More Hope Resurrection Sunday: Easter 2018

Easter

Photograph by Donna Harris

Dear God,

We are adopted by you into your forever grace and our lives are forever changed because you rescued us once and for all through your son, Jesus … yet you continue to rescue us again and again by making a way for us to escape and to break free from strongholds that want to devour and destroy the peace and joy that comes with being a child of the King.

How thankful I am that you are my heavenly father. How thankful I am to be named a child of God. You are so gracious and so very generous with lavishing your love upon your children. You love us unconditionally, inviting us to sit with you around your banquet table. We come filthy and wearing dirty clothes; and you wash the dirt from our feet and dress us in clean and pure garments of righteousness. You serve us bread that is broken by you and we eat of it until we are full and we drink of the living water you pour into our cup until it overflows.

I am reminded that our children are comforted by the unconditional love we give them. They are kept. We will never let go of them. How much more awesome it is to thank you, gracious God for never letting your children go … we are kept.

With a humble heart I praise and pray.

He is Risen 1

Photograph by Donna Harris of Lake Wylie, Charlotte, NC

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! His death is the death of death, and His resurrection is the resurrection of all things. He died for our sins and is raised for our justification. Oh, the wonder, marvel and gratitude that fills our hearts today. We are forgiven, we are beloved, and we are His!

Easter post 2015

Photograph by Donna Harris

“Getting found almost always means being lost for a while … Easter says that love is more powerful than death, bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger even than airport security lines.” ― Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

DSC_0292

Photograph by Donna Harris

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ― Mary Oliver

An Easter morning painting  

Maundy Thursday: Easter 2018

Help Others--Help Yourself

This is a repost of the original written in 2013. I thought it was important to share again this Maundy Thursday of Holy Week because Jesus is the supreme example of servanthood — Loving and Helping others. He served before he was served, he gave before he received, he listened before speaking, he showed compassion without boundaries.

Somebody once made the observation that the person who is wrapped up entirely in himself makes a very small package–and the package contains an unhappy person. Think about this: Have you ever known a genuinely happy, self-centered person?

Research indicates that those who consistently (help) show kindness to other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer. Students who performed five acts of kindness a day increased their happiness and providing emotional support to others significantly decreased the harmful health effects of certain kinds of stress.

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s about being helpful and showing kindness to other people.  As Luke records it, Jesus told this parable in the context of a teacher of the law who, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus confounds him by suggesting that God requires us to love our “neighbors” in a way that transcends ethnic boundaries.  (Luke 10:25-37) Sadly, we often fail to meet Jesus’ ideal of neighbor love.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (The Message) 

When helping people, find out what’s actually valuable to them. Make an effort to ask them where they need help, and keep that in mind when you see an opportunity. And there are many opportunities to help others. Just don’t make it all about you.

The more you make helping others all about you, the more disappointed, dry and weary you’ll become. And the more you understand that this is about Jesus, and his kingdom, and his crown, and his glory, the more freed up you are to help others. To love others.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

dsc_0727.jpg

“Family” Photograph by Donna Harris

The humility Jesus showed by disrobing to wash the disciples feet, was just a preview of the humiliation he would endure—being stripped naked, publicly shamed, and nailed to the cross… all for the washing of their hearts, and ours. What wondrous love is this, indeed—how wide, long, high, and deep (Eph. 3:14-19). “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Thank you, Lord, for loving us extravagantly, fully, wondrously. ―Scotty Smith, TGC

 

Searching for Sanctuary

Redeemer Presbyterian Church, PCA (www.redeemindy.org) Indianapolis, IN

While standing in the check-out lane at the grocery store, I watched the young lady who was robotically scanning labels and punching in price codes for fruit and vegetables and with meticulous organization, bagged each item that I was about to purchase …she never turned her eyes away from that task.

To be honest, I wanted her to hurry-it-up and not to be so careful with the bagged lettuce and carrots. It didn’t matter to me if produce was mixed with dairy or if a jar of tomato sauce was placed in a bag with paper napkins.

