Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Waiting on God

God is good – All the time;
All the time – God is good.

While this can be a cliché statement in the church, and thus carries the danger of minimization that clichés can have, it doesn’t change the fact that it is TRUE. And it’s a statement that my mind is reminding my heart of tonight and will continue to do so in the days to come.

On Friday I was informed that my presence was needed (as the minutes taker) at a meeting at our other center starting on Monday. Sunday after church, I found out that the car I was riding in would be departing at 4 a.m. the next morning. No, I wasn’t thrilled…as I’m sure you can imagine! But I’m always excited to spend time with the Kobwin family so I was looking forward to that.

As my mom says, “expectations will get you every time!” :P

I don’t remember when my cough had started this time. I know I came down with congestion & a cough on May 13th after reporting a long event. But thanks to the nasal adjustment my osteotherapist gave me the next day, lots of vitamins and a few doses of Nyquil, I didn’t feel too bad during my safari trip that Mon-Wed.

This past Sunday afternoon, I again ended up reporting a long event. I came home absolutely exhausted, and at some point the cough had come back. So I took it with me to Kobwin.

In the meantime, one of my sisters here had walked through the painful loss of her first (early-term) pregnancy. She spent almost a week in the hospital before the staff confirmed that the baby was no longer alive or inside. Watching her and her husband walk through that was painful. But in the last week and a half, I have also been encouraged by their example and testimony. No, it’s not easy. It’s HARD. But I’ve seen them lean on God, give their baby back to Him, and grow stronger in their relationship with one another.

So on Monday of this week, I woke up really early and boarded the car. It was packed, since it was also serving as transport for a staff family moving back to that general area. We ended up making three unplanned stops – two dealing with tires (one tire went flat) and another for an hour and a half on the side of the road after a hose pipe busted (or something along those lines). Instead of reaching our destination at lunch time and starting meetings then, our van didn’t reach there until around 6 p.m.

I was exhausted and ready to crash, despite having slept some in the car. But the decision was made to meet from 8-10 p.m. that night. And I was staying with a Ugandan staff member in her house rather than at the guesthouse like I expected. Which was good, because otherwise I would have hardly seen her at all, but it came with its own challenges (namely, bathroom facilities).

I think it was that night that I felt how inadequate I was for the situation – and I started praying for God’s grace to sustain me through the next days. My hostess made apologies for the dust from the roof (papyrus matting) and for the rats that lived in the roof. Thankfully I really didn’t notice the latter, but I think the former exacerbated my cough.

A young boy who came with his dad in the van I was riding in had slept almost all day on Monday. That night, he had a high fever. So as I went to bed that night, that was my prayer focus – as well as thankfulness for a very positive update I had heard in the meeting.

The health of my relationship with God has really been under fire in the past months/year. I’ve kept trying to press through, and I’ve talked about it with my mentor here. But nothing had seemed to be shifting noticeably. In the past 2.5 weeks, I’ve been going through a Beth Moore Bible study, “Believing God,” in preparation for co-leading it with another lady here starting next week. Both this study and a book my mentor and I are reading through has been bringing to life the reminders about God that I’ve needed to hear again.

So on Monday night as I prayed for the little boy, I was so encouraged to notice a difference in my heart’s attitude. There’s not a concrete way to explain it, but my belief and faith were stronger that God could and would intervene, in His time & way. That encouraged my heart, and I know it wasn’t because of ME. It is God’s grace.

The next morning (yesterday), I was so blessed to hear that he was doing ok, and that he and his father had slept well (one of my specific prayer requests).

The meetings started at about 9 a.m. and continued with only three 45-minute breaks until 9 p.m. The heat at Kobwin (especially inside buildings during the day) meant that we met outside. Which also meant that my computer battery life ended up being something of an issue. So during the last two breaks I had to walk a few minutes away to the office, the only place with sockets at the center.

By break time (10:30 a.m., which always includes tea and snacks in Uganda), I noticed that I had a headache. Thankfully I always carry ibuprofen with me, so I took one. And the rest of the day, I found myself watching the clock for when I could take one again. Each one gave me about two hours of relief, enough to carry on my responsibilities, but I was not feeling great.

The meetings finally wrapped up, and I was told we would be getting up at 5 a.m. to leave for the long drive back home to Kasana. Oh bother. I was sad that the hectic schedule meant I had barely said three sentences to any of my friends there other than my hostess. Additionally, one of the families that I’m closest to wasn’t even around, they were on leave (vacation).

