Letters From Gladys

I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true …

I’ve seen them vanish at dawn.

But enough of my dreams have come true,

thank God,

to make me want to dream on.

 

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came …

Though I waited patiently and long.

But answers have come to enough of  my prayers,

thank God,

to make me want to pray on.

 

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed me,

And left me to weep all alone,

But enough of my friends have been true blue,

thank God,

to make me want to trust on.

 

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way for the birds of the air to feed on.

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands,

thank God,

to make me want to sow on.

 

I’ve drunk the cup of disappointment and pain.

I’ve gone many days without song.

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life,

thank God,

to make me want to live on.

(Author Unknown)

old letters in the vintage arrangement

In my mind, retirement always belonged to “those older people” who had passed their most useful days of ministry. We lovingly watched as others entered this stage of their lives, never really anticipating that one day, we too would belong to that group. This past fall, however, my husband and I retired from our pastorate, having completed 46 years of ministry in the Body of Christ, and the Foursquare Church in particular.

As retirees, the amount of concessions afforded us is amazing! Restaurants, parks and hotels give us discounts; magazines are published specifically for us, and the health field directs its attention to us in a constant barrage of new medical plans to supplement Medicare. We are forced to make new decisions concerning our lives and future. Change seems to be a constant for us, and it fills many of the prayers we pray.

Recently, in the apartment building where we live, the need to remain open to change even in the small details of life, was illustrated for me. It was a Monday morning and I had filled the washing machines in our community laundry, when a retired lady came in, looked at me with anger and said, “I have lived in this apartment building for twenty years, and I have always washed first thing on Monday mornings. You have ruined my day!” I returned to my apartment praying, “Oh Lord, keep me flexible. Don’t let me become rigid and unable to flow with life’s changes, small or large.”

In relating to the Church, we are happy to submit to the leadership of the younger generation, for this is right. But at the same time, we are still Salt and Light; Jesus made us that, and that we will be until He calls us “Home.” We thrill when a soul is born again. We rejoice in the victories of the Church, and we encourage the younger pastors who have taken our place to preach the Word, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We also request your understanding. In your ministry to us, please don’t expect us to totally change, for there are some things that we do cherish. We are still moved by some of the old songs that have sustained us down through the years. We love to hear a preacher proclaim those proven truths of God’s Word and stir our hearts with eloquence and anointing. Most of all, we need your care and support as we face what might be the most challenging time of our lives.

The poem which I have included above must have been written by someone who has walked along the pathway of life some distance and learned from that walk the things that are truly important. I know they express my sentiments at this time in my life.

A Retired Shepherd,

           Gladys

(This article first appeared in the “Letters From Gladys” column in Foursquare Advance Magazine, 1989. We are happy to report she was vibrant in other forms of ministry for another 20 years until God called her Home in 2009.)

 

Birthday in Belize

For the past 3 years I have been outside of the US in different countries on my birthday. Whether the dates of the trip so happen to fall on my birthday, or God intended it to be that way, I don’t know, but I do know I really enjoy spending my birthday doing the Lord’s work.

The first of the 3 years I was in Nicaragua with Paz Naz (the church I grew up in) on a mission trip. The 2nd of the 3 I was on the World Race and celebrated my birthday with my squad of 42 in Cambodia and had the privilege of going to Angkor Wat. This 3rd year I am in Belize on another mission trip with Paz Naz and there is no place I would rather be.

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(My birthday in Nicaragua [2013] working a medical clinic)

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(My birthday in Cambodia [2014] while on the World Race)

My heart beats with excitement when I am traveling, especially when it’s for Jesus. My birthday is a reminder that I was put on this earth for a purpose. That I was born into the family I was born into for a reason. And God wants me to use my life for him everyday not just my birthday! And when I say YES to his call, I end up in other countries on my birthday!

There is something about giving from yourself for the benefit of others. There is something about seeing the smiles on people’s faces when you are able to bless them. There is something about being selfless that gives you pure joy. It is humbling and honoring at the same time. This isn’t something you have to travel out of the country to do. It is something you can do in your own backyard!

On my dear friend Mary’s birthday this year, she made dinner for her friends. She wanted to bless others on her own birthday! With her own money, she bought everything she would need to make dinner, and served her friends. Another dear friend, Kari, planned her own birthday party, in her own backyard around her family and friends. She told me “I just want to be around the people I love.” These two ladies demonstrated a selfless act on the day of the year they could make the excuse “ but it’s my birthday!” And they did it because they are full of the Father’s love. I am overjoyed to call them my friends and sisters in Christ!

