Monday, March 29, 2010

A True Friend

I remember the day we met. We both worked at the Miami Valley Women's Center, a pregnancy care center. I was a volunteer and she was the Executive Director. When I became the Director of Development, we had the opportunity to work more closely, teaming up to visit our donors. Linda became a dear friend. The kind of friend I desire to be.

Although she worked countless hours, she was always available to discuss the next fund-raiser or up-coming church visit. I don't recall ever hearing her complain. She modeled a godly work ethic and had a genuine interest in all those who made up the staff at the Center. I remember her willingness to take clients when we were short-handed. Follow-up mentoring, after hours, was commonplace. Talk about a heart of compassion!

Because of her vivacious personality, Linda never met a stranger. She loved to entertain, and often would open her home for staff Christmas parties and get-togethers. And did I mention she could cook?! Her poppy-seed muffins and banana bread were staples we included on our donor visits. (And yes, I did get her recipes!) She had a willing heart to serve.

We had the opportunity to attend several Care Center conferences together. From Missouri to California and a couple places in between, we forged a lasting bond. Christ was the foundation of our friendship. Studying God's word and praying together allowed us to sharpen one another spiritually. King Solomon speaks to the wisdom of this practice, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17; KJV).

As is the case with any job, there were always opportunities for gossip and slander. Especially in a workplace comprised almost entirely of females. What continues to amaze me to this day is that Linda didn't speak a harsh word about anyone. She seemed to have James 1:19 down, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:" She had a way of "speaking the truth in love" that let me know she wanted the best for me. Her self-discipline and humility left a lasting impression on me.

A true friend is hard to find. One who is willing to invest in a relationship through thick and thin. One who is quick to give praise and slow to complain. One who is in control of his/her tongue. Someone who won't deviate from God's truth, just to tell you what you want to hear. Someone who will be open and honest. A person with a heart of compassion, and a heart to serve. A true friend is a gift from God!

Has God blessed you with a special friendship? What character qualities do you look for in a friend?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessing of true friends in my life. I pray that You would help me to cultivate godly characteristics that would allow me to be a true friend to others. Amen.

*I have the privilege of presenting some awesome awards to my faithful, blogging friends!

I received the "Helpful Blogger Award" from Jill Kemerer over at Jill Kemerer: Christian Romance Author. Be sure to check out her site for a big dose of encouragement and fun! Here are the rules that apply to this award:

1. Post one thing no one knows about me.
2. Quote one sentence from a favorite book.
3. Pass it on to seven bloggers.

My answers? Here goes:

1. Hmmmm...This is tricky! How about something you bloggers don't know about me?! When I was growing up, my family would go down to New Port Richey every Christmas to visit my grandparents. My brother and I loved to play with stuffed animals, actually 99% of them were monkeys. We would cram every single stuffed monkey we owned into two smallish, orange suitcases because we knew we'd feel sorry for the ones who didn't get to come to Florida with us! Were we extreme, or what?!

2. I'm following Jill's example on this one. I couldn't narrow it down to just one sentence. Here's one paragraph from Beth Moore's, Praying God's Word:

"In praying Scripture, I not only find myself in intimate communication with God, but my mind is being retrained, or renewed (Rom. 12:2), to think His thoughts about my situation rather than mine. Ultimately, He resumes His proper place in my thought life as huge and indomitable, and my obstacle shrinks. This approach has worked powerfully every time I've applied it. It takes belief, diligence, and time, but the effects are dramatically liberating and eternal."

Try it! It works!!

3. I'm passing the "Helpful Blogger Award," to (in alphabetical order by last name):

Warren Baldwin @ Family Fountain

Carla Gade @ Writing to Distraction

Jeanette Levellie @ Audience of One

Susan Panzica @ Eternity Cafe

Susan J. Reinhardt @ Christian Writer/Reader Connection

Jaime Wright Sundsmo @ The Jaime Reports

A special thanks to Raymonde Newman @ Everyday I Walk With You for the Happy 101 Award, and to Karen Lange @ Write Now for the Inspiration Award. You ladies are the best! Stop by their blogs for a real treat! I'd like to present the "Happy 101 Award" and the "Inspiration Award" to all of my followers who truly are an inspiration to me and, of course, make me very happy!! Congratulations to all of you, and God bless!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whitewashed Lives

The externals are there. The words are right. The look is appropriate. Wholesome activities are emphasized. But, as Christians, how often do we deceive ourselves, giving lip service to what's right, only to realize that we're merely going through the motions? Is the love we have for our Savior truly genuine? Or could we be lumped in with those the prophet Isaiah spoke of, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8; KJV). How many times have I majored on the trivial things, only to miss the point God was patiently trying to teach me?

