Take It to the Lord in Prayer

By Major Beth Desplancke

This morning on the news I heard story after story about one crisis or another: the continuing COVID pandemic, the situation in Afghanistan, political fireworks regarding masks and vaccines… the list goes on. It sometimes feels dark and hopeless. But what do I do with the information? Yes, I am upset, but does it stir me to action? Does it lead me to my knees? To be honest, I might discuss it with others briefly, but after the initial shock of the news story, I go on, unaffected and untouched.

Nehemiah responded differently to a crisis in his time. He served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. On a visit from his brother, Nehemiah asked about his fellows Jews who had survived the exile and about the condition of Jerusalem. Nehemiah got news he probably wasn’t expecting. I am sure when he asked, he was hoping to receive a great report, but in Nehemiah 1:3, he is told some sad news, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the providence are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Nehemiah didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s too bad. I am so sorry to hear that,” and then quickly change the subject. No! It stopped him in his tracks! Verse 4 tells us that he sat down and wept and for some days, he mourned and fasted and prayed. The news he had heard touched his heart enough to take it to the Lord in prayer.

Notice, in a crisis moment Nehemiah didn’t panic. He didn’t talk to a lot of people about the situation. I had a Sunday school teacher that always said, “Before you go to the phone, go to the throne.” Instead of grabbing the phone and calling one of your friends to discuss your problem or situation, you should first go to the throne of heaven and talk to God about it.

Instead of talking about the problem, plotting and planning a way of action, fretting and stewing over it, or stress eating and shopping to deal with the feelings, he prayed about it. He turned to the One who could do something about the situation. He doesn’t focus on the problem in front of him; he chose to focus on the One who is big enough to handle this big problem. He begins his prayer with these words, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (v. 5).

Nehemiah didn’t just pray once and move on, but it says he prayed for days. In verses 1 of chapter 1 the Bible tells us that it was the Jewish month of Kislev, which occurs in November-December on our calendars. In chapter 2, verses 1 we read that is now the month of Nisan, which is March-April. That is about 4 months that Nehemiah prayed over the situation and what was to be the God designed solution. Nehemiah didn’t simply pray one panicked prayer but had a pattern of prayer. He prayed continuously and consistently over the situation. I know I am guilty of praying a prayer once, and then moving on as if the situation no longer matters.

Nehemiah is often described as a great leader. He approached the king with a plan, and the king allowed him to go to Jerusalem and provided him with resources, and Nehemiah lead the people to rebuild the wall in 52 days. But Nehemiah’s leadership, plans and skills are secondary. The major thing needed was a deep commitment to prayer. Nehemiah viewed himself as a humble servant, and he was dependent on God for his direction and instruction.
Joseph Scriven penned these familiar words:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
  Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
  Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
  Thou wilt find a solace there.

What problems are you facing whether personally or corporately that has stirred your heart lately? How have your responded? May we be women who learn from Nehemiah’s example, and when problems arise, may we be women who pray instead of panic, who focus on the Problem-Solver rather than the problem, and who persistently bring the situation to the Lord until He provides an answer. Whatever burden or care that is on your heart today, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Happy Hopeful Fall

By Commissioner Colleen Riley

Happy Fall!! For some of us the colors of the trees are starting to change, and the mornings bring a fresh crispness as we take in the air outside. School is beginning again for our kids, a new program year is ahead of us, and the excitement is mounting! Or is it a little fear and trepidation mixed with the excitement?

I used to just want things to stay the same and predictable. Change was hard and I didn’t care for going out of my comfort zone. And then, for all of us, these past 18 or so months have happened; and we have all had everything become different and unpredictable, taking us far out of our comfortability in every way possible. Fear of today and for the future as well, has been foremost on our minds.

However, there is hope! Hope for today and for tomorrow. Hope for healing and well-being and that hope is found in our relationship with Jesus. I truly believe that God has something amazing right in front of us. He has used this time for a reset if you will. In speaking with others, they are seeing a new perspective on life and in how they relate to their family and friends. They are no longer taking advantage of the opportunities to spend time together and to tell each other that they love and care for one another.

For me, I see it is a new opportunity to grow in our relationship with Jesus. It is a chance for us to take that relationship, grow it and then help others to see the beauty in connecting with the Savior. And then out of all of that comes the ministry and discipleship opportunities in our Corps and in our communities.

Isaiah 43:19 says: “Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. For I am about to do something new.”

