Book Recommendation with Celebrate Lit Tours: Far From Home by Mabel Ninan

About the Book

Book: Far From Home

Author: Mabel Ninan

Genre: Christian / Non-Fiction / Spiritual Growth

Release date: July 12, 2022

What is my purpose? Why do I exist? A sense of self and belonging are two questions many of us struggle to answer.

And what if you are a foreigner in another land?

How does one adjust to a new culture? Discover their place in a new society?

For Mabel Ninan, born and raised in India and an immigrant in America shortly after marriage, the search for those answers sent her on a journey that led to an unexpected and exciting discovery.

God revealed she was not only an earthly immigrant but also a spiritual one, created with a unique calling to impact His kingdom. Mabel’s renewed perspective imbued her with joy and hope, urging her to share the message with others.

Drawing from her personal experiences and by examining the lives of biblical heroes, Mabel sheds light on what it means to live as a citizen of Heaven on earth. Far from Home will inspire you to:

  • Embrace your identity as a foreigner on earth.
  • Make your home with God.
  • Find community and common purpose with fellow sojourners.

Explore the intersection between culture, identity, and faith in this new release from an earthly immigrant who gained a spiritual perspective.

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

Far From Home by Mabel Ninan is a meaningful, inspirational, and powerful devotional written from the perspective of a woman who was a physical immigrant to the United States, but who also recognizes that humans are spiritual immigrants in a world we do not belong in.

Mabel Ninan moved to the United States from India in 2008 with her husband and was thrown into an unfamiliar world. There were days that her only comfort was Jesus who she’d known her whole life after being brought up in the church in a minority Christian community in India. Over the years, Mabel has lived in different countries and on different continents and no matter where she goes, she has found that Jesus is her one constant.

 During her time of adjustment in the States in 2008, during her first move with her husband and family, she came to know Jesus in an even more intimate way, leaning on him during a time when she was lost, confused, and lonely.

The lessons she learned during that time are captured in this wonderful devotional that reminds all Christians about their need to call out and reach for Jesus instead of material things which will not sustain them during the hardest times in their lives.

The words of encouragement in this devotional came at the perfect time for me. I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for a review but was not required to give a positive review. I have no problem giving a positive review, however, because this devotional helped me remember that even when I feel like I don’t fit in with others, I do fit in with God.  

This devotional’s main focus is to remind us that our identity is in Christ and not in what we, or others, believe our identity to be.

 I thought I’d take a moment to share a personal reason for choosing to review this book. I had a good friend named Rev. Charles Reynolds who was a Christian missionary to India for over 50 years. He brought Indian tea home with him and had it stored in his and his wife Maud’s shed in a small town near where I grew up for years. One day I stopped by and I was suffering from a cold. He offered me a cup of tea and said tea solves a myriad of problems, including illness. I didn’t believe him but after a few moments of sipping the tea, I did actually feel better.

He often told me stories about his time in India, once raised money for victims of an earthquake there, kept in contact with the women’s medical school he helped build up when a missionary there, and wrote a book about he and his wife’s time there. Over the years his stories and mission somehow made me feel like I had a connection to the Indian people. I enjoyed reading about Mabel’s journey partially because of this, but also because of my own struggles to find my identity in an often chaotic and uncertain world.

About the Author

Born and raised in the minority Christian community in India, Mabel moved to the US in 2008 shortly after getting married. In nearly thirteen years of her marriage, her family has called ten different places across two continents and seven cities home. The challenges Mabel faced as an immigrant on the move led to a spiritual crisis that drew her nearer to God’s side where she learned valuable lessons about how to live as a citizen of heaven. Her mission is to inspire believers to embrace their pilgrim journey on earth and boldly pursue their heavenly calling.

A contributor to Guideposts’ All God’s Creatures: Daily Devotions for Animal Lovers 2022, Mabel’s writings have appeared in The Upper Room, CBN.com, Leading Hearts Magazine, and (in)courage.me. She hosts a YouTube podcast called Immigrant Faith Stories where she shares testimonies of immigrants, refugees, missionaries, and cross-cultural ministry leaders. She has been serving in various roles in women’s ministry for almost a decade.

Mabel enjoys reading, traveling, and dancing, but nothing gives her more joy than having conversations about the Bible.

