Called

Ah, Lord GOD!  Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth – Jeremiah 1:6

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Image by Freepik

When God called me to be a pastor, I was scared.  I felt that at 26, I was too young to be lead the congregation of a megachurch here in Birmingham, Alabama but while I was praying about it, the Holy Spirit brought the calling of prophet Jeremiah to my mind.

He was young too when God called to be a prophet which is a tremendous responsibility and the youth protested because he didn’t feel qualified because of his age.  But God quickly addressed his concerns with these words, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  I think what probably cinched it for Jeremiah when the Lord told him him not to be afraid of the people and promised to be with him to deliver him.

I realized that I wasn’t in this alone.  God called me and he was going to be with me just as He was with Jeremiah.  All I had to do was to do whatever He commanded.  I stepped out in faith and showed up at the church I was to pastor and the rest, as they say is history.  I just celebrated my tenth anniversary as pastor and I’m still going strong, thanks to God who not only called me to serve Him but qualified me to do it to His glory.

My experience has taught me that we are never too young of too old to be used by God.  He will equip us for the work He calls us to do and He will be with us every step of the way.  We have nothing to fear or worry about because He promises to be with us.  Like Jeremiah, we don’t have to worry about what to say.  God will give us the words.  He will put the words in our mouths when the time comes for us to teach, share the Gospel or in my case, to preach.  Just trust and obey Him and He will do the rest.

The above is a story of fiction but it was inspired by David Platt, who at the age of 26, was hired to lead the congregation of The Church at Brook Hills, a megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the youngest megachurch pastor in America at the time.  Like the prophet, Jeremiah, he is a testimony that age isn’t a factor when it comes to serving God.

Source:  Bible Gateway

It Hurts

She sat there, huddled in a corner of her room, hugging her Teddy, tears rolling down her cheeks.  It was no use covering her ears.  She could still hear the blows and her mother’s screams.  Why did Daddy have to drink?  Whenever he did, he hurt Mommy.  Why didn’t someone stop Daddy from hurting Mommy?  What would happen if she told somebody?  Ineffable fear filled her.  Daddy would get mad.

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November is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta, Canada.

What is family violence?

“Family violence is when a family member is threatening, controlling and abusive towards another family member.”  It can happen between:

  • adults in a family – for example, between partners or spouses, between adult children and parents, or between extended family members
  • adults who used to be in a family – for example, between former partners or spouses.

Family violence is an umbrella term used to describe all the different types of violence that can happen in families.

Sadly, family violence is under reported because of the stigma associated with it.  Young children may not report it because they are limited by the number of contacts outside of their family whom they feel safe confiding in.  Maybe they feel that no one will believe them or that they would get into trouble if they say anything.  Children should never be exposed to any type of violence or live in fear.  The home should be a safe and loving environment for them.

Family violence hurts everyone.   What is being done about it?  Community Initiatives against Family Violence (CIAFV) member agencies are helping families by, “providing assistance in areas such as housing, transportation, counselling, advocacy, employment and safety planning, CIAFV member agencies provide essential services to families experiencing family violence, which greatly increase the chances of people experiencing abuse and their families moving forward into safer, healthier lives. Friends and family members of people experiencing family violence can often feel helpless. A supportive, non-judgemental listening ear and a commitment to always be there are often the best ways to help.

I encourage you to read as much information as possible about Family Violence and see what you can do to help.

Family violence is a public health issue, a criminal justice issue, and a human rights issue.  Family Violence Hurts! Speak Up!Stop Family Violence

Sources:  Government of CanadaRaising Children; Lifeline; CIAFV

From Self-harm to Self-love

39a1ef3b-4d0c-44bb-ad22-cd952e418c41Neeha always wore long sleeves even when it was hot and humid outside because she didn’t want anyone, especially her friends to see the ugly cuts on her arms.  She wanted to stop cutting herself but she couldn’t seem to.  It started when she became pregnant and told her mother who said, “Unless you get married or give up your baby for adoption, I won’t have anything more to do with you.  What you have done is a disgrace to the family–getting pregnant before you’re even married.”

Neeha was devastated.  She needed her mother but was rejected–shunned.  Marriage was out of the question.  Her baby’s father was already married and he didn’t even want to acknowledge the child.  He had even suggested that Neeha have an abortion which he was willing to pay for but she refused.  The thought of killing an unborn child horrified her.  So, she decided to go through with pregnancy.  When she started to show she would wear loose clothing.

