We’ll Know More Monday – Part 2

What If . . .  
 
 
Biopsy. Surgery. Those words lingered in my thoughts as we waited for the results.
 
We prayed. Our church, friends, and families all prayed.
 
While we waited for the follow-up appointment ­– set for Monday, one week after my colonoscopy screen ­– I buried myself in routine activities to avoid “what if” mind games.
 
What if the biopsy reveals cancer? What if the cancer isn’t contained? What if I waited too late for my screens and cost myself precious time? What if all the praying in the world doesn’t change the feared outcome? What if . . .  What if . . . What if . . .
 
The enemy loves to prey on our fears, doesn’t he? Waiting for important answers can leave us vulnerable to fear, doubt, and other attacks on our faith in God.
 
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.” (Mark 11:24-25, NASB)
 
While not promoting “name it and claim it” gospel, belief – trust – is essential. We must believe, place our trust in God, and hold on no matter how He answers our prayers.
 
 Just keep praying, believe and trust.
 
What if I chose to focus on the “right” what ifs? What if I trust Him with my fears and allow Him to comfort and strengthen me? What if my heart prays continually while my hands stay busy? What if I simply hold on and allow God to walk me through each step?
 
We’ll know more on Monday. Keep praying.
 
I fully expected to wait the whole week before learning the results of my biopsy, but God didn’t make me wait. Saturday, five days after the colonoscopy, my phone buzzed, the screen lit and flashed my brother’s number.
 
“Hey,” I said.
 
“Hey, there is someone here who wants to talk to you,” he said.
What? Who would be with my brother and want to talk to me? Out-of-town relative in for a visit? A former classmate?
“Mrs. Thomas . . .” I recognized the voice of the doctor, “. . . the biopsy results came back. It was benign – at least what I took in the office. We can’t be 100 percent sure until the pathology report is back after surgery, but so far everything looks good . . . I didn’t want you to have to wait until Monday to hear the good news.”
 
Yes! Praise the Lord!
           
Hope, relief, and awe washed over me. I received three gifts in that one phone call.

 The first gift came in the initial report – while I still faced surgery, the benign biopsy elevated my hope. Second, the shortened wait relieved the part of me still vulnerable to stress and worry. Third, I am in complete awe that a “chance” encounter with my brother on a weekend led to a personal call two days prior to my follow-up appointment. The details of that chance encounter – incredible as they are – reduce to this:  I received a personal call – not from my primary physician, but a specialist – on a Saturday from my brother’s phone. How does that happen except by the love of God through a caring doctor?

 
Wow.
 
           
We learned more during our Monday appointment. The doctor shared the size, location, and type of polyp as he pointed at images taken during the procedure. My husband and I listened as he shared and answered our questions, translating clinical terms for our benefit.
 
After a time, he paused. Looking over the rim of his glasses with gentle-but-serious eyes, he said, “Young lady, if you had put this off any longer, we would be having a totally different conversation. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when, this mass becomes cancerous. Based on my experience, this type tends to be the second most aggressive kind.”
 
Yikes.
 
Though optimistic, he reminded me of the needed post-surgery pathology report to know for sure.
 
Hope – I still have hope.
 
I had postponed the colonoscopy two years. With no obvious symptoms, ignoring the nagging within me came easy. While I needed the procedure, I dreaded the preparation required. One morning, as I showered and dressed for work, an emphatic message struck me, “Make an appointment with the doctor TODAY.” When I arrived at work, I called. That appointment led here.
 
What if I had chosen to ignore the nagging urge, again? What if my primary physician opted to start my health check with different tests?
 
The what ifs never stop, do they?
 
Before we left the doctor’s office, we secured a consultation appointment with the surgeon we selected. In another week, we’d know even more – confident in holding on, taking one step at a time.
 
On the drive home, I allowed myself to wonder: What if we hadn’t prayed?
             
 
 
(Editor’s note:  This is Part II of a three-part series – a personal account of recent experiences regarding a routine colonoscopy screen. You may read Part I at http://standfirmministries.com/well-know-more-monday-part-1/. I hope you’ll follow this series to its final installment, never postpone health screens, and find the courage to Hold­­_On no matter what you may be facing.)
 

 

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 
 

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We’ll Know More Monday – Part 1

Part I – The Routine Screen
 
“We’ve set an appointment for you to come back next Monday to review the results of your biopsy. In the meantime, we need to set an appointment with a surgeon.”
 
A whole week? A surgeon?
 
The doctor continued to share the specifics with my husband. Attempting to shake the fog of the anesthesia, I tried forcing my focus on the conversation between them. Though I managed to fumble my glasses into place, the doctor’s face remained fuzzy. I sensed the doctor’s concern only by the serious tone of his voice.
 
It was supposed to be just a routine screen.
 
