Monday, January 15, 2018

Lightbulb of Hope- Patrick's Story by Eileen Knowles

The other day on Facebook a story I had shared a few years back about a 15 year old deaf boy in Uganda showed up in my feed. I watched it again and cried.  Patrick was born deaf and had never been able to carry on a conversation with anyone. Every day, his dad would motion to him to go outside to work in the garden and that was the extent of his "conversations". 

Patrick's days consisted of working in the garden and then retreating back to his hut to spend his days alone with just his thoughts. That all changed when another man in the village who was deaf came back home and started a sign language class after receiving intensive training in the capital.  The transformation Patrick goes through in just a few short hours is amazing to watch.  After he enters class the first day, and begins learning alongside other deaf students, his face and demeanor goes from hopeless to happy in a matter of minutes.  It's absolutely beautiful!

The part of the story that makes me emotional is the moment when the "lightbulb" appears to go off in Patrick's mind.  You can almost see's that moment when he realizes that he is not alone any more, he sees a glimmer of possibility breaking into his small world that his life and situation may no longer be hopeless and isolating.

This morning, I watched a follow up video to Patrick's story. The interviewer goes back to the class after Patrick and the students have had 10 weeks worth of training together.  Please take a minute to watch.


Yesterday, at our volunteer rally at church, I shared how this story is such a great example of the healing power of life connected in community. When folks find a place to learn and grow "lightbulbs" of hope begin to shine bright in a person's life. We begin to realize that we don't have to remain alone in our own thoughts.  We realize there's a group of people who are willing to journey with grow and learn alongside us. We come to understand that our situations are not as unique or as hopeless as we once might have thought.

I loved in the video when the narrator said that Patrick and his classmates could now begin "making plans" for the future.  That's one of the benefits of hope, it will often prompt us to begin looking ahead in a whole new light and with a renewed and fresh perspective.

Patrick's story is a great reminder of how hope and community come together and transform even the most challenging of situations.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Don’t be a Hard-Hearted Christian – a New Year’s Challenge

As we kick off 2018 maybe you are like me and you are soul-searching and praying, and asking God to help this year be better than last.  Overall I’ve had one of my best years ever growing closer to God and walking with joy, but recently it’s been much harder, and I’ve been begging God to help me see what was in the way.

I was introduced to an insight from Mark 8, with a story of Jesus and His disciples in the boat travelling:

But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food.  They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”  At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 
Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in?  ‘You have eyes—can’t you see?  You have ears—can’t you hear?’  Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”  “Twelve,” they said.  “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”  “Seven,” they said.  “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

It could be easy to miss this, but Jesus is coming at them with a very familiar charge that they recognized from a well-known passage from Isaiah the prophet, chapter 6:

Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.

This was a big rebuke…  But do we realize what just happened here?  The disciples, in the boat following Jesus had allowed themselves a moment of hard heartedness and spiritual deafness and blindness.  And Jesus called it exactly that.

Hard-heartedness threatens all of us!
We can be active, passionate followers of Jesus and still give way to hard-heartedness. 

But what exactly is it?

Hard-heartedness is when I refuse to let God’s faithfulness in my life grow my faith and trust in Him, and take me to a new level of trust and expectancy.  The disciples had just seen Jesus feed thousands with miraculous provision.  And He did it twice!  They’ve seen miracles over and over, and so now they think He’s rebuking them and that He’s concerned about their supplies?  They are missing an important point because they won’t let God’s faithfulness in the past grow and shape their vision for today.

Every day I can look back and see God’s faithfulness.  And in this recent season of some stressors and difficulties I can look back and completely say: Father, You got me through it once again.  I should never have doubted you!

Let me ask you….

·      When God comes through in your place of worry and stress, do you feel guilty that you didn’t trust Him more?  That happens to me.

·      When you pray about things, do you leave your prayer time with peace and assurance, or do you feel like you are still carrying the stress and concern? 

As we start the new year, let me challenge you: 
Let’s fight the good fight of FAITH, and BELIEVE GOD!
Let His past faithfulness grow our vision and our trust so that what’s in front of us shrinks under the assurance of our Father’s love and constant presence!

Faith releases us to live a life of peace and joy, that glorifies God and attracts the lost.  That’s what He deserves from us this new year!

Happy New Year!