Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Cheery Countenance

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”
Proverbs 15:13(NKJV)

Out of the Mouths of Babes

My husband’s father, David Michael, and his uncle, Graham Michael, were athletes at Brown University. They played two sports - soccer and wrestling. Graham ‘50 and David ‘51 have both been inducted into Brown’s Athletic Hall of Fame. And while at Brown, they were friends with the now legendary football coach, Joe Paterno of Penn State who was also a student and fellow athlete at Brown.

Many years later, one of Graham’s sons in law, John, needed to travel to Penn State for an education conference since he was a teacher in Pennsylvania. He thought it would be nice to bring his family along and show them Penn State while he was there. One of his older sons called Penn State’s Athletic Department, introducing himself as the grandson of Graham Michael - a college friend of Coach Paterno, and asked if he and his family could meet Coach Paterno while they were there. Permission was granted but the coach did more than just meet them.

Much to their surprise, the family was given a private tour of the facility, including the coach’s office, trophy area, and weight room. In addition, they were also introduced to some of the players. At the end of the tour, Coach Paterno asked the family, “Do any of you have any questions?” To this, the youngest child, four year old David, responded in all sincerity, “Yes, I have a question…Why do you have so much trouble beating Notre Dame?”

The gracious coach responded, “We are working on that.” …And Coach Paterno knew the little boy’s granddaddy.(Graham was always a character) So I suppose the coach just laughed at how much the little guy was like his grandfather.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Two Edged Sword

The Christmas Story from the Old Testament and the New Testament

Baby Jesus
Old Testament: “For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

New Testament: “…while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7 (KJV)

Old Testament:“Behold the days are coming declares the Lord when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch and He will reign as King…’” Jeremiah 23:5(NASB)

New Testament: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and linage of David.” Luke 2:4 (NASB)

Old Testament: “…behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NASB)

New Testament: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin…and the virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:26-28 (NASB )

Old Testament: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.” Micah 5:2 (NASB)

New Testament: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and linage of David.” Luke 2:4 (NASB)

Star of Bethlehem
Old Testament: “…a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel.” Numbers 24:17 (NASB)

New Testament: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:2 (NASB)

Old Testament: “The wealth of the nations will come to you. A multitude of camels...of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba will come; they will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the Lord.” Isaiah 60: 5b-6 (NASB)

New Testament: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. And they fell down and worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:1- 2, 11 (NASB)

But what about the shepherds and the angels? Are they prophesied in the Old Testament? Well, if they are, I was not able to find the verses. However, I did find an abundance of references to shepherds in general in both the Old Testament and New. Shepherds played such an important role in God’s plan for the ages, it is no wonder He told the good news to them first!

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” Psalms 23: 1 (KJV)
(Jesus speaking) “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11 (NASB)

And the angels, well…they filled the air above the shepherds causing the heavens to “tell of the glory of God…(and)…declare His handiwork.” Psalms 19:1 (NASB)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Those who fear God

Aunt Jeannie

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children… for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 10:29 (NIV)

On the mission field, we found this verse to be true. We may have left our families and traveled to another continent but we gained a whole new family full of cousins and aunts and uncles! We children called the adult missionaries our uncles and aunts and we all grew up feeling as if we were something between siblings and cousins.

Aunt Jeannie was not my real aunt – she was my missionary aunt. She lived across the dirt road from me in Ogbomosho. I played with her daughter, Shirley nearly everyday. Shirley was my age and we were good friends. We spent a lot of time together. That is how it came about that we were spanked by Aunt Jeannie – three times for the same offense. Shirley and I were jumping on the bed at her house and Aunt Jeannie caught us…so she spanked us; jumping on the bed was against the rules. But after Aunt Jeannie left the room, she thought about the fact that we were jumping on the top bunk and we could have fallen and been hurt badly and she came back in the room and spanked us again. Then as she was walking out, she thought about the fact that the bunk bed was adjacent to a large window full of louvered glass panes. If we had fallen in that direction, we could have cut ourselves so severely, it could have even been lethal …and you guessed it, Aunt Jeannie turned around and spanked us a third time! But I loved Aunt Jeannie and I knew she loved me.

Imogene “Jeannie” Thomason Crowder was born June 5, 1925. She was a delightful person who always made people smile – or laugh. She was funny. She laughed all the time and she made others laugh. She loved large jewelry, and I mean LARGE jewelry! It was the kind of jewelry that not everyone can wear, but it always looked right on Aunt Jeannie. Once when she was very old, I saw her all dressed up in a beautiful, wispy blue dress. Around her neck was a huge silver cross. It was a lovely piece of jewelry; very large but beautiful. I complimented her on it and Shirley who was standing right beside her said with a twinkle in her eye, “Well let me tell you about this cross. A friend of mom’s bought it for her. She found it at a jewelry store and thought it was just perfect for mom so she bought it. Then she asked the salesperson if there was a chain for it. The salesman looked at her really funny and said, ‘Lady, this is a Christmas Tree ornament!’ The lady just laughed and said, ‘You don’t know my friend Jeannie!’”

Aunt Jeannie faced many difficulties in life. Her marriage failed. Both of her sons and a grandson died prematurely (one of the sons and the grandson died together quite tragically in an accident). Another of her grandsons was severely burned in a condominium fire. (That is actually an amazing story of miraculous survival and God’s ability to heal. His story is part of the “I am Second” series. His name is Lee Lucas.) Someone who went through all that Aunt Jeannie did might easily have become bitter or angry, but not Aunt Jeannie. You could not talk with her without her smiling and telling you about the goodness of her Lord.

A few years ago I saw her at a Nigerian missionary reunion. I had my one year old grandson, with me. Aunt Jeannie said, “I want to take him home with me. We don’t have any of those at my house….I used to have sons you know but God took them home.” I said, “Aunt Jeannie, I remember Paul and Timmy.” Aunt Jeannie continued, “Well, I wouldn’t ask for them back – who knows what God spared them from!” Her words pierced me! I thought, “Oh Lord! Make me like Aunt Jeannie! You took her sons yet she is so fully convinced of your goodness that she truly believes it was for the best.”

Aunt Jeannie passed away last May. I will miss her until I see her again. But there is something nice about knowing that when my time comes, Aunt Jeannie will run up to me with her big smile and her arms wide open.

Before she died, Aunt Jeannie asked her daughter Anne to write a thank you note to all the people who loved her. This was her note written on her death bed, “Constantly I am bewildered by the love God brings to us and that you love me so much.”