Hear the words He whispers, "It's a question of your heart, child. Who sits on the throne of your heart?"As a believer, my answer should be, "Christ." But all too often, I've glanced at the throne, only to see my reflection staring back at me. I've been calling the shots. I've been so busy managing the external image that I've missed His still, small voice beckoning me to deal with the root issues. Instead of rushing around putting out the many fires of inconsistency in my life, He longs to show me the single blaze that started all the other fires in the first place.

Pride saunters confidently onto the scene. He's a seasoned pro. He gloats over those from centuries ago, whom he has been able to seduce. Take a look at the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' time. Religious leaders with enviable pedigrees. The cream of the crop who were well-educated and highly esteemed in their day. They certainly looked like they had it 'all together.' But Jesus wasn't fooled. He was quick to see Pride's strangle-hold on their lives. "Woe unto you, scribes ad Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).

Wait just a minute! How dare Jesus speak to these respected leaders this way! Weren't these men dedicated to keeping every jot and tittle of the Law? Jesus pointed out their error, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Matthew 23: 23-24). They had it all wrong, focusing on the small stuff rather than concentrating on the big issue.

While these men tried so desperately to maintain a pious exterior, Jesus was well-aware of the evil root of Pride that had taken control of their hearts. As Jesus' popularity grew and His followers increased, Pride teamed up with Jealousy to stir up these religious leaders. "Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matthew 26:3-5).

These men were determined to keep up appearances. They were the religious leaders, who did this carpenter think He was, anyway? And yet, in spite of their attempts to discredit Him, His answers left them speechless and His followers continued to increase in number! They refused to accept Him as the promised Messiah because He didn't fit their description of who they thought He should be. Pride had such a tight grip on their hearts, that their eyes had been blinded. 'Self' remained on the throne, and Pride remained the victor.

A choice must be made. Will we continue putting out our own small fires, refusing to deal with the bigger blaze that's creating them? Will we refuse to give up our position on the throne of our life and end up like the Pharisees? Or will we deal with the root of our sin, and purpose to live by the words of the Apostle Paul, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

A beautiful promise is given to all who surrender the throne of their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 3:6b). The promise of grace. Make the right choice today!

Gracious Heavenly Father, Help me to submit myself to You. Help me to resist the devil, knowing that he will flee from me. Help me to draw near to You, knowing that you will draw near to me. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Two D's

Snow in March. Certainly not what I would have expected this time of year. Especially in Georgia. Usually the trees are showing signs of tiny green foliage and the weather is beckoning me to leave my work and bask in the beauty of spring. Although we've been taunted with a few warm days, winter is determined to hold on as long as it can...Will spring ever return? Logically, I know the answer is 'yes.' But the leaden sky and cold temperatures give me cause to wonder.

Life can be similar. What I expect, and what actually happens, can be two very different things. Disappointment and Discouragement pound on my door. Will I answer? On those days when I'm stretched to the limit with a million things on my 'to do' list, I sometimes throw the door open wide and invite the two D's to come in and make themselves at home. Soon I'm sipping bitter tea and munching the bread of idleness at a pity party thrown in my honor. My 'visitors' quickly unload their knapsacks with everything I need to continue this so-called party, for quite some time. I'm handed a box full of reminders that convince me that I have a right to be disappointed that my children's story got overlooked. Discouragement tells me I may as well give up the dream to be a writer.

As our 'party' continues, I almost miss the quiet knock on my door. As I slowly make my way to the front of the house, I'm aware that Disappointment and Discouragement follow a short distance behind. I peek out the window, before opening the door. A familiar Friend waits patiently before knocking a second time. By now I realize that the two D's have left my house in a shambles. With furniture in disarray, crumbs and paper littering the table, I turn from the door and frantically begin to clean my house. Disappointment and Discouragement try to convince me that appearances are all-important, and that my house will never measure up.

