Dorothy has been diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH - a rare and serious lung disease) and most likely has Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease (PVOD - an extremely rare lung disease with no known treatment and doing a lung biopsy to confirm PVOD is dangerous to someone with PAH). Dorothy is on oxygen at all times and is unable to walk more than short distances. The Hazards are working with a specialist care center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. There are no plans for them to return to Africa or take on other overseas appointments for now.
Dwight is using his gifts and skills to minister in the SIM USA Office. He has joined the Information Systems group to assist in the setup of SIM USA's internal intranet, training returning missionaries in the risks and proper care in dealing with e-mail and Internet risks, documentation of policies and procedures and other duties while Dorothy's ongoing medical needs are being addressed. They are still on missionary support with SIM and plan to continue to minister through SIM as the Lord leads.
Our recent update:
What does “IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS” mean to you? I really do want to know. And how does this play out practically in your life?
The full verse, 1 Thessalonians 5.18 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” In trying to figure out what I understand God to be asking me to do in 2021, I found it easier to define what it isn’t. It isn’t giving thanks FOR everything, but IN everything. It isn’t lip service, words without heartfelt gratitude. It isn’t just looking for the silver lining in.
Defining what it isn’t helped me think through what I understand God to be asking from me. It is recognizing Him as the Lord of my life. It is knowing that all that comes to me is from His hand, for my good and His glory. It is allowing Him to define what “good” is. It is recognizing He knows the whole picture, the beginning from the end and all the points in between.
This led me to a second focus area for this year: getting to know the working and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I realized there is no way for me to give thanks in everything without the power of the Holy Spirit. In John 14.26 Jesus told his disciples, “the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
What a promise! I believe God is calling me to be more aware of the Holy Spirit, more cognizant to His presence, more teachable in His ways and more yielding by His guidance. I pray the result is that I truly am going to be more quick to give thanks in everything.
I stepped down to the next plateau health-wise. I am no longer able to sit at my desk to study God’s Word, to make cards, or just to do a little of this and a little of that. After emptying my desk of all its goodies (card making and office supplies), Dwight and Beka moved it into their office where it has now become Dwight’s desk. I am very thankful it fits and that Dwight wanted to use it! This is a huge step down for me. I love desks. While I can’t remember teacher’s names from elementary school and high school, I can remember my desk and every one since then! My dream was always to have a big old-fashioned roll top desk with lots of drawers and cubbies. Well, my new desk is a lap desk, but it does have a drawer!
On my previous plateau, I was tired, but wanted to do things. I would do a cost-benefit analysis and decide if a given activity was worth it. Now, I am getting too tired to want to do anything. Except for two COVID tests (both negative), I have not been out of the house since December 9th. And both of those times were in my pajamas! (SSSHHHHH!! Not as bad as it sounds since I didn’t have to get out of the car!) Which brings me circling back to my beginning verse. Why do I want to focus on giving thanks? Because it is God’s will for me in Christ Jesus. That is enough. It has to be.
I finished the book of John this week. My summary is “Believe I AM.” This book contains seven statements Jesus made about who He was: the Bread of life; the Light of the world; the Door (or Gate) of the sheep; the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth and the Life; the True Vine. Throughout the book, John is telling us things that we might KNOW (BELIEVE) Jesus is who He says He is – the Son of God. Because Jesus prayed, glorified, sanctified, knew and loved (to name a few), He enabled me to choose to do those very same things, none, by the way, of which require energy or good health. He showed me that it was OK to be tired. Dwight and Beka are tired after working out or going for a long hike, but they do it. I am tired after going from the living room to the bathroom (36 steps!), but I can do it. And for that I truly am giving thanks!
Now you get to decide. Did I step down or am I stepping up?
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.SATISFACTION IN JESUS (2020-12-29)
I started 2020 hoping to find the secret of finding my satisfaction more and more in Jesus Christ and less and less in the things of the world. The Lord gave me this promise from Psalm 107.9 “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.”
As I look back over my monthly lessons, compiled from my weekly lessons, compiled from my daily reading in His Word, sermons, books and music, I see how God has answered the longing of my soul by filling it with good things. He has shown me the secret to my finding satisfaction in Him.
