Dogs and Ducks

As our family has been back in North Carolina now for about a month, dozens of things continue to arise each day that make me think “wow, this is so different than life in Mexico.” One of those small “wow” moments being my daily runs.

In Puerto, I would never venture out for a run without my sidekick in hand- a nice big ‘ol rock. Street dogs in Mexico are everywhere and can’t be trusted. So, as all the locals do, you grab a rock and use it when necessary. Even with my sidekick in grip, I would still be on the lookout, watching my back, just to make sure one wasn’t looming around the corner.

As I laced up my running shoes in Wilmington and hit the road, I was certain that dogs were behind me. For the first few runs, I constantly turned down my music, confident that I heard loud barking and they were out to get me (a little paranoid, I know!)

In the middle of one run, I jumped because I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Lo and behold, it wasn’t a gnarly street dog, but instead a group of cute little ducklings huddled together trying to cross the street. I think because this sight was so different than what I was used to over the last 7 years, I slowed down and lingered longer, watching them.

My very first thought was, where was their Mama? Six little ducklings huddled together, looking a little scared, with no mama or daddy duck in sight. But as I glanced around, across the street, there they stood, with eyes completely locked on their babies. I sensed that if I were to run at their little ones, they would do whatever it took to defend them. They stood tall and confident, almost proud, with eyes never leaving their childrens’ sight.

As I watched them for a few more seconds before jogging on by, I couldn’t help but think how this scene reminded me of our caring and ever-present Father.

So often, we are faced with new or different life seasons or situations that make us a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. Life can be really challenging, in a variety of ways, for many different reasons. Sometimes, God does give us more than we can handle and we feel at the end of ourselves. Yet, He is always near. He is always present. His eyes are forever locked on His children. He will do whatever it takes to defend his precious ones. He will not let the enemy harm them.

As I finished up my run, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming gratitude. The current daily struggles and challenges that I’m facing are still there, but I was reminded once again through some sweet little ducklings, that our faithful Father sees us, watches us, and will forever protect His own.


-Megan Herring, GEM Co-founder

Who is God and Who am I?

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”‭‭ Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-25

Wow, these words. I was cut to the core this morning. To be quite honest, any sort of praise or recognition of God’s goodness has been far from my lips. I hadn’t even realized how hard my heart had become until I started reading different passages like this and realized how little faith I had in them. 

I don’t know about you, but lately I have found it much easier to focus on the hardships, hurdles, and things going wrong in my life. I have been spending way too much time complaining to God about everything around me, crying out about the evil that continues to infect our world, and growing bitterness in my heart for all of the ‘unfairness’ I see. In my flesh, my heart says ‘God is not good and He is definitely not Faithful because if He were, He would do this or that… or ‘how could God be silent in times like these?’… but oh how incredibly wrong this is, how much farther from the truth could this be!

Number one, who am I to think such things about God? How could I (mere dust) point my finger at THE living God and say, ‘this is unfair, you don’t know what is good, you need to change things’? 

Psalm 24 tells us, 

“The earth is the Lord ‘s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” – ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭24:1-3‬ ‭

Psalm 33 reads,

 “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host… Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm… The counsel of the LORD stands forever” – v. 6, 8-9 & 11.

Who am I in comparison to YAHWEH?! God is the Holy, Perfect, and Just Creator of the Universe. He is the One in charge.

Number two. After reflecting on God being the Sovereign, Powerful Author of all things, Lamentations 3:22-25 (above) reminded me that God is also overflowing in mercy… without condition. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” – Lam. 3:22. God has never stopped pouring out his love and mercy on us, ever. Even after accusing God and having an ungrateful heart, He has not ceased to bless me every single day with both the gift of salvation and the physical gifts that I take for granted, e.g. food, safety, clothing, etc. Jesus laid his life down for the sheep. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Need I say more? The LORD has loved each of us beyond what we can ever comprehend, He is indeed The Good Shepherd; the very definition of Faithful love. 