“The polyp is too large to remove here and is attached near the appendix. Either way, surgery will be required, and will include removing part of the colon. We won’t know the results of the biopsy until next week.”
 
“But if it’s cancerous, perhaps we’ve caught it in time?” I asked, searching for anything positive.
 
“Let’s hope so.” His soft reply offered little in the way of comfort. I can only assume the doctor didn’t wish to give me false hope.
 
Don’t be afraid. Just breathe.
 
I had two choices – be afraid, fret and worry, or rebuke fear.
 
In the car, I broke the silence. “Well, it is what it is. Or it isn’t what it isn’t. Either way, worry changes nothing. We’ll just wait and assume the best.”
 
If my husband said anything at all, I didn’t hear a word, but I sensed his relief. He knew my head was in a good place and that meant everything in the moment.
 
Besides, it’s only seven days. We’ll know more on Monday.
 
I only needed to trust God, hold on, and face Monday on Monday.
 
I know from the core of my faith, nothing catches God by surprise. Why worry or stress over what is or isn’t?
 
“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:27, NASB
 
Worry changes nothing for positive, but God can change anything. What will be, will be. My life is in God’s hands – always, not just in this moment.
 
Maybe you’ve received recent news, feeling sucker-punched in the gut and struggling to wrap your head around it. Maybe you are still waiting for test results – a wait torturing your thoughts with fear. Maybe you are fighting for your life, growing wearier every day.
 
Whether you are just beginning to slip into the shadows of worry or feeling completely engulfed in the darkness of despair, leaning into the light of your faith can change your perspective of everything.
 
 
 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12, NASB
 
As a child, I feared the dark, or rather, I feared the unknown lurking in the dark. At night, I always managed to find more courage with a single night light strategically placed in the dark hallway to light the path from my room to the bathroom. The soft glow of one small light changed my perspective of what was, or rather, wasn’t lurking in that dark, creepy hallway.
 
As an adult, in some child-like way, I equate that to the Light of Jesus keeping my path lit by the words of my Lord, my relationship with Him, and my belief and faith in Him. He changes my perspective of everything.
 
Jesus clearly states He is the Light of the world. For me, the idea of facing anything in this life without Jesus strikes more fear in me than the situation itself. While weak humanity allows the strength of my faith some vulnerable exposure, I praise the Lord for sustaining me, strengthening me, and chasing away the shadows and darkness of this world.
 
My answers were a week away. Whenever a shadow of fear began to descend, I sought the Light to chase it away and reminded myself, “We’ll know more on Monday.”
 

 

(Editor’s note:  This is Part I of a three-part series – a personal account of recent experiences regarding a routine colonoscopy screen. I hope you’ll follow this series to its final installment – and never postpone health screens.)
 

 

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Let Go

Whatever you do, don’t let go,” my cousin, Judy, turned and called back to me. “Grab two fists full of mane, grip hard, and hold on.”

            “But I can’t swim,” I shrieked, wide eyes staring at her back.

            “Don’t worry, I can. If anything happens, I’ll dive in and save you,” she said. Splashing drowned out her voice when, as she nudged her horse, the two plunged into the pond to escape the summer heat. The pair swam to the deep end with little more than heads above water.

            Fearless teenagers – as least that described Judy. Me? Umm, not so much.

I hesitated in doubt as fear washed over me, even though I trusted Judy and knew she swam well. In that moment, I faced a choice – dive all in, or turn away. Should I accept her invitation while uncertain of the water, or be left behind and miss the moment?

Sometimes being faithful to the Lord can feel this way. We’re riding along comfortably in our Christian walk, and suddenly we’re facing a situation when fear and doubt wash over us.

Remember Peter? I love Peter. He climbed out of the boat and walked toward Jesus in the middle of raging winds and waves. Seeing someone walking on the water in the middle of the sea, the disciples cried out in fear assuming Jesus was a ghost. What did Jesus say? He said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27, NIV).

I love that, don’t you? Don’t be afraid.

Peter then calls to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matt 14:28) When Jesus told Peter to come, Peter just bailed right out of the boat.  

Considering his impulsive nature, I imagine Peter climbing overboard without thought or hesitation. Though his faith weakened in his doubt, he chose to leave the boat and seek Jesus. Peter didn’t miss the moment, he seized it. When his fear of the wind and waves threatened to drown him, he doubted and began to sink. Then what did he do? He called out for Jesus. Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter to keep him from drowning. (Matthew 14:23-33).

Is there any doubt Peter held firm to the saving grasp of Jesus? Wouldn’t you?

Do you?

Do you believe what you know about the Lord? Do you trust Him? Do you truly believe He will dive in and lift you out of the murky water when you slip, fall or even sink?

Will you tighten your grip and hold on or will you turn and walk away? When God extends an invitation, will you dive all in, or will you miss the moment? Will you allow logic, circumstances, or uncertainty hold you back? Or will you dive in head first, hold tight, and swim with all our might?

