Walk Like a Warrior

Personal note:
My 100-word story, The Wrong Suitcase, was posted on The Drabble e-zine yesterday. You can read it here.

And now for the BOOK REVIEW

WALK LIKE A WARRIOR
Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled

Every now and then you read a book and afterward you want to tell all your friends, “You should read this! It’s inspiring, enlightening, and generally terrific.” Reading this book has challenged and strengthened my own faith.

Bruce & Shara Repka have traveled all over the western USA singing and ministering. They endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading and are keenly aware of his appointments. They enjoy the blessing of seeing his hand at work in people’s lives, learning lessons of faith, trust, patience. They’ve worked as trail hands rounding up cattle, ridden their horses over the canyons and badlands. They’ve spent time seeing and learning to love the rough-and-tumble crowds as God sees and loves them.

In Walk Like A Warrior they share a number of experiences, insights, and lessons learned. I really appreciated all the appropriate scripture verses accompanying each section.

I’ll admit I can’t totally identify with every experience these folks have had — but I don’t feel I need to judge anything here. If God chooses to bless them with miracles I haven’t observed personally, that’s up to him. As Shara brings out so well, the Lord leads his children in individual paths where we can fill our role as a light for Him. The couple share a number of answers to prayer that demonstrate God’s ability to meet our needs.

Here are some quotes I found particularly inspiring:

(While waiting patiently for a much-needed answer to prayer)
“Praising the Lord freed me from the begging, defeatist attitude.”

(Praise for an answer to prayer)
“God knows all about us — our innermost thoughts and desires. And He never forgets. He is concerned about the little things in our lives, even the ones we forget about.”

Bruce Repka’s advice re: waiting for God’s timing:
“Don’t let the devil talk you into making foolish decisions and then expect God to cover you and everything will be fine. God can, and will, turn every negative and bad thing around for good, but why go through the heartache and pain during the process of doing things He never told you to do? Wait on God and do what he tells you to do, making the decisions He tells you to make. The rewards are immeasurable.”

From the back page:
Bruce and Shara Repka (a.k.a. Pony Express Ministry) are a Christian country music ministry that travels the highways and backroads of the western United States with their two horses, Rocky and Nocona.

Traversing the countryside in their fourteen-foot, short-wall, three-stall, living quarters horse trailer, they travel and minister wherever God sends them. Their, and others’, inspirational true stories are a testament to how God reveals Himself and encourages us in our everyday lives. They have seen firsthand a real, loving, and powerful God who is always true to His word and who longs to have a personal relationship with us all.

In life’s challenging moments, do you search for testimonies of encouragement that exemplify God’s love, grace, protection, and provision? Find inspiration as you enjoy the many photographs and travel this trail with them, living the adventure! You can find them online at www.ponyexpressministry.com

I was given a free copy so I could write an honest online review.

 

 

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Voice in the Wilderness

There’s a Voice in the Wilderness Crying
by James Lewis Milligan

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying,
A call from the ways untrod:
Prepare in the desert a highway,
A highway for our God!
The valleys shall be exalted,
The lofty hills brought low;
Make straight all the crooked places,
Where the Lord our God may go!

O Zion, that bringest good tidings,
Get thee up to the heights and sing!
Proclaim to a desolate people
The coming of their King.
Like the flowers of the field they perish,
The works of men decay,
The power and pomp of nations
Shall pass like a dream away.

But the word of our God endureth,
The arm of the Lord is strong;
He stands in the midst of nations,
And He will right the wrong.
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd,
And fold the lambs to His breast;
In pastures of peace He’ll lead them,
And give to the weary rest.

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying,
A call from the ways untrod:
Prepare in the desert a highway,
A highway for our God!
The valleys shall be exalted,
The lofty hills brought low;
Make straight all the crooked places,
Where the Lord our God may go!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This poem is now in the Public domain

Why Does God Give Some Parents Children?

Why does God put innocent little babies in lousy homes? Why doesn’t He put babies in some really good homes?

One day a young man, recently divorced in the States, used his visiting privileges to take his son away from his ex-wife and fled to Canada. His intention was to stay in Canada until the statute of limitations ran out and he could no longer be charged with abduction.

It happened that we met this fellow and he told us his story. He felt his ex-wife was a very poor mother, living a wild life, and had wanted custody of the boy for pure spite. To make matters worse, he said, she had joined a well-known religious group/cult. He was sure God wouldn’t want his little boy to be raised in that setting so he kidnapped him and fled.