When things got really bad and she felt there was nowhere or no one to turn to, she began to harm herself.  She used a pair of scissors to do it.  Soon, the beautiful, clear skin on her arms was covered in red, ugly welts.  What she was doing to herself horrified and repulsed her but she couldn’t seem to help it.  It was better than turning to drugs or alcohol or even committing suicide.

At the office, she would go into the bathroom and cut herself and when she came out no one suspected anything.  She kept to herself because she feared the backlash from her mother and the rest of the family.  This kind of behavior wasn’t something one would imagine would happen in an Asian family.  It wasn’t something that they would want to acknowledge or talk about or want their white friends and neighbors to know about.

One afternoon, she was flipping through the channels when she came across a program.  It was a sermon.  She decided to watch it.  It was about a demon possessed man who was living among the tombs.  He was naked and in chains which he broke.  What got her interest is that the man cut himself with stones.  When she heard how Jesus freed the man from the demons and clothed the man, she began to cry.  The man was in his right mind and no longer hurting himself.  She heard the preacher say, “Jesus can help you just like He helped this man.  Whatever you’re going through, come to Jesus, fall at His feet and He will free you.  He will heal you.  You don’t have to go through what you’re going through alone anymore.  Jesus can help you.  All you have to do is to cry out to Him and He will hear you.”

At the end of the service, there was a free offer of a book, entitled, Hurts So Good: Exposing the Lies of Self-Injury.  She quickly scribbled down the information and sent for a copy.  Afterwards, she cried out to Jesus whom she had heard so much about.  Now, she needed Him.  She wanted to believe that He could help her.  Tears poured down her face as she asked Him to free her from this cycle of intentional self-injury like He freed the demoniac.

When she was finished, the tears subsided and she felt a peace she had never experienced in her life before settle over her.  She knew then that Jesus had answered her prayer.   With the nine action steps outlined in the book, she was on the path to hope and healing in Christ.  She replaced the knife or scissor blade with the Bible and its promises.  She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and called her, Prutha which means “daughter of love”.

Neeha found a church nearby and began to attend their worship services every week while her best friend, Farha took care of Prutha.  There at the church, Neeha met Safal, a widower with a five year old son.  They struck a friendship which soon blossomed into a romance.  Two years later, they got married.  Neeha’s mother attended the wedding.  She apologized to her daughter for the way she treated her.  Neeha readily accepted her apology.  She was just happy to be back on speaking terms with her mother.  Prutha never knew about her biological father.  As far as Neeha was concerned, Safal was her father.  He was happy to adopt her as his own.  He doted on her and she adored him.

Neeha is currently expecting another child and she is ecstatic.  Prutha is now six and is excited about having a baby brother or sister and Taj, Safal, son, whom she adopted, was looking forward to the new addition to the family as well.  Neeha is thankful that she watched that Christian program.  It changed her life in so many ways.  She is a volunteer for an organization called, Samaritans, a unique charity dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide.   Some of the people she has helped were victims of self-harm and a few of them have requested prayers.

Self-harm is a very serious issue.  If you find it difficult to speak to a family member or a friend or even a co-worker, here are organizations you can reach out to for help:

  • Samaritans – The Samaritans provide a free anonymous helpline. Someone will listen and help you, 24 hours of the day on 116 123. (UK)
  • Harmless – A user-led organisation for people who self-harm, and their friends and families.

You can also ask your GP to give you advice and direct you to the best place to get help, whether it is counselling or some form of treatment.

Self-harm is something that can happen among Christians as well.  Read this story of a Christian student who struggled with self-injury.  Please reach out for help.  Don’t let fear or shame prevent you.  Take the first step toward healing.  Take the path from self-harm to self-love.

Source:  Desiblitz; Samaritans; Blue Letter Bible

Angels Are Real

d13tyf9-4279988a-cd1e-4e15-a777-4211886cc6e6There was a time when I didn’t believe that angels were real although I grew up in a Christian home.  But something happened to me five years ago which changed my mind.  It was on a Friday evening and I was on my way to my apartment.  I took a shortcut through a street that was not very well lit.  Soon, I regretted my decision when I passed a couple of guys and they whistled at me.

I ignored them and kept walking.  And then to my horror, they rushed up behind me and one of them shoved me to the ground, knocking the wind out of me.  As I lay there stunned, I felt hands dragging me and I yelled as loudly as I could, struggling wildly.  I was afraid that they were going to take me to some dark alley and rape me.

“Shut her up!” one of them yelled.

One of them clamped his hand over my mouth and I panicked.  In my head, I screamed, “God, help me!”

I heard a man’s voice shout, “Leave her alone!”

I saw the expression of fear on their faces before they dropped me on the ground and one of them said, “Let’s get outta here.”