Will you hold on no matter what?
Stop.

Don’t say it.

Don’t say, “Yeah, but…” I already hear you.

            “Yeah, but you don’t know my circumstances.”

True. But I know God. I know He will never leave you nor forsake you. Nothing surprises God because He already knows. Remember the story of Job? God knew all Job would endure in advance. In fact, God allowed it and even limited Satan’s attacks on this “perfect and upright man.” (Job 1:1-12, NIV)

That day on my favorite horse, I decided to follow my cousin’s lead. Taking a deep breath, I put on a brave face, grabbed two fists full of mane, and gigged my horse in the sides. I gripped my calves tight around the girth as he swam the deep murky waters. Sweat from the saddle we removed only minutes before made gripping around the middle a challenge. I even slipped significantly as my horse lunged up the embankment.

But I made it.

More than that, the experience left me refreshed, revived, and renewed. I prepared for a repeat. No fear. I fully expected to dive back into that pond without a second thought before my uncle stopped us from repeating the pleasure.

Don’t be afraid to dive all in when God calls or extends the invitation to join Him.  The experience may leave you refreshed, revived and renewed in your relationship with our Lord.

Please hear my heart. When waters are deep, waves are high, and the raging storms of life threaten to overtake you, find comfort knowing God is aware of your trials long before you face them. Call out to him. Trust him. Remain in Him. Allow Him to carry you safely to the other side. Weather the storm. Tread the water. Allow yourself to be carried into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Whatever you do…

Don’t. Let. Go.

 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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Uncertain About What’s Next

The tassels on each end of the golden honor chord, bright against the black collegiate gown, swayed slightly with each step. She paused, took a deep breath, and waited for what came next. As our daughter’s full name was announced, followed by, “Bachelor of Science, Missions, Magna Cum Laude,” Marinna crossed the stage, shook the hand of the college president and received the degree she worked so hard to earn – with honors.

Mixed emotions flooded my soul. Pride, awe, relief, joy, fear, confidence, peace, and uncertainty for what comes next.

Pride, because from the beginning of her college search, she targeted one place for one reason. She chose a specific private Christian college to equip her to serve the Lord in ministry. To be sure of her convictions and her calling, my husband and I offered options. She held firm to her decision and received the necessary scholarships to resolve any financial obstacles. What Christian parent wouldn’t be pleased with that?

Marinna felt God directed her, and she held on believing He would provide.

He did.

I stand in awe of her spiritual growth, focus, and her Christian convictions. While far from perfect, as a deacon’s kid and a pastor’s kid all her life, Marinna’s consistent exposure to the Word of God set a firm foundation for her. However, a strong-willed, openly opinionated child combined with our parenting faults and failings, created a real opportunity for quite the opposite. More so, I stand in awe of all God placed before her despite our parenting mistakes. I praise Him for giving her the wisdom to make good choices. As her parents, we hold on trusting God to finish the good works He started in her. (Phil 1:6)

As our graduate paused next to the college president, turned, and smiled at the camera, I released a long, slow sigh of relief as if letting go of the spiritual breath I held since her adolescence. The challenging seasons of preteen, teen, and college passed without irrational decisions, irresponsible behavior, or irreparable damage. The chick in the nest remained safe and ready to fly.

With college finished, for now at least, joy fills us for many reasons: her ministry focus; academic accomplishments; finishing college without debt. But what fills me most with joy is witnessing her growth in the Lord – both scholastic and spiritual.

Is she still strong willed, opinionated and stubborn? Yes! Imagine those traits, coupled with quick wit and a fearless nature all focused on the Lord and not the desires of this world. I fear for the opposition she will face, for her sake and theirs. Strong-willed individuals are famous for their relentlessness – a doubled edge sword for sure. Oh, the stories I could tell, but I won’t – not yet, anyway.

Marinna exudes confidence and self-assurance. However, my confidence in her arises not from her own, but from God. I hold on knowing God clasps my daughter in the palm of His hand. Wherever He takes her, whatever He calls her to do, whomever He calls her to be, He will equip her, supply her needs, and finish His great work in her. As long as she remains in the center of His will, peace settles in my heart.

Then, uncertainty disrupts the peace when my mind speaks louder than my heart. The mental conversation seems more like a ping pong match between the two. So many unsettled questions served up in one part of my mind end up answered by another. “What’s next? Will she be close, or far away? Will she immediately find vocational ministry, or remain in a secular job?” Then, “God knows. God’s got this. God’s got her.”  Letting go proves difficult, especially for the parents of an only child.

