Girls With Swords, Week 4

“Now by the laws of war, better than defeating a country by fire and the sword, is to take it without strife.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As Christians, we are not called to fight a war with earthly weapons; the battles that are fought are actually in the spiritual realm.  Instead, we are called to show kindness to all people.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)

My Task, hymn lyrics by Maude Louise Ray

“To love someone more dearly every day, to help a wandering child to find his way, to ponder o’er a noble thought and pray, and smile when evening falls: This is my task.

“To follow truth as blind men long for light, to do my best from dawn of day til night, to keep my heart fit for His holy sight, and answer when He calls: This is my task.”

Being equipped with the armor of the Lord and the Sword of the Spirit, we are a part of the army of the Lord.  Take heart, you are not alone!  There are Christians all over the world, and they are going through similar battles.  That’s why we need to encourage one another and help strengthen them.  I liked a quote that I read in the Art of War, which says “Skillful soldiers make defeat impossible, and further render the enemy incapable of victory.”

Let’s be skillful in our task, and help others become skillful in their tasks too, so that we may render Satan incapable of victory.

“Division weakens the Church. As long as people are focused on their squabbles and disagreements, they cannot further the kingdom of God.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

“The Unity Creed: To create peace and unity, I must work hard. I must observe the world around me. I must minister in time of need. I must listen actively all the time. I must remember all that I can. Then when I need help, if no one gives it, I must pray to God, giver of all things.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

 

Cloud Paradise

Some Things Never Change

Back when I was in high school, there was a guy from Mississippi who owned an online forum, cheshil.com. He was about 15 years old; with a mission to create a website for his high school, a place where everyone could come and feel accepted and loved no matter what.

I was the oddball homeschooler from Texas who got invited by my pen pal to join. Members chatted about topics ranging from books, religion, music, and video games. The atmosphere was kind of like Hogwarts… where everything was fun and imaginative and goofy.

I was a huge gamer: fan of Final Fantasy, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, and anything JRPG. One day, owner Cheshil asked for people to write video game reviews, to make his forums not only a fun place, but a hub for research and recommendations. I agreed to write about my favorite video games, telling others what I did or didn’t like about the game, and what could have made it better.

My evaluations, as I called them, got positive feedback. The only problem some members had was they were too lengthy, being over 1000 words, but it felt great having others compliment me and tell me I helped them decide whether to buy a game or not.

Time passed… Everyone graduated and moved on, and the online forum was left behind, due to the grown-up world hitting us. We were all urged to come out of our shells and realize our potential, find out who we’d become and what career path we’d take. Amazingly, Cheshil is a doctor today with a Master’s, another one of the members live in Japan raising her family, yet another is an actor and production stage manager – the world is our stage!

I attest the wisdom: though success is in front of us and our lives are ready to conquer, we all still need to feel love and accepted, and that’s something that will never change.

Prayer of the Faithful

A prayer with the words of Albert B. Simpson (Hymn: What will you do with Jesus?) , Eliza E. Hewitt (Hymn: Who will follow Jesus?), and King David (Psalms 25 and 26).

Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall, Friendless, forsaken, betrayed  by all; Hearken! What meaneth the sudden call? What will you do with Jesus?

Jesus is standing on trial still, You can be false to Him if you will, You can be faithful through good or ill: What will you do with Jesus?  (Simpson)

O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. (Psalms 25:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, standing for the right, holding up His banner in the thickest fight?  Listening for His orders, ready to obey, who will follow Jesus, serving Him today? (Hewitt)

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.  Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.  Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.  Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, grapes
O Lord. (Psalms 25:4-7, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in life’s busy ways, working for the Master, giving Him the
praise; Earnest in His vineyard, honoring His laws, faithful to His counsel, watchful for His cause? (Hewitt)

The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.  He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.  The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. (Psalm 25:8-10, NLT)

Will you evade Him as Pilate tried?  Or will you choose Him, whate’er betide?  Vainly you struggle from Him to hide: What will you do with Jesus?

