The Help You Never See

When our enemies heard the work was complete and the surrounding nations saw our wall, their confidence crumbled. Only one possible conclusion could be drawn: it was not just our efforts that had done this thing.    God had been working alongside us.  —Nehemiah 6:16 (The Voice)

 Here’s one thing we assume about God’s Word: people who have a whole book named after them are usually pretty remarkable. Indeed, the story of Nehemiah is an example of why miracles and labor go together. The Book of Nehemiah illustrates The Power of Purpose.

You were born on earth to fulfill your purpose. I will not presume to know what your assignment is, but I can tell you this: just like Nehemiah’s, your mission is restoration. Whether that mission is to sing a song, write a book, preach a sermon, or save a city, you are in the restoration business. Your task inevitably involves renewal, repair, building and rebuilding that benefits someone else. Bottom line: you are to help others live their best life, in fellowship with God.

The important thing is this: when you are achieving your destiny, when you are in the right position and when you are doing the work you have been assigned to do, the wok of the Holy Spirit is present. In fact, the Holy Spirit is right there, working beside you. Incredible, isn’t it? The third Person of the Godhead, Himself providing the help you cannot see.

You also may not see the enemies who oppose you. “Enemies?” you ask. “Why would I have any enemies?” Great question. You will have enemies; know that and move forward. Nehemiah clearly saw those opposing him and the work.  But when those enemies observed Nehemiah’s success, they lost their confidence.

How do you know God is partnering with you on your assignment? Here are some indicators. God is there when:

  1. You apply yourself, without reservation to the work He has given and refuse to stoop to distractions or nonsense. Use Nehemiah as an example; his response to critics was: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
  2. You realize you must cling to God as your only support. Your close relationship with Him ensures a positive outcome.
  3. Great work is being done and results are the blessed and successful. When that happens, God’s support is undeniable.
  4. The plans of evil collaborators are clearly defeated in the end.
  5. You celebrate early—even before you see your work completed, because you know that the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

Tell Them Your Story

Then Joshua told the people…your children will ask you why these rocks are here. Tell them “The Lord our God dried up the Jordan River so we could walk across….”  He wants everyone on earth to know how powerful he is. And he wants us to worship only him.

—Joshua 4:21-24, CEV

I knew a woman once who was not exceptionally talented; however, she was undoubtedly the best liar I have ever met. She could tell you something without flinching and absolutely none of it would be true. Consequently, I learned to discount anything I heard her say. And, I want you to know that I consider lying to be deceitful, dangerous and an unacceptable habit to develop. In fact, bogus stories can lead to great risk for everyone whose lives are touched by these fabrications. In the end, I came to realize that, if everything I discerned about this person was a hoax, I never really knew her at all.

Real stories, on the other hand, can be uplifting, healing and extremely helpful. Think of the best real stories that have been published in modern literature, like “The Perfect Storm.” Real stories can be a powerful form of communication that connects us to one another.

One of the reasons I am committed to writing a book about my healing from stage four cancer is that I want to document my journey for others. I am convinced that people don’t actually believe that God does the hard stuff anymore; I want them to know that He does. In fact I read an article recently that declared: stage four cancer cannot be cured, only treated. “Wait just a minute,” I said out loud (to no one). “Medical science has just declared me an impossibility.”

The power of sharing your true story is that it helps people understand that they are not alone. It becomes much easier for others to know for certain that, if the Lord provided an inexplicable miracle for me, He will do the same for you.

Scholar and author, Dr. Brené Brown teaches that the path to understanding involves being vulnerable about our imperfections.  As you tell your story, don’t be reluctant to show your warts. Don’t erase your experience “wrinkles” with emotional Botox; our faults and failures are what make us real.

Why not practice telling your personal story? Starting today, share the good news about how you are living out God’s purpose in the world. Someone needs to hear from you.

Sweet Beginnings!