            Maybe you feel the same. Whether your child is graduating kindergarten, high school, or college, maybe you also wrestle with the uncertainty of the future even as you know, “God’s got this.” Or maybe a heavy heart weighs on you as our cunning enemy lures your child away from God. Are you burdened with guilt, questioning every parenting decision you ever made, wishing things for your child would turn out differently? Maybe even as a model parent, your child chose a path contrary to the Will of God leaving you standing by, stunned, and unsure of anything.

            Maybe you are the graduate and you are fighting the fear of an uncertain future.

            Read these words.

            Hold on.

            Do. Not. Give. Up.

Trust God no matter what. Hang on in faith and pray.

Please understand, I know those words are easier said than lived. God never promised our walk with Him would be easy. Our strength for the required endurance comes from Him.

While we are proud of our daughter, God is the hero of this story – not Marinna, and certainly not our parenting skills. [If only you knew!] Even just one wrong choice opens the door for a very different outcome. Sometimes someone else’s wrong choice impacts us and changes everything.

As parents, we desire the best for our children. We want to protect them.

We know the dangers of this world, potential pitfalls, and the active work of an enemy who wishes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). We see evidence of his destruction and evil every day. We pray – and we should, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

God holds the answers to all things, is everywhere, and can protect my daughter no matter what. Knowing this gives me peace and provides comfort when I am uncertain about what comes next.

I pray you find peace and comfort in that as well.

           “For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB)

 

(Editor’s Note: Thank you, President Terry Kimbrow, and the faculty and staff of Central Baptist College of Conway, AR, for our daughter’s quality Bible education.)

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

 


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Sometimes We Must Let Go to Hold On

My pulse increased. The whooshing in my ears deafening. My mind ran wild with
 jumbled details and I sensed the walls closing in. 

            Grr. Grr. Grr.

            Completely overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, I felt a full-blown meltdown brewing.

            To make matters worse, “spaghetti brain” surfaced. Spaghetti brain. That’s the term I use to describe the funky thing that happens in my head when so many thoughts are competing for my focus.

            Ugh.

            Do you ever feel this way?  As if you will drop all the spinning plates of responsibilities, chores, hobbies and other commitments?

            I easily become overwhelmed when I have too much on my plate. I am a “doer,” so I live by lists.  Lists help prioritize, categorize, delete, change, and realign my activities with the most important tasks at hand. Not to mention how great it feels when I mark something off my list.

            Not only that, but lists save brain power. Believe me, spaghetti brain can’t afford to waste brain power. Otherwise, the cranky side of me emerges amidst my panic. Trust me. No one wants to see my cranky side.

            Being a “doer”, I lean toward agreement words such as: yes, of course, absolutely, and no problem.  As the wife of a bi-vocational pastor, mother, full-time member of the daily work force, writer, and living on a small farm with livestock, there are far more tasks to do than time in which to do them.

            Sometimes even the weight of serving the Lord leaves us with a drowning Spirit gasping for air. Despite a doer’s eagerness to serve the Lord, when that service overwhelms and exhausts, doers often let go, step back, and in some cases, even leave the church in search of rest. Ironic, isn’t it? Those who find joy serving others in the Lord lose it from the same, giving the enemy more room to work his destruction.

            Satan’s clever, isn’t he? Little by little he claws away at us, even intertwined in our church activities, urging us to do more and more, all while he’s lurking in the shadows, plotting to destroy us, picking us apart one sliver at a time until everything comes crashing down around us.

            Hear me.

            Serving the Lord grows us spiritually along with quiet time spent with the Lord, Bible studies and prayer. We must serve, but we must serve as God and God alone calls us. We must learn to recognize His call, not the distraction of the enemy. We must remember Satan uses God’s own Words to deceive when it suits him.

            God’s relationship with each person is unique and personal. Trying to join the Lord in every area He’s working is beyond reality for any individual, so each believer must discern what role he or she must play. Leave God to knit each role together to serve His purpose.

            If you are a list-maker, make lists to help prioritize, categorize, delete, change, and realign your activities.

            Whatever you do, pray for God to guide your decisions. Pray over your lists – everything on them, the way they are prioritized and categorized. Pray about what needs to be removed from your activities. Pray, truthfully and earnestly before you commit to anything. Accept God’s permission to say, “No” to things that hinder His calling in your life. Accept God’s urging to “let go” of areas to which you cling for your own benefit. Let go of pride, hold on to His promises, and allow Him to realign your path. Let go of someone else’s opinion of where you should serve or what you should do and cling to God’s desires ahead of theirs and your own. Let go of past hurts, past failures, past sins and attitudes that grieve the Spirit.

            Let go and just trust Him, then hold on until He changes your direction.

            Please understand. Serving the Lord is often exhausting, difficult, frustrating, and in some cases life-threatening. God may call you to hold on and stand firm through the most tragic difficulties. At the same time, God may simply ask you, or a brother or sister in Christ to let go of one area of service only to be redirected to another for reasons unexplained.  Whatever the case may be, let go of anything, including attitudes, which threatens your grip on your own relationship with Jesus. Keep your focus on the path God placed ahead specifically for you. Remove your eyes from the path God set for another.