It’s Thanksgiving again. The past two Thanksgivings, Aunt Jeannie and Shirley have shared dinner at my house with my family and Lisa’s family (another childhood friend of mine). This year we will again have Lisa, Uncle David, Aunt Marie, my parents and family, and Shirley… Jeannie, you will be sorely missed!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Through my Kitchen Window

Angels and Demons Part 2

Demons around us / How to fight spiritual battles

The hospital where my parents worked while in Nigeria was within walking distance of our house. Both of my parents worked since my mother was a nurse as well. On clear days, they walked to and from work. One evening as my parents approached our house while walking home, my father spied something on our front steps. He stopped in his tracks and told my mother to stop as well. There before them on the top step was juju.

Juju was the African form of a curse. The juju on our steps consisted of some African beads along with the bones of a small animal mixed in a clod of dirt with blood, feathers, and feces. Someone had placed a curse on our home! The juju gave my father cause for concern. As he stood still pondering the situation, my mother walked up to the juju and kicked it off of our steps. It broke into pieces as it hit the ground below.

My father was taken back by my mom’s actions. But she looked him directly in the eyes and said emphatically, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! Because of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for me, I can kick juju right off of my doorstep!”

Fighting Spiritual Battles:

When my mother kicked the juju off of our doorstep, she was employing one of the rules for fighting spiritual battles. These rules include:

1) Know your position.
This is the rule my mother was applying. We serve an awesome God! He has overcome the enemy. He defeated him at the cross. We are on the winning side of the battle. Romans 8:37 tells us, “But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

2) Know the battle you are fighting.
“Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NAS)

3) Arm yourself for battle.
Put on the full armor of God; gird your loins with truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword which is the word of God, and shod your feet with the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

4) Stay focused.
According to Hebrews 11:27, Abraham did not fear the king’s anger and was able to persevere because he “saw Him who was invisible”. Who is the invisible one that we are to stay focused on if we are to successfully fight spiritual battles? 1st Timothy1:17 identifies Him as, “…the King Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.” (NIV)

5) Fight like the Bible demonstrates.
There are numerous examples of spiritual battles in the Bible. Complying with this “rule” requires a continuous study of God’s word. Two particular examples of spiritual battles come to my mind.
The first can be found in Jude 1:9. This rather unusual verse says, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (NIV) Be cognizant of this verse. Like Michael, we too should rely only on the Lord’s power and not our own; but also like Michael, we can call upon the Lord - the only God, the invisible One, King Eternal – to rebuke the enemy for us as well.
The second example is found in Revelation 12:11. This verse is the single best verse for understanding what it takes to fight and win a spiritual battle. It says, “They overcame him (the great dragon, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, according to Revelation 12:9, NIV) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Through My Kitchen Window

Angels and Demons - Part 1

It’s October – the month when people think of scary, haunting things. So, in keeping with the season, I am posting a two part blog about strange happenings.

Angel Encounter – or was it a dream?

Life for a foreign missionary can be quite challenging. During a particularly difficult time in his mission career, my father grew discouraged to the point of questioning his effectiveness as a missionary. One night, he received an unusual phone call. We had phone service in Nigeria. It was not what one might be accustomed to in the US, but it was phone service of a sort. Our service only connected the missionary houses to each other and to the hospital. An operator at the hospital worked a switch board which allowed Doctors like my father to be reached at home in the case of an emergency.

This particular night, the phone beside my parent’s bed rang and my father answered. But the voice on the other end of the phone was not the hospital operator; it was my grandmother, my father’s deceased mother. The conversation went like this:

“Ma! Is that you??!!”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Ma! How are you calling me? You are dead!”

“I know, but sometimes God allows us to reach across the gulf to help those we love when they are in need. God has given me permission to call you and to tell you to hold on to Christ.”

Hold on to Christ

This statement had special meaning to my father. When he was a child he had heard the story of Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma, suspended in a well. He had been hoisted up by his thumbs and suspended for hours at a time that way. (I tried to research this fact and only found a passing reference to it in an article by Dr. Jack Van Impe called, “The Judgment Seat of Christ”)

As my father remembered the story, during the time Adoniram Judson was suspended by his thumbs, his wife, Ann stood vigil over him. He cried out to her, complaining that he felt like he was falling. He could not grip the rope tied to his thumbs so he had nothing to hold on to. Ann encouraged him to, “Hold on to Christ.” This story made a huge impression on my father as a child. And now in his own personal struggle, his mother was calling him from heaven to remind him to “Hold on to Christ!”

He asked his mother what heaven was like but she said she was not allowed to tell him that. He kept asking her anyway. Finally, she said, “Heaven is more wonderful than you can ever imagine, but I did not call to tell you about that. I called to tell you to hold on to Christ!”

Then her voice fell silent. My father found himself sitting on the side of his bed with the telephone in his hand. Was this an angel or a dream? It was characteristically different from most dreams in some specific ways. It was oriented to reality where as dreams are often abstract from reality. In this “dream” my father immediately told his mother, “Ma, you are dead.” and she agreed saying, “Yes, I am.” In addition, my father was a physician. He received calls in the middle of the night on a regular basis. He had learned to quickly become awake and alert enough to make decisions about patient’s care – sometimes life and death decisions.

So, was it a dream or an angel? Or was it actually my grandmother reaching across the gulf as she said? We may never know the answers to these questions until we are in heaven. But whatever it was, God sent it for His purposes – to encourage my discouraged father in his work.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Two Edged Sword

A Tale of Two Brothers
This is from a sermon by my pastor, Mark Janke; pastor of Franklin St. Church, Louisville. He said he credits the commentary on Genesis by Dr. John Sailhamer

Genesis 10 could be considered a boring chapter – it’s a list of genealogies. Why would any pastor preach from a chapter of genealogies? Well, my pastor chose to do just that last March and I am so glad he did!

As one reads down the list of names in the genealogy of Noah’s sons, we come to Eber, one of Shem’s sons. Genesis 10:25 says, “And two sons were born to Eber; the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother was Joktan.” What did it mean that the earth was divided? Did a huge earthquake split the earth at that time? Most likely that is not what is meant in this verse. Rather, the earth was divided into two groups of people – two types, if you will. And these two groups are represented by Eber’s two sons, Peleg and Joktan.

If you continue reading in Genesis 10, verses 26-29 lists Joktan’s sons. Then, verse 30 says that their settlement was in the hill country of the east and that's when the story begins to get interesting. Genesis 11:2 tells us that as they journeyed east, they found a plain and settled there. It was here that the people built a city as well as the tower of Babel in the next few verses. What was their motivation in building these? The answer can be found in 11:4, “And they said, ‘Come let us build for ourselves a city and a tower…and let us make for ourselves a name…” They wanted to make a name for themselves.

Peleg’s family was a different story. Genesis 11 also gives their genealogy and if you follow it down to verse 26 you will come to the name of Abram. What makes Abram different from Joktan’s descendants? Well, in Genesis 17: 3-5, we find God telling Abram that He will change Abram’s name to Abraham and will make of him a great nation. Rather than Abram making a name for himself, God made a name for him.