Will you, like Peter, your Lord deny? Or will you scorn from His foes to fly, Daring for Jesus to live or die?  What will you do with Jesus? (Simpson)

For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins.  Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose.  They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.  He teaches them his covenant.  My eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.  (Psalms 25:11-15, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus when the tempter charms? Fleeing then, for safety, to the Savior’s arms; trusting in His mercy, trusting in His power, seeking fresh renewals of His grace every hour? (Hewitt)

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.  See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take my refuge.  May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.  (Psalm 25: 16-21, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in His work of love, leading others to Him, lifting prayers above?  Courage, faithful servant! In His word we see, on our side forever will this Savior be. (Hewitt)

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.  Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.  Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. (Psalms 26:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master here am I?(Hewitt)

Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners. Don’t condemn me along with murderers.  Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes.  But I am not like that; I live with integrity.  So redeem me and show me mercy.  Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord. (Psalms 26:9-12, NLT)

“Jesus, I give Thee my heart today! Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way, Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say: “This I will do with Jesus!”  (Simpson)

Patience is a Coconut

I’ll admit. I did not want to write this week’s devotional on patience. I wanted Kat to do it because she’s more patient, the one that’s slow to talk and keeps calm when a problem arises. So when the cards were dealt randomly, and I was the one who got the task to write about patience, I panicked and brought my fear to God. “Lord,” I asked, “how can I teach patience when I have yet to decipher how it works in my own life? I’m too young! I’m still IN the waiting process. I haven’t reached the destination. I can’t ‘live to tell the tale’. My testimony isn’t powerful.”

See, I have a chaotic life. I had dreams I wanted to see through to the end; they seem buried or dead, and for all I know, may never amount to a hill o’ beans, as Southern people say. My dreams may never come true. At this point, I don’t know.

Or maybe my dreams will happen, but not the way I thought. Perhaps I will simply influence others to have dreams and they will carry out “the beautiful life” while I am left to study, research, and philosophize.

Or maybe my dreams will only become reality after my lifetime is over. Like Picasso and Van Gogh, artists who become famous after their death, or Edgar Allan Poe who became famous post-mortem, too.

Maybe, right? I constantly find myself waiting for the “easy part” to get here. I wait for God to bless me with a stable job, friends, independence, customers, or could God have a chosen alternative? Just something! Anything! Don’t hold me in suspense. “Let thy will be done” is me relinquishing my will to him every day of my life in 2017, and yet, last year wasn’t any different, or any year that I can remember since I graduated high school, so how can I expect next year to change? Have I ever done anything, so far, that’s worthy of praise? Can anyone be proud of me?

There’s good news if you’re like me. This journey of questioning, wondering, and waiting is exactly how we learn how to be patient, the way the Holy Spirit intends us to! Sure, like me, you might know someone who exhibits outstanding qualities, and they appear calm and enduring, while meanwhile, you see yourself as hyper, anxious, or impulsive. It may seem like you can’t be patient, but…

God’s patience is for everyone. God’s patience isn’t the skill of twiddling your thumbs or the art of sitting still! It is the ability to trust God, even when your bully brain tells you He doesn’t care; you trust Him anyway. It is the plan to keep trying to do what is right even when your anger is ready to burst. It’s the idea that you will keep forgiving and loving someone who has already wronged you a bazillion times. When you never see an end to struggling, yet you keep praying for and loving people anyway, that’s patience.

You are a coconut and God is the hammer, the knife, and the hands that hold you, break you, shape you, and make you. You are the coconut that becomes a basket, broom, rope, sweet pie, healing lotion, clothing, shampoo, dangly earring, carpet, candy, or pina colada, or anything God wants you to be. You drop off the tree and roll into the sand, where the tide pulls you into the waves, and the waves take you all the way to new land, but only after days and days of bobbing. Then you might grow big into a palm tree, or maybe you are found by the hammer and cracked open and used as a tool or food or medicine. You do not know where your journey will take you, but never will your journey take you the same place as other coconuts. It may hurt, it might be long and tumultuous, but in the end, you will do mighty little things. You are a tiny bit extraordinary, and a very big part of God’s plan of salvation for everyone.

Patience is you, when you let God in.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

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Kindness is a Pear

Have you ever taken a bite out of a pear and held the sweet, soft taste on your tongue? Of course, dozens of pear types bless the world around, all different: in the USA and Europe, a pear may look red and feel soft on the tongue, while in Asia, a round golden pear has a gritty outside skin with a crunchy, less juicy flesh. Amidst all the differences, though, pears always classify as pyrus species from the Rosaceae family. It’s incredible.

