Could the months fly by any faster?! November and December in pictures.
I was hoping for lots of reading time with the coming of the holiday season, but reality hit instead. I moved forward in a couple of books, but I only finished one book completely: C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed.
Wow. What to say? My heart ached as I read of the pain and anger and sadness that Lewis experienced after the death of his wife. But empathetically reading about someone else’s sorrow isn’t the same thing as living it. While I didn’t completely understand his pain, I appreciated Lewis’ descriptions, word pictures, and his raw honesty through it all. I’ll keep this one tucked away on my bookshelf for the time when my own grief will be observed. My biggest take-away from this read: I will not be immune to death’s touch forever. Life is a mist.
Some of my favorite quotes from the last two months…
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? …. Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. ¹
… there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it…. It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on. ¹
You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. ¹
God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. ¹
… bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases–like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too… ¹
Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbor, but my neighbor. For don’t we often make this mistake as regards people who are still alive–who are with us in the same room? Talking and acting not to the man himself but to the picture–almost the précis–we’ve made of Him in our own minds? ¹
Lord, thy servant is a poor man; but he has trusted in thee, and made his boast in thee, before the sons of men; therefore let him not be confounded! Let it not be said all this was enthusiasm, and therefore it is come to naught! ²
Our hour of trial continues still. The Lord mercifully has given enough to supply our daily necessities; but he gives by the day now, and almost by the hour, as we need it… I have besought the Lord again and again, both yesterday and today. It is as if the Lord said: “Mine hour is not yet come.” But I have faith in God. I believe that he surely will send help, though I know not whence it is to come. ²
This way of living brings the Lord remarkably near. He is, as it were, morning by morning inspecting our stores, that accordingly he may send help. ²
The words in the prayer of Jehoshaphat, “Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee,” are at this moment the language of my heart. I likewise know not what to do, but my eyes are upon the Lord, and I am sure that he will help this day also. ²
I labor because I am the Lord’s, bought by his precious blood, and he commands me to labor. ²
But he grimaced and blurted out, “Why on earth would you want to go there? Those Jews never did nothing good, except give us Jesus.” Wouldn’t that be enough? ³
Ironically, as our world has become more sensitive to embracing ethnic differences, some have done exactly the opposite with Jesus. ³
Just as rain water comes down in drops and forms rivers, so with the Scriptures: one studies a bit today and some more tomorrow, until in time the understanding becomes like a flowing stream. – Song of Songs Midrash Rabbah 2:8 ³
¹C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
²George Müller, The Autobiography of George Müller
³Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus
This month, I enjoyed reading a book by Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim who chronicled his journey from Islam to Christianity in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I may have shed some tears as he shared about the pain of disappointing his family because of his conversion. He passed away in September after battling stage 4 stomach cancer. I found his vlogs on YouTube, and I was impressed with his desire to know God and trust Him through the difficulties of life. His book helped me to gain a clearer understanding of how and why Muslims believe what they do. An excellent read!
I also finished Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. I’ve generally known her life story for some time. I probably read a children’s version of the book when I was younger. But, wow. Seeing how the Nazi invasion and her time in German concentration camps completely changed her way of living – I was blown away. Her faith in God kept her grounded during the incredible difficulties she faced. My advice? Drop everything and go read this book now. The way her awe-inspiring story is written will draw you in from the very beginning.
If you like quotes, you can read some below that I particularly enjoyed this month. Or you can check them out for yourself in context by grabbing the titles above!
