Failing, To Succeed

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“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

Wow! Those are encouraging words for me today. And perhaps for you, as well. Seems like, at this point in my life, I fail far more than I succeed. But the Bible says that when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) Through our failures, God yields His strength to us. And, in these cracked, clay vessels, our

imperfections allow God’s light to shine through. The imperfections are still there. Yet they serve the greater purpose of allowing others in this darkened world to see God’s glory radiating through us- failures and all.

Like Michael, let’s keep on trying!

2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

2 Corinthians 12:9,10: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (ESV)

Stand in the Bright Spot

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Looking back over the year 2013, I must admit it was a year of seemingly relentless difficulty for me.  Perhaps you can relate?  As soon as one trial had passed, another would quickly follow.  And often there were multiple trials all at once which became an almost insurmountable struggle.  One day, in a moment of weakness, I was praying and literally crying out to the Lord to ease my load, feeling as though the darkness might soon completely overtake me.  I longed for a reprieve from the seemingly endless barrage of attacks from the enemy- a breakthrough!  Then, softly and intently, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Angela, stand in the ‘bright spot’.”

I cried out in desperation, while in the middle of a particularly bad flare, “What bright spot, Lord?”, overwhelmed and struggling at the time to see the tiniest glimmer of light outside His immediate presence.  Surely, in the midst of all the trials- a year-long whirlwind of family chaos and turbulence, the effects of chronic pain and fatigue, months of difficulty getting resettled after a necessary summer move, nearly three months of fighting not to succumb to depression, and not to mention the current ice storm with thirty-two hours of no power, no heat, and no running water at home- I thought surely, there wasn’t a beam large enough for me to stand in.  “You’re all the light I see, Lord,” I said.  “Where would You have me stand?”

And then, like a vision, it came to me.  Though the circumstances that weighed so heavily upon me were like walking through dark shadows that seemed to engulf me, I began to imagine beautiful rays of light as they broke through the clouds of darkness.  In those rays of light- the “bright spot”- there was hope, warmth, even joy, and renewal.  So I asked the Lord, “Father, where is the bright spot in all of this?”  I longed to see it and to feel it’s warmth flood my spirit. Then I felt Him saying to me, “Look around you to those things where I am and you will find it.”

It was a week before our Christmas Musical at church and I so wanted to sing for the Lord and bring glory to His name.  Singing is one of the things that brings me joy and gives me inspiration.  I so enjoy singing with our Praise  Team and worshipping our Lord together.  And for nearly three months, I had longed to once again find the ability to connect with the passion and inspiration I knew God had placed within me for His ministry.  So, in that moment, and for that very time in my life, singing in the Christmas Musical became my “bright spot”. For a little while, I was able to bask in the rays of light from my “bright spot” and felt God’s warmth pour over me as His joy began to renew my spirit.  Making an effort to attend weekly practices and listening to my performance CD at home and in the car, I had been looking forward to singing with my sweet Sisters on the Praise Team and to the program God had inspired our Music Minister to lead.  But my basking wouldn’t last long.  The next morning I awoke with a scratchy throat.  And, by the following morning, it had turned into the worst sore throat I could ever remember having.   This time the Holy Spirit led me in a different way.  But I’m certain it was His direction which prompted me to call and make an appointment with my doctor, something I usually don’t immediately do.  A visit to the doctor is certainly not one of my favorite things!  But this time was different- I knew I needed to get to be seen as soon as possible and suspected it was strep.   Sure enough, the test confirmed I had strep throat!

It seemed my “bright spot” had vanished. But I soon discovered it had only moved.  Often in challenging circumstances, the Lord’s desire is to inspire our faith to grow as we continue to trust Him and follow His leading.  So I prayed for His strength and the ability to trust faithfully and to keep my focus on Him, instead of on my circumstances.  The circumstances surrounding me were still very difficult.  That had not changed.  But just as He always had, by His mercy, grace, and love, the Lord brought me through.  Each day, as I followed my doctor’s instructions, took my medication, and placed everything in God’s hands, I began to improve.  Slowly, I began to practice using my singing voice a little at a time and was soon able to sing again!  More importantly, God helped me realize that His gift of inspiration doesn’t always come from within.  Sometimes His desire is that we rest in Him for a while and be carried by and become part of the inspiration He bestows to others. I’m continuing to learn, when the dark clouds of gloom and uncertainty loom over me, I only need to ask the Lord to help me look for the “bright spot” and to stand in it!

No matter how dark the clouds looming overhead or the shadows surrounding you, there is always a bright spot- a place where God says, “I am”.  It may be uniquely different, depending on your circumstances.  Where is your “bright spot” today?  Is it the love in your children’s faces?  Is it spending time with your grandchildren, lending them your love and guidance?  Is it something God has gifted you to do that brings you joy?  Perhaps it’s having lunch with a friend, or a phone call to a loved one.  Maybe it’s giving of your time and talents to minister to others.  Or it’s spending time studying or teaching God’s Word.  Maybe it’s a walk in the park or a drive through the country, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. Look for your “bright spot” today.  Stand in it!  And the Lord will give you warmth, hope, His unspeakable joy…and He will renew your spirit!