My pastor ended his sermon with this exhortation, “We should pray and ask God to get us off the ‘make a name for ourselves’ path and get us on the ‘Lord make a name for us’ path."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Life as I Knew It

African Rains

“I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.” Leviticus 26:4

Ah! The rains in their season!! Anyone who has been to Africa in the rainy season will appreciate that verse! There is nothing quite as wonderful as the African rains –the way it splashes as it lands in huge drops on the dirt roads, the way it sounds as it pings down on a tin roof, and especially the way it smells! Yes, rain has a smell; one that is cool, refreshing, and full of promise.

The rainy season was the best of seasons. Everything was green and lush. The flowers bloomed, and the trees yielded their fruits. We had a guava orchard in our back yard when we lived in Ogbomosho. My father “gave” us children a few trees which we could eat freely from but he told us to keep our hands off of the rest. My mother made jelly and preserves from the other trees. The children’s trees seldom had ripe guavas on them since they were gobbled up before they could mature. Many times I have climbed high into the guava tree looking for the perfect guava; one that was large, smooth (no bug holes), and not quite ripe - the perfect color of yellow/green.

Rains in America are cold, even in the summer time because they usually accompany a cold front. In the states, when a cold front moves in, it can rain for quite a while, sometimes even days, if the front becomes stationary. African rains are quite different. During the rainy season, it rains at least once a day in a short refreshing burst of cool water. The rains bring a welcome temporary cooling of the hot ground and air. As a child, I played in the rains as often as I could. My siblings, friends and I would sense the rain coming, put on our bathing suits and meet in the dirt road that ran down the middle of the mission compound. We would play barefoot in the mud as we watched the downpour make little rushing streams in the road. The mud squished between our toes, and the smell of the rain engulfed us.

Once when my father was traveling home from a preaching engagement with my little sister and me along for the ride; a rock from the dirt road flicked into our windshield. This was before the days of shatterproof glass and the rock shattered our windshield. Fearing glass would blow onto us as we traveled the rest of the way home, my dad stopped and carefully removed the entire windshield, one little piece at a time. This would have been a good idea, except for the fact that it was rainy season. Sure enough a sudden rain storm blew up and my father had to drive with the rain pouring in on him. He told my sister and me to get in the floor of the back seat so the front seats would partially block the incoming water. I remember thinking it was one of the grandest adventures I had ever experienced. My sister and I hunched down in the back, each behind a seat and giggled at each other as the water pooled at our feet. I don’t think it was as much fun for my poor dad though. He drove slowly on ahead in spite of the rain in his face. When we arrived home, we took warm baths and then my mom made hot cocoa. That too was an adventure! I had never had hot cocoa in Africa before...or since.

To this day, I love a summer rain. My sisters and I have talked about the fact that we enjoy watching it rain. A house I once lived in as an adult had a screened porch and I would always sit out there when a storm was blowing, though my husband thought I was crazy. My sisters say they like to go outside just before it rains too. I have talked with many of my childhood friends and have come to find that loving summer rains is a common trait among people who have experienced the tropical rainy season.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Quotable Susan

Quotes from my friend Susan and other equally “famous” people.

Quotes about God

“I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen –not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”

-C.S. Lewis

“It’s not that I walk faithfully with God; it’s that God walks faithfully with me.”

-Susan Siami, my friend

“I know God will not give me anything I can not handle; I just wish He didn’t trust me so much!”

-Mother Theresa

“He is the I AM in the was, in the is, and in the will be”

-Susan Small, the other Susan in my life

(the doctrines) “That God predestines yet that man is responsible …are two lines that are so nearly parallel that the human mind that pursues them the farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

-Charles Hadley Spurgeon

“The ultimate evidence for the absolute sovereignty of God is that He dared to give man responsibility and the free will upon which it depends.”

-Peter Gilliland, a friend who also has a blog. It is http://aboutthefamilybuisness.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Quotable Susan

When my daughter was in high school she kept a “quote book”. This was a notebook in which she recorded quotes that she particularly liked. These quotes were from a variety of sources. As she read books, listened to lectures, or even heard her friends speak, she would write down in her “notebook/quote book” quotes that she thought were note worthy. I don’t know where this idea originated - whether it was my daughter’s idea, one of her friend’s, or even a cultural phenomenon at the time.

Whatever the source, I began to keep my own quote book. Like my daughter, I record quotes from many sources; from both famous people and not so famous people. I soon came to realize that one of the people I love to quote the most is my friend Susan. My friend has great insights into God and the world He created. I tease her and tell her that she is one of the greatest Christian orators of all time. She is just not as well known as, say Spurgeon for instance. In fact, sometimes she has an audience of only one –me! Susan is also one of the funniest people I know. God has blessed me greatly by placing her in my life.
This section of my blog, “The Quotable Susan” is a compilation of the quotes from my personal quote book. These include quotes from famous people as well as not so famous people. I have arranged the quotes topically. Occasionally, I have also written little anecdotes to explain the circumstances surrounding the quote. Some of the quotes are quite serious while others are humorous. I hope you enjoy them all.

Quotes about God

“The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice.” Psalms 97:1

“God is God, He is not tame and domesticated like we sometimes (try to) make Him.”
- Edward T Welch from his book, “Depression a Stubborn Darkness”

“So many people think they can look at their lives; the things that impact them; the circumstances they are dealing with, and learn something about God. But actually the opposite is true. If we behold God and His glory as gleaned through His word, it will give us perspective and a greater understanding of our lives and our circumstances.”
- Susan Siami -my friend

“God rules and over rules!”
- Frank Ingram, friend

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confessions of a Prayer Warrior

God has given me a child!

About thirty years ago, my father delivered an out of wedlock baby to a teenage mother. By the time this baby was born, my parents were no longer on the mission field. Rather, they lived in a small town in West Virginia where my father had a medical practice. The baby he delivered was to be adopted. But things did not go as expected. When the baby made her entrance into the world, it was evident that she was bi-racial rather than Caucasian as the adoptive parents had thought she would be. After discussing the situation, the adoptive parents changed their minds about adopting her. She was a perfectly normal, completely healthy, and absolutely beautiful baby girl but was not wanted by these would-be parents…or seemingly anyone else in that small West Virginia town in the early 1980’s. She had no home to go to, no loving touch of a mother’s hands, no strong safe arms of a father to hold her.

My parents put the word out that there was a child who needed a Christian home. I remember it well because my husband and I considered adopting her. She was born about one month ahead of our first child. I was very pregnant at the time and had made plans for only one baby –one crib, one car seat, etc. But if this baby had no home, we would have taken her. My husband and I decided we would wait a few weeks on the decision to see if there was a childless couple that might want her. But if she did not have a home within a couple of weeks, we would adopt her.