Mabel is pursuing M.A. in Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband, son, and Maltese pup in Northern California.

More from Mabel

When the idea of this book was birthed in 2018, I wanted to publish a collection of letters to my son. I wanted to keep a record of God’s faithfulness to me in a foreign country. How He became my all in all when I had nobody to call my own. How He gave me His all when I was empty. I hoped my stories and learnings would strengthen not only my son’s faith but also other immigrants like me. But God had a different plan for this book.

By 2019, the book underwent a complete change in its content and organization. It also targeted a different group of readers. I wrote for those who were coping with changes, those who wanted a deeper walk with God, those who found it difficult to belong or cling to hope in the midst of suffering, and those who were tired of going through the motions. My agent and I replaced the title of the book from This is not Home to Far from Home.

After facing rejecting from almost eight publishers, Far from Home found its home in Harambee Press, an imprint of Iron Stream Media that publishes ethnic writers. I was thrilled!

Far from Home is a nonfiction book but it is also part memoir. I’ve described what life was like growing up in India and I also recount a few experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. What makes Far from Home unique is also that the book introduces the reader to another culture, the Indian/South Asian culture. Some parts of the book read like a devotional while others are rich in biblical character studies and teaching.

Overall, I feel the book reflects who I am—an Indian, an America, an Indian-American, a storyteller, an immigrant, and a Bible teacher—though that was not my aim. I find it fascinating that I could be myself and tell my stories and use all aspects of my identity to declare the goodness and greatness of God.

There is a need for more diversity in our stories. I’m not saying this because diversity is the new buzz world these days. We need diverse voices and ways of worship because they reveal God’s power, beauty, and creativity. Testimonies from other cultures can open our eyes to a new way of experiencing God and His Word. They engage our brains and touch our hearts in a unique way. Reading books by diverse authors can enlarge our capacity for empathy, push back our defenses, and even turn our fear of the unknown into appreciation.

I hope my writing helps you see God from a different lens, a different angle. I hope it makes you want to read books by authors from varied cultures, races, and ethnicities.

And my desire, more than anything else, is that Far from Home convinces you that you’re never really far from home. In the triune God, you always have a home here on earth while you await a better one in heaven. A home that will be shared with people from all nations, tongues, and tribes.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 1

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 2

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 3

A Reader’s Brain, September 4

Beauty in the Binding, September 5 (Author Interview)

Boondock Ramblings, September 5

Inklings and notions, September 6

deb’s Book Review, September 7

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 8

Simple Harvest Reads, September 9 (Author Interview)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 10

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 11

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 12

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 13

Jodie Wolfe – Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, September 14 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, September 14

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Mabel is giving away the grand prize package of a Paperback copy of book, customized notepad and bookmark (these eco-friendly products made by rural artisans in India help sustain endangered art forms and secure livelihoods), access to digital resources (recipe booklet, teaching videos, and audio prayers), and a $30 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/21362/far-from-home-celebration-tour-giveaway

Faithfully Thinking: Jesus said it had to go

Little Miss and I were watching The Chosen (a show that follows the life of Jesus) on Sunday and there is a scene where a demon-possessed man is attacking Simon. In the middle of the attack, Jesus arrives and shouts, “Out! Out of him!”

The man immediately spasms, then falls to the ground and is still. A few seconds later the man begins to cry as everyone looks on in horror mixed with relief.

“What happened?” Little Miss asked.

“The demon left because Jesus said it had to go,” I told her.

My own words stopped me.

Wow.

It left because Jesus said, “Out! Out of him!” or essentially, “Leave him!”

How many times every day should we be saying the same thing in our life? How many times should we be saying to our thoughts, our emotions, or worries: “No. You can’t be here. You have to leave.”

In TV, movies, and books, Satan is a caricature, a joking evil character who humans with common sense aren’t supposed to believe is real.

But if you’ve been around long enough, you know that there is evil in the world and that evil fits in well with the Bible’s description of Satan and his influence. You may deny in your mind that there is a real devil but deep down your spirit knows there is.  All day, every day, voices whisper around you and you may not hear them or see who are speaking them, but they see you and they want to hurt you for their cheap thrills.