I asked him, “Why does God give children to those people then, if He’d never want a child raised by them?” The fellow had no reply to this. He and the boy disappeared before we could learn the outcome to this sad story.

And what about all the just plain bad parents out there? People who have been scarred themselves, who have no parental skills, people who are druggies or mentally ill? It seems most of these folks can reproduce, yet I’ve known some really good parents who were only able to have one or two children, or who adopted children because they weren’t able to produce any.

Do you sometimes ask, “Why is God not more sensible? Why does He allow this?”

But how should God remedy this? Just never allow sinners to have children? God is extremely fair. “He maketh His rain to fall on the just and the unjust…” We were damaged ourselves and far from perfect parents, but we thank God for our lovely daughter who has grown us up as well as been raised by us.

Sometimes it’s the very innocence of a child that brings conviction to a hard heart. Having a baby brought a very dear friend of mine back to God.

Our society has developed the mind-set that if I’m not happy, someone else is to blame. It’s how I was raised, the home I came out of , the insults and abuses I suffered, that determines my happiness or lack of it. But there are a lot of people who’ve grown up in very bad homes that made something of themselves, and those that grew up in horrific settings who turned to God as adults, found the strength to overcome past abuse, and are spiritual leaders today.

The theory is that if you raise a child in a nurturing setting, you’ll have a well-balanced child who will go on to live a successful life, but we’ve all seen adults who grew up in good homes with the best parental input and made bad choices so their lives have turned out rotten.

Joshua says to the children of Israel, “Choose ye this day…” The Bible gives us to understand that our own happiness is up to us: it’s a consequence of the choices we have made and are making today.

I believe God set this world in its order and it basically continues that way without Him straightening it out or cracking the whip over us all the time. He rather works by calling all the hurting people –which is every one of us– to find healing. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt 11:28

It’s amazing what God has done for those who, in all sincerity, sought His mercy. If we become angry and bitter at God for what life has handed us, our hope for improvement is thwarted and we tend to become our parents all over again. Then our own children will tell the same sad tales of their upbringing.

Those of us who have found this rest and felt His healing would like to shout it out to the world: “It’s true! It’s beautiful! It’s free to all.”

That’s why some of us blog. 🙂

The Right Route

“Where exactly did you send your information?” asked the voice at the other end of the line. “You have to follow the instructions exactly and route the upload through the URL given you on your sheet.”

“But I followed the instructions,” I whimpered. “I downloaded pages of instructions and followed them carefully. I sent the data right to my site. I didn’t see any other URL or how to route the data through it.”

“But you have to send the data through a certain channel or it won’t upload to your website,” the woman at MyHosting Customer support explained. She paused, likely to consult her computer screen. “And it isn’t here.”

“But I did upload it. My computer spent almost TWO HOURS uploading it to my site; it has to be there somewhere!”

I sighed. Most of my morning gone, pages from three different sources explaining in detail “How to Install WordPress” lying here and there. When the upload was complete I’d patted myself on the back. I did it! I figured it out and installed this program on my new website – by myself. Now I couldn’t access it.

“How be I get one of our technicians to install WordPress on your website tomorrow? He’ll e-mail you more instructions when it’s in place.”

Easy-peasy. So why didn’t I do that right off? Why did I get so frustrated trying so hard to do what I simply don’t have the ability to do? ☹ Well, I guess it took this for me to learn that there’s a certain way and no other will work.

I can sympathize with the scribes & pharisees of Jesus’ day. They’d uploaded pages – whole books – of instructions on how to satisfy a Divine Being. In fact they’d not only uploaded the initial instructions, but added to them various explicit interpretations, memorized them and followed them to the letter.

Along comes Jesus, talking of another Way – the Only Way.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

He claimed there was route they must follow, a door they must enter.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:1-2:

Whether they tried scrambling over the wall, used a fancy ladder, or squeezed through some crack, the fact remained: if they hadn’t been installed via the right route, they had to be reinstalled.

The Jewish leaders didn’t like that. After all, they were THE LEADERS here. Furthermore, they had already uploaded tons of good deeds to their celestial sites. It must all be there somewhere! And it was the right data, too, the Law of Moses, written by the hand of God. Who was this person to come along and claim they hadn’t used the right routing code? That their valuable data wasn’t sitting up there in heavenly files winning them A+ scores in Heaven?

But Jesus told them the truth: there’s nothing there. You haven’t sent it through the channels of grace and mercy. And He is the channel of grace and mercy.