But I stopped that impatient urge of aggravation to notice her. To appreciate her methodical and calculated process of scanning and bagging food.

So I spoke to her:  “Hey! Thank you so much for organizing this chaos of food and stuff! I guess you have been standing here for a long time already. How’s your day going?”

WOW! Her comments almost brought me to my knees. She looked up at me with clear eyes and a beautiful smile. “Thank You!” was her reply.

She proceeded to tell me about her day as a cashier (I will never take grocery store cashiers for granted again) and she gave me a peek into her family. She is also attending a community college and working for a better life for her children.  Our conversation continued as I shared with her some tidbits about my family and the peace that God has given me through the trials I am facing. I noticed that she slowed down scanning food. She slowed down organizing the bagging procedure.

She felt that I wanted to listen to her…and she wanted to listen to me.

I continued to compliment her, to praise her work ethic and striving to succeed for her family…and I sweetened all of that with nuggets of God’s grace and the peace He gives to them that search for all that.  And while we chatted, the strangers standing in line next to me had their ears opened and eyes watching us, with pleasant expressions on their face.

So you see, we are all searching for sanctuary. A better place to be.

The photo I shared of this post is of a sanctuary, a photo of the interior of a grand and humble church.  Perhaps it’s the image you may think of when you consider where to go for sanctuary.  But sanctuary can be found wherever you are.

I discovered sanctuary while standing in line at the grocery store talking with a stranger about God’s love and grace because God was with me…with both of us.

She is searching for sanctuary. I am searching for sanctuary.

Our deepest and most enduring peace and happiness…a sanctuary–can only be found in God.

FLIGHT PATH: A Biography of Frank Barker Jr [Book Review]

Flight Path

This is a book review of, Flight Path by Janie Buck and Mary Lou Davis.  Flight Path is the page-turning biography of Frank Barker, Jr.  This is a book of incredible adventures! It is hard to fathom how close Frank came to death many times only to be rescued by God for a greater mission in life.

The first chapter opens with a hair-raising experience on an aircraft carrier, “In a panic I jammed the throttle up. Too late! I shot off the deck and dropped like lead…My life flashed before my eyes.” [1] Frank had many “Top Gun” fighter pilot experiences!  It seemed with every close collision with death, Frank would question if God was trying to get his attention. On one such occasion, he was driving back to base, very late at night after hours of drinking a lot and raising Cain. He fell asleep at the wheel of his car but managed to wake up in time to slam on brakes, coming to a stop in a ditch.  As the dust began to settle, he looked up and saw a sign that his headlights were shining on. In large black letters was written: “The wages of sin is death.”  He marked this event as a “star” from God to get his attention. Like the Wise Men who were guided by a star to the place where Jesus was born, there were several “stars” that guided his life. [2]

The book flowed at a fast pace with humor when speaking of his reckless lifestyle, while most chapters will make you ponder and consider the “stars” in your own life that represent a reminder of God’s precise grace and action at the perfect time.  With Frank, some of those “stars” just caused him to try harder to be a better person…he did not know about grace being a free gift of God.

The authors wrote the book as if Frank were telling his own story, which made reading the book even more enjoyable and enthralling.  During the military career, Frank had the nagging thought that he should go to seminary so that his life would be more pleasing to God. While in seminary, he discovered the incredible good news of Jesus Christ. The book is filled with innumerable lessons in life.

There was the humble beginning of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, PCA meeting in a store-front, and is now a mega-church in Birmingham, AL. It is worth mentioning that Frank Barker was one of the “fathers” of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). Throughout the book, there are glimpses of a family learning to trust God for money to pay bills or learning to be thankful for cream of wheat for dinner when it was the only thing they could afford…because of their enormous generosity to give from their income.  You’ll read about his passion to reach the kids in the city and students on college campuses (He established Campus Outreach, a ministry to college students) and how God is faithful to answer prayers. When there was a need, Frank prayed and God provided.  I do not believe that anyone can read this exciting and moving story of lives lived for the kingdom of  God without becoming a better person through the experience. [3]

Flight Path is a fascinating read about a humble man broken to the will of God, chosen, called and guided each step of his way by our great God.  Frank Barker is an example to follow.