That’s when we need to be like Jesus and tell those thoughts, those residents of the spiritual realm, which torture us, or try to, that they have no place here.

That spirit who speaks to you has no power, and it needs to leave.

Fear?

Jesus says it has to go.

Anxiety?

Jesus says it has to go.

Jealousy?

Jesus says it has to go.

Infirmity?

Jesus says it has to go.

Anger?

Jesus says it has to go.

Hurt?
Jesus says it has to go.

Doubt, depression, pride, arrogance.

All of it.

When Jesus says it has to go, then it has to go and it can go with one word from him.

One word.

But also one word from us because when Jesus rose to heaven he told us that the Holy Spirit would be with us to help us do as he had done here on earth. It is Jesus’ power through us, and we can demand that spirits, that demons, that all evil that goes against us leave.

Now.

“Out!” Jesus said.

We can do the same with the thoughts that come after us, with the spirits that come against us because don’t be fooled — there is spiritual warfare, there are battles going on around us in spiritual realms and we are fighting against more than flesh and blood.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:10-18

Faithfully Thinking: Keep Your Eyes Focused on Christ, not the storm

As Christians, we are called to keep our eyes on Christ, but this can be such a hard thing to do when so many other things and people are vying for our attention.

No year has made this struggle more prominent than in 2020.

This year has been like a roller coaster ride gone out of control.

We can shut off all the news, block ourselves out of all the social media sites imaginable, but if you’re like me, you can still feel “it”  — the perpetual tension in the air.

Between coronavirus, politics, social issues, moral issues, poverty, personal financial struggles, and family relationships breaking down, many of our heads are spinning. We don’t know where to focus, or more importantly, who to focus on.

I’ve found myself focusing too much on politicians and media; people who can’t provide me the peace I’m seeking.

I heard two sermons this week that focused on putting our focus back on the one who can help calm the storms within us, even as chaos reigns around us.

When the world is raging around me, I find it hard to keep anxiety from raging within me as well.

Jesus has called us to let him settle the storm within us, but we can only do that if we realize that, ultimately, he is in total control of our world.

Does it look like God is in control right now?

I know there are days it doesn’t look this way to me, but that is because I am looking at earthly situations. I am looking at what is tangible and right in front of me and not at the battles within the hidden realms.

“Hidden realms?” you might ask yourself. “Has Lisa gone all Lord of the Rings on me?”

Well, yes, and no. J.R.R. Tolkein was a Christian and he knew that there is a world beyond our own – a world where demons and the Prince of this World battle against the heavenly hosts for our souls.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. – Ephesians 6:12

The fact we are never completely in control of our own life is a hard concept for anyone to accept, Christian or not.

We can’t stop our car from slamming into a deer when there was no time to hit the brakes.

We can’t stop the hurricanes from destroying our lives, or cancer from taking our loved ones.

We can’t stop people from not liking us.

We can’t control what happens all around us on a daily basis.

What we can do is remind ourselves who is with us during the turbulent times.

The pastor at my parents’ church talked last week about the disciples being on a boat when a storm came up. Jesus wasn’t on the boat when the storm came, but walked to them from the shore, on the water. They thought he was a ghost.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said simply “Come.”

He didn’t say “Oh, that’s not safe. Nah. Don’t do that. I mean, look at the storm raging around you. There is no way you are going to make it.”

He said, “Come.”

And he said “come” because he knew the power to keep Peter calm during the storm was in his control.

Peter did what Jesus said and began to walk on the water, on his way to Jesus’ outstretched hand, but then he looked around at the waves thrashing around him, the wind buffeting him — pushing and pulling at him — rain hitting him the face, and he panicked.

He lost sight of Christ and he began to sink.

How many times have we lost sight of Christ in our own lives and let the chaos of the world overwhelm us and drown out the Lord’s voice?

For me, it is so many times. So many times, it is embarrassing.

We can’t control the world raging around us.

We can’t control viruses.

We can’t control social unrest.

We can’t control elections or politicians (no matter how much we wish we could.).

What we can control is our trust in a God that is more powerful than our fear.

There was another time that a storm raged around the disciples and Jesus, but Jesus slept through it. The disciples were amazed, maybe even annoyed. “How can he sleep when the waves are battering this boat back and forth?” they might have said to each other.