My parents took the baby home from the hospital. Their home was her home for the first few days of her life. My father’s arms were the strong, safe arms that held her. My mother’s hands were the gentle hands that fed her a bottle in the middle of the night.

After my parents had her for about a week with no adoptive parents coming forward, a strange thing happened at my dad’s office. It was a normal day. My dad was seeing patients as usual. One of his appointments that day was a new patient. She was an African-American woman whose husband was a pastor of a small church in the town. She was also a nurse in the operating room at the local hospital. My father knew her. He knew that she was a kind woman and a committed Christian.

My father began taking a medical history as he customarily did with new patients. He asked her why she had made an appointment to see him; what were her symptoms; what was wrong? The woman who did not know anything about the baby girl who needed a home told my father, “I have come to see if you can help me conceive. I am here for an infertility work up.” My father asked her how long she had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child. This was her response, “My husband and I have been married for fifteen years and in all that time we have never used birth control. We have only one child. He is an eight year old boy. Ever since he was born, I have been asking God for another child. For many years I have prayed for another baby but God has not given me one yet. And now I am getting older. I know that if I don’t have another baby soon, it will be too late and I will never have another child. I have been wrestling with this issue for a long time. Well, a few weeks ago I was praying earnestly about this – I was begging God for another baby! And as I prayed, God told me to come see you. He told me ‘Go see him and he will get you another baby.”

My father nearly fell out of his chair! He sat stunned for a few minutes trying to digest the story this woman had just told him. Then, when he finally spoke, he said, “Well…how would you like a baby today? She’s a girl. She’s a week old. And she is beautiful!” Now it was the woman’s turn to be stunned! My father proceeded to tell the shocked woman all about the baby girl at his house that needed a home. Then he gave her the name of the lawyer that was handling the adoption.

The woman immediately wanted the child! She began praising the Lord audibly and loudly right there in the office. She continued praising God as she walked out the office to go home to tell her husband. Revival just nearly broke out right there in the middle of the work day!

The woman and her husband gave this baby girl a home. They couldn’t have loved her any more if they had conceived her themselves. They taught her about Jesus. And the little girl grew up to become a beautiful young woman. She had a gifted singing voice – the voice of an angel. She made high marks in school too. She considered my parents to be like another set of grandparents to her. Her mom brought her to visit my parents often. And for their part, they kept her graduation picture on their refrigerator right beside their other grandchildren.

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1st Samuel 1:27 (ESV)
-said by Hannah as well as many mothers since then including this pastor’s wife in rural West Virginia..

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Confessions of a Prayer Warrior

"Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord..." Lamentations 2:19

For this Child I have Prayed (a 2 part series)

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1st Samuel 1:27 (ESV)
My father delivered many, many babies in his years as a physician. Every birth is a miracle and every new life is an example of God’s creative power – even all the normal births that happen routinely, without any complications. Nevertheless, sometimes a second special miracle accompanies the birth of a child. Such was the case in the two stories I will tell in this post and the next one a couple of weeks from now.

The Baby that would not breathe

My father was sitting at his desk seeing patients at the hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria when an orderly came running from the Maternity Center telling him that Mrs. Ladeji, the midwife matron of the Maternity Center wanted him to come quickly. My father jumped up and ran to the delivery room where Mrs. Ladeji was holding a newborn baby on a delivery table giving it mouth-to-mouth respirations. She paused long enough to tell him that she had delivered the baby about thirty minutes earlier but that it would not breathe.

My dad could see that she was exhausted from giving mouth-too-mouth respiration, so he took over the job. He gave continuous mouth to mouth reparations to the baby, pausing occasionally to see if the baby would breathe on its own - but there was no response. The baby’s heart beat was around 130 beats per minute which is normal for a new born. (If a baby’s heart rate drops below 100, the baby is in trouble.)

My father asked for a small syringe with a tiny needle and gave the baby a small dose of Caffeine Sodium Benzoate into the muscle of the thigh. He and Mrs. Ladeji rubbed the muscle so that the baby’s body would pick up the medicine. The baby took and occasional weak breath, but would have died if left to breathe on its own.

Mrs. Ladeji and my father alternated breathing for the baby, but by this time an hour had passed since the delivery and the baby was still not responding as it should. The two health professionals discussed the situation and concluded that the baby was not picking up the mild respiratory stimulant that had been given. In desperation my dad asked for another small syringe and tiny long needle through which he administered a small dose of Coramine, a stronger stimulant, and plunged the tiny long needle directly into the baby’s heart. He withdrew blood to be sure he was in the heart and then injected the Coramine. The infant responded with some stronger breaths, but still did not breathe as it should.

After about fifteen more minutes of mouth to mouth resuscitation, my father turned to Mrs. Ladeji and said: I have done all I know to do. We need to pray.”

They held the baby on their laps between them and bowed their heads. My dad prayed: “Lord, I am at the end of my rope. I do not know anything else to do. If you want this baby to breathe, you will have to do it.”

When they opened their eyes they saw the baby take its first real good breath. Within a few minutes the baby was breathing normally and it had no further trouble. Mrs. Ladeji and the midwives watched it very carefully for the next couple of days. They allowed the mother to keep the baby by her side. After a few days the mother took the baby home breathing just like any other baby.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Through My Kitchen Window

Father’s Day

They say a child’s understanding of the Heavenly Father is strongly influenced by that child’s relationship with his or her earthly father. If this is true, it is no wonder I have always thought of God as a kind and loving being who is ready to help.

It felt safe in my dad’s presence, even while living in a war torn country. If I was sick, my father healed me because he was a doctor. If I needed help with homework, my father was there. He was like a walking, talking encyclopedia – he knew everything! If my toy was broken he could fix it. He read stories to me at bedtime, looked at the stars with me through his telescope on clear nights, went fishing with me on warm days…and yes…disciplined me when I needed it. Growing up, I never knew hunger or want.

Even as an adult, my father was there if I needed him. I remember a time as a young wife and mother when my car's breaks wore out. I was driving down a hill and realized I could not slow down. I had to swerve in order to avoid the car in front of me as I flew down the hill. Once at the bottom, I was able to slow my car by simply not applying the gas. I drove the rest of the way home at a crawl. My husband and I discussed it over dinner. We thought of all the possible ways to come up with the money for new breaks. But at that point in time, we simply did not have the funds. So I called my dad to ask for a short term loan. I apologized, saying I wouldn’t have called but I had exhausted all of my resources. As my sweet father offered to give me the money for new breaks instead of loan it, he said, “You have never exhausted all of your resources if you have not first talked to me.”

As a child I learned to swim by jumping into my father’s arms. He was a good swimmer and I knew he could be trusted. He would not let me drown. But I remember a time when I was in another man’s arms. When the war broke out in Nigeria, we often encountered road blocks with armed soldiers as we traveled from village to village. On this particular day, the armed soldier peered into our car and saw me and my sisters sitting in the back seat. He opened the door and pulled me out of the car into his arms. I was very blonde as a child and I think this was the reason he chose me. At any rate, this man proceeded to tell my father that he wanted to take me for his bride. I was all of about 8 years old at the time.