There is nothing like the one true God! If I had known just how boundless is the love of God, just how transformative His grace and mercy, just how liberating His exemplary life and death, I would have run to Him years sooner with all my might. ¹
… Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.¹
A rift was beginning to form between my heart and my head. What I wanted to believe was fighting a battle with the evidence for the New Testament. I was torn.¹
But they [my Muslim parents] were so adamant, so devoted to God, so genuine. Could they really be wrong?¹
Would it be worth it to pick up my cross and be crucified next to Jesus? If He is not God, then, no. Lose everything I love to worship a false God? A million times over, no! But if He is God, then, yes. Being forever bonded to my Lord by suffering alongside Him? A million times over, yes! Now, more than ever, the stakes were clear, and I needed to know who He was. Everything hinged on His identity.¹
“Why, God?” At that moment, the most agonizing of my life, something happened that was beyond my theology and imagination. As if God picked up a megaphone and spoke through my conscience, I heard these words resonate through my very being: “Because it’s not about you.”¹
… they kept coming, the people who considered themselves Father’s friends. Young and old, poor and rich, scholarly gentleman and illiterate servant girls – only to Father did it seem they were all alike. That was Father’s secret: not that he overlooked the differences in people; that he didn’t know they were there.²
Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.²
Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam–when do I give you your ticket?” I sniffed a few times, considering this. “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.”²
“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings, Corrie. It’s something we make inside ourselves.” – Mama²
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so it stops hurting…. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” – Father²
Mama’s love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street–and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls that shut it in.²
“There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety–Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!” -Betsie²
“… books do not age as you and I do. They will speak still when we are gone, to generations we will never see. Yes, the books must survive.” – Harry de Vries²
“The truth, sir,” I said, swallowing, “is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours–so different that we could not even guess it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things.”²
“Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” I slowly took in the fact that she was talking about our guards… I saw a gray uniform and a visored hat; Betsie saw a wounded human being.²
Have I really permission to commit all my little affairs to a God of infinite wisdom, believing that he will take charge of them and direct them according to the promptings of boundless love and absolute omniscience?³
… the Lord may begin his work in different ways. For I have not the least doubt that on that evening he began a work of grace in me, though I obtained joy without any deep sorrow of heart, and with scarcely any knowledge.³
… for with all my weakness I had a great desire to live wholly for God.³
How differently does the Lord judge from man! ³
My chief help is prayer… For neither eloquence nor depth of thought makes the truly great preacher, but such a life of prayer and meditation and spirituality as may render him a vessel meet for the Master’s use…³
We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus. It is now twenty-five years since we set out in this way, and we do not in the least regret the step we then took.³
I would offer here a word of warning to believers. Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls.³
… we are never losers from acting according to the mind of the Lord. For had I had my regular salary, humanly speaking, I should not have had nearly as much…. I have not served a hard master, and that is what I delight to show.³
Ignorance of God is the great enemy of mankind, and the testimonies of the saints, experimental and grateful, overcome this deadly foe.4
¹ Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
² Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
³ George Müller, The Autobiography of George Müller
4 Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 67:2
Finished two books this month. Not much, I know. But at least it’s forward progress.
I feel like I haven’t found any good fiction in a long while. A sweet friend of Freedom recently visited the DR and discovered I had never read Redeeming Love. She promptly sent me her copy, which I devoured in about four days. Oh, Mylanta. If you can handle historical romance, this book is an incredible retelling of the story of Hosea and Gomer. What a precious picture of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness. If you walk away from this book with dry eyes, you have no heart. Heh.
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret was refreshing and encouraging and heartbreaking and… all the emotions. Taylor, missionary to China and “Father of Faith Missions”, lived an incredible life – so deeply rooted in Christ alone. It was clear that the Lord completely cared for him and his ministry through the darkest of times. How I pray I can learn to rest in Jesus in the same way, no matter what may come. This book is worth the read – and currently just $.99 on Amazon!
Below: another installment of some quotes that stood out to me this month.
“I want to be free, Michael, for once in my life, I just want to be free.”
“You are free. You just don’t know it yet.” ¹
Love is the way back into Eden. It is the way back to life. ¹
Bear not a single care thyself,
One is too much for thee;
The work is Mine, and Mine alone;
Thy work – to rest in Me. ²
I feel as if I could not live if something is not done for China. ²
If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life. ²
Pray much for me. It is easy to talk of leaving all for Christ, but when it comes to the proof – it is only as we stand “complete in Him” we can go through with it. ²
Their utter wretchedness and misery and my inability to help them or even point them to Jesus powerfully affected me. Satan came in as a flood, but there was One who lifted up a standard against him. Jesus is here, and though unknown by the majority and uncared-for by many who might know Him, He is present and precious to His own. ²
We thank Thee, Lord, for pilgrim days
When desert springs were dry,
When first we knew what depths of need
Thy love could satisfy. ²
“My father sought the Truth,” he continued sadly, “and died without finding it. Oh why did you not come sooner?” It was a moment, the pain of which Hudson Taylor could never forget, and which deepened his earnestness in seeking to bring Christ to those who might still be reached. ²
The very last bag of rice had been opened, and was disappearing rapidly. “Then,” replied Hudson Taylor, “the Lord’s time for helping must be close at hand.” And so it proved… ²
Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies. ²
It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is,” he used to say; “it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord – then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast. ²
But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting in the Faithful One. ²
“Come unto me and drink.” Not, come and take a hasty draught; not, come and slightly alleviate, or for a short time remove one’s thirst. No! “drink,” or “be drinking” constantly, habitually. The cause of thirst may be irremediable. One coming, one drinking may refresh and comfort: but we are to be ever coming, ever drinking. No fear of emptying the fountain or exhausting the river!” ²
Compared with this union with Christ, heaven or earth are unimportant accidents. ²
It were well that we oftener read our own diaries, especially noting the hand of the Lord in helping us in suffering, want, labour, or dilemma. This is the grand use of memory, to furnish us with proofs of the Lord’s faithfulness, and lead us onward to a growing confidence in him. ³
The very shade of God is sweet to a believer. Under the eagle wings of Jehovah we hide from all fear, and we do this naturally and at once, because we have aforetime tried and proved both his love and his power. We are not only safe but happy in God: we rejoice as well as repose. ³
¹ Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
² Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
³ Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 63:7
This month, I revisited my favorite classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Yes, there are some sections that can be cumbersome to read, but the overall picture of Christian’s journey, complete with difficulties and triumphs, is such an encouragement to me. How it made me long for the day that I get to cross the river and enter the Celestial City!