 

Stop. Take a moment and look at the faces of the people around you. How are you loving them? How are you a blessing to them? How are you being Jesus? Are you being selfish and thinking of only yourself or are you being selfless and looking at the needs of others?

 

How are you going to celebrate your birthday this year?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

In Over My Head

I am WAY in over my head. What am I doing?

There is so much to do for the kingdom. So many people to reach. So many hearts to be transformed. What am I doing?

I think of the ways God has used me, and the divine appointments he has set up, and think, “Wow, God used someone like me to touch the heart of his child. There is so much more to do!”

It becomes overwhelming when you think about the big picture. But God is telling me to focus on the person in front of me. Take one step at a time.

When I was in South Africa, I went to the gym with 2 other teammates, Zach and Kyle. We went every Monday- Friday morning at 5:30 to get a workout in and be done in time to shower and be ready for the rest of the day with our team. There was a personal trainer at this gym who took a liking to me and my friends. Every morning this man greeted me, and as the mornings progressed we shared more and more. I told him I was a missionary here in South Africa, and he told me of the many other jobs he had. Zach, Kyle, and I smiled at him, said hi to him, talked with him, and our last day at the gym we prayed with and for him.

Two months later I received a message from this personal trainer that he had accepted Jesus into his heart and it was because of us that he saw Jesus and wanted what we had!

Praise Jesus! God used me, Zach and Kyle to meet this man where he was, give him our time, which lead him to Jesus.

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I think about all the millions of people who don’t know Jesus yet and I ask myself, how am I going to reach all of them? I am in over my head. There is so much to do and only God can help us accomplish it. What does he ask from us? To be a vessel. To say “Yes God, use me!”

But it takes boldness. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone. It takes being uncomfortable.

Smile at the next person you pass. Take time out of the busyness to talk with someone you may not normally talk to. You never know how God can use you. He could use you to plant a seed of Jesus in someone.

I love Jesus so much and I want everyone to experience him and love him too! I want to tell the world who Jesus is and what he has done for me and for the world. I want to scream it from the rooftop, however that may not go over well so… every person I come into contact with I need to smile at them, ask them their name, take time out of my day to talk with them.

The truth is my days are not mine, they are the Lord’s.

What are you going to do with your gifted day?

Generous Giving

It’s two weeks until Christmas! People are running around like crazy buying gifts and going to parties and figuring out how to split their holiday time between family, extended family and friends. It’s partially controlled chaos!

Sure, it’s the “merriest” time of year for many of us despite the stress we create for ourselves. But, for others, the merriness surrounding them only accentuates their sadness, loneliness or poverty.

Statistically, we are more generous at this time of year. More of us give to charities. Many of us volunteer for a few hours at a shelter. This is so amazing, and it is a great way to collectively end a calendar year and move into the next. Being mindful of our fellow man.

However, once January rolls around we generally get caught back up into ourselves and we tend to forget about the sad, lonely and poor until the holiday season comes back around. This is easy to do, and most of us are guilty!

Sharing our abundance of resources with others should be a lifestyle. A daily thing.

You and I have more dollars than most people on the planet, even if we live paycheck to paycheck. Think about who you can share with. I think that in general we feel that if we can’t share “a lot” then it is not worth sharing. This is false! To someone without a dollar, a dollar is a huge blessing!

You and I also have more spare time than we think we have – no matter how busy we are. Think about those single people that you invite to your holiday parties. I challenge you to remember those people the rest of the year. Even the ones who turn down your invitations consistently. Don’t stop. The gesture never goes unnoticed. That little bit of reaching out may be just what that person needs at that time – the boost they need to keep going.

The Challenge: To give as much as we can to those in greater need this holiday season, AND to continue to be conscious of how greatly we are blessed and our ability to share our blessings and time with others throughout 2015.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY, HEALTHY and PROSPEROUS 2015!

Christmas Tree

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27

All Aboard!

Photo: Mig Rodz, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Mig Rodz, Flickr Creative Commons

Many, okay most people attend church like it’s a cruise ship, thinking, “what can this church do for me? When is the next fun event / church dinner / concert so I can just soak up the goodness?” In a church like that, very few people do the work of keeping the crowds entertained and happy. Like a cruise ship. I could elaborate, but I’m pretty sure you get the picture.