My father handled the situation superbly. He was fluent in the tribal language and began bantering with the soldier in his own language. This surprised and amused the man. My father laughed as if the man was joking and told him my “bride price” was too high. It was the custom in Nigeria for a groom to pay a dowry for his bride to the bride’s father. My father knew this custom and jokingly told the man that my price was too high. The soldier laughed and told my father to name my price but my dad just laughed back and replied that it was so high even kings could not afford me. The amused soldier put me back in the car and allowed us to continue on our trip.

I think about that now. I remember being in this man’s arms but I never felt like I was in danger – because my daddy was there. From my father’s point of view, it must have felt a bit differently. An armed soldier had just taken his daughter out of his car and had her in his arms with a loaded gun by his side. My father could have easily become hostile and things might have turned out very differently. But as it was, my father and my Father protected me.

“…we have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!, Father!” Romans 8:15

“There is none like God…who rides the heavens to be your help. The eternal God is a dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:26-27

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Two Edged Sword

“For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

By Many or By Few

“Jonathon said to the attendant, who carried his weapons, ‘Come and let us cross over to the garrison…perhaps the Lord will help us. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.’” 1st Samuel 14:6

In this passage King Saul’s son, Jonathon, went on a solo military mission – just him and his armor bearer. The passage tells the story of the two of them alone (with only themselves and God) conquering their enemy. God handed a victory to the Israelites that day using just two men whose faith was strong!

My father has always said, “One with the Lord is a majority.” This Bible story proves my father's point. One with the Lord is a majority! In fact, the Lord by Himself is a majority even if none should follow Him. Psalms 97:1 says, "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice."

Rejoice today in whatever God has for you to do. And if while doing what God has for you today, you find yourself standing alone, remember the truth of Jonathan’s words. Nothing can keep the Lord from doing His work – whether by few or by many....or by one! May God show you His mighty hand today.

* On another note: This is my first glimpse at the upcoming Bethany House book, “Love is a Flame”, that will feature my story, “The Krikit Caper”.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Through my Kitchen Window

Mother’s Day

“Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Dorcas; this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. And it came about that she fell sick and died… [and after Peter was summoned to her bedside] …they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping and showing him all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.”
Acts 9:36-39

My mother was born in rural North Carolina in a small wooden house her father built. He was a farmer with only a 3rd grade education. He supported his wife, 4 children, and 2 old maid aunts with the money he earned working in a textile mill and from the sale of the crops he grew on his farm. My mother’s two older brothers quit school after 6th grade in order to work in the mills and help support the family. My mom (Alice) was the first person in her family to ever graduate from high school.

After high school, Alice attended a nursing school at a nearby hospital. While there, she met my father, Keith. He was a young medical student whose father and grandfather had also been doctors. He was smitten by this tall slim brunette with deep blue eyes. As their relationship developed, the time came for him to meet her family.

My grandfather was beside himself with worry as he stood next to Alice, waiting rather impatiently for Keith’s bus to arrive. He was embarrassed by his humble home which still did not have indoor plumbing. He told her, “That young doctor will take one look at this place and turn around and leave – and never come back!” Alice’s response was, “Well, if he does, then he’s not the man I want anyway!”
I have always loved that story. And I have always loved my mother’s determination and can do attitude. There is no task too difficult for my mother to at least attempt it.

Alice learned to sew as a teenager. Luxuries were rare and money for extra clothes was non existent. But, feed for the cows came in pretty cotton prints which people often used as cloth for new clothes. Alice was no exception. She eagerly learned how to sew; making new dresses for her younger sister and herself. Thus began a life of sewing garments for others. She sewed my wedding dress as well as my sisters’ wedding dresses and her own. This talent came in very handy when my family lived in Nigeria.

One of my missionary aunts told me recently of a special outfit my mom had sewed for her while in Nigeria. Marie had to leave Nigeria with her family quite suddenly due to an illness. She spoke to Alice just a couple of days before she left the mission station. Marie lamented the fact that the only outfit she had to travel in was the one she wore when she came to Nigeria many years earlier. The material was worn and the fit was no longer quite right, but it was all she had. A complaint like that was like throwing red meat in front of a hungry animal – Alice was all over it! She pulled out patterns, material, and a tape measure that she had stored away. Some of the cloth was thicker than that typically worn in tropical Africa. It was perfect for international travel back to a colder climate. Alice worked all through the night and her friend Marie wore a lovely new outfit a few days later as she boarded the plane for the US.

Of all the things my mother has ever sewn, perhaps her greatest challenge came while in Nigeria, with the death of a fellow missionary, Dr. Connell Smith. Dr. Smith was a surgeon at the hospital where both of my parents worked. He was a friend and colleague in the workplace to my mother and was an especially close friend to my father. His death was sudden – the result of an automobile accident. His service and burial were at the hospital chapel. The hospital carpenter made a casket for him out of local wood and my mother sewed its lining out of soft blue satin material that she had brought with her to Nigeria.

My mom told me once that when she saw the blue satin material in a fabric store while on furlough in the US, it caught her eye. She felt sort of silly buying it and packing it in the crates destined for Nigeria. She kept thinking there would never be any reason to use the material. After all, who needed an elegant blue satin dress in rural Africa in the 1960’s? But something seemed to compel her – almost like God was telling her she would be using this material in Nigeria for a very special event.

And so it was that the rough casket, made by the skillful hands of a Nigerian carpenter who loved Dr. Smith was padded and lined by the equally skillful hands of my mother – a woman who also loved him. Dr. Smith, who lost his life in the foreign country where God had called him, was laid to rest beneath the African soil that he loved with the help of people who loved him.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!!
“And her children will rise up and bless her…”
Proverbs 31:28

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Cheery Countenance

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”
Proverbs 15:13(NKJV)

Does God have a sense of humor? I think He does. He created man in His image and man innately has a sense of humor, so I think God does too. After all, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. This section of my blog will be a time to laugh.

The Goat

One summer several years ago, my family was on our way to South Carolina for a family vacation at the beach. We stopped at my sister’s home in North Carolina to break up the trip. It was to be a vacation with the extended family and my sister along with her family were coming too. They planned to car pool with us the next day. So, my family of six stopped at my sister’s house for the night. Her oldest daughter had undergone outpatient surgery earlier that week and was recovering at home – she would not be coming to the beach until later in the week and her family was planning on staying an extra week.

That same evening, my sister found a goat wandering around in her neighborhood. This was a surprising find, as she lives in a gated community where no one owns goats! Equally surprising was the fact that the goat was wearing a collar. She brought it home to keep until the next day when she could figure out where it belonged (a nearby petting zoo, maybe?) She put the goat in her garage for the night…...bad idea!