I went back to the house where I was staying, packed things up, and got myself to bed as fast as I could since I was once again exhausted. My cough kept me awake longer than I wanted, until the cough drop I took started helping. Then just a few hours later, I awoke again. My skin was hot to my own touch, but I was shivering in violent spurts. I pulled the heavy blanket over me, and tried to pray and sleep again. Twice, as I prayed for peace, I immediately felt my tense, shivering body relax. Thankfully it didn’t take too long to fall back asleep.

We got on the road at around 6 this morning, and thankfully the trip back was much less eventful. The van was also roomier, since obviously we weren’t taking back the load we had carried on the way up. So I was able to stretch out on a bench seat and sleep some. But coughing and the bumpy road were not kind to my headache, in spite of still being on ibuprofen.

We safely reached home at about 2 p.m. This afternoon was our weekly staff fellowship, and I went even though I still didn’t feel great. As I forced myself to unpack to clear off my bed, I couldn’t help but think about how the last time I felt healthy for an extended period of time was probably in early March, before my last Kobwin trip and before rainy season started.

Rainy season here for me brings frequent sneezing fits (especially in the morning) and a drippy nose. Probably a reaction to the cooler temperatures and mold.

An example of the latter: I have a pair of sandals I have worn very frequently over the past year and a half. Recently, I didn’t put them on for a couple weeks because I needed to do a bit of sewing on them to shorten the elastic straps. In the meantime, mold started to grow on my sandals.

On Sunday I had given them a good scrubbing (Oh, maybe that’s why my cough came back??), and they look so clean now! It’s funny how you don’t fully realize just how dirty something has gradually gotten until you clean it thoroughly.

Anyway, It’s been a rough three months, full of ups and downs health-wise. In my room, I have a calendar with the names of God on it. Interestingly, May’s name was Jehovah Rophe, “The God Who Heals.” As I looked at the calendar this evening, preparing to flip it, I had just taken my temperature to find that I have a slight fever for the third or fourth distinct time in the past three months.

My heart wanted to scoff at the promise I had welcomed so hopefully at the beginning of May. But then I re-read May’s verse: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity; who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3). I was struck by the order of that. It’s not God’s physical healing that has priority. No, it’s the spiritual healing that every believer has received which is primary. And it’s on that basis that I can proclaim God’s goodness tonight.

So even when I was struck by another fit of shivering as I wrote this post, even though I still have a fever (101 now), I can and will continue to proclaim God’s goodness. I can and will choose to be thankful for the many blessings I have received from God, which are too innumerable to count. And I can and will rest in my salvation by grace. On our long journey north on Monday, we witnessed multiple evidences of what a blessing that is. But that’s too long of a story for an already-mammoth post. Check out my ministry Facebook page on Friday for that.

As I close tonight, yes I would appreciate your prayers. But I find in my own heart the courage to pray “God, let Your will be done” rather than demanding that I feel perfectly fine when I wake up in the morning. First item on tomorrow’s agenda, sleep in. Second item, go get a malaria test. For the third time in as many months. If it’s like the other two times, the test will come back negative, but I’ll still feel crummy for an unknown length of time. But God is still good, ALL the time.

Thursday evening update: The blood test for malaria did come back positive this time, but that was almost a relief as then the treatment is obvious. I took my second dose this evening, four more to go.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why Do I Love & Worship?

Happy Resurrection Sunday to all my brothers and sisters! :-)

Today, God has been working something in my heart and mind that I want to share in case it can also encourage/convict others.

Pop Quiz about your knowledge of Bible stories: Which of the two thieves who died on either side of Christ asked to be saved?

Thought about your answer yet? Ok, I’ll wait a minute ;-)

If you’re having trouble remembering, check out Luke 23:39-43 (emphasis mine):
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying "If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

As you can see, it was the first thief—the blasphemous one—who asked to be saved. I don’t know about you – but that’s not what I would have thought the answer was to that question. If I were some Bible scholar, I would maybe have a better understanding of what was implied by the second thief’s request for Christ to “remember” him. But I’m not…so I don’t.

But this realization in church this morning followed on the heels of a conviction this morning in my ‘prayer closet’ which was along similar themes.

Let me first back up a bit. On Good Friday, I spent a couple hours out under a tree at our Enterprise Farm journaling about something….. something that came up about a year ago from my young childhood. I felt last year that I needed to work through it more, but had delayed and delayed. God used a couple different things to bring it up again last week, and a day off work provided a good opportunity to prayerfully write about it.