What would happen if we viewed the church we attend as a battleship?

USS New Jersey | Photo courtesy Michael Thompson, Flickr Creative Commons

USS New Jersey | Photo courtesy Michael Thompson, Flickr Creative Commons

On a battleship, each person has a job to accomplish in fighting the enemy. Think on that for a minute.

Think of the evil we could annihilate if the church operated this way…

Abused children rescued.

Trafficked women and men set free.

Marriages restored.

The hungry fed.

As a pastor’s kid, there have been more Sunday’s spent in church in my life than not. To be honest, I’ve spent most of it like I was a cruise ship passenger.

It’s time for me to board the battleship.

You?

Stir It Up!

“My faith is personal – I don’t need to get together with other Christians.”

I know you’ve heard that line once or twice in your life. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. And maybe for good reason. Relationships can be hard. And messy.

Let me be blunt here. It’s a lie.

You do need someone or someones. You do. You really do.

“No, I don’t,” you say? That kind of thinking isn’t useful in other areas of our lives, so why do we use it as an excuse in our walk of faith?

Would you run a company by yourself? No. Even if you are a solo business owner, you rely on the expertise of mentors, advisors and other professionals to help you be the best you can be.

Would you teach yourself? No. You need a teacher. If you want to learn something new, someone has written a book or done some research or you take a class to acquire new knowledge.

Being a Christ follower is no different. Certainly, we are taught by God. We also do a certain amount of growing on our own, but only to a point. And it’s not just about the learning. It’s about the DOING.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24

Some translations replace “stir up” with words like provoke, stimulate, spur, motivate, encourage. Not a solo venture, this stirring up.

“As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Make no mistake. Iron sharpens iron, but iron can also wound, and wound deeply.

But.

One gash created by an iron wielding careless christian can help to be healed by those grace-filed ones bringing the salve of companionship and authentic love. Ask God to bring you those. Yes, many of those Christians. The kind who carry the name of Christ in a beautiful, wonderful, messy way only those who’ve been touched by grace can.

So.

Where are you right now? Whether you are an introvert or someone who has been deeply hurt by christians and the thought of returning to a “church” makes you physically ill, you still need others. You need a tribe who will support you & pray for you and stir you up and encourage you and provoke you and stimulate you and spur you on…and they are out there, waiting to meet you.

It’s time. You’ve been alone long enough. Don’t let yourself be alone in your faith any longer.

We are so much better, together.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Finneseth - The World Race

Photo courtesy of Amanda Finneseth – The World Race A Squad – 2014

 

 

Let Your Light Shine

For a number of months I have been praying people see and feel a light when I simply walk pass them. The Holy Spirit lives inside of me, inside all who call Jesus their Savior. We are a light to the dark world. By following Jesus, we must represent him and allow him to use us as a light source. Christ followers are his light.

The book The Veil by Blake Healy is about Blake who sees in the spiritual realm. He sees angels and demons. He said the spiritual realm is more real than the physical and we all have the ability to see it if we lift our veils. He described a time when a group of believers were walking down a street and as they walked they had a stream of light following them. Everywhere they walked the light followed and touched the people in their path. There was freshness in the atmosphere as they walked down the street. This is something I have been praying for. I want a light to follow me. When people see me, I want them to see Jesus and feel his presence. Jesus lives inside of me. In the Bible, as Paul walked down the street his shadow healed people because he has the power and authority of Jesus.

I was in Laos at a mini mart with my friend Erica. An older Swedish man came up to us and began a friendly conversation. Shortly after exchanging words and smiles he asked us if we were tourists. We told him yes and he couldn’t believe it. He responded with, “You can’t be tourists, you’re too nice!” He then wanted us to meet his friends, a young Lao family who were waiting outside for him. He wanted to introduce us and it seemed as though he wanted to show us off to his friends. He didn’t want us to leave. Erica and I were meeting up with our friends for dinner and this man wanted us to stay. He didn’t want our presence to be gone. But it wasn’t us at all; it was Jesus.

After we left this man, Erica and I looked at each other and began smiling and laughing. This was a confirmation and an answer to my prayer! He saw something different in us. Something that other people do not carry. He didn’t want us to leave. We carry Jesus with us. We carry a light with us and this man saw it and felt it. Whether he knows what it is or not, my prayer is that he looks for that feeling again. My prayer is he finds Jesus!