I hear the faint knock again and realize that this Friend wants to spend time with me and cares about me more than the condition of my house. I run back to the door and greet my Friend warmly. His words for me are reassuring, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30; KJV). As I continue to read the letter my Friend has given me, I scarcely notice Disappointment and Discouragement tiptoeing out the front door.

Where Disappointment and Discouragement gave me reasons to wallow in self-pity and demand my rights, this true Friend offers me Hope and Encouragement. He asks me why I am downcast. He shares His wisdom, "...hope thou in God," assuring me that in due time I will praise Him for the help of His countenance (Psalm 42:5). He encourages me to trust in Him.

As I trade in the bitter tea and bread of idleness for the Living Water and the Bread of Heaven, I can feel myself being restored and renewed. I apologize for keeping company with Disappointment and Discouragement and feel a peace flood my soul. The worries of the day are put into proper perspective as I meditate on my Friend's words, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10).

As I accept the Strength He offers me, He reminds me, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). What a promise! With my eyes firmly fastened on my Friend, I resolve to leave the door unanswered the next time the two D's come calling. With my Friend's active presence in my life, I can live victoriously!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, May life's disappointments and discouragements draw me ever-closer to my true Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pressure-Packed Road Trips

The title of her lesson was, "Road Trip to the Fruit of the Spirit." Subconsciously, I sat up a little straighter as she began speaking. Her tri-fold, display board boasted a winding roadway that was traversed by a car backed with velcro. The cute, red vehicle could easily be moved from one location to another along the road. It was a whirlwind trip - visiting nine destinations in the space of twelve minutes! From start to finish, we visited: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.

Our daughter, Riley, had the opportunity to compete at the state level in Bible Teaching this week. She was to present her lesson as if she were speaking to a children's class. Riley enjoys helping out in the kindergarten Sunday school class at our church, and has been able to get some incredible hands-on experience at school in her Introduction to Teaching class. As parents, we were privileged to sit-in on her "...Fruit of the Spirit" presentation. Her enthusiastic expression coupled with a graceful delivery made me come away thinking, "She's a natural!" But at the state level, the competition can be intense. With ten other competitors, only time would tell who would advance to the national level.

After lunch, we got in the car and made the two and a half hour drive home. Time seemed to stand still as we waited to hear something...anything. At nine thirty, we got the call - Riley had been chosen to advance to the national competition! Wow! What an honor! Now the preparation begins in earnest. The judges comments are taken apart line by line. Adjustments are made on visual aids and oral delivery. Tension mounts at the national level. The pressure is on. How will our daughter handle it?

Thinking of the tremendous tension Riley will surely encounter, I was reminded of a different 'road trip' that gave rise to some literal 'pressure.' Nakalele Blowhole was unlike anything my husband and I had ever seen. Noted as one of the most spectacular sights in West Maui, this blowhole is a result of the shoreline being undercut by the ocean. The surf continues its relentless pounding underneath the lava shelf, and escapes through a large hole on the surface of the lava, spewing out water as high as 70 feet in the air! We had to agree with the writer of our guidebook, who described the landscape that surrounds the blowhole as, "an alien war zone where combatants fought with acid" (Andrew Doughty, Maui Revealed, p. 58).

The amount of water forced through the blowhole can vary tremendously - depending on the tide and size of the surf. We just happened to visit on the right day. The Nakalele Blowhole was doing its thing! The incredible pressure created by the pounding waves was delivering a mesmerizing spectacle. A fellow visitor let us know that of the eight times he had visited the blowhole, this was the most spectacular. Conditions were perfect and the blowhole was delivering! Who could imagine that such intense pressure could produce something so beautiful?!

Depending on our response, pressure can either paralyze us with fear, or produce something beautiful that propels us to victory. If we try to handle things in our own strength, chances are the pressure will eventually ruin us. On the other hand, if we allow the Lord to be our strength, we can hold up under the pressure. Others will notice, and we'll be given the opportunity to point them to our Strength. Remember the words recorded in second Samuel, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: And he maketh my way perfect" (2 Samuel 22:33; KJV).