The first step is to COME. I have read large chunks from both the Old and the New Testament. And over and over I heard God’s invitation to come to Him. I realized it doesn’t matter where one is on their walk with the Lord, the invitation remains the same. And even more specifically was the invitation to come to know better the Holy Spirit Who is living and working in me.
The second step is to BELIEVE Him, to take Him at His Word. His Word tells me that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness SO THAT the servant of God may be THOROUGHLY equipped for EVERY good work (2 Timothy 3.16-17; emphasize mine).” I could spend pages just pulling that apart, but just know this verse has impacted me significantly.
The third step is to TRUST Him. I read this quote, “God allows in, in His wisdom, what He could easily prevent in His power,” which is attributed to Graham Cooke. To believe this means I have to trust that ALL that comes to me, comes to me through His hand, through His love, for my good and for His glory. ALL. Trusting Him means to consider it all joy when I encounter various trials (James 1.2). Friends, I am not there, but I believe that the more I move towards that, the more I will be satisfied in Him.
I think this is an ever deepening spiral. As I come, I believe. As I believe I trust. As I trust, I come. And on it goes. As the year has gone by, I have heard God’s call to live my life more and more in His presence, under His authority, for His glory, summed up in the Latin phrase, “Coram Deo.” He gave me some specific things to work on. Say less, thereby having less opportunity to sin. Say and do only what builds others up. Focus more on His faithfulness and less on my failings.
I am so thankful for His invitation to come. The struggle to have my thoughts, attitude and actions line up with what I say I believe is very real. But, I can honestly say, I am more satisfied with Him and in Him today, December 29, 2020, than I was January 1, 2020.
I think His call to me for 2021 is from 1 Thessalonians 5.18: “In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” I see how this builds on 2020. And the only way I can possibly give thanks in everything is through Christ Jesus.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
P.S. I looked back through all my pictures from this past year and it is no surprise to me that the two I picked to go with this blog involved water. The first one is sunrise at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The clouds looked just like eagle wings to me. The second is sunset over Lake Norman in North Carolina.
This is going to be a strange blog. It is going to be one with what could be perceived as disconnected bits and pieces that are colliding in my head. Some of those collisions create confusion. Some create great anticipation. Some create doubts. Some create hope. Some build up and others tear down. I feel like if I waited for them all to make sense, it might not be written at all. I pray the Lord will use these thoughts.
The first song from church on Sunday was Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates. The line, “Fling wide the portals of your heart;” struck me. Oh, how I want that to be the way I live my life, with the portals of my heart flung wide open and yet I know they aren’t.
I need to really work on saying ONLY what builds others up. The full verse in Ephesians 4.29 is, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Isn’t that wonderful to read, “SO THAT it will give grace to those who hear.” I so want to be a person who operates from a platform of grace and this is telling me exactly how to do that! But actually doing it, well, there’s the rub, in the words of Father Tim from fictional (but, oh so real to me!) Mitford created by Jan Karon.
In everything, give thanks. EVERYTHING. Tiredness. Failings. News of yet another loved person with cancer. Division over whether or not to wear masks. Unmet expectations. Hurtful words. Being misunderstood. A breakthrough understanding of God’s Word. Family meeting to pray together. A beautifully decorated home. Anticipation of what He is going to do. EVERYTHING. I Thessalonians 5.18, “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I made a connection between Ephesians 3.14-19 and Ephesians 3.20-21. I had these memorized long ago (if I can no longer just say them without reading, does that mean they are no longer memorized?), but in those two sections. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that the “more than all we ask or imagine” is God desire to give us the ability “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” I can only imagine what a difference it would make in my life, in our lives, in the world, if we truly could grasp how much God loves us and know we are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazurus. So (yet) when He heard Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” (John 11.4-6) I have long known the application that when Jesus delays, a reason could be that He wants to reveal more of Himself, to show us something new, something better. But it hit me like a ton of bricks that this was done out of love. Love! And the chapter goes on to record how moved Jesus was at the grief of Mary and Martha, so much so that He Himself wept. He knew what He was going to do. He knew that in minutes Mary and Martha would be rejoicing. And yet He entered into their grief right then. This told me like I have never comprehended before that first, grieving is acceptable by God and second, He is with me in the grieving.