He is the Way. However much good a person may do in this world, if it isn’t routed through Him we’ll get to the other side someday and find our data’s not been installed: our name is not written in the Book of Life. All the credits we have “legally earned” will have evaporated and we will face the awful truth: we’ve not entered the right Door.

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

Enlightening Book On Depression

BOOK REVIEW:

How Hard It Really Is: A Short Honest Book About Depression
by J. S. Park

This book was written for folks who are seeking answers about this major problem. it’s for those wrestling with depression themselves and for those who want to understand what the sufferer is going through.

Pastor Park isn’t preachy; he offers no pat answers. No “Trust God, have more faith, count your blessings.” No “Think positive, just cheer up.”  No “This vitamin formula, yoga position, or new drug on the market will cure you in no time.” In fact, these pat answers make him angry because they tend to add yet more mental anguish to the sufferer. He knows. He’s been there.

“My hope here is to give a voice to those who have been depressed so they can share in their own words what they have found helpful and what they have definitely not.”

You’ll read about others — even doctors — who’ve been in, or are in, the same battle. Knowing you’re not alone can give you courage. Knowing that winning is possible is empowering. Seeing how others have climbed out of the darkness can give you courage to keep trying.

If you have a loved one who is dealing with this issue and you want a little better picture of the enemy, this book will definitely clarify some muddy waters.

The best thing we can offer each other is…our set of experiences, our voices, our ears, so that the tunnel is less intimidating and the light is not as distant as it was… It’s in sharing what we go through that we are empowered to make it through together.

The first few chapters contain a lot of basic facts; I found it rather heavy reading. This is where the writer discusses some theories behind depression, past and present, and different approaches that have been adopted in treating it.

I found the later chapters the most engaging, where he shares his own experience of being knocked for a loop, the treatments he tried, the help he found, the friends who stood beside him and made a difference, the way he finally managed to climb back out of the deep well he was in.

Sometimes there are obvious social and economic factors that trigger depression, but the writer also tells how suddenly it can hit a person:

“(It can be) …a simple punch in the face with no complex reasons, no social complexities, no biological build-up — just a sudden shock to the system. Depression can occur by a crisis event or situation and, like a face-punch, will spin you around and leave you surprised and reeling.”

He discusses the role culture plays in how we talk about and deal with this affliction. Is depression only “the white man’s disease” as some cultures say?

The section I’m Here gives some valuable tips on how we can reach out to a friend who’s struggling with depression. It’s a lot easier than you think. One thought that really impressed me: we don’t need to grab a microphone and make a rousing speech or say just the right thing to get this person through the darkness. Rather we need to give the depressed person the mike and listen. Let him share what he’s going through and how he feels. To be there is often the best gift a friend can give.

“Something powerful happens when we reach across the dark…
Fear starts to shrivel the moment it is exposed.”

The section, Who Am I Without You? deals with being so dependent on the approval of others that we crash at the smallest hint of rejection. The writer urges us to get to know ourselves, our own likes and wants. How necessary it is to stop being a people-pleaser — needing, clinging, then devastated when they feel suffocated and walk away. He tells how he learned to love others more and need them less.

In the last chapter, Elijah, By Bread and Water, he relates the account of the Biblical prophet Elijah, who had his greatest victory on Mount Carmel — followed by a vicious threat to his life that knocked him right into the cesspool of depression. Pastor Park shows us the gentle method God used to pick Elijah up and set him on his feet again, an inspiring story.

“(God) is bigger than your situation and closer than your deepest hurt. He’s not mad. He is cheering for you and rooting for you this very second. He’s okay about all the things before. He sent His Son for that very reason.”

The book’s Appendix lists different treatments for depression and hot-lines readers can call to get help or a listening ear when needed.

Amazon US Link

☆☆☆☆☆
5 stars from me.

Seek And Ye Shall Find

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
— The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8

One night a young man from Albania sat in a motel room in Spain, frustrated and discouraged. He was trying to make his way to a new life Canada but he was now hopelessly snared in a thorny ticket of red tape. He’d done everything he could, but the immigration officials were still shaking their heads.

He’d been brought up under communist teaching, had heard over and over, “God doesn’t exist.” This idea, they were told in school, is a lie meant to keep the common people in bondage. This myth is still being perpetrated by deceived fanatics, but we will wipe it out in time.”

As he grew up he began to question, “Why do the communists have to keep saying this? Surely by now a myth would be no trouble to them.” Or maybe God isn’t a myth? Maybe the communists weren’t able to stamp out this God and Bible business because there was something to it? He began to feel a longing to know the truth; later, working in Germany, he was able to obtain an Albanian Bible and started reading it.