That night, the goat made bleating noises ALL night long keeping most of the household awake and he also messed ALL over my sister’s garage. It was everywhere – in places I never knew a goat could reach. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that I have never seen such a mess in my life!! The next day we made the boys (her son and my two sons) clean the garage.

Sometime later, one of my sons was talking about the goat experience and said, "You know mom, I think God has a sense of humor. I think He looked down from heaven at Aunt Alisa and said to Himself, 'Let's see...she has 11 people staying at her house...her daughter just had surgery...and she is packing to leave for a two week vacation...hmm?...What kind of fun can I have with her? I know! I think I'll send her a goat!!'"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Those Who Fear God

One of my pet peeves is hearing someone referred to as “godly”. In Christian circles we hear this term often…but does the Bible use this term when making references to people? Well, yes, on occasion, but more often the scriptures speak of people who are God-fearing. In fact, in some of the places where the term Godly is used, it is not in reference to a person at all but a trait, such as Godly sorrow that leads to repentance. (2nd Corinthians 7:9-10) God – fearing on the other hand is mentioned often! And it is accompanied by many promises of blessings from God for those who fear Him. Personally, I strongly prefer this term for people I know whose relationship with God I admire.


I am blessed to call Brenda a friend. She is one of the most precious people I know! She was born to a single mother living in the inner city, along with several sisters and one baby brother. Her only brother died of an accidental gunshot wound at age three. She was in high school that day helping a teacher grade papers when someone came into her room and told her she needed to go home right away. When she arrived at home police and an ambulance were in front of her house. A neighbor came up to the car and told her that there had been an accident. Her baby brother had been shot.

Brenda loved her baby brother. She was 11 when he was born. Because her mother was deaf, Brenda was the one who woke up with him at night when he cried. Brenda fed him his bottle. She would ride to school the next day exhausted but she didn’t mind. It was a good kind of exhaustion. She would lay her head on the desk at school and think about how much she loved babies. She knew then that all she ever really wanted to be when she grew up was a mom.

When I met Brenda she was a struggling single mother of three beautiful and well behaved sons. My children were close to her children’s ages. We became instant friends. But she was not a Christian and I did not know how to share my faith with her. She was a delightful person! She was and is like a ray of sunshine. In all the years I have known her, I have never seen her pessimistic. Even as a struggling single mom living in subsidized housing, she smiled all the time. Her apartment was bright, cheery and clean with equally bright and cheery little boys running all around it. My children loved to visit them and I loved to spend time with Brenda!

As our friendship grew, she asked me one day if I would mind going with her and her mother to a Dr’s visit. I was a nurse and her mother had cancer. Brenda thought that perhaps I could better understand what the Dr had to say. I could explain it to Brenda and she would sign the information to her deaf mother. Then, if her mother had questions Brenda would tell them to me and I could answer. I gladly went along.

Some months later, Brenda called and said that her mother was in the hospital not expected to live. She asked if I could have my pastor visit her mom. She thought a pastor’s visit would be helpful but neither she nor her mother was a member of a church. I sent my husband –he’s not a pastor but he loves the Lord and he loves to share the plan of salvation with people. That night in the hospital room, Brenda and her sister Donna, along with their mother accepted Jesus as their savior. Her mom died 2 months later.

After having made a profession of faith, I nagged poor Brenda to go to Bible study with me until she finally went just to get me to shut up. About this same time, God brought Omar into her life. Omar was a few years younger than Brenda and had never been married. He had become a Christian in college. When I learned of his commitment to Christ, I was overjoyed and exclaimed to my husband, “God has brought a Christian man into the life of my Brenda!” My husband wisely corrected me in a gentle voice with, “No honey…God brought you into the life of Omar’s Brenda to get her ready for him.”

Omar and Brenda dated for a couple of years. Then one day she called me and said, “I’m going to be a bride!! Omar asked me to be his bride! I never thought I would get to be a bride! My sons’ father told me he would never marry me…but Omar wants to make me his bride!” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I heard the joy in my friend’s voice. God is so good! He had brought a hero into the life of my beautiful friend.

Today, Omar and Brenda have been married for going on 10 years. Brenda’s oldest son has grown up and moved out. Her second son is a soldier in Iraq, and her youngest is a junior in high school. She and Omar love the Lord with all their hearts. They are shining examples of people who fear God. Today, they are fostering abused children in their homes with the hopes of adopting some. Brenda is still getting up in the middle of the night to feed crying babies and still doing all she does with a smile on her face. But now she evangelizes everyone she sees too. Her "family" today includes not just her biological sons, and her foster babies, but also two young women who worked at the day care where she works. Both of these young college students come from unbelieving homes and have come to know the Lord through Brenda’s witness.

Last Christmas, she sent me a picture of her “family” standing in front of their tree. It included, Brenda who is Caucasian, Omar who is African-American, Brenda’s three biological sons who are all bi-racial, the two young women, one of whom is Caucasian and the other one is Arabic and was a convert from Islam, and the two foster babies who are both bi-racial. Brenda is a God–fearer and one of my greatest blessings! And it just so happens her birthday is next week. Happy birthday Brenda!!

Friday, March 12, 2010


In honor of Easter and to gain a better understanding of what the season is all about, I am posting, with permission, a piece written by my husband, John R. Michael.

What is a “Born Again” Christian?

Have you wondered what the term “born again” means? Are you thinking about becoming a Christian yourself, but aren’t sure what it’s all about? Many people consider themselves to be Christians simply because they go to church, or because they try to be nice to people, or perhaps because they don’t belong to some other religious group. Sometimes such people are referred to as “cultural” Christians, meaning they tend to agree with traditional Judeo-Christian values. But this isn’t the same as being a genuine, born again Christian.

While some people incorrectly assume they are Christians because of their heritage or upbringing, other people think they can’t be a Christian because they grew up in some other religious tradition -- Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or something else. But that’s not correct. For example, there are many Christian Jews (also known as Messianic Jews), and their number is increasing every day. And every year, thousands of Muslims are embracing Christianity after reading the Injeel – the New Testament – which is one of the sacred books of Islam. So, a person’s ethnicity or religious heritage does not determine whether he can or cannot be a born again Christian.

We are often uncomfortable talking about spiritual matters, because we consider these things to be personal. They are personal. But they are very important. Our spiritual condition and beliefs will ultimately determine how we live our lives, and what happens to our souls when this life is over.

So what is a born again Christian?

In a nutshell, to be “born again” means you are born first physically, and then later, you are also born spiritually. You enter into an eternal, spiritual relationship with God, through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. What is it about Jesus Christ that we are to have faith in? That will be explained in a moment. For now, consider this: We are told by Jesus in the Scriptures, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Here are 4 key principles found in Scripture to help you understand how a person becomes born again and enters into this eternal relationship with God.

