, in my lonely solitude, did a little internet shopping—not for anything fun or exciting with which to comfort myself, but for support stockings of all things!  Well, after all—another year older…

No, New Year’s Eve is like standing on a threshold. Looking back we are reminded of the good and bad of the old year—the joys and victories, the tests and trials, births and deaths, successes and failures, progress made, disappointments suffered, national and international calamities…  It is a time, too, of introspection—have I grown over the last twelve months?  Am I a better person?  Where did I falter?  What should I have done better?New Year

On the other side of that threshold is the bright and shiny prospect of the New Year—looking forward to a an slate, a blank page on which will be written—what??? The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering, ‘it will be happier…’” Our hopes and dreams, however, are just that—a fragile mist of hopes and dreams.  We hope the future in the coming weeks and months will be bright.  We dream of accomplishing goals, enjoying certain events, finding the gold at the end of the rainbow.  We gaze optimistically over the threshold through that mist to the next twelve-month leg of our life’s journey, praying it will be a happy, smooth path—yet sometimes fearing it won’t be.

Many people are fearful this New Year.  It is no wonder why.  The economy is unstable.  We do not trust our nation’s leaders.  Terrorism fills the headlines and the world seems to teeter on the verge of war.  Natural disasters appear to be escalating.  Trusted people fail us; personal circumstances are often shaky; as we age, health deteriorates.  Despite our desire to hope and dream, we know that life is uncertain.  Everything can change is a heartbeat.  What lies beyond the threshold?

I saw a quote recently by an English woman named Minnie Louise Haskins that struck a chord with me. It was the first lines from a poem that she wrote in 1908 which she titled “God Knows”, but which is better known as “The Gate of the Year.”  I was curious, so I looked up the poem.  I think it is beautiful and would Print like to share it with you:

The Gate of the Year

“God Knows”

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still: What need our little life Our human life to know, If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low, God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will Is best. The stretch of years Which wind ahead, so dim To our imperfect vision, Are clear to God. Our fears Are premature; In Him, All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes, When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail, Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures Our mind shall fill.

 

Crossing the threshold, moving forward through the gate of the year may be frightening when we try to peer through the mists and darkness of the unknown. We cannot see the path, but God who looks down hand in hand3from above sees the whole thing—the beginning from the end—around every twist and turn, over every  hilltop, through every dark shadow and obstacle.  What better thing, then, to put my hand in His and let Him lead me?  Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” That is a promise to cling to!

As we embark upon the path that will take us through the year 2016, the best advice I can give for peace on the journey, come what may, comes directly from Scripture: Commit thy way unto the Lord (Psalm 37:5a) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Who knows where the path will lead us?  God does.  Trust Him; walk hand in hand with Him, and do not fear what tomorrow—nor all the tomorrows to follow—will bring.

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.

I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

by Ira Stanphill

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