Jesus wasn’t worried, though. He knew and still knows, who is in control.

As the pastor told us Sunday, “Jesus is saying to you, ‘I created you. I formed you. I redeemed you. I have called you by name. What wind? What waves? What are you afraid of? I will always be faithful to you.’”

The pastor also said, “Jesus is in the boat with us.”

What a comforting thought — that we are not in the storms of life alone. Jesus is with us even as the winds howl and the water rises around us.

The words “God is in control” is something we can say with joy in our hearts because that means we don’t have to worry anymore. We can give our fears over to him, walk away and let the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) ) settle over us.

We can close our eyes, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that Jesus is in the boat with us.

He’s in the midst of the storm and he calms the storm within us.

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”
-Isaiah 26:3-4

Faithfully Thinking: And Jesus commanded them: ‘Go into all the world and make merchandise to promote your church.’

You could say that his week I broke under the weight of Christian commercialism.

I got a bit fed up.

I finally had enough of church promotion being held higher than Jesus promotion.

When Jesus called the disciples he told them to lay everything down and follow him. That meant everything. EVERYTHING. Lay down the way you make your money was included in that. And the disciples did it. And God provided.

Many Christians don’t have money to toss around on fancy cars.

We have to trust God to support us, to provide for us, to make sure we don’t get thrown out onto the street.

Fortunately, many megachurch pastors today don’t have to worry about that because their parishioners are being told “Trust that God will provide ten fold what you give to the church in tithe money.” So the congregation should sacrifice but the pastors? Well, that’s a different story. (Don’t read this and think I don’t believe in tithe. I certainly do and believe it is needed to help a church reach people. I don’t, however, feel that guilt should be levied on to get that tithe.)

Some of the top pastor’s you are seeing all over YouTube and your social media feeds right now are worth millions. Yes. Miiillllions. Some as high as $55 million. They have the best cars, the best clothes, the best food, the biggest houses and take really awesome trips to really awesome places.

And on Sunday they remind you God wants you to sacrifice. You. Not them, of course, but you.

Many pastors today have their own clothing lines, books, reality TV shows, record labels, music, bands, and some of them even have their own TV networks, movie companies, and sets of plates and cups.

It seems today that you’re not a real pastor if you don’t have at least 2 million followers on your social media feeds.

That’s how out of control it has gotten.

“The sermon is good.”

“He’s a good preacher so . . .”

“He works hard so he should be rewarded. . .”

“They’re reaching people. That’s what is important.”

These were all things I have told myself over the last few years. I have excused away all the excess, thinking that is the only way you reach people. You have to have excess to afford to be able to reach people right?

But Jesus didn’t have his own Youtube channel.

Jesus didn’t have an Instagram account.

He didn’t make sure his sermons featured bite sized quotes that are “tweetable” and might fit nicely across the front of a Tshirt.

And he definitely didn’t stand up in front of a church and talk about how great his church was. I once heard a well-known pastor go on and on about how someone in his city criticized his church. That pastor then went on and on about how great his church was and he didn’t care if that man criticized his church. I guess you did mind or you wouldn’t have spent 10-minutes tell us all why that man was wrong and your church is so awesome. I still listen to this pastor but it really does bother me he seems to be so sensitive and keeps bringing up similar remarks in sermons.

“I don’t need you to tell me my church is great!” he yelled Sunday. “I know this church is great!”

And everyone in the sanctuary (which looks like a concert hall) jumped up and cheered dutifully. Sort of like a political rally.

I even ignored how he said “my church.”

We’re humans, right? We get “butthurt” as some like to say. We get offended and we lash out. Been there, done that. He was there and did that.

Not the end of the world and I still think he preaches Biblically-based sermons.

I just wish he’d stop reminding the world how great his church is.

We don’t exactly have megachurches in the area I live in, but we do have one big church. The people there are nice. The pastor delivers strong, Bible-based sermons and he doesn’t end even one sermon without doing an altar call (which is the same for a megachurch pastor I have followed for a few years now. ) I think that’s awesome and this next paragraph is not directed at the church or the pastor.

I think they meant well when they had decals made for their church members to put on their cars. They wanted people to know about their church and learn what a church can offer a person — friendship, fellowship, and a closer relationship with God.