Principle #1. God's Nature: Loving and Holy

God loves you. He wants to bring you into an eternal relationship with Himself. Let’s look again at the verse mentioned above. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God...That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:3,6 Because God loves you, He wants you to be “born again”...to have a spiritual birth as well as a physical birth.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 God loves you, and wants to save you from eternal condemnation for your sins. He wants you to live eternally with Him in heaven.

God also wants you to have a full, abundant, and meaningful life on this earth. Jesus says,

“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:10,11

Verses like these teach us that God is loving, and wants us to pursue a fulfilling life through a relationship with Him. But Scripture not only teaches that God is loving. It also declares that God is Holy (set apart from worldliness; characterized by absolute moral perfection). In Leviticus 19:2 God says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” The problem is that while God is holy – we are NOT holy. In fact, we are unrighteous sinners. If left in this sinful condition, we cannot be in a relationship with God. We see this more clearly in principle #2…

Principle #2. Your Nature: Selfish and Sinful

“There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Everyone is a sinner, even you.

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23. The penalty for sin is spiritual death, and eternal separation from God.

Even the good things that we are proud of are not adequate to make us righteous in God’s eyes. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6

Our “righteous” good works are like dirty clothes compared to the holiness and perfection of God, and they are completely insufficient for bringing us into an eternal relationship with Him.

What are some examples of good works that people hope will “earn” God’s favor? Do you go to church or synagogue? Give money to charities? Are you kind to people? Sincere? Do you try to keep the Ten Commandments, or the Golden Rule? Despite your good intentions, none of these “good works” is sufficient to solve your sin problem. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20 In other words, God’s laws and commandments don’t make us righteous; rather, knowledge of God’s standards helps us realize that we don’t measure up. We see that we are sinners, and separated from God.

So, if even our best efforts are insufficient to make us right before God, what hope do we have?

The answer is in principle #3…

Principle #3. God's Solution: Faith in Jesus Christ

Scripture teaches that faith in Jesus Christ is the key to our eternal relationship with God.

Let’s look again at John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son (Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Many people are at least generally familiar with this verse, but often haven’t thought seriously about its application to them. But this is a profound truth: Whoever believes in Jesus Christ will have eternal life!
The critical question is, what does it mean to “believe in” Jesus Christ?

Do we simply believe the historical fact that He lived on the earth? What is it about Christ that we are to believe, or have faith in? And how does this faith solve our sin problem?

Here are two key scripture references that address these questions:

“…All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by blood, to be received by faith.”Romans 3:23-25

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would even dare to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.” Romans 5:6-9

We see that our righteousness comes not from ourselves, but from God. Even though we are sinners and unworthy, He gives us this gift of righteousness when we have faith (trust) in Jesus Christ. But what is it about Christ that we are to have faith in? We are to trust in the sacrifice of atonement that Jesus made for us when He died on the cross. Jesus atoned for, or "paid", the penalty for our sin when He bled, suffered and died. We deserve to suffer and die for our own sins, but Jesus Christ did that for us. He lived a pure and sinless life, yet He substituted Himself for us, receiving the punishment for sin that we deserve. As Romans 3:25 puts it, the shedding of Christ’s blood was the “propitiation” for our sins. That means Christ’s bloody suffering and death satisfied the righteous demands of God, whose holiness requires punishment for sin. When we trust (have faith in) this sacrificial work that Jesus performed for us on the cross, God’s requirement for punishment is satisfied, and He no longer counts our sins against us.

In summary, salvation is not something we deserve or can earn. It is something God did for us, through Christ's blood atonement on the cross. And while salvation is a free gift from God, a response is required from us. This gift is “to be received by faith.” Romans 3:25 It is a conscious choice, a decision to trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation, and to enter into a life-changing relationship with the living God. Let’s look at the fourth principle to understand the implications of this “new birth”, and the changed life.

Principle #4. The Supernatural Result: A Changed Life

Remember what the scriptures told us in the passage above, in Romans 3:25 – this gift is “to be received by faith.” This is an active faith. It’s a conscious decision to trust the blood sacrifice of Christ for your righteousness. If you have made a decision to accept this gift by faith, your sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven and cancelled completely. Your sin no longer separates you spiritually from God, because Christ’s sacrifice has wiped your slate clean and brought you into an eternal relationship with Him. You are given a new beginning, a spiritual re-birth. You are “born again”, a child of God, a new creature. Because you are now a child of God, He gives you His Holy Spirit to indwell you, to become part of your life. The Holy Spirit helps you understand God’s will and purposes as revealed in Scripture, and helps you change into the person God wants you to be. Lets look at some Scripture verses that describe this changed life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”I Corinthians 6:20

“…Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:5-9

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

So, we see here that God’s Holy Spirit gives you both the desire and the ability to live in a way that pleases God. A changed life is the result, (not the cause) of salvation. Remember, we can’t “work for” or “earn” our salvation…it’s a gift from God. But when we accept this gift by faith, we begin a new relationship with God, and He gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and make us new from the inside out. The Spirit guides us into new, God-oriented desires and priorities. The changed life that focuses on pleasing God is the outward evidence that a person is born again.

How about you? Have you been trusting in your own “good works”? Maybe you’re like a lot of people… you sincerely try to be a good person, maybe you even attend church or synagogue regularly. But if you are honest, you would have to admit you don’t really know God. He hasn’t been the center of your life. And you don’t know with confidence that someday, when this life is over, you will spend eternity in Heaven.

Do you sense that God is working in your heart, bringing you to faith in Christ? Are you ready to start a new life, to be “born again”? If so, talk to God about it. Here’s a sample prayer:

Dear God,

I realize I have failed to love and serve you with my life. I have made many mistakes, and I have many faults. I am certainly an imperfect person. I acknowledge that I am guilty of falling far short of your perfection. The Bible calls these shortcomings “sin”, and I confess that I am indeed a sinner. In my present condition, I have no hope of being in a relationship with you. In fact, I agree with Scripture that my sin deserves eternal punishment…I am condemned to a state of eternal separation from you…this is what the Bible calls hell. In my present condition, I realize this is my ultimate destination.

But right now, I accept by faith that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me…that when He suffered and bled on that cross, He took my punishment on Himself. And I accept by simple faith the promise of Scripture – that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all my sin, and allows me to stand before you in complete righteousness. Not my own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ. Thank you for this free gift of salvation. Thank you for allowing Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior.

I trust that I am now your child – a true child of the living God. I ask you to change my life, so I can become more pleasing to you…not to earn the salvation that you have just freely given me, but as a loving response to that wonderful gift. Help me find a church that honors you and your Scriptures. Help me learn how to study and understand the Bible. And help me seek out other born again, Christian friends who can help me grow in my relationship with you.