“Are you all right?” the man asked me.

“I’m all right now,” I replied.  I was so grateful to him for scaring off those guys.  I shudder to think of what would have happened if he hadn’t shown up.

“Are you able to stand?”

“I think so.”

He reached down and helped me slowly to my feet.  “Next time take the long way home.”

I stared up at him in surprise. “How did you know?”

He smiled.  “It is my business to know everything about you.”

Just then, people came running over to us. “Are you hurt?  Do you need help?”

“I’m fine,” I assured them.  “I’m just very shaken.  If it weren’t for this kind and brave man, I would probably be in lying some dark alley.”

“What man?” one person asked. 1962570

I glanced around but there wasn’t any sign of the man who helped me.  How could he have disappeared so quickly.  “He was right here talking to me before you came.”

“We didn’t see anyone with you,” another person said and the rest agreed.  “You were alone.”

“Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital or to the police station?”

I shook my head.  “I’m fine.  Thank you.  I just want to go home.”

“Do you live far from here?”

“No.  Just a block and a half away from here.”

“Run along now.  And next time, take the long way.”

I promised that I would never come that way again and after thanking them for their concern, I hurried the rest of the way.  When I let myself into my grandmother’s modest apartment, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for sending help.  I’m convinced that it was an angel who came to my rescue.  It explains why those guys were scared stiff and ran away.  They knew that they were in the presence of a supernatural being.

And now, I like to read personal stories of people who have had angelic encounters and I bought myself a Bible which I read everyday.  Angels are God’s messengers whom He sends to us to help us when we are in trouble.  They protect us from danger.  I learned from my encounter that angels are not the spirits of dead people or phantoms.  They have forms and bodies.  And we all have guardian angels.  I met mine that night.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways – Psalm 91:11

The Believer’s Walk/Journey #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The believer’s walk is not an easy journey.  It is fraught with fear, questions, doubts, trials, opposition and distractions.  Coming out of spiritual darkness and into God’s light takes faith, courage and determination, especially when it means forsaking old habits, lifestyles and in some cases relationships.  One has to consider what they are giving up and if their new found faith is worth the sacrifices.  The good thing is that we’re not alone on this journey.  The Lord promised that He would never leave nor forsake us.  And there is a crown laid up for us at the end of the journey.  All we have to do is to press on, one step at a time.  We may stumble or even fall along the way but as long as we stick to the path ahead of us and don’t get side tracked, we will reach our destination.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Journey at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

My Reality

Image Courtesy of Stocksy United

I see the fear on her face as we walk towards each other.  It’s broad daylight.  I’m just walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business but she looks at me as if I was going to attack her at any minute.  She walks faster and clutches her handbag tightly.  Maybe she thinks I’m going to make a grab for it.

She moves closer to the wall, trying to put as much space between us as possible.  Her eyes dart back and forth, like a frightened prey and its predator.

Anger and pity fill me.  I’m angry because she assumes that I’m a criminal because of the color of my skin and pity because she’s a victim of her own twisted, racist preconceived notions.

I walk past her.  I don’t look back.  I don’t care to.  I continue walking and with each step, I try to let go of the anger.  It doesn’t do me any good to hold on to it.  But, the pity remains.  I pity her and others like her who live in ignorance.  Perhaps one of these days, this race problem will go away but even as I think it, the idea seems ludicrous.   It will never go away.  It’s something I will have to deal with until the day I die.  Sad, but that’s my reality.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Fear.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

News of a Wedding/Span #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Although my gaze was fixed upon the water as it rushed forth as if it were late for an appointment, my heart was otherwise engaged in a very distressing matter–a matter which has placed my very constitution for happiness in grave danger.

The whispers of the impending nuptials between George Allerton, my employer and the beautiful Lydia Bridewell have been growing louder.  Yesterday, I overheard Alice, the maid telling Beatrice, the cook that the wedding could be as early as a fortnight.  I wanted to inquire of Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, if this were true but thought it best not to touch on the subject for fear of betraying my feelings if she did confirm it.  So, I held my tongue and suffered in silence.

For his part, Mr. Allerton has said nothing to me which I find to be very strange as it would be imperative for me to find employment elsewhere.  The thought of leaving Riverdale Manor, little Amy and Mr. Allerton fills me with torment.  Over a span of four years, I have grown to love my life here.  I cannot imagine finding the same happiness elsewhere.

Necessity bids me now to bring the matter of my leaving before Mr. Allerton as soon as possible.  I have made up my mind to broach the subject this evening after dinner and when we are alone in the drawing-room where he and I have spent many evenings together engaged in stimulating conversations.  It is obvious to me that he enjoys my company as much as I enjoy his and it warms my heart that he treats me not as a servant but as an equal.