There IS strength in God for all who trust in Him. The stresses and pressures of life will continue to come, how we handle them is up to us. Allow the pressure to point you to God, Who alone can produce something beautiful in your life, and propel you to victory!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Equipped for Adventure

Rough. Rugged. Reliable. Words that describe the vehicle we rented while on the island of Maui. A no-frills Jeep that was equipped to handle whatever we would encounter while on our outdoor adventures. Although initially it took some getting used to, my husband and I have fond memories of every mile we put on the vehicle we came to refer to as our friend, 'Jeepy.'

As we set out mid-morning on a sight-seeing adventure of west Maui, we packed our camera, picnic lunch and incidentals in the back of Jeepy. Because our jeep was only partially enclosed, we had been forewarned by the rental car company to travel light. We would need to take anything of value with us when we stopped, in order to deter any would-be thieves.

We wound along the picturesque Honoapi'ilani Highway with the sun smiling down on us and the wind reminding us that perfect hair in Hawaii isn't important. Jeepy navigated each twist and turn with ease, adjusting to the varying elevation like an old pro. As we drove off-road to explore points of interest, we were confident Jeepy would get us back to the highway without a problem. We were not disappointed.

When we set off to explore the road to Hana the next day, a few sentences in our guide book gave us pause for concern, "Well, 14 miles past Hana, after the 38 mile marker, the road goes from pavement to gravel that is graded regularly. After less than 5 miles of sometimes bumpy gravel (its bumpiness depends on when you catch it during the maintenance cycle) it becomes blacktop again, textured rough from countless poor patch jobs. After a few miles of bumpy blacktop the smooth highway returns" (Andrew Doughty, Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook, p. 73). Hmmmmm....This would be a true adventure! We weren't planning on just driving to Hana and turning around, we wanted to continue on to the back-side of the volcano, Haleakala. Did Jeepy have what it would take to make it through the difficult terrain?

Rainbow eucalyptus trees, lush greenery and some pretty waterfalls characterized the drive. Although this side of the island boasted plenty of rainfall, the sunshine broke through as we neared the back-side of Haleakala. Prior to this point, we had experienced hairpin turns and narrow roadways, along with extreme changes in elevation. Jeepy had braved it all.

With no other vehicles in sight, we drove onto the portion of road that was blacktop, albeit 'textured rough.' Had the guidebook said this portion of the road was bumpy?! 'Washboard' would have been a more accurate description! My husband and I knew better than to try to hold a serious conversation - our words would have been lost in the road noise and wind. As the sun began its descent, we picked up our pace in order to make it back to civilization before we were engulfed in darkness. Jeepy's gas gauge was registering a quarter of a tank of gas and we still had several miles to go.

We were never so glad to hear silence, as when Jeepy's tires once again hit smooth pavement! What a relief, we had made it! We had experienced what our guidebook described; the light casting "deep shadows in the water-scoured gulches, the incredibly expansive views of the coastline, the impossibly blue sky against the brown and red upper slopes of the volcano, the angry, wind-ravaged seas, and the utter lack of civilized development" (p. 74). Jeepy had once again proven a reliable mode of transportation.

I have to admit we were sad when we dropped Jeepy off at the rental car company. The valiant, red Jeep that had shared our adventures with us, had become a 'friend' of sorts! I thought about the way Jeepy was well-equipped to handle any challenge the road had to offer. Maybe not the most luxurious vehicle, but built for a specific job.

I'm a lot like Jeepy. God created me with a specific purpose in mind. He has equipped me with what I need to handle the challenges of this life. Others may have different abilities and gifts, I'm not to compare myself with them. Each one of us is unique and special to our Creator. The Lord gave Joshua some excellent advice that would be wise for us to apply, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:9; KJV).

When challenges and adventures come my way, I can rest assured that God is with me! He is the reliable One! What challenges are you facing? Remember that God is always with you and He has equipped you for life's journey!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Birthday and a Giveaway!

She's eighteen. One of life's milestones has been reached. We celebrated our daughter, Riley's, birthday yesterday. In spite of a heavenly deluge of rain, our spirits refused to be dampened. My husband and I picked up lunch and headed over to her school. We enjoyed spending the lunch-hour together, savoring our food and talking about the plans for the evening.

The birthday parties at McDonalds from days gone by have been traded in for dinners at 'real' restaurants with waiters and waitresses. The frosting covered cake exchanged for an Edible Arrangement. These days, yummy, calorie-laden desserts take a back seat to healthy choices. No doubt about it, our girl is growing up.