            Before you assume, no, I don’t “have it all together.”  Writing this feels a bit like “the pot calling the kettle black”, as my grandmother used to say. I too am reminded to remain focused on my own relationship with Jesus and the path He placed before me.

            I am reminded that sometimes we must let go just to hold on.

 

           
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” Proverbs 4:25
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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A Faith that Stands Firm Through Generations

While compiling historical information for a recent family reunion, I discovered countless fascinating stories of adventure, fear, tragedy, joy, loss and sorrow, faith and hope. Many of these stories reflect a firm faith in God – a hold weakened in present day America.

 For a moment, let’s journey back to the year 1815.

 A looming threat of famine compels many to leave their homeland for the chance at a better life in another country. A man and his family board a ship in Switzerland, bound for America. That man I know only as Mr. Little.

 During the six-week journey, the ship begins to take on water. In desperate effort to empty the hull faster than it fills, every man aboard sets to work at the pumps. All unnecessary cargo is thrown overboard. The situation is dire, so the captain prepares his passengers and crew for death.

Imagine the desperate prayers of those aboard that ship, praying for God to save them.

After two days and nights of constant effort leaves everyone exhausted, a hole in the hull is discovered. A ham of beef stuffed into the breach slows the flow of water. I imagine the trickling and seeping water is a welcomed sight compared to the pouring threat of impending death. While not free of danger, hope survives.

 And hope lands them in Baltimore, MD. Imagine their appearance, dirty, ragged and worn, as they depart the ship.  Perhaps that is why a “benevolent country man” feels compelled to provide a free meal to every passenger on that ship. What a welcomed gesture since many aboard would be indentured for years to pay the balance of their passage, including Little who is $60 short.

 Sometime after his indenture is complete, Little presses westward with his family to Washington County, PA.  Loading all their meager belongings onto a single covered wagon drawn by one horse – a borrowed horse – they set out to cross mountains and rugged forest terrain. In this primarily uninhabited country, the horse dies and leaves the family stranded.

 With no way to rescue themselves, they cry out to God for mercy.

 God answered their pleas. Once again, they are spared.

 In the middle of nowhere arrives a traveler who informs them of a settler living just six miles ahead. He offers to carry the baby, probably on horseback, as the Little family follows behind on the trail. Eventually the family arrives safely to a warm welcome from strangers.

Making a life in a new country – starting over from nothing – was hard, and trials appeared regularly and were often life-threatening in those days.

 Often a little perspective gives us the courage to hold on to our own faith during trying times. Sometimes that same perspective leaves us feeling a bit ashamed of what we consider a “trying time” in present day. I am spoiled to modern day life, in comparison. Without conscious effort, self-sufficiency can result in less dependence upon God, unlike our ancestors who had only God to depend upon.

God desires for us to be fully dependent on Him, not ourselves. We are not to worry, but to cast our cares upon Him. He desires for us to depend upon Him for everything, including the direction of our lives. We must trust Him for provisions, for the food we eat and the clothes we wear. (See Matthew 6:19-34) When we trust God in the “little” things, we are better prepared to hold firm when we are rattled and our faith is shaken to the core.

Before placing his family aboard a ship, and crossing the ocean to America, I imagine Mr. Little seeking God’s face in fervent prayer. There is no way to be certain – I don’t even know his first name – but at some point, my fourth great-grandfather passed his faith along to his children – one of whom is my third great-grandmother, Barbary Little Waggoner.

From a newspaper article published in 1899 following her death, it is reported that, “Mrs. Waggoner well remembered her father was not cast down by misfortune but exhorted his children to ‘thank God’ and ‘to be glad we have come to America where people are so good and kind.’”

Whether or not He came to America under God’s direction is hard to say, but it is easy to imagine Mr. Little as a man who held firm to his faith through so much hardship – enough for his daughter to affirm it and pass it to her own children.

“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” (Psalm 78:4, NIV)

 “…he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deed but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78:5-6, NIV)

May we be good and kind people – the kind of people who thank and praise God, hold firm to our faith, and pass that faith to our children.

The kind of faith that stands firm through generations.

 

            (Author’s note: Thanks to my cousin, Nancy Breeden Mitchell, for her extensive historical research of our family, and to my cousin, Dianne Chichlowski Johnson, for providing the specific story referenced above.)
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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How to Keep Your Life on Track

One week, an evil, hate-filled act claimed the lives of 17 people in a Florida school shooting. The next week, the great evangelist Rev. Billy Graham died at age 99.

One heart filled with deeds of evil.

One heart filled with goodness and love.