And Lastly, the third thing. Psalm 33 showed me what my heart’s response should be to God. “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD” – v. 1-5

He is more than worthy of praise. Truly. After reading verses this and pondering all of the other scriptures mentioned, my heart was totally changed. God made Psalm 33 the song of my heart. You know how? I looked upward instead of to myself for the answers. This is how amazing and wonderful God is!  The moment we give ourselves over to Him and realize His love, he begins to shape our hearts and take out all of the darkness and untruth. When we begin to believe we are in charge, that is when things fall apart. When we stop trusting God for who He is. 

Cry out to God in faith and He WILL respond. He saved me from my bitter heart! Before reading Psalm 33, I was filled with discouragement and sadness. After being exhorted to praise, for the rest of the day I couldn’t get praise songs out of my head! It just started flowing out of me! So Let us constantly consider – Who is God? And who am I? The Lord loves you and He will show you His love if you seek Him… “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” Lam. 3:25.


Natalia Saint Clair, GEM volunteer

Change Happens in the Desert

Prayer is hard.
 
As a young girl growing up in a Christian family, I went to church (on many occasions more than once a week) and attended a Christian school. So, you can imagine just how many times I was told I needed to be disciplined in reading the Bible and prayer. Naturally, after hearing this I would go upstairs in my room and try. I can’t tell you how many times I would tuck myself away, try to quiet my thoughts, and pray to this invisible and inaudible Being. But I began to notice the more I tried to will myself to pray, the more I disliked it. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t have much to ask for, and besides, did God even care about the things going on in my life? If He did, it’s not like he responded audibly to my requests anyways.
 
Though my idea of prayer and God changed as I grew in my knowledge of and relationship with Him, I still struggled with prayer. What about the many times I had called out to him – no, begged – for him to change a situation or give me something and He hadn’t? Was He really who He said He was? And if He’s so powerful, then doesn’t He have the ability to do these things? So why isn’t He? Those are just a few of the many doubts I had (and still have) that kept me from reaching out to Him. But God was working in my heart and, about a year and half ago, I asked God to transform my prayer life and give me a desire to pray. No, it definitely did not happen overnight. I tried to read books on prayer, ask friends for advice on prayer, etc. As a matter of fact, many times I got so frustrated with not seeing any changes in my prayer life that I would sit in my room and force myself to be quiet and pray. Of course, this only led to me being hard-hearted with the Lord and forcing an outward prayer that my inner self was not praying. It was then that I decided that if God was big enough, He could and would change my heart in regards to praying and it wasn’t up to me to force it. Ironically, that was actually making things worse.
 
So, I stopped praying. And God started working.
 
Several months into this process, circumstances in my family’s life and my own personal life brought me to a place where I had absolutely no control. I was desperate – I could do absolutely nothing to change the situations – so I began to pray.
 
In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller recounts he and his wife’s experience of having an autistic child. He calls the space in between hoping and reality a desert. “The hope line represents our desire for a normal child, reinforced by our prayers from Psalm 121. The bottom line is the reality of a harmed child. We lived in the middle, in the desert, holding on to hope that Kim could somehow be normal yet facing the reality of her disabilities.”
“The hardest part of being in the desert,” Miller says, “is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.”
 
This sounds utterly hopeless, doesn’t it?
 
But Miller draws our focus to what God is doing in the midst of our complete vulnerability and weakness. He explains that “The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances… The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.”
 
“Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self. Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert awhile that you are different.
 
“After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert David writes,
‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ Psalm 63:1
 
“The desert becomes a window to the heart of God… You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart.”
For so long I had only viewed prayer as a way to get things from God; an avenue through which I could change situations and circumstances; a tool to access His power when I am powerless. That view is not entirely wrong! In many ways, it is completely scriptural (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 18:19, Psalm 107:28-30). But often times, God chooses not to grant our requests or chooses to make us wait for years until He answers them. When we view prayer only as a means to get what we want, we are missing out on potentially God’s biggest purpose for prayer: bringing us closer to His heart and carving us into the image of His Son, Jesus.
 
I had always thought that through prayer I could change things, but I never realized that God was using prayer to change me. In my powerlessness, God has begun to show me aspects of Himself that I never would have seen unless I was desperate for Him. And slowly, but surely, He is changing the way I pray to become more aligned with His heart.
 