In time he’d made his way to Spain hoping for a way to emigrate to Canada. Now here he sat all alone, far from home, his dreams for the future shattered. In despair he cried out to this God the Bible talked about. “Are You real? Do You see me? Will You help me?”

He looked up and saw a vivid picture on the wall. A painting of Jesus with His arms held out, to Cheti it felt like Jesus was inviting him to come. Did it appear at that instant or had it been hanging there all along and he’d just not noticed it before? In any case, he saw it now and felt the Lord speaking to him at that moment. The whole puzzle of religion became clear to him. God is real and had heard his prayer. Jesus is real. The Bible he’d been reading was telling him the truth.

That night he turned his life over to God and asked for His guidance in the future. The next day he went back to the Canadian immigration office and he received the emigration permit he needed.

LET HIM PROVE IT!

“Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” — Matthew 27:42

In the Bible we read that the religious rulers of Jesus’ time followed him around constantly. They heard his teachings, saw his miracles — and most of them would not believe He was from God. If God really sent him, they said, Jesus would follow the traditions. For lack of a better explanation they said, “it’s the devil himself that’s giving this man power to work wonders.”

When Jesus hung on the cross there was a great earthquake, the sky was darkened, the heavy curtain of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom. Two days after Jesus’ death the soldiers guarding the tomb came running and said, “An angel came down and rolled the stone away.” Solid proof, right? The Jewish leaders bribed the guards to keep quiet about this. (And that silence wouldn’t have come cheap, I don’t think.)

Their minds were made up about Jesus. They asked for signs but refused to see. They weren’t seeking so they never found. They didn’t knock, so the truth was never opened to them like it was to our friend Cheti in his hotel room in Spain.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”— The Apostle Paul, writing in to the Hebrews: ch 11:6.

Mary’s Faith

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”
His mother saith unto the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
—Read the whole account of this miracle in John 2:1-8

When I read these verses I couldn’t help but be impressed with the faith Mary demonstrated. “Whatever He asks, do it.”

Somebody had a problem. It wasn’t Mary’s problem, but she knew about it – even though the fellow in charge of the wedding feast didn’t seem to be clued in. I imagine the folks giving the feast were relatives, maybe a cousin or even a niece or nephew of Mary, which is why she and her children and even Jesus’ disciples all attended.

So Mary was somehow privy to the problem. She didn’t get in a mad flap (like I might.) She didn’t wash her hands of the situation and leave others to deal with it (like I might.) No, even though it wasn’t her problem, she brought it to Jesus’ attention, believing that He could do something though He apparently hasn’t worked any miracles before.

His response was almost rude. It sounds to me a lot like, “So? What am I supposed to do about it? This isn’t ‘Amazing time’ for me yet.”

Mary didn’t get confrontational. “Listen, Son. These are our relatives and You have to help them out.”

She didn’t nag or scold. “Look, this is a disaster! Don’t just sit there. Get up and do something!”

She didn’t whine, “Something has to change here. Can’t you please, please, do something?”

She didn’t have a solution to suggest. “If you’d kindly make six buckets of wine appear right there in the pantry, everyone would be so grateful.”

So I glean from these verses that Mary was aware of the problem; there was no visible solution; she brought the problem to the only One who could solve it; she kept her cool, sat on her pride, and didn’t argue with Him about it.

I doubt she had any idea what Jesus could do to solve the problem, or even if He would do anything. She simply informed Him about the situation and left it in His hands. Yet she had faith. She prepared for a solution. She told the servants, “Whatever He tells you to do, be sure to follow through with it.”

I’m guessing she quietly took her place among the guests and waited to see if and how Jesus would provide.

These verses make me look at my own prayers, the petitions and the attitudes I come to God with. Do I wash my hands of other people’s problems? Do I bring these needs to the One Who can help, or mull them over for days and weeks first, trying to come up with a great solution to suggest to Him? Do I believe He actually can and will do something? Do I whine? He just has to do something — like NOW!

Suppose Mary had said, “This isn’t my problem.” Suppose she hadn’t wanted to bother Jesus with it. What if she’d been doubtful that He could do something and hadn’t said anything to the servants to prepare them for a solution? Would there have been any ‘water-turned-to-wine’ miracle in the Bible. I doubt it.

Lord, teach us to ask in faith trusting Your wisdom to provide the best answer.