John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the Light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (HCSB)

Standing in the Bright Spot,

Angela 🙂

 

The Hospital Window

2865240756_55d6c2940c_zSometimes we find ourselves in overwhelming and painful circumstances.  It is during such times in our lives that giving to others seems to be the greatest challenge, even the farthest thing from our thoughts.  And yet, it is in letting go of our own will and the need to be “ministered to” and turning our focus upon Jesus and His infinite love and mercy, that we find the strength and capacity God has given us for sharing His love with others.  Before we know it, with one tiny step, we reach out to another whose need may be even greater than our own and something changes…it is in that moment we discover God’s love in a most healing way.  It is often in that one opportunity seized that we ourselves are ministered to the most.  This story is an example of such…

 

“The Hospital Window”

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band – he could see it. In his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

Epilogue:
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

Today is a gift, that’s why it is called the present!

– Author Unknown

The Fern and The Bamboo

The Fern and The Bamboo

There once was a man who one day decided to quit…

He quit his job, his relationship, his spirituality… “I wanted to quit my life,” he said. He went to the woods to have one last talk with God.
“God”, he said, “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”
His answer surprised him…
“Look around”, God said, “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”
“Yes”, he replied.
When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

In the second year the Fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo,” God said.

“In the third year, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. I would not quit,” God said.

“Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.“

God said to the man, “Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you. Don’t compare yourself to others.” God said, “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet, they both make the forest beautiful.”

“Your time will come,” God said to him. “You will rise high!”
“How high should I rise?” he asked.
“How high will the bamboo rise?” God asked in return.
“As high as it can?” he questioned.
“Yes,” God said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”
The man left the forest and brought this story.

Author Unknown

Don’t quit! God has a purpose for you! You are beautiful and unique and God has gifted you with just the right qualities to fulfill the purpose for which He created you. Let your roots grow deep by daily studying God’s Word and spending time with Him in prayer. No matter what storms come your way, you will have the strength to weather them, standing strong and tall. So don’t lose hope! When the time is right, God will raise you up!

May God bless you abundantly and guide you to becoming all He created you to be!

In Christ’s Love,
Angela

God’s Power In Our Weakness

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I was feeling rather disheartened and frustrated, even discouraged, like I was being pulled in many different directions, all the while trying to offer my best to the Lord and to those around me. Yet, no matter how hard I tried or what I had given, it seemed as though it was never enough.

Have you ever felt that way? I’m certain you have.

In those moments of desperation I cried out to God, “What do I do now, Lord? I love my family and am doing everything I possibly can to be there for them, to serve others in the ways You have called me to, to be a good friend, and to live according to Your Word. But it seems like I just can’t do enough! I’m weary, worn and discouraged…please help me, Lord!”

Have you found yourself in a similar place? Have you felt as though you couldn’t possibly be everything others seemingly need or want you to be? Have you felt as though others just don’t understand there is a limit to what you can be and do for them? That’s how I was feeling at the time and how I have felt at various other times in my life.

Because of a chronic illness, I find that often my body just will not cooperate with what my heart and mind long to do. In my weakness, I find myself  feeling inadequate at times, like I’ve let others down, especially my family and those closest to me. Though the desire of my heart is to fulfill every reasonable expectation others may have of me or whatever task I am needed or have committed to do.  Yet my body doesn’t always cooperate. As a result, I am forced to limit myself to what I am actually able to accomplish. And this may vary from day-to-day or week-to-week, even throughout the course of a single day.

Joni Eareckson Tada once wrote concerning human weakness,

“Deny your weakness, and you will never realize God’s strength in you.”

Based on what Scripture has to say, I have to agree with her.  Throughout the years the Lord has taught me that with perseverance there is sweet reward in drawing nearer to my Savior and operating in His power.  It is in those situations that I must rely on His strength to carry me through to accomplish the task before me. During those difficult days, when I have given all I can give, and still, to those around me (and even to myself), it seems like it just isn’t enough, I find comfort in knowing that my loving Savior understands my weakness.  And He is always there to be my strength as I am yielded to His will.

The Apostle Paul expressed it so well, speaking about our Lord, Jesus Christ, in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I have come to realize, through adversity, that it isn’t about me or my weakness.  It’s about His power and that power is brought to perfection in the midst of my frailty, even in my brokenness.  God’s light, the Savior’s light,  comes shining through all the cracks and flaws!  He is my source of strength and power!

God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan.  All you and I must do is trust in Him, yield to Him, admit and embrace our weakness, knowing that HIS power is an ever constant source of life and regeneration– not only for ourselves, but for those we serve!

Romans 5:3-5:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

In Christ’s Love,

Angela