Do you see it? He is doing a new thing in our lives and in our Church. He is making a way in and through the wilderness that we have been through and will give us Living Water! I believe that there is far more in front of us than what we are leaving behind. A hope, a future, and a life of fullness with Him.

As we head into a new season of the year, let’s go forward together in the promise of His unfailing love, that He will continue to raise us out of darkness and into His Holy light! He is doing a new and beautiful thing for us, if we can only see it and embrace it! He has already done it for us. And when we get nervous or anxious, be reminded of the promise in Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself, goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

BeeYOUtiful

By Colonel Donna Igleheart

Happy summer friends! I pray this note finds you well, blessed and enjoying the sunny side of life. Last summer I was still surrounded by the new, the strange, a never-ending mound of boxes and yet sweetly overwhelmed with the beauty around me here in Southern California. Maybe today you find yourself in a season of transition and can relate, if so, I am praying for an extra portion of grace, strength and sunshine as I share this note today. Hang in there, God sees YOU!

A year later and God continues to use seemingly ordinary things that helped me during those onboarding, settling in days to see and sense His presence. Such things as luscious flowering gardens, curious hummingbirds, rhythm of the ocean waves, the cool summer breeze, and the gift of meeting new friends. Most recently it was a child’s laugh! The laughter started at his little toes and gloriously worked its way up and spilled out into a bellowing sound of pure joy! The more I was around this sweet boy it became very clear that his joyous spirit was simply who God had created him to BE!

I recall when we first arrived my husband called me outside to look up into a beautiful eucalyptus tree at the entry of our home. He said, “Be still, listen and watch.” It didn’t take long to recognize the buzzing of hundreds of bees. The tree was full of swarming busy bees beautifully making a difference as they pollinate and effect the world around them. They were doing what they had been created to be and do.

I have a friend who often posts the same word not only my facebook post, but others. One word written with a little liberty, but so powerful. Bee YOU tiful! It always makes me smile because I know that this represents who he is and that he truly means it! I love how he emphasizes the word YOU in this lovely word. He makes each person feel seen.

What if we recognized that God created us to be exactly the way we are? What if we looked around us and recognized the beauty not only in the creation but in God’s most treasured, his people?

Psalm 139 is a powerful reminder of the weaving process and intricacy. Psalm 139:13, ‘For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’! The very One who created heaven and earth orchestrated all the delicate, inner parts of our body. He knit me together within my mother’s womb. I was made wonderfully complex. God knew me as He was so beautifully designing me to be me! The same for each of us!

He framed and fashioned each of us into a beautiful creation, not one of us just alike.

The hummingbirds don’t look at the bees and say I wish I were a bee. They are busy being who they were created to be. They are beautiful in their own way, making a difference as they were uniquely created. It’s often easier to see all the beautiful things around us but miss the Bee YOU tiful thing God is doing in us and through us. Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I never want to lose that be still, listen and watch posture…I might miss something Bee YOU tiful! Let’s see and praise each other’s Bee YOU tiful uniqueness!

Peace Despite the Chaos

By Major Beth Desplancke

When you think of the Fourth of July what comes to mind? For me, I instantly think fireworks. My in-laws live in a community near Los Angeles and in their city, safe and sane fireworks are legal. None of the neighboring communities allow fireworks of any kind. What that means is a lot of people converge on the community of Lawndale and bring their fireworks with them. We have been able to spend many Independence days there and enjoy the fireworks that explode literally over our heads.

Although Lawndale communicates what fireworks are allowed, most are not the legal fireworks. As we sit in the front yard and watch all that is taking place, it feels like a war zone. Along with the beautiful, colorful displays comes smoke, noise, explosions, and loud booms. You will also hear car alarms being triggered by the vibrations from the blasts. In addition, screeching sirens of various emergency vehicles fills the air. It really becomes chaotic and anything but peaceful.

But when I keep my eyes focused on the sky and get lost in the beautiful colors and patterns of the fireworks, I can almost tune out the noise and chaos around me. Instead of jumping with each loud blast, I am calm and mesmerized by the fireworks.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We don’t need to have life around us be calm to experience peace. Peace is a person – Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied about who the Messiah would be. In Isaiah 9:6 he shared several names for Him, one of which is the Prince of Peace. When we know Jesus, we can experience peace despite the chaos that is all around us. How can we experience peace despite the craziness that surrounds us? Again, Isaiah tells us how.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all those whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT

Peace comes when we choose to fix our eyes and our thoughts on Him, and not on the circumstances that are around us. When I focus on the noise and the smoke of the fireworks, I miss the beauty that they bring. But when I choose to look up and direct my attention to just one thing, the chaos and noise fades into the background.