As I sat down to write, I wanted to do it from the right perspective and foundation. I didn’t want to write about it out of self-pity or a ‘victim’ mentality. I wanted to write about it in a way to open my heart to Christ’s healing and redemption, which He accomplished on the Cross 2,000 years ago. And so even though I didn’t plan it that way, Good Friday helped me think about it in that framework.

Then yesterday morning I was reading Psalm 67 in my devotional time. I couldn’t help but notice, while I read, that the Psalm talks about urging all nations to praise God…..but it begins and ends with the expectation that God will bless us. So was the admonition to praise God based in selfish motives, just wanting the blessings from Him? My mind noticed it, but then I went on with my day. And when a friend later asked me what Jesus was speaking to me that day, I couldn’t think of anything – I just said I wasn’t listening well enough to hear.

Back to this morning’s conviction. I had been thinking of my friend’s question off and on. And as I was there in my ‘prayer closet,’ Paraclete revealed a piece of my heart. On Friday I felt close to God in a way I haven’t as much recently, because I was bringing to Him something that was weighing on me. I recognized that I needed healing in an area, and I was asking Him to do that in me.

In other words, my motivation was partly/primarily selfish.

So this morning, the question that came to my heart and mind was “Have I been ‘loving’ and ‘worshipping’ God for who He is? Or for what I receive from Him?” In other words, haven’t I been doing the same thing the author of Psalm 67 appears to have been doing?

It’s such an easy trap to fall into. We do need God, desperately. And because He is a loving God, He does enjoy lavishing His children with gifts of His grace (Eph. 1:7-8). But our love for and worship of God should be so much more than that….shouldn’t it?

Because the God we serve is indescribably glorious. Enthroned in Majesty. The Creator and Sustainer of all things – in ways we can’t even imagine. He is the definition of Awesome.

But our eyes are so very easily fixated on our own lives, our own problems – the things we want God to fix in us or the material things we want Him to bless us with.

Is that not asking God to save us for our own selfish reasons, as the thief on the cross did? Is that not following Jesus for what we can get out of Him, as Judas ended up doing (John 12:4-8)?

Shouldn’t we instead recognize Christ for who He is—the one who “has done nothing wrong” and who has a Kingdom where He rules—as the second thief did? Shouldn’t we pour out our most valuable and precious things simply for the sake of anointing Christ, as Mary did (John 12:1-3)?

This morning, Uncle Jonnes pointed out that the two thieves on the crosses show the two types of responses to Jesus, paralleling the contrasting responses of Mary and Judas in John 12. But which category do I really fall into? As a not-yet-fully-sanctified human, I need to be continually examining my own heart and listening for the input of the Holy Spirit in this matter.

Because this morning, there in my prayer closet, the question came to mind: “If you got NOTHING from God, would you still worship Him?” And my selfish heart had to answer a quiet “no.”

All day today, when my thoughts have gone back to these points, there’s a simple line from a song that keeps coming back to mind: “I will worship You for who You are.” And that has been the cry of my heart today. To worship both our Savior and our Father for who He is as God. Not only for what I receive as a result.

To quote my college president, “May it ever be true of us.”


Friday, March 4, 2016

Trusting God in Unwanted Circumstances

I’ve been reading through the Psalms recently. Yesterday morning, one of the ones I read was Psalm 53.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity,
There is none who does good.
God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
Every one of them has turned aside;
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good, no not one. 
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call upon God?
There they are in great fear where no fear was,
For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you;
You have put them to shame,
Because God has despised them. 
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When God brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.

At the first read through, this Psalm kind of seemed disjointed. I didn’t initially see the thread of connection and flow through it all. But after looking at it for a bit, I could see it. Basically, the summary of this Psalm could be “Foolish men no match against God’s salvation.”

It made me smile as I saw it, and I thought about how encouraging that is. So often, we get focused on the rascals who seem to be able to do whatever they want. And yes, sometimes God allows evil men to have sway for a while. But in the end, they will be filled with great fear, “For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you.”

Not long after reading that, as I was walking to work, one of my fellow staff members stopped me. He asked me what other names I go by…..and I thought I knew where this was headed. When I told him my Luganda name, he told me that he had met a stranger on our campus – that spot being only a one minute walk from my house – who was looking for me by that name.