A bittersweet time. Wanting to cling to the little girl of the past, yet eager to see how our faithful God will use the beautiful young lady of the present. Our role as parents is changing. Our 'arrow' has been honed and shaped and is snugly fit into the bow, awaiting the moment when she will be launched forth toward the bulls-eye.

A thousand questions fill our minds. Is she ready for the responsibility that adulthood brings? Did we place enough emphasis on seeking God's direction for her life? Will she be prepared for the challenges that she will face? Will she stay anchored to her Lord in spite of life's inevitable storms?

Were we the perfect parents? Of course not. We made our fair share of mistakes. But I am encouraged by the promise of God's Word. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6, KJV). Our God is faithful! Where we fell short, He is able to go the distance.

Ultimately, our children are a gift from God. He entrusts us with their care for a brief period of time. We are privileged to train them with His help, and once again release them to fulfill His purpose. The majority of them will one day marry. Marriage is an institution of God. The book of Genesis records His stamp of approval on this institution, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). In the vast majority of cases, marriages are blessed with children and the process begins all over again.

Although the future holds many unanswered questions, I'm grateful to know the God who holds the future! Although our daughter will be leaving for college in the fall, I'm eager to see how God will continue to mold and shape her as she submits to His will.

Over the coming years, our relationship will shift from one of primarily guidance and direction to one of friendship. Change isn't always easy, but it is necessary in order for us to become who God created us to be. We can cling to a Savior who never changes, with the assurance that His goal is for us to become more and more like Him on this journey called life!

*A special thanks to all who entered the giveaway! Drum roll please! And the winners are:

First Place: Cheri Bunch from over at Seven Branches wins a copy of Julie Ferwerda's, One Million Arrows

Runner Up: Dorothy Adamek from over at Ink Dots wins a beautiful, hand-crafted, paper bead necklace from Uganda

A hearty congratulations, ladies!! I'll be sending your gifts out shortly!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Final Day

Today is the final day to enter my contest. Simply join my blog and leave a comment on my post from March 2nd, Honing and Shaping Arrows. You will be entered in the drawing to win Julie Ferwerda's fantastic book, One Million Arrows. Second prize is an exquisite paper bead necklace hand crafted in Uganda.

Don't miss your opportunity! Enter today!

*Winners will be announced Thursday, March 11th.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Swimming with Sea Turtles

The water was crystal clear. A beautiful blue-green color. Amazing sea-life teemed just below the surface. We donned our snorkel gear and slipped into the sheltered cove.

Floating on the surface of the water, we peered to the right and to the left. There were tropical fish everywhere. Some large and colorful. Others monochromatic and slender. When combined with the brightly colored coral, 'other-worldly' was the description that came to mind. The beauty that surrounded us was simply amazing. The fish were absolutely spectacular. But they were merely an added bonus. We had been told that this was the spot to see some phenomenal sea-dwellers. After several minutes of patiently searching, we saw them.

Sea turtles. Dubbed 'honu' by the Hawaiians, these majestic creatures were swimming up from the ocean floor for a breath of fresh air. It was all I could do to steady my disposable, underwater camera for a shot of these incredible animals. Swimming effortlessly through the water, these enormous reptiles were not the least bit shy. Used to the many snorkelers exploring their habitat, they would swim within a few feet of us. Our patience paid off, not only did we spot the sea turtles, we were also able to swim with them. What an unforgettable experience!

Creation is a megaphone of sorts, that calls attention to the glory of God. The book of Revelation is quick to proclaim, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11, KJV). The beauty and majesty of the Hawaiian cove we explored at Napili Point was as close to 'perfection' as anything I could remember. It reminded me of the perfection of God's Word.

David outlines God's perfect word in the nineteenth Psalm, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether" (7-9). What rich reward is promised for those who hunger and thirst after His Word, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:10)!

Having the opportunity to swim with some of the sea creatures God has created was truly sensational, but dulls in comparison to learning at the feet of my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. My God is alive and active and is described as "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6b). Imagine being rewarded by the God of the universe! Being invited to know Him more! If you're adventurous, and looking for an unforgettable experience, dive into the pages of God's Word and get to know your Creator!

Has God used His creation to draw your attention to Him? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Author Interview & Contest!