Remember when the disciples were caught in a boat in a storm and they panicked. They were afraid because the sea was raging, the waves were crashing, and the boat was filling with water. What was Jesus doing? He was asleep (see Mark 4:38)! Despite the lack of peace around Him, He was at peace.

We don’t have to have peaceful circumstances to experience peace. We simply must turn to the source of peace – Jesus. When life is anything but relaxing, and anxiety, worry, panic, or dread has our mind swirling, we need to keep our thoughts fixed on God. How? Paul gives us the answer.

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

My prayer for each of us as we enjoy the Fourth of July celebration (including BBQs, time with friends and family, and perhaps even fireworks) is that we remember that peace comes through Jesus Christ. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NLT)

Just Be… Adventurous

By Commissioner Colleen Riley

When I was younger, I was not very adventurous. I did not climb mountains or jump from cliffs into the waters below. As a matter of fact, I was quite timid. I was shy enough to even hide behind my dad in crowds. As I grew older, and after I met my husband, I was exposed to all kinds of adventures that I had never even considered doing. From camping and hiking to fishing and kayaking, not to mention sky diving, my life was full of adventure. My eyes were opened, and I found an adventurous spirit I did not know I had, which has helped me to explore all the beautiful creation that God had provided for you and I to savor.

When I came to know the Lord as my personal Savior, I was young. I knew in my heart what I had committed to, but I do not think I understood fully what the possibilities were for me as believer, a follower of Christ and a daughter of the King of Kings. As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, what an adventure it has been. I not only realized His calling on my life to be a minister of the Gospel, but I opened my heart to the world of that ministry, and He has taken me all over the world to see His hand at work. It has been quite a journey so far!

If I had only realized a little earlier in my life, the adventure I would take, maybe I would have been a little bolder sooner. But, no regrets, God has called me, and I am holding on to His hand for this incredible journey and taking in every moment and opportunity He gives me. Psalm 16:11 says: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of JOY; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is adventure and joy and peace in the journey of faith. I choose to be bold for Christ, to reach new heights in my walk with God. I pray that each of you who read this will seize the opportunity to just be open and available to serve Him boldly, heading into the bright future He has for you. Adventure with Christ awaits!

Thanks Mom!

By Major Beth Desplancke

It is May – the month that we celebrate Mother’s Day. I am blessed to be called mom by three amazing kids (Ryan, Emily and Sam), and I am even more blessed to be able to call two women mom: My mom, Major Glenda Berko and my mother-in-love, Cathy Desplancke. I need to say thank you to the two moms in my life, because both women have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

My mom, Glenda, instilled in me at a very young age the importance of being in God’s Word daily. As a little girl, even before I could read or truly understand the Bible, my mom made sure that God’s Word was part of our daily lives. As a young child, we always had a “Daily Bread” box on the dining room table – it was shaped like a loaf of bread, and inside where pieces of paper with different verses printed on them. Every night before we prayed for dinner, we would take the time to read one of the verses.

Besides daily verses at dinner, every night she would have devotions with each of us three kids. As a little girl, she would read to me a Bible story book, but when I started to learn to read, mom would use little booklets called “Precious Promises” to do our daily devotions before going to bed. These little booklets had a verse each day, and a short little devotional. I remember those booklets because they had Precious Moment drawings on every page.

At first my mom read to me, and then I slowly sounded out the words and eventually I read them to my mom. After I had reading under my belt, every month in the mail we would each get a copy of “Keys for Kids” a short devotional magazine with a half-page devotion each day, with Scripture, and sometimes there were fun games to do as well. Soon my mom wasn’t there to be with me for by bedtime devotions because she knew I would do them on my own.

One of the practices my mom taught me was instead of making resolutions for a New Year, choose a yearly verse, which was to be my theme for the year. In the front of one of my Bibles, I have the yearly verse I have chosen for myself since 1991 (the year I graduated high school). It is so amazing to see how God used the verse or short passage to guide and direct me through the coming year.

Psalm 119:15-16 says, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” My mom not only lived these verses but taught me to do the same.

I met my mother-in law, Cathy, in 1995. From the minute I met her, I just felt like she was a friend. She was so sweet and kind. Even before I started dating her son, I felt a kinship with her. My husband is 10 years older than me, but from the time my husband was born, Cathy has been praying for the woman that he would marry. That just thrills me to think that 10 years before I was even born, my mother-in-law prayed for me. She is a faithful woman of prayer.