The stranger who talked to me once in the nearby town.

The creeper who has been stalking me.

He had been onsite, and not far from my place.

That was evidently a couple weeks ago. I think before he got my number and called me, and I told him “Do NOT call me again.”

On Wednesday, my fellow staff member had been in the nearby town, and three people had walked up to him and blamed him for keeping their friend (the creeper) from seeing “his friend” at New Hope (me – though I would NOT call someone “my friend” after one brief encounter).

My fellow staff member made the comment “I didn’t know I had any enemies in [the nearby town], but now I guess I do.” I explained the situation to him, and told him I was sorry he had gotten involved in it. And I did (and do) feel somehow guilty for it. The number of times my mind has tried to go back through that initial interaction, to see why this creeper thinks he can be so persistent….

But I have to keep reminding myself that I am not to blame for his unwarranted actions. My mom always says “you can’t ‘should have’ anything” – but I think it’s just human for us to think that way.
I feel like my privacy has been violated by this creeper. And now at least two of my staff members have been a bit hassled by the local people because of it. And yes, it is so tempting to be afraid.

It wasn’t until I lay down to go to sleep last night that my mind suddenly put two and two together. All day, the worry would try to come pressing back in. All day, I was waiting to talk to the church elder who has been walking through this situation with me. All day, I had been trying to remind myself not to let fear control me. But all day, I had forgotten the Truth that I read that morning:

“For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you”

And so last night, I finally prayed a Bible-based prayer about it – for the first time in all the weeks this has been going on. I prayed that God would scatter these outside ‘enemies’ who seem to be bent on getting me and this creeper together. That God would place a hedge of protection around my friends and around me. That God would place a fear of HIM into the heart of this creeper. I have no idea where he stands spiritually – and I do pray that God would work in his heart….not only to cause fear, but even to cause repentance.

So often, I fail to connect what I read in the Bible to real life. But this morning, as I read a couple more Psalms, the Spirit gave me the eyes to see it. And so I begin a new day, choosing to rest and trust in the God of my salvation. The One who can and will hear my prayers; the One who can grant me deliverance. Selah.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

God's Love for Us

Yesterday was, I am afraid, another one of "those days."

Jill is back in the office with me starting Tuesday, which is wonderful! And I'm going home two weeks from today, which is also wonderful!! But yesterday, thanks to a few other things as well, the emotions started snowballing quickly and early.

I'm so thankful that God reminded me to lean on Him in that moment, because if He hadn't, I am not sure if I would have made it through the day. Without Him, I am so weak!

But I did make it through, all by His Grace.

When we got to our weekly staff fellowship in the evening, one of our staff members came to share with us what she had recently learned at a conference about how to counsel people. But instead of jumping in to a list of things we should do, she went back to the beginning: reminding us that love is the goal of counseling others, and that "We cannot do that unless we are receiving God's love into our hearts regularly."

So instead of talking at us about how to help others, she gave us verses to meditate on as we opened up our hearts to God's love for us. Afterwards, this is what I wrote:

I am a child of God--Beloved and Precious. The child of a Prodigal God,* One who will spare NO expense in redeeming His people. He did it at the time of the Exodus (Deut. 7:7-8), He pursued His people through generations (Jer. 31:3), and He did it again through Jesus (Rom. 5:8).

God spared no expense. He poured out the most precious thing in the entire Universe: the blood of His Son (John 3;16). Because He loved us, because He loved me. Not because of any righteousness I had done or could ever do---my father's father's father's father for generations existed only in God's foreknowledge when Christ chose & pledged to make that ultimate sacrifice (Eph. 2:4-5). It is ALL by grace, all by His lavished love (1 John 3:1).

Lord, open the floodgates of my soul to Your love. Saturate me with You--mind, heart, body & soul--so that when life squeezes me and jostles me, it is Your love which overflows.

*This idea comes from Tim Keller's book of the same name, in which he points out that the real meaning of "prodigal" is extravagant, although the "parable of the prodigal son" often makes us think of it in terms of wandering from home. In that book, Tim Keller shows how the parable is really about the Prodigal Father (God) who rejoices so much in us.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Of Mango Juice & Broom Trees

Today was one of “those days” – days when one feels overloaded & overwhelmed.

I travelled back on Tuesday from a week of vacationing out at Musana Camps, NHU’s beautiful property on the shores of Lake Victoria. But by this afternoon, any rest during that week seemed hardly worth the piles of work I came back to.