Here we are.  Day #2 in what I have declared as “The Year of Opportunity!”

The past is our cherished history.  Tomorrow holds the great promises of God for a wonderful future, for accomplishing great things, and for fulfilling the purpose God has designed for our lives. Sweet!

There is nothing like a plate full of pancakes to make the sweet start of a brand new day. When my spiritual daughter, Kim, first came to visit me in Nashville, we left the airport and headed straight for Pancake Pantry. Not only is it a great place for celebrity watching, but also I have decided that one of the best eating experiences in the city is their sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon syrup.  Somehow, I think, that dish will be on the menu for at least one feast in Heaven.

In honor of sweet beginnings, I have decided to believe that this is the year.  Join me in affirming that every tomorrow comes bursting with wonderful opportunities. I will always cherish the past and hold on to the richness of memories, accomplishments, and dreams that have come true. However, the fact that I am still here is, to me, a sure sign that there is more in store.

What I envision for you in 2013 includes all of this: greater understanding, more days jam-packed with everyday joy, super-abundant opportunities, greater doors leading to fulfilled dreams, bigger triumphs, and enough prosperity that you can support cherished causes.  You can even become a grander “you” than you ever dreamed possible.

You must be more alert than ever of the negative force called “procrastination.”  It may be the one villain holding you back.  You may discover that the reason you didn’t accomplished the great things you set out to do in 2012 was that you kept postponing them. One of my biggest challenges is looking at a task, deciding it is too enormous, and then putting it off until tomorrow. Commit to doing something—anything—towards your biggest goal, doing it every day, and allowing nothing or no one to get in your way.  Start now. Failure is not an option.

This is the year to dream new dreams. At this very moment, God is putting fresh ideas into your mind. We are all very certain that God has a purpose for our lives. When we put ourselves into His hands, totally and confidently, the BIG dreams will come from Him. Do not be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Be willing to stand still and watch God do the impossible.

You are on the brink of a promised victory. Just follow the advice of Moses; watch God perform a wonder. The problems and obstacles that looked so fearsome are about to be removed from your face forever!

Moses told the people, Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again.—Exodus 14:13 (Amplified Bible)

The Help You Never See

When our enemies heard the work was complete and the surrounding nations saw our wall, their confidence crumbled. Only one possible conclusion could be drawn: it was not just our efforts that had done this thing. God had been working alongside us.

—Nehemiah 6:16 (The Voice Translation)

Here’s one thing we assume about God’s Word: people who have a whole book named after them are usually pretty remarkable. Indeed, the story of Nehemiah is an example of why miracles and labor go together. The Book of Nehemiah illustrates The Power of Purpose.

You were born on earth to fulfill your purpose. I will not presume to know what your assignment is, but I can tell you this: just like Nehemiah’s, your mission is restoration. Whether that mission is to sing a song, write a book, preach a sermon, or save a city, you are in the restoration business. Your task inevitably involves renewal, repair, building and rebuilding that benefits someone else. Bottom line: you are to help others live their best life, in fellowship with God.

As parents and mentors, our job is definitely about restoration. I saw a young man carrying his infant and thought about how important it is for a father to build the life of a child. Mothers are critical nurturers, but a child with the blessing of a close, minute-by-minute connection with his or her father is doubly prepared for life.

The important thing is this: when you are achieving your destiny, when you are in the right position and when you are doing the work you have been assigned to do, the great God of the universe is present. In fact, He is working right beside you. Incredible, isn’t it? God Himself providing the help you cannot see.

You also may not see the enemies who oppose you. “Enemies?” you ask. “Why would I have any enemies?” Great question. You will have enemies; know that and move forward. Nehemiah clearly saw those opposing him and the work.  But when those enemies observed Nehemiah’s success, they lost their confidence.