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

In order for a light to shine its brightest it must be in darkness. Embrace the darkness because in the dark times your light will shine.

Let your light shine. Do not hide it. Do not be afraid to let it out.

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(Sunrise at Ankgor Wat in Cambodia)

Shine BRIGHT like the sunrise lights up the sky

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(Buddha Park in Laos)

Shine BRIGHT in the darkness

“Your Grandma Would Be Proud Of You”

“Your Grandma would be proud of you.”

This is something I hear often from family and friends of my Grandma. She passed away when I was a senior in college 4 years ago and I miss her! More so as I get older because now I understand what she was talking about.

Grandma was a pastor starting in the 1940s and her last day was the day she and my Grandpa dedicated me in 1988.

Grandma was a spiritual leader, someone who relied on God and trusted in him with her life. She would treat everyone with respect and love. She would say “You never know when you are interacting with an angel!” She was generous and kind and was powerful with her words. She is one of the most positive people I know. She always looked at the good in every situation. And would smile and laugh a lot!

Since she has passed I have listened to a couple sermons of hers that my cousin Kristin has. I was not alive yet when she was a pastor so I never had the opportunity to listen to her speak in church, but I enjoy listening to her now and can only imagine what it was like.

My grandma would pray for me often and pray the spirit over me and guess what I have it! She had a heart for missions and spreading God’s love to the nations and now that is what I am doing. I am traveling the world to 11 different countries spreading Jesus’ love and I think of her often. I think she would love this. I think of her soft sweet voice and her giggle talking with the poor and the outcasts. When I talk with prostitutes, laugh with village kids, get to know young bartenders, walk through the streets of the slums I sense her with me and joining in because we share something. We share Jesus. We share the same Holy Spirit living inside of us. We are connected through Jesus even though she is not on this earth anymore.

I know without a doubt Grandma is in heaven right next to Jesus along with my grandpa and many other family members. And they will be there to greet me one day through the gates. I am looking forward to the day I see her again, but for now I am living out her legacy and the so many prayers she prayed over me. I feel those prayers. I know she is smiling down at me and I can see and feel that smile.

I enjoyed every moment I had with her, but sometimes I would take those times for granted. She will forever be someone I think about and have close to my heart especially while traveling the world for Jesus.  I want to travel the world like she wanted to. I want to have faith like she did. I want to love people like she did. Because you never know when you are interacting with an angel ; )

Grandma, I love you and miss you. Thank you for all your prayers. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be positive and to look at every situation with the glass half full! You are an inspiration to me. You were an example of Jesus to me and even though I didn’t realize it when I was little, I realize it now and thank you! Thank you for teaching me what it means to die to yourself and put others before you. The Holy Spirit was so evident in your life. I didn’t know what it was as a kid but when I look back on your life, the Holy Spirit was all over you! All I can say is thank you and I am excited to see you and Grandpa and Uncle Ron and the rest of the family in heaven one day with Jesus! I love you and miss you like crazy Grandma! xoxo

Don’t Miss What’s Close

It’s true that we don’t get to pick our blood relatives. Those are chosen for us. It is also true in most cases that we don’t get to pick our neighbors. Sometimes we luck out… sometimes, we don’t.

I am blessed with wonderful next door and across-the-street neighbors…some of them further down the street, I struggle with. To be honest, depending on my mood or if I’m in a rush, I may even try to avoid them. I have sometimes waited to take my jog or walk my dog because they may be out working in the yard and I know I’ll have to stop and talk (ugh, what if I don’t do that stuff I have to do tonight because they talk too long or ask me to help with something). I may walk the other way around my neighborhood hoping that by the time I’ve completed my couple of miles they will have already gone back inside. I mean, I’ve got to get back home and work on that “To Do” list.

Sometimes I am not good at fully engaging with what is closest to me because I am too busy.

Too busy being busy.
Too busy doing stuff.
Too busy pondering what to do next.

Too busy being….BUSY. And not just BEING.

I don’t think this is quite what Jesus had in mind. Scripture shows that He was available, and though He was preparing His disciples for what was to come, He was very present. He was fully engaged. He looked people in the eye and cared for them – even the ones no one else cared about.

This is what we are supposed to do. Being “busy” doesn’t excuse passing by that neighbor’s house…offering a little help in the yard… asking how their grandkids are doing…engaging in conversation, and showing compassion and the love of Christ.