 Such contrast prompted me to consider the hearts of those of us living somewhere between the hardened heart of someone like the school shooter and the heart of a man like Rev. Graham.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Everything flows from the heart.

Words.

Attitude.

Action.

Reaction.

Ponder this. What emotion did you feel when you first learned of the Parkland, Florida shooting?  Shock? Anger? Sadness? Nothing? Maybe you just shook your head and thought, “Again?”

I am not asking this of those directly impacted, or in the peripheral of such tragedies, but those of us well removed watching or reading from the safety of our homes and businesses. What did you first feel? Was it different the first time you learned of a school shooting?

I am ashamed of my answer, and disturbed that I’m not alone.

I just shook my head, and thought, “Again?”

Have I allowed my heart to become somewhat calloused from the commonplace of these events?  I wasn’t glued to the television eager for the latest reports like the first time. Have I allowed myself to become desensitized and disconnected? What about you?

The thought alarms me.

Guard the heart, above all else.

“The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world.” – Rev. Billy Graham, 1918-2018

Did you know the word “heart” appears 830 times in 762 verses in the KJV Bible? God repeatedly addresses the condition of the heart.

The hatred of all that is good destroys life – physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.

Love gives life, joy, peace, hope and so much more.

Evil takes. Goodness gives. This is not a new revelation.

The issues of life, everything regarding the issues of life, flow from the heart.

Simplified problem: Anything less than a pure heart needs healing.

Simplified answer: Jesus.

Yes, the problems and answers are more complex, but draw a straight line through it all and the attitude of the heart rests at the core. The heart drives our words, actions, and reactions. From sensitive and pliable, to hard and calloused, the heart influences our decisions. Since the only heart we can truly know is our own, it is our responsibility to guard it with all the power of Heaven.

We should not guard against feeling heartache. We must guard against losing the ability of the heart to ache. To do that, we must remember this:

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)

When we love God in this way, the condition of our heart in all other areas of our lives falls into place.  When we focus on our relationship with Jesus, we protect our heart’s capacity to love others the way God loves us, even when others may not be so lovable. After all, aren’t we unlovable at times, and yet God still loves us?

I think back to the contrast between those two news stories—the Parkland shooting and Rev. Graham’s death, and I believe we all should want to finish the race of life as Rev. Graham did. I know I do. One of the striking aspects of his life is how he diligently guarded his heart. Christianity Today recently wrote about “The Billy Graham Rules.” There is no coincidence that a thoroughly protected soul produced a remarkable godly life.

Maybe you’re a preacher or teacher of the gospel, but the daily tasks of ministering to those lukewarm in their faith is eroding the joy in your heart. Maybe a painful situation has left you bitter and defensive. Maybe you’ve never noticed the numbness creeping in and stealing the compassion you once felt, until now.  Whatever your situation, surrender everything in your heart to the Lord. He alone heals the hurt, removes walls of bitterness, enables forgiveness, and instills the capacity to love the way He loves – even as we face the evils of this world.

They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up to your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:18-25, NIV)

Possessing knowledge, behaving honorably, living well, and being charitable is nothing if we do not love God first, and others second.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1Cor. 13:2-3, NIV)

Living in the world is painful, but without pain, we cannot know love. Without love, we are nothing and we have nothing.

Guard your heart above all else, to do so will keep your life on track, for a pure heart is everything to Christ Jesus.

Oh, to have a heart like His…
 
 
 
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 

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Lean In & Hold On

Despite the fullness in my stomach from a huge Christmas dinner, the aroma of buttered popcorn enticed me the second I opened the door to the theater. Deciding on drinks only, my family and I navigated the congested lobby in search of a place to wait for the movie we selected.

We arrived an hour early hoping to secure our favorite seats for an exhilarating 3D experience, so I searched for a place to sit until time for tickets to be collected.

To my surprise, I spotted a cushioned bench with just one occupant near the ticket receiving area. I smiled and sat down beside a woman with a walker – the kind my dad uses, with sturdy wheels and a built-in seat. Having already exchanged a friendly greeting outside as we sought to escape the penetrating cold, I leaned toward her and asked, “Have you had a great Christmas?”

She turned my way and said, “I believe this has been the best Christmas I have everhad.” I knew she meant it.
 “That’s awesome,” I said, noticing the covering on her head as she continued.

 “I’ve been really sick, but have been so blessed to have my sister living with me.”

 Leaning toward her again, I asked, “Chemo?”

 She nodded. “And radiation.” Sitting a bit taller, she proclaimed the completion of her tenth round of treatment.

 “I’m sorry you’ve had to endure so much,” I said. She nodded.

Then a boy about twelve years old approached, leaned over and wrapped his arms around the woman’s neck. He hugged her tight, rested his head on her
“My nephew. Such a good boy,” she said tilting her head toward him and patting his arms. My heart melted watching the warm exchange.