Footnotes

[1]  Page 14 | [2] Page 28 | [3] Page 10

Addendum:

A few months ago, my husband and I had the wonderful privilege of hearing Dr. Frank Barker share his life story to a group of college students who are involved with Campus Outreach, in Indianapolis, IN.  Frank Barker is the founder of Campus Outreach, which had its very humble beginning at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. So It was very thrilling for all of us to hear him retell some of those very funny yet scary hair-raising experiences but most importantly, to hear him tell of God’s grace rescuing him over and over again.

A note about Campus Outreach:

Each Campus Outreach region sits under the authority and supervision of a regional church. Campus Outreach partners with numerous denominations that are healthy, Bible believing, evangelical, Gospel preaching, and reformed in their doctrine. These Regional Churches provide a crucial source of accountability, leadership and a substantial percentage of the resources for the region’s effective existence.

Campus Outreach is not a para-church organization, but rather an extension of the church on the college campus. As a result, the ministry at each campus is connected to a local church near that campus. This provides our Campus Staff and students the opportunity to partner with that church by bringing non-Believers and Believers alike to sit under the teaching of scripture. It also provides connection with the larger body of Christ and instills value for belonging and partaking of the Body of Christ.

My husband and I are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to meet Campus Outreach Staff and college students while living in Jacksonville, FL, Charlotte, NC, and Indianapolis, IN.

http://www.coindy.org

www.campusoutreach.org

Confia en Dios!

“Confia en Dios!” I heard those words everyday by the sweet and resounding voices of children, exclaiming very loudly and heard on the streets beyond the concrete walls. I, too, repeated those words over and over again throughout the week. When I woke up in the morning and as I fell asleep at night. “Confia en Dios!”

Trust in God. Trust in God, no matter what.

I just returned from a fantastic week of adventure in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, MX. What a privilege it was to be at Iglesia Bethel (in the above photograph) and help with a basketball camp, VBS, and serve the community. It was the most fun I’ve had on a missions trip in a very long time. Actually, it’s been a very long time since I’ve gone on a missions trip!

My husband has been to Monterrey much more than I have. For years he has encouraged me to go and see how God is working in the communities through the church planting efforts that we are passionate about. I usually had a number of good reasons or excuses for not going, but at this particular time I felt called to go…the persistent thought to stop delaying the inevitable–just GO! After a lot of prayer and pushing aside the rush of anxiety about the unknown, I purchased a round trip flight to Monterrey, MX. Now I was definitely committed!

On the way to the airport, my husband asked what I hoped to learn and what I hoped to accomplish while there. I replied that I didn’t have expectations for accomplishing anything, however I did hope that God would accomplish something unique and extraordinary in me. I was going to see first hand how God has answered our prayers, to celebrate the growing ministry of Bethel in their community of Apodaca and to live in the midst of life-on-life ministry for a fast and furious week. I wanted to experience traveling with a group of people whom I hardly knew and to hang out with Mexicans that I’ve never met before and [attempt to] communicate with them when I don’t know Spanish.

I am humbled by the generosity of the family I lived with and the extraordinary gift of God’s grace that was evident every moment of the day. The adventure was fantastic…more than I ever imagined! I hope to return to Monterrey to see the smiling faces of my new friends, to sweat together while running around a park with children from the neighborhood, to break bread and commune in fellowship.

There is too much to unpack about the week in a few paragraphs here and I’m sure I will write about the lessons God taught me in the weeks to come.  And regarding “unpacking” stuff…my suitcase was full of items that I never used! I have a long list of, “What not to pack” (FYI: no need to bring a roll of toilet paper or a small personal fan!)