Maybe this is one reason God called Himself “I AM THAT I AM” and not “I do what I do.”

A neighbor isn’t just the person who lives next door… it is a person who is near to you. Up the street. A cashier that works at your local grocery store. Your fellow human being.

One of my favorite books is called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. If it’s not on your reading list, put it there – at the top. I could write all day about Bob’s amazing life stories. He has amazing stories because he learned to be fully engaged with whomever God put in his path from day to day. For now, I am just going to share a very short statement from the book as it relates to what I’m saying.

When he was young, Bob’s father was teaching him how to properly shoot a rifle with a scope on it. Here is a short excerpt from that story:

“Son, you need to look through the scope at the things that are far away, but you also need to take your eye away long enough to see what’s close.” The life lessons in that statement escaped me at the time, but I’ve come back to words of wisdom like this when I was about to pull the trigger on a trial or a business deal or a caper of some sort.

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The big point of Bob’s book is that LOVE does… LOVE doesn’t just think about doing, or plan on doing. LOVE DOES. The Lord has been using this concept, and the quote about looking near and not just in my scope, to speak to me lately. I get so focused on my Outreach in India that sometimes I forget to stop and look around at what’s close to me. Sometimes I put so much effort into what I’m “doing” that I miss, or even purposely ignore, what’s right in front of my face every day. Sure, I’m doing good every day for others, but am I missing the obvious?

These past few weeks I have been determined to spend more time walking by my neighbors and initiating the conversation, making some phone calls to check on friends who cross my mind, sending emails and fun cards in the mail. Checking with my 80-year-old friend a couple of houses down to see if she needs something from the store.

The thing that you’d expect to happen has indeed happened. Once I opened the door to building better relationships with the people I see day-to-day, the relationships have started to grow. I have spent more time being engaged, but somehow I still get all my “stuff” done too.  It is amazing what kind of joy you can bring to a lonely widow by just stopping to ask how she is doing, AND not rushing away to get back to whatever you were supposed to be “busy” doing.

Beware, once you show that you are sincerely interested in someone, you may make a new friend – and, you may also be asked to drive someone to their colonoscopy. But, that is the result of being fully engaged and taking time to love as Jesus loves. And it’s worth it.

My challenge to you: Take time to look that store cashier in the eye and sincerely ask how he/she is doing. Stop and talk to that strange neighbor you always try to avoid. Acknowledge the people you meet and spend time making a phone call to that person you haven’t talked to in a while because it’s always impossible to get off the phone (you know the one). Make the time. Some of that busy stuff you do is just that.

Slow down and take a look around.

It’s being fully engaged with that human standing right in front of you that matters most.

John 15:10-12 ESV
 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

MAKE ME A SERVANT

John 13:12-17

Today is Maundy Thursday. In Christianity this week is called Holy Week, because Christ entered Jerusalem to the adoration of the Jews who thought He was coming as the King of Israel who would free them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. Instead, He was arrested, crucified, buried, and arose from the grave.

This day before “Good Friday,” when we remember Christ’s death on the cross and the shedding of His blood to cover our sins is equally sacred for the Christian. That was when Jesus taught one of His final lessons to the 12 disciples in the “Upper Room.” The word Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning a new commandment, taken from the scripture phrase “a new commandment I give you….”

His mandate was for them to love one another as He loved them. He told them that in the world, kings and great men order their servants around, but Jesus said that as His disciples, we should be servants of all. He illustrated this as He washed their feet. This night is also when He told them He would sacrifice His life. He took bread and said “this bread is my body broken for you.” He took the cup of wine and said, “this cup is my blood poured out for the remission of sins.”

Christ washing Peter's feet 2

That night they really didn’t understand His words, but they soon would see Him crucified.

Maundy Thursday is a service of remembering Jesus’ mandate to LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE LOVES US, AND TO BE A SERVANT OF ALL.

Oh that we all would love one another so deeply, and have a servants heart. That we would see everyone as God sees them. What a difference that would make in our world.

My Mother, Rev. Gladys Johnson wrote a chorus about being a servant. We sang this in the late 50’s!

I am a servant of my Lord Jesus.
To do my own will is not for me to say,
but just to follow in paths He leads me,
and let my Lord have His own way.

Have a blessed weekend with family and friends, and remember…when we serve others, we are serving Him!

Image credit http://christimages.org/