Did you pray something like this? Did you mean it? Simply saying these words isn’t the point – God knows our hearts. But if your prayer is genuine, welcome to the world-wide community of born again Christians!


Written by John R. Michael, Louisville, KY Revised 7/3/08
Scripture quotes taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)

Please feel free to copy or forward this piece as often as desired. While minor improvements or enhancements are encouraged, if the substance of the material is changed in a meaningful way, please remove my name from the revised document. Thank you. JRM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Life as I Knew it

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed my heritage is beautiful to me.”
Psalms 16:6

I had a very different childhood from many of you who may be reading my blog. I was born in Nigeria, West Africa in the late 1950’s (yes, I’m that old, and I’m ok with it.) My memories of life in Africa are filled with running barefoot on warm (hot) days, the smell of the tropical rains, strange animals (that didn’t seem so strange at the time), and people with an assortment of skin colors pouring their love on me. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me!

The Secret of my Birth

The village I was born in is called Joinkrama. It is located in what was then the Eastern Region of Nigeria but is today called “Rivers State”; in the Niger River delta. Joinkrama was a tiny place across the river from Port Harcourt – a crocodile infested river. In order to get to Joinkrama, my parents crossed the river with their two small children and all their belongings on a thatched roof pontoon type boat, somewhat like the boats at Disney World’s “Jungle Cruise’ except of course, the boat my parents was on, was wooden instead of aluminum (or whatever metal the Disney ride is made of) and the animals and danger in this river were real!

My father was a medical doctor and my mother was a registered nurse. Together they staffed a small mission hospital with my father as the only doctor there. Joinkrama is located in the small part of Nigeria that is in the tropical rain forest. It is an area of jungles. There were monkeys swinging in the trees outside of my house, elephants that occasionally tromped close enough to the village to be a danger to the villagers, and crocodiles in the river. The buildings were raised, for the occasions when the river overflowed its banks. It was in this remote part of the African jungle that I was born.

There are two stories about my birth…
One story has it that when my mother went in labor with me, she walked down a little jungle path to the hospital with my brother and sister in tow. According to this story, my father delivered me at the hospital once my mother arrived and then sent us back to convalesce at home. My mother was sent home on a stretcher carried by four men. She had me in her arms. Seeing us carried in this manner, the villagers assumed we had both died and began to weep and wail! One of the men alerted my mother to the situation and she quickly sat up, smiled, and waved so the people could see she was alive. Then, she lifted me up for them to see as well. The people’s weeping turned into dancing (literally) and they followed us home in a joyful procession! –that’s one story.

But my dad told me the real story when I was a little girl.
My dad told me that the stork was on his way to London, England –to Buckingham palace carrying in his beak the newest member of the royal family – a little princess (me) but unfortunately, he developed the hiccups, just as he was flying in the airspace above Joinkrama. …I don’t know where the stork lives, but apparently to get to London, it involves a trip over the Niger River delta. Well, overcome by one giant hiccup, the stork did something he had never done before – he dropped his bundle!

My father told me that he just happened to be walking home down that little jungle path when a bundle fell to the ground right in front of him! He said he knew immediately what had happened! …Now, my father never explained just how he knew all about the royal family, the stork’s hiccups, and all of that – but my father is a man of integrity so I never doubted his story!
“So you see” my father would conclude, “You are really a princess!”

….you can decide which story you want to believe, but I know the truth… I know I’m a princess!!

According to the Bible, I really am a princess!! I am a child of the King!

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:16-18

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Through My Kitchen Window

“…they are seeking a homeland. They aspire to a better land – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Hebrews 11:14-16 (HCSB)

We are seeking a homeland – a better one than the one we have on earth; a heavenly one. But until then, I will have to settle for the world as I see it through my kitchen window.

It’s Valentine’s again

So it’s Valentine’s Day again; the day we celebrate love. In particular, we are celebrating the love between two people – a man and a woman. However, there are some who do not have a love interest in their life on this day.
My niece is a lawyer now but she has an undergraduate degree in drama and she can be quite funny. A few years ago I was privileged to be around her on Valentine’s Day as she complained of being alone on that day. She went into a funny impromptu monologue. She compared Valentine’s Day to a really bad audition. She explained, “You know how when you go to an audition, you walk into a room full of people who also want the part you are hoping to get. But in a regular audition, you know that everyone in this crowded room is going to go home empty handed except for one. Only one person will be cast and everyone else will be disappointed. Valentine’s Day on the other hand is like a really bad audition! In this audition, everyone in the crowded room is hoping for a card, or candy, or flowers but in this audition, four out of every five will win!! And there you are ...among the minority who doesn’t get a card, candy, or flowers. You watch as the names of nearly everyone around you is called. But no, in the end you find out that you are part of the group that goes home empty handed.”
This may sound sad but it was funny at the time. My niece was being melodramatic in her own impromptu comic routine and her audience loved it! Yet, despite the humor, I think of her words every Valentine’s Day. There is a poignant truth in them. So, this year I want to remind all those whose name wasn’t called in the really bad audition called Valentine’s Day that you do have a love. His name is Jesus and he is the lover of your soul. What he gives you is much better than cards, candy, or flowers. He gives you His everything. He purchased you for Himself with His blood.

Isaiah 38:17 says, “…but Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back.” (KJV)

And for all the rest of us (I include my self in this as I have been married to a wonderful man for over 30 yrs) …Happy Valentine’s Day! To this group, I say “Don’t forget the One who loves you most!”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

“Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.”
Psalms 66:16 (NAS)

…and oh! What He has done for my soul!!

When the Psalmist penned this verse, he penned one of the most beautiful verses in scripture. The verse is addressed to “all who fear God”. They are the ones who will be able to truly appreciate what God has done for a soul, because they have a story too - God has done something for their soul too. This blog is my story of what God has done for my soul and like the Psalmist, I invite all who fear God to come and hear (or in this case, read) what God has done for my soul.

I am a freelance Christian writer. I have written some as of yet unpublished manuscripts as well as smaller published pieces. My work either has been or will be in the following publications; “The Lookout”, “The Secret Place”, Southern Seminary women's devotional book to be published fall of 2010, and “Love is a Flame” to be released soon by Bethany House. In addition, publications that are currently holding some of my work for further consideration include, “Parent Life”, “The Christian Journal”, and “The Upper Room”.

My blog will have several different topics that I may write about including, Life as I knew it - stories from my childhood,
Through My Kitchen Window - current topics,
Those who Fear God -stories of believers,
The Two Edged Sword - thoughts on scripture,
Confessions of a Prayer Warrior - prayer,
A Cheery Countenance - humor,
The quotable Susan -inspiring quotes
…and any other topic that may come to mind as the days roll on; that’s the nice thing about a blog, it can change as I need it to.