Besides being a prayer warrior, in all these years that I have known and loved my mother-in-law I can honestly say I have never heard her say a hurtful word about anyone. I truly believe she genuinely loves everyone.

Eleven years ago, she fought through breast cancer, and although cancer is no longer in her body, she is left with chronic pain. Despite all she has been through, she never wallows in her situation, doesn’t complain, and doesn’t seem to ever question God with, “Why me, Lord?” She smiles through and endures. Through it all, her faith remains strong and she continues to be a woman of prayer and praise.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” These words describe Cathy. Her words are always encouraging, kind and beneficial to those listening. She challenges me to be a woman with gracious words.

There are so many other women who have had impact in my life, but I want to say thanks to my two moms. Mom, thank you for teaching me to be a wise woman of the Word. Cathy, thank you for teaching me to be a wise woman with my words. I pray not only that these two grandmas will similarly impact my three kids’ lives, but that I too will influence my children for eternity.

Whether you are a mom or not, how has your mom or mother-in-law impacted your life? What other women have had an influence on you throughout your life? What women have served as spiritual mothers in your life? How are you spiritually mothering others? Whose lives can you inspire and encourage today? If there are women in your life that have made a difference, perhaps this month take the time to tell them “thank you.”

Do You Recognize Him?

By Colonel Donna Igleheart

Happy Spring! I have enjoyed being back in a place where I can anticipate seasons as I remember. In South Africa the seasons are reversed, and I remember my first Easter in 2016 thinking it was odd to be in March watching trees arrayed with bright fall colors, leaves covering the ground and the hint of fall. I wasn’t looking for earth preparing for winter. I was looking for new birth of flowering trees, tulips, and daffodils. I enjoyed the seasons in my new surroundings, but I had to stop and think about my expectations especially around Easter.

The photo shared in this blog is a picture of myself and a woman I met at a retreat during my first fall season of Easter. We were playing a game where one person was blindfolded and the other used only their voice to guide their partner through a very difficult obstacle course. I thought over the years of being in youth work I had played just about every game but this one was different. We were strangers and had been paired up as partners. We each had a turn at being the one blindfolded and the one leading, giving instructions to go left, right or exclaiming, “Be careful there are steps to climb!” The game, of course, was about listening, trusting, and believing something and someone you couldn’t see.

The real difficulty came when 20 other women were giving similar instructions. My partner was trying to listen for a voice from a person she had just met. She didn’t recognize my voice because she didn’t know me, but I kept calling her name. I tried to lean in as close as I could without touching her in order to guide her so she would feel safe. As the game continued, I could see her confidence and trust build as she began recognizing my voice and following my commands amongst the noise around her. At the end of the course there was relief and a feeling of accomplishment as the blindfold was removed, our eyes locked and she exclaimed, “There you are, I recognize you now!’

There are over ten separate accounts where Jesus made His appearance known on the road to Emmaus. The Disciples saw a pilgrim and didn’t recognize Him at first. Then his hands broke bread just as they would have seen Him do time after time and they knew him immediately.

At the time of resurrection, when the tomb was rolled away Jesus first appeared to a woman whose name was Mary Magdalene. She would have just endured the hardest night of her life. She sees Him but mistakes him as a gardener. John 20:14 “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” Mary Magdalene turned around and saw Him standing there but thought him to be the gardener. She doesn’t recognize Jesus at first, but Jesus certainly recognized her. Then something happened when he called her by name. The intimacy of knowing her name is enough to bring her out of her grief and she recognizes, it’s Jesus.

Scripture tells us she had been the one who was released from her bondage of Satan’s demons by Jesus himself. No wonder there was such great love and care for him, as she had experienced up close and personal his saving grace. Her life reminds us that Jesus offers us total deliverance from the bondage of our past. Mary had an important part to play that night, and all would be revealed.

Do you recognize Jesus today? Are you following his voice even though you can’t seem to find your way out of a hard season? The same God who was raised from the dead, who appeared in the flesh, is the same God who will raise you from the grave and will empty your tomb. Perhaps today it’s a tomb of loneliness, doubt, and fear. God called Mary’s name in the midst of her confusion and grief. Isaiah 43:1 is a reminder that he knows us! “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.” As we continue to embrace this Lenten season and the earth breaks forth spring, let’s walk in the assurance that He is our great Shepherd who leads us so that we may walk in confidence of who we are in Him.

March!

Red Letters of Love

Where’s Your Focus?