So many things to do, chiefly reading & processing 300ish letters from our primary & senior students to their sponsors. But so many other things too, pressing things that I just can’t seem to make time for. Budgets & emails & new sponsorships, and a pile of Christmas packages for kids just waiting to be opened & checked.

I was tired and frustrated and on edge this afternoon. One of my friends had stopped by several times to do various things at the admin offices. So we had greeted & chatted a bit, and she could see I was tired.

Trying to get some of the letters read, I could just feel my frustration building. A class where the teacher had written a letter and just had all the students copy it (true, it’s a young class, but they should still be able to answer simple questions for themselves). Other things that hadn’t gone quite like I expected.

I was about ready to throw in the towel and go for a run to vent my pent up feelings, even though it was 3 p.m. and I was nearly sweating just sitting still in my office.

Then my friend showed up again. She handed me a manila envelope, strangely shaped. Inside was a box of cold mango juice she had bought for me.

Such a seemingly small thing – but to me it was not a small thing: it was a big thing.

Because as she turned and left before I had even finished opening it and thanking her, my mind flew back to Tuesday night.

That night, we women here at Kasana had started a video-based Bible study: “Walking with God in the Desert,” by Ray Vander Laan. He’s a Bible teacher who takes people out to the Holy Land and creates studies about Christian history & heritage and lessons to be learned from that.

There have definitely been times in the past year and in the past months when I have felt the blasting heat of a metaphorical desert wind. Moving & living half way around the world from everything familiar isn’t easy. Carrying a lot of responsibility for months can be a draining challenge.

But, as Ray reminded us, it’s in the desert we often are reminded that it is God who is faithful and sufficient, and it is in the desert times that we can learn to fall in love with Him all over again.

In the second video lesson we watched, Ray talked about the concept in the Bible of God being the shade at our right hand. He said the Hebrew word refers to what we call a broom tree. It’s more like a shrub or a bush: something which can give relief from the heat, but not like an oak tree that more completely blocks out the burning sunlight.

God doesn’t promise us that He will magically make all of our problems disappear! But He does promise us that He will give us the shade and relief at all times when we need Him. And His grace is sufficient for us to take the next step, to make it through the next challenge. What’s more, God often uses the community of His people to bring that shade to one another.

This afternoon, God used my friend to remind me about what I had already so quickly forgotten. That box of mango juice was my broom tree for the afternoon. I thank God for my friends here, including this one who’s “small” act of kindness honestly turned around my whole frame of mind.

The only way to explain it is God. A box of mango juice doesn’t really turn me from someone who’s frustrated and fed up into someone who can take the next step and the next step and make progress in reading letters. It was just a practical object lesson & reminder that God is enough and He will provide the strength I need. I had written those same words just a couple hours before, because I knew with my head they were true. But God in His grace sent my friend with a box of mango juice because He knew I needed to remember and feel it with my heart this afternoon.

Because of what my friend did for me, I was also able to reach out to other friends and hopefully be a bit of God’s shade for them too. That’s how God’s grace works. It’s not just something I take and keep for myself. It’s something that I receive in order to pass it on to others – for the glory of our loving Father.

So as you go about your day, maybe think about how you can be God’s broom tree for others in their struggles. And don’t forget that God is always there for you in your desert, no farther away than you can reach your right hand.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thanksgiving

I know this is a few months early for my fellow Americans….. But here at New Hope Uganda, tomorrow we will be having our annual Thanksgiving Sunday service. And so in that spirit, I wanted to share some of the things I am so very thankful for in this season of my life.


First of all, I am incredibly thankful for our Abba, Father – the fact that He is present and active in the lives of His children is an incomprehensible gift!

I am thankful for our Savior, for His patience and undying love for us. Words utterly fail to describe what He has done and continues to do for the glory of God, of which we are beneficiaries!
“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”  2 Timothy 2:11-13

I’m also thankful for Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who lives within God’s beloved sons & daughters and continues working and interceding for our sanctification.

I’m so thankful that I am never alone, for this is the Triune God who is ever-present with us.

I’m thankful for my biological family, especially my parents. Their constant love and care and prayers and support mean more to me than I can ever say.

I am also thankful for my massive spiritual family – literally located around the globe. So many names I could mention here – names of prayer supporters and encouragers, names of friends. Many of whom I have not seen in recent months, but who I know care nonetheless.