We introduced ourselves.

I sensed peace in Darlene as she openly shared her struggle. At first it was lung cancer, stage four, discovered when she couldn’t shake flu-like symptoms. Then, sometime after her treatments began, Darlene’s sister discovered her in the kitchen late one night, confused and saying things that made no sense. This time it was brain cancer.

I concluded her illness, not age, created the need for the walker. She was mature, but not elderly.

I listened, and marveled at the sweet spirit radiating from Darlene. Not an ounce of anger or bitterness. Not an ounce of self-pity. Not an ounce of fear. I sensed only wisdom, joy and contentment. And peace.

I leaned closer this time, shoulder to shoulder as if we were old friends, and said, “I’m sure you’ve had lots of people praying for you.” 

 “Oh, yes. The prayers of so many are the only reason I’ve been able to get through this. I am so blessed. God placed my sister in my house for a reason. To be there for me.”

I asked if she had a church family to surround her, but I knew before she answered.

Then I said, “May I ask where you go?”

Receiving her answer, I smiled. Not only do I know the location of her church, we have a mutual acquaintance who also attends. The idea of keeping up with Darlene’s progress filled my heart and settled well within my soul.

When the time came for Darlene to submit her movie ticket, I assured her my church and I would be praying for her. She thanked me, and switched her attention to the family surrounding her.

 As I watched Darlene part the crowd with her walker, I considered so many things.

 She blessed me by sharing her story, because her focus was not on her struggles but on her Savior. Peace. Confidence. Trust. Faith. She wins the fight no matter what the outcome because she knows where she is going. “It’s in God’s hands,” she said, “and it is His decision.”

 Complete surrender.

 Wow. I mean, WOW.

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)

Maybe you are fighting for your life, or walking this road with a loved one. Maybe anger consumes you because your diagnosis feels unfair. Maybe you don’t understand why you’re not responding to treatments, unlike others. Maybe the opposite is true. Maybe you wonder if God even hears your pleas. Perhaps your struggle is with something completely different, but you desire the peace Darlene carries.

Whatever your situation, I encourage you to allow your weakest moments to be a showcase of God’s incredible strength. Lean into Him. Lean in and hold on.

As God’s strength emanated from Darlene that day, I witnessed the “peace that transcends all understanding.” No wonder I kept leaning toward her.

His very presence, through her, drew me there.

 

(UPDATE: Please pray for Darlene. I understand she entered the hospital with pneumonia earlier this week. Thank you.)
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 

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Why Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Discussing Christmas traditions with an excited group of children, a young boy’s smile faded as he told me he couldn’t spend Christmas with his daddy. I inquired further, expecting the boy to cite divorce or death as a reason. My mind began forming words to encourage the boy.

“He’s in jail,” he said.

I stammered slightly, unsure how to respond to this revelation.

Quietly, I replied, “You know, no matter what circumstance caused your daddy to be in jail, there is nothing God won’t forgive unless a person doesn’t ever accept Jesus.”

As we created Christmas decorations together, I reminded those gathered around the table “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Then I explained what the phrase means and why.

When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the depth of God’s love for humanity. God loves us so much “… He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16 NIV]

Jesus. His name is not just the “name above all names.” He is the King of Kings. The Lord of Lords. The Prince of Peace. The Messiah. The Savior of the World. His birth isChristmas. The first step on earth toward salvation for man.

Joy to the World!

Like this young boy, the blows of life threaten to chase away our joy. We know for many holidays magnify an endless list of struggles: the loss of loved ones; broken relationships; failing marriages; addiction; mental illness or physical health issues; financial worries; bitterness and anger; depression; unconfessed sin, and more. Even the volume of possible struggles is heartbreaking.

Christian joy is not a happiness based on how well things are going in our life. Perhaps the best description is an inner peace planted deep within the soul based on our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The more we know Jesus, the more joy we experience – even in the heat of suffering.

Notice I did not say the more we know about Jesus. We may learn all there is to know about Jesus and still not have a relationship with him.

Since God desires a close and personal relationship with us, the trials and sufferings we face in this world should cause us to long for our Heavenly home. There is only one way to Heaven.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” [John 14:6 NIV]

THE way.

THE truth.

THE life.

THE Father.

Singular. There is no other way to the One and Only Father except through His One and Only Son.

Jesus was born to die on the cross as the atonement for all our sins – past, present and future. Yours and mine. Not one of us is sinless.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23 NIV]

Our punishment for that sin is eternal separation from God – much worse than jail – but God gave us a precious gift to restore us to Him.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 6:23 NIV]

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8 NIV]

Therefore, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate God’s love and the gift of salvation. It is free to us, but not without cost. Jesus paid the price for us on the cross, and it is available to all who will accept it, just as we are. His blood washes us clean. We cannot do that on our own.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” [Romans 10:9-10 NIV]

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Romans 10:13 NIV]

Without this birth, there would be no Jesus. No cross. No resurrection. No salvation. No hope. No peace. No joy. No reason for Christmas.