Kindness is like pears in the same way: every person has a unique way of showing kindness, and each kind deed can be done in different settings, for different occasions, yet it’s always the same class of spiritual fruit. No matter how different kindness looks on the outside, it can still be called kindness. Just like pears,  it’s always sweet and nice, no matter what. God loves when people are kind, and he is kind to them in return.

Witness the simultaneous balance of the kindness and severity of our God. Severity is directed at the fallen branches withering without faith. Yet kindness is directed at you. So live in the kindness of God or else prepare to be cut off yourselves.” Romans 11:22 (VOICE)

3 examples of kindness:

  1. Antonin always comes home from school hungry, so his mom started making a healthy snack for him, to keep him from being uncomfortable.
  2. Flossie, a lady who owns a ranch, knows how much her new friend Lucia likes horses, so she invites her over one weekend to ride the friendliest American Quarter Horse, Birch.
  3.  The owner of a corner store notices his young customer is short a dollar for the spicy chips he picked out. The customer’s about to go put it back on the shelf when the owner says, “Go on… keep it.” No explanations why he let the guy keep the chips, but the customer goes away happy.

Everyone will show kindness in their own ways. That’s why it is valuable for us to accept each other, each person as he or she is, to truly appreciate a kind act when it is done. For example, imagine a wife asks a husband to build a front porch on their home, so that the steps come out away from the door, and a sitting area is available for guests; the husband is glad to do it, but it doesn’t look the way she wanted it to. Sure, she may be frustrated at him because he did it wrong, and complain about the flaws for days, but that doesn’t make his act any less kind.

Let’s go a little further into the pear analogy before we conclude. You know how when a pear isn’t quite ripe enough, and you try to eat it, it’s hard to bite? Well, sometimes God gives us the chance of a lifetime, to do an act of extreme kindness, something that is (like an unripe pear) hard to bite into. An act of extreme kindness will always be life-changing, either for yourself or another, and it may also require self-sacrifice.

The three examples mentioned above are kindness, but they are not really toilsome in nature. It can be fun to be a good friend or pay for someone’s chips, because you usually get to see a person smile or feel good about what you did, and that makes it “worth it” in your mind. With extreme kindness, however, nothing is gained from what you did, or perhaps you will not be able to see the person’s reaction, or even the person may not want it, but it will undoubtedly help that person.

The Bible is an effective source for examples of extreme kindness. Here are 5:

  1. In 1 Samuel chapter 24, David had a chance to kill Saul, his pursuer, in the Rocks of the Wild Goats. Saul was plotting to kill him, chasing after him with a deep vengeance, yet David did nothing more than cut his cloak while he was vulnerable (unable to fight back), and he even felt sorry for doing that! David’s extreme act of kindness was life-changing for Saul and completely at his own expense. Saul didn’t want it, he didn’t ask for it, but afterwards, he was blessed.
  2. In Genesis 13, Abraham bestowed kindness on his nephew Lot when he gave him the choice of land in front of them, as they both decided to part ways, since their herds were getting too large to continue intermingling. The kindness was extreme because Lot decided to choose the lush, fertile land for himself, leaving Abraham with the drier, less convenient spot.
  3. In Luke 21, we see a touching incident where Jesus looks up and sees a poor woman putting two small coins into the tithing box. She was being extremely kind to give all that she had – in the Scripture it says she literally gave “what she needed for her own living.” In this case, the house of God could have said “Who cares?” since she gave very little in proportion to the richer folk… but Jesus recognized her worth.
  4. In Acts 9, a Christian man named Ananias was directed, by a dream from God, to go meet Saul (not the same man from David story) in order to help recover his health and learn more about the gospel. Ananias was scared to death. Saul was famous for killing Christians like himself! However, he trusted God and helped Saul, despite his personal safety, proving his kindness.
  5. We cannot ignore the ultimate gift of kindness Jesus Christ did for us all by dying on the cross. He didn’t want to do it, but he did because it was right, and because he was born for that very reason. You can read about his days on the cross in whichever gospel: Matthew 27, Mark 14-15, and Luke 23.