I finally finished Fanny Crosby’s Life Story. This was a short little read that took me entirely too long to get through. (Can I blame it on the kids?) Lots of quaint and endearing stories. She seemed to have a mischievous side and a fun sense of humor. I love Fanny’s testimony – she truly walked with the Lord, day by day. Her lyrics make me want to know Him more.
Below: Round 2 of my monthly collection of quotes that “captured” me. How thankful I am for the ability to read. Can’t wait til our students are old enough to share ideas that “capture” them!
To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life-everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward. ¹
But since I live, let JESUS wear the crown. ¹
… that man that takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world. ¹
The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. ¹
Arise, O Christian soldiers,
And consecrate anew
Your all upon the altar,
Of Him who died for you!
Arise in faith united,
And let this year record,
Your undivided service,
To Christ, our risen Lord!
O rally ’round His standard;
Defend the cross you love;
And look to Him for wisdom
And counsel from above.
Against the arch deceiver,
Against the host of sin,
March on with steady purpose
The world for Christ to win!
Be strong, O Christian soldiers,
On Jesus cast your care!
And when the conflict rages,
Let every breath be prayer.
Fear not; the Lord is with you:
‘Tis He who speaks within;
March on with zeal and courage
The world for Christ to win!
Go forth, go forth rejoicing,
And in the Master’s name,
To weary souls that perish,
Eternal life proclaim!
The crowning day is coming;
The end of toil and sin;
March on through grace determined
The world for Christ to win! ²
Dark signs of present or coming ill must not dishearten us; if the Lord had meant to destroy us he would not have given us the gospel; the very fact that he has revealed himself in Christ Jesus involves the certainty of victory.
Hard things thou hast upon us laid,
And made us drink most bitter wine;
But still thy banner we have displayed,
And borne aloft thy truth divine.
Our courage fails not, though the night
No earthly lamp avails to break,
For thou wilt soon arise in might,
And of our captors captives make. ³
Thus far I did come laden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in
Till I came hither: What place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me! ¹
Then I thought that it is easier going out of the way, when we are in, than going in when we are out. ¹
Unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own, nor all the righteousness of the world could save me. ¹
I am dying of thirst by the side of the fountain. 4
Go, and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all the year long, to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. ¹
¹ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
² Fanny Crosby, Fanny Crosby’s Life Story, “The World for Christ – A New-Year Rallying Song”
³ Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 69:4
4 Charles D’Orléans
The Lord is so good. He continues to provide individuals to keep things moving forward here.
Some people volunteer their time from the States.
Others have joined our ground team for the long haul.
Some sacrifice by giving financially.
And others spend a short time with us here – usually just a week.
We’ve been asked before, “What good could someone possibly do in a week?”
“No offense,” they say, “but isn’t it a ‘waste’ of money, time, and resources?”
In July, a group from Illinois came to stay with us for seven days. A lady named Angel joined her church for their first trek to the Dominican. Angel admitted that the whole time leading up to the trip, she questioned why she was coming and what she had to offer. Even as she sat on the airplane, she was unsure of why she was on her way. But the Lord had been impressing on her to just “show up”. So she did.
She didn’t have to wait long for God to reveal Himself to her.
Monday morning, Angel and the rest of her team stood in the breezeway and listened as our principal, Toni, called out the names of the 3-year-olds they’d be working with that day. Suddenly, Toni paused.
“Guys,” she said, “I’ve got one little man here who needs some extra love and one-on-one attention.”
Without skipping a beat, Angel said, “I’ll take him!” As she looked down at the slip of paper that Toni had handed to her, she read the name of the little guy she’d be interacting with for four hours.
His name was hers. And she knew that he was her “why.”
Later, Angel poignantly shared with us that each moment in the classroom with Angel was such a blessing for her. She was able to interact with him in a special way. And he seemed to respond to her as well. When she was willing to let go and just show up, God provided a unique opportunity for her to see Him in a bigger way.
Angel plans on being involved in little Angel’s life in the years to come. I like to think that their relationship will deepen as time goes by. I pray that as Angel grows up, he’ll come to know the love of His Savior. He doesn’t yet understand the impact of that week on his life. He doesn’t recognize how the Lord miraculously orchestrated circumstances so that the two of them would meet. But what an incredible way for Angel to start his first year at Freedom!
So when people ask me if I think it’s worth it to come for a week, I say, “Absolutely.”
In our context, at least, a week can be worth eternity.