Today I'm featuring an interview with Julie Ferwerda, author of One Million Arrows. I posted a review about her phenomenal book on Tuesday and am excited to announce my first blog contest! The winner will receive his/her very own copy of Julie's book, One Million Arrows!! One very fortunate runner-up will receive an exquisite hand-made, paper bead necklace from Uganda!

To enter the contest, simply follow my blog and leave a comment regarding this post including your e-mail address so I can notify the winners! One entry per person please. Drawing will be held Thursday, March 11th. God bless each of you as you hone and shape the arrows God has placed in your life!

Julie Ferwerda is recognized for making the Bible exciting and relevant to everyday life through her writing and speaking. Her articles are featured in many Christian magazines and websites for both adults and teens, and she frequently volunteers her time and talents to international orphan ministry.

Q: So, Julie, the title of your book is, One Million Arrows: What is that all about?
A: The title originated with a man I met in India by the name of Dr. M.A. Thomas. He’s received many national awards in India such as the Mother Theresa Award and the Padma Shri for his humanitarian efforts, especially for his work with orphaned and abandoned children that he started in the 1970s. In the 90s, Dr. Thomas read a verse in the Bible that describes children as a gift and a reward, like sharp arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior (Psalm 127:3-5). He realized that all children, regardless of background and circumstances, should be seen as a gift and a legacy to society because they can make a significant and positive impact in the world if given the proper training and opportunities.

India has as many as 80 million orphans so he set a goal of rescuing one million orphaned and abandoned children, sharpening them with love, education, and spiritual nurturing, and launching them back into society to bring positive change through the power of the Good News about Jesus. To date he has raised over 16,000 orphaned and abandoned children who have become doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians, missionaries, and leaders, and he has planted over 21,000 churches in India and South Asia.

Relating to us…the arrow vision of raising children to be a gift and heritage to their society is for all parents, all countries. So many parents in our culture have lost their vision as to the incredible opportunity we’ve been given to shape—not just tomorrow’s leaders—but today’s leaders and shapers of their peer groups, schools, and communities. But this takes vision and deliberate investment and training. One Million Arrows casts a vision for parents to sharpen and launch our children right now to make a positive impact on society.

Q: You mentioned the notion of parents investing in or training their children. Isn’t this what parents already do?
A: Some parents do invest in and train their children to some degree, but there is also a lot of hands-off parenting in our society today, especially in training character development as well as teaching our children how to live for the big-picture—like what were they made to do in this world, what are their unique gifts and abilities, and how can they use them to make a difference now?

We have to train our children to serve others—it doesn’t come naturally. But for many of us, once our kids head into kindergarten, it’s easier to let someone else take over a lot of the training, or to allow our kids to fade into their entertainment-driven culture in their spare time. We need to see parenting as a much bigger opportunity and invitation than that!

I use an illustration in OMA from 9/11 about victims, bystanders, and firemen, the roles people take when lives are at stake. We must teach our children to see themselves as the firemen of this world…the heroes who are willing to set aside their own comforts in order to make a radical difference for others who are suffering or even in danger. There are so many in our world—whether the world around us or the world at large—who need our help and care in order to be saved from terrible circumstances.

I am so encouraged to see a great movement of young people in our world right now who are joining God in His work, coming back to historic levels of competence, purpose, and service for their fellow man. OMA emphasizes helping your kids find what they are passionate about and then training them to use it to serve and positively impact others.

Q: Is there any place parents can go after reading the book for more inspiration and guidance?
A: We are currently developing our website ( as a community where parents can share testimonies as well as spiritual training helps. We are also adding many resources on our site such as unique orphan ministries to consider getting involved in, suggested books and resources, daily spiritual training helps, and stories of young people around the world who are making a difference.

God bless you, Julie, as you submit to the Lord's high calling in your life!

*All proceeds of OMA go to international orphan ministries. Get your copy today!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Honing and Shaping Arrows

One Million Arrows. The title is captivating. The testimonies and questions, thought-provoking. Author, Julie Ferwerda, invited me to be a part of her blog tour several weeks ago. What an honor and a privilege.