While there, I met Sam Ferrand, a photographer documenting the church planting efforts of Mission to the World in Monterrey, MX. I love how she writes about Monterrey, photographs the mountainous landscape, while capturing the essence of a neighborhood and the precious expressions of lovely people. Check out her blog here: Keep Calm and Drink Teaquilla!  http://samferrand.blogspot.mx

You may also enjoy reading these posts I wrote about preparing for this trip:

Imagine the Adventure!   https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/imagine-the-adventure/

A Simple Devotional About More: https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/a-simple-devotional-about-more/

To Be Present: https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/to-be-present/

Here are a few photos from the week:

To Be Present

Monterrey

Monterrey, MX

Here I go! The great adventure begins tomorrow morning at 3:27 AM when I wake up to sound of crickets coming from my cell phone alarm. I’m writing this quickly without editing so that I can close my heavy eyelids for needed sleep.

The best part of my everyday work life has been involved part-time to full-time in ministry to children and families. I get excited about helping parents help their children learn more about Jesus. It thrills me to be present in a community of people who are passionate about the same things that I am. I enjoy being present in the lives of young children every week but it’s especially grand to know them years later as teenagers still having fun learning about our awesome God…and if I’m really fortunate, I will meet them again as adults…

God is faithful to be present from generation to generation to generation. If you live long enough, you will experience seeing this too.

So, I’m going on an adventure to Monterrey, MX with some of those young adults that I knew in children’s ministry years ago. I love that! What gives me the most joy is that they will lead me on this mission trip. I love the full circle of this story about God’s faithfulness to be present as evidenced in the lives of these “kids.” And I love that we share the same passion to be present in the lives of more people–children!

We have teamed with Mission to the World, an organization that is very passionate about serving people all over the world such as: rescuing street children, working to stop human trafficking, church planting, mercy, clean water, education…the gospel. MTW’s vision is to be present. I am glad for the opportunity to partner with this organization, to serve children in a small community in Monterrey and also to connect with families in a rapidly growing new church. This church is making a big impact in their community.

I’ve written two other posts on the topic of this adventure. You can find them here.

Imagine the Adventure and A Simple Devotional about More

So, I’m going on an adventure in a few hours! More Grace to be present.

Números 6:24-26

Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI)

24 »“El Señor te bendiga
y te guarde;
25 el Señor te mire con agrado
y te extienda su amor;
26 el Señor te muestre su favor
y te conceda la *paz.”

Numbers 6:24-26

New International Version (NIV)

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Monterrey

Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Friday, where a remarkably encouraging and loving community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: PRESENT.

Help others and Help Yourself

Help Others--Help Yourself

Somebody once made the observation that the person who is wrapped up entirely in himself makes a very small package–and the package contains an unhappy person. Think about this: Have you ever known a genuinely happy, self-centered person?

Research indicates that those who consistently (help) show kindness to other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer. Students who performed five acts of kindness a day increased their happiness and providing emotional support to others significantly decreased the harmful health effects of certain kinds of stress. [1]

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s about being helpful and showing kindness to other people.  As Luke records it, Jesus told this parable in the context of a teacher of the law who, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus confounds him by suggesting that God requires us to love our “neighbors” in a way that transcends ethnic boundaries. [2] (Luke 10:25-37) Sadly, we often fail to meet Jesus’ ideal of neighbor love.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (The Message) [3]

When helping people, find out what’s actually valuable to them. Make an effort to ask them where they need help, and keep that in mind when you see an opportunity. And there are many opportunities to help others. Just don’t make it all about you.

The more you make helping others all about you, the more disappointed, dry and weary you’ll become. And the more you understand that this is about Jesus, and his kingdom, and his crown, and his glory, the more freed up you are to help others.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

Footnotes

1] liveyourlifewell.org │[2] [843 Acres] The Park Forum│[3] Philippians 2:3-4, The Message │  Photo Credit: sweetmusingsfromthecove.wordpress.com

 You may like this: HelpOthers.org — kindness is contagious. Welcome to a portal dedicated to small acts of kindness.