I think, maybe though, that plan backfired a bit. That decal became a symbol but maybe not the symbol people thought it would. It became a popularity symbol in our area.

“Do you go to That Church too?”

“I do go to That Church!”

“Oh my gosh, I’ve heard That Church is so cool! The music is great and they have so many activities!”

“I know, right?!”

Before long, driving around with That Church’s logo on the back of your car became a status symbol. It was like being part of a really cool club. It still is. The other day I watched two people gush over each other’s decals.

“Do you go to That Church?” a man asked a woman in the parking lot of the Dollar General.

“I do! It’s a nice church! Do you go?!”

“I do!”

They both go to the same church but don’t even know each other. That’s possible since this church has two different services, but still . . . to me it smacked more of a popularity contest than excitement they were both part of the family of God.

Maybe they don’t even care that they are part of God’s Church, just that they attend That Church.

The church where everyone is cool and hip and the music is modern and the pastor is “killing it” every week.

Again, the problem isn’t the church.

The music there is awesome.

Everyone who goes there isn’t cool and hip but it could be the impression newcomers have when they attend and I’m sure some of the people are cool.

The pastor is a good, caring pastor.

Members of the congregation are good, caring, sweet people. I know many of them and know they would give someone the shirt off their own backs.

So, the problem is not the church.

The problem is Christians or people who attend (who may or may not be real Christians) being more interested in “gear” they can wear to declare they are part of a club than in really learning and knowing about God. Once you start focusing on who Jesus really is, what you are wearing really isn’t going to matter that much.

Can you wear clothes promoting a church and still want a deeper relationship with God? Sure! I get that not everyone is promoting a church just to feel part of a group. They’ve found something that brings them joy, into a closer walk with Christ, and they want to share it with others. That makes sense. It does.

But for me I still have a bad taste in my mouth when churches grow so big they become more like a social club than a church. I have a bad taste in my mouth when regular church attendees are struggling and a pastor gives a sermon telling them they need to trust God to meet all their needs and give more, while the pastor is driving his family out of the parking lot in a Lamborghini (no, I’m not referring to the more local church on this last one. Pretty sure that pastor is not driving a Lamborghini. Ha!)

I don’t know. Maybe I am wrong. But I don’t believe that’s really what Jesus had in mind when he said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

Nowhere in his ministry did he say, “Go into all the world and market thy self.”

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Go into all the world and sell as many books as possible.”

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Go gather followers on your Instagram feed.”

Nowhere did Jesus say, “The more money you got, the more chance you have to enter heaven.”

In fact, he said the opposite. He said wealth can actual hamper your path to heaven.

“And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter in to the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Notice he said “again”? Apparently, he had to explain wealth to his followers more than one time. He had to keep reminding them that wealth wasn’t going to get them into heaven. Did he say you can’t have wealth? I don’t think so, but I think his comments refer to the trappings of wealth – the fact that having money and prestige and popularity distracts you from what is really important and distracts you from saving souls for the Kingdom. In this modern age of self-promotion I think some churches are excited about their popularity, focusing on the quantity within their doors, but not on the quality of their ministry.

How can these churches truly focus on helping people if they’ve grown too big to even know who attends their church?

Of course, maybe none of that really matters, as long as you have a cool hoodie with the church logo on it to wear during the tough times, right?

Faithfully Thinking: He will lift it soon

My daughter was drawing with sidewalk chalk outside the house. She drew a heart. I doodled some hearts and an angel near her heart.

She’s 5.

Sometimes 5 going on adult.

The song “Trust and Obey” had been going through my head much of the day, though I didn’t know why.

I wrote the word Trust in orange chalk on a step.

“What are you writing?”

“Just a word.”

“What’s it say?”

“Trust.”

“Oh”

She steps down off the step and looks at it. She can’t read yet.

“That should say Jesus after it.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Trust Jesus and believe in God and He will lift it.”

Watching her.

“He will lift what?”

“He will lift the corona. He will lift it soon. Just believe in God. Write that.”

“Well, that’s a lot to write, but I’ll write, ‘Trust Jesus. He will lift it soon.'”

“Okay.”

And she skipped away.