How do you know God is partnering with you on your assignment? Here are some indicators. God is there when—

  1. You apply yourself, without reservation to the work He has given and refuse to stoop to distractions or nonsense. Use Nehemiah as an example; his response to critics was: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
  2. You realize you must cling to God as your only support. Your close relationship with Him ensures a positive outcome.
  3. Great work is being done and results are the blessed and successful. When that happens, God’s support is undeniable.
  4. The plans of evil collaborators are clearly defeated in the end.
  5. You celebrate early—even before you see your work completed, because you know that the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Is This What Jesus Said to Do?

We each go through life looking for the meaning of our calling, the purpose of being alive, the reason for taking up space in the universe. We look for connectedness to a greater purpose. I know I do. I believe that, as long as I’m alive, I have a purpose. There is a work still to be done.

There are people we haven’t met, places we need to go, tasks that yet need the unique touch of our hands.  We squint to see the rich cord connecting people, circumstances, places and events—to find out the “Why?” of it all.

Above the door in his pastoral office, my husband had affixed the words of the great commission:  “Go ye therefore…”  Followed by the promise:  “Lo, I am with you always…”

In the last few months, I have reconnected with a pivotal part of my history. Before moving to Wisconsin, we spent four years living on the campus of American Baptist Theological Seminary, now American Baptist College. Those were years of awakening, of bonding with those who became lifelong friends—all as dedicated to sacrificial ministry as we were.

Now, I am back on the Holy Hill, strolling across paths that span these marvelous fifty-three acres on the edge of the Cumberland River. Views of the city from here are breathtaking. Sometimes I stay until dusk just to watch the diamond of Music City come alive, as lights come on.

One of the people I needed to meet is Professor Janet Wolf. I am astounded by her vision of Christian leadership and of our responsibilities for community building and social justice. Every conversation with Janet has caused me to consider what Jesus told us to do. Our individual “go” and “lo.” Dr. Wolf teaches classes in the Tennessee prison—but not just in the prison, one class is on death row. As part of her Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, she teaches “Transformative Justice” and “Community Building and Conflict Resolution.”

God’s timing is so precise. He knows what we need to experience. When I took my seat at ABC’s commencement ceremony last week, I chose a spot near the rear so that I could be a quiet observer. Dr. Wolf delivered the prayer.  Her words were so Holy Spirit-filled that they were like a mighty wind blowing across everyone present on the Library lawn.  I asked her to share them with me…so that they could bless you.

This prayer is for every graduate in the class of 2012, everyone who watched a child reach a milestone, and everyone who wonders if God still calls us to touch lives—in prisons or in palaces. You be the change agent God requires today.

Gracious, life-giving and holy God,

we come this day with joy and with thanksgiving.

Thank You for the gift of this day

and for all who gather here,

for the power of your presence, the wideness of your mercy

the enoughness of your grace.

Surely you are good and we are thankful.

 

Thank you for ABC and all who have labored here.

For almost 88 years, on this holy hill, you, O God,

Have been calling forth and raising up

Prophets, pastors, and protestors;

teachers, transformers and truth tellers,

nonviolent but militant warriors and saints.

 

Over and over again, on this holy hill, you, O God,

have made a way where we saw none;

you have opened doors when others slammed them shut.

You have propped us up on every leaning side

when things got hard;

and we thank you.

 

Thank You for those who graduate today,

each one a miracle, a sign of your steadfast love.

Thank You for their courage and creativity,

Their passion and persistence, their fierce determination

and defiant trust in your promises.

Thank You for all who accompanied them,

those who loved them and fed them,

those who supported them and encouraged them,

those who challenged and prodded them,

those who refused to let them give up or in

or settle for less.

 

Pour down your Holy Spirit upon us this day and always,

that we might be all you have created us to be—

Channels of healing and hope,

agents of change and challenge,

instruments of justice, generosity and joy.

In Jesus’ name.

                                                Dr. Janet Wolf

 

Note: the above prayer is abbreviated. Please check back here tomorrow; I will post the prayer in its entirety.