“Jesus is the reason for the season.” It is not just a catchy phrase, or some singsong slogan.

It is truth.

Maybe you already have a deep, personal relationship with Jesus, but the hustle and bustle of holiday activities threatens to steal your joy. Maybe someone you love, like this young boy’s father, is in prison. Maybe you feel shackled and weighted by something you are trying to carry alone. Maybe your soul has been crying for hope, peace and joy.

I pray whatever your circumstance, you have accepted or will accept the best gift to all humanity: Jesus

I pray you will surrender your heart, your burdens, and your will to Him. Among all gifts, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is the best gift we will ever receive, and the best gift we will ever share with others.

Share Him freely, and often.

After all, He is the reason we celebrate this season.

Merry Christmas.  
 
 
 
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

 


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In My Momma’s Tote

I caught a whiff of mustiness as I opened the lid of the clear, plastic tote and starred at the brittle, yellow pages packed within. Years of my mother’s writing and research reduced to a single tote of loose papers, notebooks, newspaper clippings, and pages torn from magazines.

My mother possessed an insatiable appetite for the knowledge of end-time events and prophecies. As a teenager, I considered her quest for information an embarrassing obsession. She talked about it constantly – to anybody, including my high school friends. My desire to understand was sub-zero.

Then I grew up.

Yes, physically, but spiritually as well. I get it. I mean, I’m no scholar of eschatology, but I understand Mom’s search for answers. She needed to recognize the signs – for her eyes to be eyes that see. She needed to feel prepared, and to do that she needed knowledge.

Mom always intended to turn her research into a book. Before her physical body gave out, I sensed her hope that I might complete the task. I knew otherwise. Mom’s research, much like the focus of the world, fixated on the physical signs – economical shifts, world politics, environmental disasters, etc.  Yes, the alignment of certain events are important signs pointing toward the second coming of Christ, but what will His second coming mean to us personally if we are found asleep spiritually, lukewarm and dispassionate about our faith? What if we spend all our time preparing for a physical disaster and neglect the one thing that really matters – our spiritual preparedness.

Please don’t misunderstand. Preparing for a physical disaster exercises wisdom, but we need to prepare spiritually for the times we must fight to remain faithful when spiritual disasters knock us to our knees.

What is a spiritual disaster?

In the book “Spiritual Prepper,” author Jake McCandless defines a spiritual disaster as “an event that occurs in the life of a follower of Christ that challenges his or her faith and the practice of it.”[1] He goes on to say, “Just as physical disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and war have the potential of destroying our physical life, a spiritual disaster has the potential to wreck our faith and our practice of it.”[2]

Surely, a gun to my head demanding I denounce Christ qualifies as a spiritual disaster. But what about the things of everyday life? Divorce? Property loss or financial ruin? Job loss? Death of a loved one? Abuse? Illness? Betrayal? College? Peer pressure?

Maybe you fear failure if you are blindsided by a spiritual disaster. Maybe your current struggle leaves you with more questions than answers. Maybe a previous challenge strengthened you and you feel nudged to share your testimony.

Praise the Lord for those who share their stories! I gain strength and encouragement in the faith walk of others, do you?  Just like those in

Hebrews, Ch.11 – often referred to as the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah to name just the first few.

“13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” – Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)

Did you catch that?

We must stay focused, unwavering, holding on to our faith for that “better country – [our] heavenly one.” The one God himself prepared for us.

Yes, God strengthens, comforts, and encourages us, but we often need the witness of others who can testify first hand of the Lord’s touch during their own struggles. I look forward to sharing many of those stories, and a few of my own, in this space. I pray you will be blessed as you read them in subsequent posts.

Mom had plenty of stories, and shared them with anyone who would listen. She spent a majority of her last 20 years fighting health issue after health issue before passing at age 66. She didn’t turn from her faith when she fought cancer. She held firm when she lost an infant grandson. She gracefully accepted her circumstances when her body weakened and confined to a bed.

Biblically, we did not always agree. Her focus on physical signs, the tribulation period, and the method of Christ’s return created some interesting, room-clearing conversations. She stood firm on her faith. I am grateful Momma spiritually prepped, and provided spiritual roots for my siblings and me.

Closing the lid to the old tote, I secured it for safekeeping. Although I do not see any attempts in the future to finish her research, or write the book she always dreamed of publishing, I imagine Mom smiling at the irony.  Her eye-rolling, audible-sighing then teenage daughter is now mature, embraces end-time discussions without running from the room, and writes for a ministry called

Prophecy Simplified.

Who saw that coming?

Oh, yeah.

God.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

 

 

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

 


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