What’s weird is she rarely says stuff like this.

Sometimes when I say “let’s pray,” she rolls her eyes. She wasn’t brought up in Sunday School like my son was and sometimes I feel like I’m letting her down that way but then she comes out with something like this and I think “oh…apparently she’s listening to the sermons and me more than I think.”

And we weren’t talking about corona before she said this either, but I could tell it had been on her mind and she had reached a point where she just knew — it’s going to be okay.

 

Faithfully Thinking: The little girl who brought a community together

*feature photo credit: Brown Photography

I generally skip past blog posts with sad stories, especially those related to childhood cancer so I would certainly understand if you skip this one. What is different about this one, though, is that there is some hope mixed into the story: hope for humanity, I suppose you might say. Or at least it restored within me some hope for humanity.

Back in the fall, probably Septemeber or October, we started to notice Christmas lights on houses in a tiny town we drive through to get to my parents and my husband drives through to get to work. In addition to the Christmas lights, Christmas decorations were starting to appear — like inflatables of Christmas related characters and Frozen characters. It’s not uncommon for Christmas decorations to remain on houses in our areas for months after Christmas, but this was a bit unusual to say the least. My husband soon learned the lights had been put up to cheer up a little girl in the town who had been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain cancer. The community had joined together to hang the lights for her to see when she came back from treatments.

One member of the community had even gone as far as writing the little girl’s name in lights on the side of his barn. For a full two months, I cried almost every time I drove through the town, amazed by the kindness of the community and the way they had gathered together to encourage this little girl in her battle. Not only did residents hang the lights, but businesses and the township also decorated in her honor.

Last week the family was told there is nothing more the doctors can do for her and a candlelight vigil was held for her at the tiny park in town. Members of two other communities, one where her church is located, another about 20 miles from Ulster, also held vigils, praying for her and singing her favorite song, “Let It Go” from Frozen.

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Little Ariah being held by a friend at the vigil in her honor. Photo credit: Brown Photography

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Photo Lisa R. Howeler

I know you can think of stories like this one, maybe in your own community or in a community near you. Ulster, Pennsylvania isn’t the first small town to rally around one of its’ own in a time of trial and tragedy. The story is not unique; it isn’t terribly unusual. I think, though, that we need to hear these stories no matter how many times they happen, to remind us that all hope is not lost; that the anger the media shows us has not permeated our world as much as they tell us it has.

There are still good people.

There are still kind people.

There are still loving people who recognize that, yes, indeed it does take a village to raise a family.

And there are still people who recognize we were not created to be alone but to be part of a community, a family tied together not by bloodlines but by our common humanity.

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photo Lisa R. Howeler

It is these people who show us that though there are things in the world that will bring us to our knees in grief, it is still true that”the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Ariah’s family showed this weekend that they believe and understand that the moment Ariah’s spirit leaves her earthly frame it will be in the presence of Christ.

 

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Musicians sang in the pavilion that night:

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me!
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!

The niece of a woman I knew passed away a few years ago from cancer. She was very young, I don’t remember the exact age. She told her mother, as cancer made her weaker and weaker, that she was going to heaven. Her mother, of course, was distraught, not wanting her little girl to leave her.

“Heaven is closer than you think,” the little girl told her mother.

It’s so hard to sing in our storms.

It’s hard to sing in our unbelief.

It’s so hard to raise a hallelujah in the face of death.

It’s hard to raise a hallelujah in the face of fear.

It’s hard to raise a hallelujah when all hope seems lost.

It’s hard to understand the idea that our loved ones will be gone from earth but alive in heaven.

Even though it was hard, the people of the community raised those hallelujah’s this weekend.

They raised their voices because they believe that one day hope will arise from the ashes, that death is defeated and that the spirit of a little girl who fought so hard for her life here on earth will live in a heavenly realm we can not even imagine, a realm closer than we think it is.

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Faithfully Thinking: The battle belongs to the Lord

“I don’t see a change, Lord,” I said one night, laying in bed, thinking about all my health issues. “Some days it almost seems worse. No matter how much I pray for healing. Figuring it all out is so expensive and I don’t want surgery if I even need it. What do I do?”

Silence.

“Should I call the doctor?”

Silence.