From Sunday’s sermon: When our Christian walk is unbalanced, it makes the walk harder, more difficult. My walk has seemed very difficult lately. What I want to do, who I want to be seems to be constantly derailed by my failings, by my sin in thought, word and deed. And it is hard to even identify what is causing the unbalance, or maybe it is hard to identify what is in balance. Whatever. I want it to be in balance. Our pastor said the answer isn’t to just try harder. What is the answer?
“Do everything in love.” That is God’s command in 1 Corinthians 16.14. How do I know if I am doing anything (since I absolutely know I am not doing everything) in love? I guess I can more easily identify when love is NOT my motivation. If it tears down instead of building up, it is not in love. If it discourages instead of encourages, it is not in love. If it creates division and not unity, it is not in love.
So, I am going to end this with a prayer by Matthew Henry. “May Christ give us faith and increase our faith that we may not only be safe, but joyful and triumphant.”
And I just realized that if this prayer was a reality, I would be living with the portals of my heart wide open!! So, maybe these thoughts that have been colliding in my head and heart aren’t as disconnected as I perceived them.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.
HOPE FULFILLED (2020-11-08)
Today was a hope fulfilled that started more than 26 years ago. Our home church had its first service in our new building! And what a glorious service it was. On the way to church (I love how that word denotes both a building and a people), we were recalling all the places this church plant had met.
We started renting a room from a satellite college. When we had to move from there, the only place that would allow us to meet was the local American Legion, which had a distinct beer smell following their Saturday night activities. We then moved into what had been a post office turned into a print shop. We all worked together to clear out left behind supplies, clean and paint. We were so happy to be in a building where we did not have to set up or take down chairs and where it did not smell like beer! When that property was sold, we were offered to share space with a Presbyterian Church of USA (PCUSA). They let us meet after their service. And then we bought property and put a double-wide trailer on it, where we have met for the last 12 years.
So, now, 26 years later, we are in our own building that looks like a church on the outside. We are on our third pastor, who has been with us for over 12 years and a community that expanded as the Lord has graciously given us consistent growth, not just in width, but also in depth. Pastor Michael Dixon faithfully preaches and teaches from God’s Word week after week, teaching, correcting, training and rebuking us in His righteousness.
Dwight and I are charter members of what is now Christ Ridge Presbyterian Church of America, formerly, Christ Cornerstone PCA, having joined when we were in-between our time in Liberia and our time in Nigeria (1993-1996). This church launched us like ones shot from a cannon when we went back to Africa in 1996. They have continued their faithful prayer and financial support of us throughout the years, even when the membership was less than 10 people. We were always welcomed when we returned to the States, whether it was a short stay or a longer home assignment. And now they support us in more practical ways since we returned to the States in March of 2017.
As I was wheeled into this new building today, I burst into tears, sobbing at God’s faithfulness displayed. And those tears continued as I looked around at us all worshipping together after months of being separated into two services due to growth and then COVID. From the first Scripture reading to the final blessing, it was a time of thanking the Lord for what He has done and trusting Him with the future. Pastor Michael ended his sermon based on Acts 2.42-47 with these words: “Maybe, just maybe, this is just the beginning for God’s glory and the growth of His Church.”
I felt like those words were the intersection of what I have been reading in Hosea, in John and in 1 Corinthians. Hosea tells of God’s impending judgment against the Israelites because of their rejection of Him and following false gods. But, in the midst of His judgment, are the words of His heart in 10.12. “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” Can’t you just hear His love, His desire for His people to follow Him? If we are His, we will not face His judgment or His wrath. Jesus Christ did so on our behalf. But, His love doesn’t stop with securing eternity for us. He has also secured today.
When Jesus starts teaching harder things in John 6, many of His followers leave Him. Jesus turns to the twelve and asks them if they want to leave, too. Peter answers in verse 68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, the chapter after the great chapter of the superiority of love over all the other spiritual gifts, lays out some guidelines for worship. Three times in this chapter he says, “that the Church may be built up.”
I don’t know where you are in your walk with Christ or how your specific church is doing in these strange days. But, maybe, just maybe, today is just your beginning for God’s glory and the growth of His Church.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.