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
 
Have your way, Lord.

-Maggie Addison, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Maggie as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!

An Intimate God

Today I was laying on a huge rock, surrounded by the ocean, reading Perelandra, the second of the Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis. Ransom, the main character is visiting a new planet and he is describing the planet with such wonder and imagery. I put the book down and started thinking about Space. I was caught in awe of the planets and galaxies. I was so overwhelmed by how wonderful all that exists is. My mind could not think about it all without a creator. It feels to me, impossible. It just doesn’t make sense at all. Where did it all come from? There is no way the answer is science. There is too much creativity, there is too much heart to it all, there is so clearly purpose. All of it is too beautiful to point to nothing. I was looking at our galaxy in my mind and was taken into deeper astonishment. The earth was selected to have life on it. Life that can be sustained because of the way it rotates around the sun and carries resources that meet the needs for life. I looked out to the ocean and imagined the entire world under those waters. I then looked down the side of the rock and watched how the water rushed gracefully but with great force into all of the cracks of the little rocks below. I thought to myself, “that is truly beautiful.” I then thought to myself, “Wow. God made these rocks and this water to do that because He knew that I would find it beautiful.” What a comforting thought. What an intimate God. I then went through all of the things that I specifically find beautiful amidst nature. What an intimate God, that He would create all of these things so that souls could connect with them and adore them.
I glanced at my book. Not only did God create beautiful oceans, planets, animals, and stars. But minds that can take a tree and turn it into paper, bind it together, all to become an object that can be read and understood and connected to by the human mind, even deeper, the soul. And the words have been formed by a mind with the capacity to take concepts to new levels, all so others can be taken to new depths.

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I then looked over at my sister reading on a rock nearby. A soul that I love and find shockingly beautiful. To think of the deep connection I have towards nature and then to look over at this very soul that has my heart, and the tons of others that I have intimate care for, I couldn’t help but cry. Cry out thanks to God and over the realization that God has placed everything exactly where it is for deep, deep purpose. So that He can be a reality. So that we can see how He is alive and living all around us desiring for our souls to be aligned. Crying out that we will see what all of this is pointing to.

I then look down at a crab who doesn’t worry about what he is going to eat. He doesn’t get anxious and stressed about when the sun is going to.. probably scorch him. He probably should get a little stressed, maybe go in the shade so his life can be a little longer.. but that isn’t the point. The crab is who he is. He uses his abilities for their purposes. He does exactly what he was made to do. I look at his complexities, the claws he has been given and the ability to move and jump.  And then my eyes shift towards my own hands. They are incredible. The way skin encloses so perfectly all of our organs and bones, how it can be broken and cut but it will not tear too easily. I have the ability to run, jump, climb, and handstand without a scratch. How incredible. Oh, what would my life be like if I was like this crab doing exactly as I was made to do! How often have these hands in front of me been the tools to waste time. My hands are limbs connected to a heart that has worried days away. That is where this crab and I are different. I have a soul, a soul that actually very much so longs to be free like this crab but has many difficulties to battle before that freedom can be all I know.

These difficulties are sin. The very nature we are born into with but thankfully not the nature we have been created to have.

God, in His grace, in His bleeding, jealous love for us, lets us sit on rocks pondering the universe, realizing His thread of glory through it all. And as we realize it, we step away from our old nature and into the new, new life.

Find a place and bask in God’s great glory. It is displayed everywhere you look. Whether it is the tree you climb, the feet you walk on, the threads in your sweater, your mother, your sister, your dog. Everything has a purpose, everything points to the One. The One who longs to romance you, who created the seas with you in mind. The One who deeply knows you and therefore deeply loves you.

And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Isaiah 6:3


12235146_10208302809591924_7778609059362999763_nAnnie Hindin teaches Kindergarten at our school in Mexico, and this is her second year serving with GEM. She has the God-given gift of extending love and understanding to every person she encounters, which makes her quite the teacher! If you’d like to read more of Annie’s pieces, you can do so on her personal blog.