My gaze swept over the beautiful landscape with the lush green grass and trees which swayed gently in the breeze.  I shall miss this place which has brought me such joy and peace.  I shall miss the solitude and the walks I have enjoyed with Mr. Allerton.   I shall miss seeing little Amy chasing after butterflies while I read or sketched.  And I shall miss Mrs. Moore who has been so kind and good to me.

Tears pricked my eyes and I turn to head back to the manor when I espied Mr. Allerton striding towards me.  I stood there, my heart racing.  Perhaps, he was coming to address the very matter I wanted to bring to his attention this evening.  He had been in town on business.  The manor was never the same when he wasn’t there.  When he went away for days and weeks at a time, it was torture for me.  I missed him dreadfully.

He was standing before me now, his hair as black as the night was tousled from his habit of running his fingers through the thick tresses and his face was slightly flushed from the exercise.  His eyes raked my face making me feel as little self-conscious.  I touched my face which felt hot.

“Miss Foster,” he said as he towered over me.  “I was told that I might find you here.  How have you been?”

I wanted to say that I have been miserable because he had been away and because of the news of Miss Bridewell and him.  Instead, I stepped back a little, attempted a smile and replied, “I have been well, Sir.”

He studied me with those penetrating dark brown eyes of his.  “You don’t look well,” he said, looking concerned.  “In fact, you look very pale.  Are you unwell?”

“No, Sir.  I’m fine.”

He didn’t look convinced but he didn’t press the matter.  “Let us stand over there in the shade,” he suggested.  I followed him over to a group of trees and we stood under their shade.

Perhaps now was the time for me to bring the matter of my leaving to his attention.  Taking a deep breath, my hands tightly clasped in front of me, I said, “Sir, it has come to my attention that I need to find myself another situation.  I will advertise and hopefully find a suitable position very soon.”

He stared at me.  “What the deuce are you talking about?” he demanded.  “What new situation and why should you advertise?  I think you may have been out in the sun too long, Miss Foster.”

“Sir, it would not do for me to remain in your employ after you are married.”

“Married?  Now, I know you have taken leave of your senses.  Where the devil did you get the idea that I’m getting married?”

“There has been talk of your upcoming nuptials to Miss Bridewell and—”

“Miss Bridewell and I?” he exclaimed.

“Yes, it is believed that in a fortnight you two shall wed.”

He laughed.  “It is true that in a fortnight, Miss Bridewell shall wed but it shall not be to me.”

I looked at him, confused.  “But, Sir, everyone said that she was to wed Mr. Allerton.”

“Yes, she is to wed James Allerton, my cousin.”

I was so overwhelmed with relief that I had to lean against the tree lest my legs give way beneath me.  When I heard the name Mr. Allerton in relation to Miss Bridewell, I just assumed that it was him to whom they referred.  I had forgotten all about his cousin, James whom I recalled had been particularly attentive towards Miss Bridewell whenever they were in each other’s company.

“There is color in your cheeks again, Miss Foster,” Mr. Allerton remarked now, watching me closely.  “I suspect that it has to do with my clearing up a little misunderstanding.”

“Yes, Sir.  It means that it is no longer necessary for me to quit your employ.  I can stay at Riverdale for as long as I am needed here.”

His expression became very serious and he moved closer to me.  “What if I needed you to stay permanently at Riverdale?”

My eyes widened.  “Permanently?” I repeated.  “What about when Amy no longer needs a governess or you decide to marry?”

He reached for my hand.  The feel of his warm fingers against mine made my heart flutter and my breath quicken.  His eyes met mine in a steady gaze.  “Miss Foster—Emma, Amy is no longer in need of a governess,” he said quietly.  “She’s in need of a mother and I am in need of a wife.”

I gawked at him.  “You mean…?”

“Yes, my dear Emma, I am asking you to marry me.”

I felt as if I were in a dream, one from which I hoped never to wake.  This was all so incredible.  My heart was pounding wildly against my ribs and my face was on fire.  “But what will everyone think of you marrying someone beneath your station?”

“When it comes to my heart and what constitutes my happiness, I care not about what others think. And I have always treated you as my equal and not as someone beneath my station.”

I smiled.  “That is true, Sir.”

He smiled.  “Since I am soon to be your husband, don’t you think it’s time you called me George?”

“Yes, George.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he held my face between his hands and kissed me.  My heart was bursting with happiness.

At the end of summer, we were wed.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Span at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.