“But God, the One Who saves, showed how kind He was and how He loved us by saving us from the punishment of sin. It was not because we worked to be right with God. It was because of His loving-kindness that He washed our sins away. At the same time He gave us new life when the Holy Spirit came into our lives.  God gave the Holy Spirit to fill our lives through Jesus Christ, the One Who saves.  Because of this, we are made right with God by His loving-favor. Now we can have life that lasts forever as He has promised.” Titus 3:4-7 (NLV)

As Christians, God does not always require extreme kindness. Most days, making our friends and family smile is enough. But if in your life you feel a dire need to show kindness, like, there’s something you must do that only you can do, and the Spirit urges you to act, probably for someone else’s safety or their salvation, be comforted as you decide whether to do it; if you choose yes, God will forever remember you; He will thank and reward you personally when you come into heaven, and on that day, so glorious and bright, the heavenly hosts will be overflowing with kindness, and the God-of-Angel-armies will celebrate with you; on that day, you will understand the meaning of all the kind acts you did, both soft and hard, casual and extreme – let that be the reason to choose yes!

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Love is a Strawberry

There was this time, a few years ago, when my mom was gardening and she saw her new strawberry plant had a tiny fruit on it. It was the teeniest thing, about the size of a Tic Tac. She wanted to taste it so much. Knowing plants, there was a chance no more berries would grow that year, because it was only a baby plant. However, that didn’t stopped Mom from acting in love: instead of enjoying the berry herself, which would have been easy to do being the first to see it, she brought that little fruit inside the house to show it to Kat and me. She cut it into two small specks, giving me one piece, Kat the other.

“Try it!” We did indeed. She wanted to know what it tasted like. Tart and juicy, it was good like unsweetened jam. So good! But the taste wasn’t as good as the love Mom shared by sacrificing the only taste that plant would give us that year.

Of course, next year the strawberry bush grew three berries instead of one. One was an inch big, the other two smaller. Mom let us half the bigger strawberry, she tasted the smaller one, and left the last one for the birds. Still, she was thinking of others besides herself, even the birds.

Some call the love Mom showed us “a mother’s love”. It is the same type of love that agape (a Greek word for “love”) is, which the Bible speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13. However, agape love acts this way for everyone, all kinds of people, no matter what age, gender, color, race, or person they are. If a person acted in agape love, an enemy could be gifted the same way as a family member or friend.

Agape is the love Jesus acted on when He died on the cross to save the world.

Three Scriptures which express agape love:

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

Someone might say that a person who loves is like a strawberry plant. The love-bearer begins as a baby plant, producing only one berry, or one act of love, but as the plant grows the fruits produce more and more. By starting small, thinking big, and acquiring more knowledge of God, you can fall deeper “in love” with Christ, meaning gain understanding of who he is and how to imitate him, and then the love in your heart will grow more each year. As love grows, you will begin to know how, more each day, Christ would want you to treat others, therefore, you will become a vessel of agape love.

  1. Start small.
  2. Think big.
  3. Learn who Christ is.
  4. Watch love grow!
  5. Slowly begin to love others.

Sure, there will be hardships. It’s not easy to love endlessly. We’re not robots; we’re beings, created to produce thoughts, feelings, and opinions. So yes, it may be that you give a strawberry away and a person doesn’t receive it well – for example, the strawberry (your act of love) is placed on the counter, forgotten, and fuzzes, and is no longer enjoyable – but it didn’t start out ruined; your intention was never for your love to ruin. But it happens, sometimes.

No matter what, continue to love, continue to produce fruits, and even if some of your acts of love are not taken by the receiver the way you want them to be, remember, it’s not your power to keep the love fresh once it’s been given away. Your power is in the production.

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Prayer Power!

I have an exciting new story to tell this week about prayer and its power. If you ever doubted that praying matters, I can encourage you.

Last month, I decided I wasn’t doing enough to help children living in poverty. Providentially, an ad flashed onto the computer screen, displaying compassion.com, a website that gives donors the chance to sponsor a child in need – now I see this ad a lot, going to Christian sites and such, but this time, seeing it was an answer to my prayer of charity.

So I decided, with Kat’s support, we could work as a team, and we began praying for one child a day. By searching the children on compassion.com (they let you pick from a variety of details), we take the picture and bio of a child, and we print out the info to tape it into our prayer journals. Every night, we pray for God to provide the child a sponsor or help in other ways, like with education, health, and a good life.

21 days later, here’s our testimony to the power of prayer: Kat decided to search for these children again and could not find but 1 child! Some of them, like a 4 year old girl from Ghana, had been waiting over 300 days for a sponsor, so unless there’s another reason they might be gone, I imagine life is better in the lives of these 20 children. Is that not an amazing thought? For those of us tight on money, until God provides us with more fortune in our pocket, there is a way we can help!