“Should I fight to actually be diagnosed with this disease, or should I . . .”

Silence.

Honestly, I sometimes feel as if God really isn’t listening to, or helping, me with some of the health concerns I’ve been having for the last few years, but then, there are days I feel like he’s directing me to “wait.”

Be still and wait.

Two of the things I am the absolute worst at.

“You know what, God, I’ll just handle this!” I cry out in frustration. “Just..never mind! If you don’t want to answer me, then I’ll just fix it myself.”

Be still and wait. I’ve got this.

It’s very hard to trust God when we don’t see things changing. Trust me, I know this first hand.

But the Bible tells us to trust he is working for our good even when we can’t see it.

This whole “trust in God” thing has been a real struggle for me over the last couple of years. There are days I feel so hopeless with situations in my life, from finances to the lack of friendships, to trying to sell our house and chronic health issues that never seem to go away.

I heard a great sermon once entitled “The Battle Belongs to the Lord.” I don’t always agree with the pastor, but for this sermon, I absolutely agreed with him.

Each time I find myself in despair I hear the pastor saying, “The battle belongs to the Lord.”

The devil will tell us, “But your checking account is still empty,” and that is when you say “The battle belongs to the Lord,” the pastor said.

This is exactly what happened to me last week when I looked at our savings and realized we were really going to be struggling to make our mortgage payment this month after some unexpected expenses. I began to fall back into the familiar pattern of panic, trying to figure it all out in my head and fix it on my own.

Then I heard the words: “The battle belongs to the Lord.”

This week my mind, for some reason, started rushing again with thoughts of some inconclusive tests I have had in the last few years for a disease that can only be cured by what some consider a minor surgery (I consider all surgeries major.)

“What if I have this?”

“I need to figure this out.”

“I need to decide what to do right now about it because what if this disease kills me. I mean, they say it could take many years, but still. . . ”

I began “researching” on Google, talking to others on a Facebook support group who have it, looking at all my test results again, thinking and stressing. I started to fall back again into a pattern of negative thinking that three years ago left me almost completely mentally paralyzed.

The battle belongs to the Lord.

The words kept coming back to me. Over and over.

I signed out of Facebook, I stopped Googling, and I turned on a sermon podcast and laid down for bed. A year ago I wouldn’t have done any of those things. I would have Googled and researched and fretted all night long.

“The battle belongs to the Lord,” I repeated to myself, over and over to try to calm myself.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I fall into these obsessive, worrying thoughts about my health, finances, or future in seasons of my life where I feel God is calling me to continue with a task he has asked me to finish. I have a feeling someone is trying all he can to distract me from the here and now; to lead me down paths of confusion so I will forget my calling, forget that God has asked me

to write and to raise and teach my children. What God has called me to may not seem as important as what he has called others to, but this is the path he has set for me and it is clear to me that Satan prefers that I forget about that path and wander off on some wild goose chase in another direction.

There have been more than a few times I have snapped back to reality while running around an empty left field of life like a chicken with my head cut off. I’ve looked around and noticed that where I was supposed to be is way off in the distance. I then have to toss aside the random worries to get back to where I need to be, but I can only do that with the help of God.

He tenderly takes my hand every time this happens and says, “No. Not here. Over here where I asked you to be and where I am doing a new thing, even if you can’t see it. Stay on this path. I will be here with you, even on the darkest days.”

And God does this repeatedly.

Repeatedly he steps off the path we were on together, and I wandered off from, takes my hand and leads me out of the wilderness of anxiety, panic, and confusion and back to the path he set for me.

He’s never impatient when he guides me back.

He’s never frustrated and never scolds me for walking off and letting my human side rule for a while.

He simply leads me back, leans down close and whispers, “Keep going. This way. We’ll get there together, beloved.”

I know I’ll wander off again.

I know I’ll lose myself in a fog of confusion again.

I know I’ll panic again, cry and ask God, “Where are you?!” because I will forget, once again, that he’s right here, next to me, where he’s always been.

Remembering Truett

I have been listening to TobyMac in one form or another since the early 1990s.