In the first chapter of her book, One Million Arrows, Ferwerda recounts her trip to India where she meets a man named, Mullanakuzhiyil Abraham Thomas (M.A. Thomas). He’s known by the endearing title, ‘Papa’ to many throughout the country. Over the course of a month, Julie discovers that decades earlier, Papa had begun rescuing orphaned and abandoned children and raising them in what he called, ‘Hope Homes’ (p. 12). “Since then, Papa’s “father of the fatherless” ministry has become one of the largest Christian ministries in India, with over 21,000 pastors and missionaries trained and sent to the mission field, a majority of them once abandoned children” (p. 12).

Many of us would quit while we were ahead. Not Papa. Papa’s vision is to see the dream of “one million arrows for God reached before he takes his last breath” (p. 20). But what does someone else’s vision in a foreign country have to do with us? Ferwerda encourages her readers to think of themselves as arrows. Yes, you read that correctly! Don’t miss the connection. She gives a beautiful description of the purpose of each arrow, “Once a branch is gathered, it is honed, shaped, and then skillfully prepared to inflict a deadly wound against an enemy. Once launched, an arrow aims high and heads straight for a target, without getting off course. The ultimate goal for all arrows of God is that wherever they land, they produce mortal wounds against the Enemy of darkness – wounds of light, love, truth, and life” (p. 27).

Whether we realize it or not, the children God has entrusted to us, in addition to those individuals He’s given us to disciple, are being honed and shaped. The question becomes, are we modeling godly characteristics and instilling Christ-like qualities in those we’re shaping? Are they prepared to carry on Christ’s mission? The mission is described succinctly in the gospel of Matthew, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (24:14; KJV).

A vital question begs an answer: “Do you want the world to change your children, or are you willing to do what it takes for your children to change the world? You can’t have it both ways” (p. 148). My answer echoes that of the author, “My biggest dream for my kids has become for them to always have at the core of everything they do – every motivation and thought – the desire to search for God’s dreams for their lives, asking questions like: How can I make a difference in this world? What did God create me to do on this planet to help accomplish His purposes? How can my life be truly fulfilling? How can I become an arrow for God?” (p. 21).

Ferwerda's book is replete with examples of parents and children who have committed to living out the mission. When parents invest in their children's spiritual upbringing, anything is possible. Julie is convinced that our children can "overcome the moral and ethical decline of their cultural environment. They can fight off the constant in-your-face temptations of their generation. But what can never be overcome are continued and deliberate shortcuts taken by those entrusted to bring them safely home" (p. 45).

We must be proactive in our parenting. In order to be successful, training must include teaching, modeling, and accountability. Ferwerda is careful to remind us that "we parents are in partnership with God as temple builders" (p.71). God explains what parents are to do with His Word, "And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 11:19). Our lives are to be filled with Him and His principles. Self-focus is shed for God-focus. We become tuned in to the needs of others.

In order to launch an arrow, a bow is needed. The bows represent the finances necessary to shoot the arrow to its God-ordained destiny. Julie challenges us, "God did not provide abundantly for us so that we can use our resources selfishly. He did it so that we would be His money managers, using what He's given us faithfully for the mission of temple building and arrow production worldwide" (p. 88). Are you feeling the sting yet? Many of us have been so disillusioned with giving, that we've put our 'bows' away. Ferwerda encourages us to get our bows back out and realize that regardless of the amount we give, our contribution DOES make a difference! Remember the little boy with the five loaves and two fishes? When given to the Savior, it was more than enough to feed the five thousand plus, who were in attendance.

Our treasures are to be laid up in heaven. We're reminded of our responsibility in the book of Matthew, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through or steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (6:19-21). Julie capitalizes on Christ's directive, "Hold it all loosely. Use it all for His glory. He wants everything" (p. 123).

In the final chapter of One Million Arrows, Ferwerda lets us in on how to land a bull's-eye and change the world. "The desire of every believer should be this: to see our relatives, neighbors, countrymen, and everyone we can think of enter into a saving relationship with Jesus. And to raise up children - our own and others - who will one day be a part of finishing the work of the Great Commission" (pp. 147-148).

Will you embrace the mission and continue to shape and hone the 'arrows' in your sphere of influence? Will you give everything: your time, talent and treasure, to the Lord to use for His kingdom purposes? In the words of Julie Ferwerda, "...if you want your family to go down in His-Story, accept the mission...and leave a mark for eternity." Begin leaving your mark today!
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