I’m thankful for my New Hope family too – again, so many names I could pull out of people who have invested in me in ways small and large. People who have opened their hearts and homes to me; people I have been able to stand with and work alongside. People who, while not perfect, seek to serve God through loving His “least of these.”

I am thankful for the gift of fellowshipping for a week in person with a friend & apartment-mate from college days. Her presence was such a gift and she is part of the reason I am writing this right now!

I’m thankful for the beauty of God’s creation! For the birds, the flowers, the stars my friend and I enjoyed during a dark night power out. This world is so amazing in its variety and ingenious design.


This list could go on and on…..
When I choose gratitude and thankfulness as my glasses, I see so much that is good and blessing in my life. Yes, there are hardships and challenges. But I – we! – are called to give thanks in all things. And so this evening, I praise God for the many gifts He has given me…..above them all, Himself in relationship.

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Boasting in My Weakness

I’ve got to say, it’s not easy for me to think about writing this post. Even simply typing the title made me pause.

I’m the kind of person who likes to be right—who needs to be right (or at least I think I do). I want to be the one who’s dependable and got it all together.

But, truth is, I’m not – and I don’t.

God is at work in my heart and life. Often I wish He would hurry up and finish so that I would just be good to go. But then I wouldn’t need Him as desperately, would I?

In the past weeks and months, I’ve been wrestling with apathy. Well, actually, a more accurate description would be that I’ve been giving in to apathy without putting up a lot of fight.

I’ve been battling discouragement, hypocrisy, etc. You name one of those inner struggles that’s so easy to put a mask over, I’ve probably been dealing with it to some extent.

But God – He sees right through my masks. Jesus Christ sees my heart with His eyes of blazing fire that our teacher talked about this morning in church (from Revelations 2:18). And yet this same God doesn’t only see in me what I so often focus on, the sin & failures, the guilt. God the Father sees in me the righteousness of His Son, our Savior.

That’s what He reminded me of this afternoon as I knelt on my bed, crying for shame & guilt of my shortcomings. And to my heart, three simple words, yet so profound that it will take eternity to understand: He loves me.

Yes, in myself I am weak – so very prone to give into the temptation of the easy, selfish path. But in my weakness is the opportunity for His strength to be displayed, for His glory.

Because if living the Christian life—a life that pleases God—is something that I could work up to do in my own strength, there would have been no need for Christ to come.

I need Him, He who has fought the war and won the victory; He who has defeated the enemies of sin and Satan and death. The balance is there: The war has been won, and yet I am called to fight the daily battles by the power of the Victor flowing in and through me.

Yesterday as I worked on laundry, some of these same thoughts which have been common these past weeks were already circling in my mind. I shut off the podcast I was listening to, and prayed seeking to listen to my God instead. And in that, I was reminded of the need to put to death my old man, my fleshly desires, each day. But I can’t even crucify my own flesh – that can only be done through the Spirit who brings life in the place of death (Romans 8:13).

Thanks be to God, it is not that I must struggle against my flesh in order to win God’s acceptance and approval. On the contrary, He has adopted me as His daughter through Christ’s death – thereby giving the only reason I have hope of choosing life over the sin and death which form our natural, fallen state (Romans 8:12-17).

And yesterday, as He called me to the beginning of this memory, my mind flew back to a little something I had started in March and finished in June:

I say I started it in March. That’s not strictly true. March is when I pulled some images of crosses from the Internet and selected a font, all of which I began to combine and trace to make this image. But the story of this picture started almost four years ago, on my 21st birthday at JBU’s Sunday night chapel service. It was there that the words “I am Thine” (referring to myself in relationship to my heavenly Lord, obviously) became emblazoned on my mind. They’ve been there ever since, and often my heart has repeated that cry.

The cross was added to the mental image later, in Northern Ireland. That’s a story of its own, perhaps for another day. But over these past two years since that trip, I’ve been wanting to draw this. Last month, the image was finally completed. And yesterday, it suddenly took on even deeper significance. Not only is the cross the symbol of Christ’s redemption of our souls, it is also the symbol of what we are called to: To take up our cross each day – not to earn our salvation, but because we have it (Luke 9:23-25, Philippians 3:7-11).

These words, this symbol – they are far beyond anything I can accomplish in and of myself. It is all Christ. Therefore, I will gladly boast in my weakness, that through me the strength of His grace may be seen (2 Corinthians 12:9). For His glory alone.