His son Truett was on a couple of his albums and when I heard Truett had died recently, I was completely shocked, as many TobyMac fans were. I still don’t know the details around Truett’s death, but I can’t imagine the pain Toby is in. He released a song about his struggles dealing with his oldest son’s death this week. I thought I’d share it here and follow it with a couple of happier songs from TobyMac, in case you aren’t familiar with him.

Toby is part of the Christian rock group DC Talk, which was huge in the 2000s and then when the band parted ways, he started his own solo career.

And some old school for ya’…

Faithfully Thinking: Dead Time

When I asked Lisa at The Manitoba Mom Blog if she would write a guest blog post, I wasn’t expecting the wonderful piece that follows. Maybe I think it’s wonderful because it hit me right where I needed it, but I have a feeling there are a lot of other people out there who need it too. If you don’t follow her blog, please make sure to hop over and hit the follow button. She has some very wonderful, thought-provoking posts to offer.


My blogging buddy, Lisa Howeler, said something recently that caught my eye.  She said that writing novels was a way for her to do something other than waiting for the next season of her life to begin.  I knew exactly what she meant.

Have you ever had that sense of: “You’re done here.” – before you were actually done?  A feeling of finality.  Like a premonition: the book is going to close.  You’re in the last few chapters.  Maybe even the final pages.  And you know in your bones, it’s going to end, and you will be starting another book.  But first, you have to finish this one.

There were two times in my life when I knew this very suddenly.  Both of them were job/career-related.  I remember exactly where I was at work when it hit me, and precisely what I was doing.  The moments were, otherwise, insignificant.  (One time, I was going to the bathroom.)  The knowledge came as a surprise – like someone dropping a bowling ball in my lap.  And at once, I knew: “Oh!  I’ll be leaving this place soon.  And I won’t be coming back.”

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It wasn’t sad, or mad, or even exciting.  It was just… “Ok.  Thanks for telling me, God.  For preparing me.  For giving me this knowledge; this advance warning.”  And on both occasions, it was correct.  Within months, I had moved on to some other stage of my life.

Sometimes, though, it’s not an abrupt sense, or only a matter of months, is it?  The time in between books, or seasons, can stretch to years – becoming seasons entirely of their own.  Seasons fraught with obscurity, darkness, disappointment, lack of influence, confusion, and perhaps, even doubt.  You may feel that your hopes are left hanging, and your hands empty.

I have come to think of this as “dead time.”  Not because we’re (necessarily) dead, but because there seems to be little happening.  It’s lag time – a period of quiet, delay, or waiting.  There is something that you are bound for, but you see no guarantee.  Something you are supposed to do, or have, or be…you think.  But you’re not there yet.

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“Dead time” is the tomb, the prison, the belly of the beast.  It’s the long stretches of Bible stories that we may overlook:

  • Noah, spending several decades building the ark.
  • Abraham, waiting until the age of 100 to finally have his son Isaac.
  • Joseph, during the 10+ years in Potiphar’s house and in prison, wondering what had happened to his coat and why he had that silly dream.
  • David, waiting 15 years after Samuel’s anointing to become king.
  • Moses, living for 40 years as a fugitive in Midian, while his people suffered in slavery and probably forgot he existed.

It’s Jonah in the whale, and Lazarus in the grave.  It’s Jesus – lifeless, still, and quiet on the cross, and His followers aghast.

It’s necessary.  It’s not time to forget the promise or throw away the dream, but to hold it before the One who gave it to you, with an open hand.  To draw in, get close, and let Him rip you open if He has to.  He’ll remove cancerous sins, fallacies in your thinking, and dualities in your heart.  He’ll refine, sharpen, and purify you.  He’ll fill you with pleasures, if you’ll let Him!  Such that the dream you had may pale in significance by the time it is fulfilled, and you realize that the promise wasn’t even the best part.  It was all He was doing in the meantime.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said of Mary, as she sat quietly at His feet, that she had chosen “what is better” (Luke 10:42).  There’s a time to work like Martha, but usually before that, there’s a time to be silent, like Mary.

During these apparently quiet, uneventful times, the Lord is busy.  He is working in you, so that you will be fit to work for Him.  There’s no need to rush.  He has plenty of time.

 

“He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.” Psalm 105:8-9

“…and he sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave.  They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.”  Psalm 105:17-19

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”  2 Timothy 2:20-21