Journaling is Relational

Photo by Elijah M. Hendersonon Unsplash

Photo by Elijah M. Hendersonon Unsplash

Psalm 118:28

You are my god, and I will give thanks to you, you are my god, I will extol you.

“As the summer months wind down and a new season begins, thank God for all He did in this most recent season. Thank Him for the new opportunities that He is providing in this next season of life.”

Journaling is Relational - Journaling deepens our relationship with God

As I journal this month, I want to make sure to give my God all the praise, glory and honor that He deserves. The psalms remind me to do that.  I know that God does not need my praise, but I need to praise Him. Through stating his Truth as his word says, the Holy Spirit draws me closer to him.   I am reminded of his sacrifice for me, how he has mercy on me, and how he has wiped away my sins. I am reminded of his willingness to come live among us to have relationship with us—with me.   

We cannot live without honest relationships. Journaling helps me humbly reveal my heart and soul to God. I look back at the summer months and see all the times he has helped me with personal problems.  He provided people in my life to give me godly wisdom. His word brings me joy and promise for all life’s messy issues. Through his example of sharing his life with us, we gain resources from other Christians with whom we share our life. The gift of community is modeled for us in Acts, and gives us the opportunity to help meet needs, form friendships, find joy and pray for each other as we serve our mission together.

As I look forward to my favorite of seasons, Fall, I look forward to what God has in store for me and those I love and join in service.

Mozambique: With God All Things Are Possible

In January 2012 a group of people gathered to “brainstorm” and dream of what God could and would do in Mozambique.  The country where STM”s (Short Term Mission trips) traveled each year.  Where the people were hungry to hear of the love of Jesus Christ and not only hear about the love but see it in action in many ways, through agricultural fields, through fresh clean water being brought into the villages, with teachings from those who went on the STM’s, and eyeglasses being given to many in the villages and in so many other ways  the love of Christ was shared.  It was in that meeting the first vision for a church building to be built and pastored by a Mozambican pastor was discussed and we all knew that God would do just that in His time!

In February 2016 WOW hosted a fund raiser in order to raise money to help build a church in the Gaza Region of Mozambique.  Not really knowing, when, where or how but as always trusting God to take the funds and use it for His glory!

In 2017 a crusade was held in Macalawane and Pastor Benedito and his wife Lucia started pastoring the church directly afterwards.  They met in a tent in the village for several months and in 2018 construction on a church building was started.  An answer to the prayers of so many in Mozambique and the people here at The Chapel.

Last month my husband Ray and I were blessed to be a part of the dedication of the very church building (See photo) that was dreamt of back in 2012!  What a blessing to be a part… the fund raising and then the dedication of not just the building but to see the “church”, the people who are now attending and growing in the Lord.  What a wonderful, joyful time of celebration it was that Sunday, June 16, 2019!  The people from the village packed the inside (See photo) and stood outside to hear and see this joyful dedication of this beautiful building.  Oh, praise the Lord!

A few days later, I had a special time with 21 ladies from the village. I shared a craft that WOW sister Heidi Hohlbaugh had created. She had given me the materials so they could make bookmarks and WOW supplied journals for all 21 of them.  When I arrived, they stood up and performed the OHIO hand cheer for me! I loved it!  (See photo).  After they each made four bookmarks, (See photo) I -- on behalf of WOW --  purchased three of them. I wish I had pictures of their faces and big smiles!  They were ecstatic and thankful for the 100 Meticals (equal to $1.61 US). They hugged me and thanked me. My heart was overflowing with joy and my eyes with tears.

We also had the opportunity to see the agricultural fields that are still flourishing (See photo).  Not only the tomato fields but also the banana fields that are bringing income to the families.  We visited 3 of the fields and all were a beautiful sight!  Did you know that WOW’s first purse party not only helped establish these ag fields, but also helped establish a sewing microenterprise? WOW later supplied sewing machines and training for the women in Chaimite. One evening after dark I walked over to the building where the sewing machines are housed.  Sweet Maria was there still sewing dresses (See photo) and doing mending for others, using the skills she learned long ago as a source of income for her family.

The last Sunday we attended a church in the middle of a very poor section of Maputo, the capital.  It was a small plot in the middle of the neighborhood with a blue tarp stretched over the chairs to keep us cool while we sang and danced with the small congregation. Oh, the joy of the Lord!  At the close of the four-hour service (yes, I said four hours) the congregation was invited to come forward if they wanted prayer.  Prayer that they would be bold with their family, friends, neighbors and share the love of Christ.  What a blessing to pray for these brothers and sisters.

Will you also pray for the Mozambican believers?  Pray that these dear sisters and brothers will continue to have courage and great faith in sharing Christ.  That the church in Macalawane will grow not only in numbers but in faith and that all believers in Mozambique will be a light in a spiritually dark country.

In Him and In Love,
Linda Thompson

 

 

Superhero City!

In May of this year, WOW sister Lisa Marshall authored a post called “Animal Crackers and Fruit Punch.” The article not only recounted her own childhood experience with Vacation Bible School (VBS), but also detailed the plans for Superhero City: Unleashing Your Amazing! Superhero City was a VBS for elementary-aged children in inner city Akron. We are excited to update you about all of the amazing events that have occurred before, during and after the VBS, which was planned, written and executed by staff and lay people from The Chapel Akron. WOW had the distinct privilege of supporting VBS Carnival events, along with Camp Learn-a-Lot, an annual summer outreach camp that The Chapel hosts at Leggett Learning Center.

More than 100 families attended our VBS Carnival events, which were held at four elementary learning centers that encompass The Chapel. The only attendance exception was Mason due to monsoon-level rainfall! We still had a decent turnout for that carnival despite the weather.  As a result of those carnivals, 25 students came to VBS from June 10-13, with their parents bringing them!  Moreover, four students accepted Jesus Christ as Savior of their lives!  

Following Superhero City, Lisa and her Urban Outreach team from The Chapel held Camp Learn-a-Lot at Leggett Learning Center. The camp ran for four weeks beginning on June 17, and a record number of campers! In fact, during the first 3 weeks more than 50 students attended the camp.  Eleven children accepted Christ as their Savior during those camp weeks, and Lisa describes this year as the best summer all the way around in Camp Learn-a-Lot’s eight-year history! 

The WOW sisterhood was blessed to sponsor the VBS carnivals, as well as the Slip N Slide, Akron Zoo, Lego Lady, and the ice cream truck at Camp Learn-A-Lot.  Lisa said she had one student tell her on the last day, "Thank you for making us feel special.” And isn’t that what it’s all about? We are blessed to be a blessing and share the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. WOW praises God and lifts up prayers of thanksgiving for the many friends who have made our ministry support possible!


 




Recalling the Past to Fortify Our Future

"Journaling is strengthening...We can observe our own spiritual growth through our journals."

During my years of journaling, I have gone through lavish writing to the Lord to times that are sprinkled with days to months of inactivity! It's hard to admit or even understand my times of drought.  Nothing in particular can be its cause--just busyness, laziness.  Then I feel the Lord is disappointed with me and I let it go on even longer letting my thoughts get control.  But I am reminded of Scripture where Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

Taking every thought captive...even in journaling I can practice this lesson.  It's not that I am being disobedient at all, but I am not getting the fullness of what God wants to give me through my time with him in writing.

Recently, I learned a great lesson from my beautiful friend and WOW sister, Gini Thompson.  I was explaining my recent lack of writing and how it not only disappointed me but I felt it disappointed the Lord.  Gini explained that if she has times like that she has learned to look back and read through her journaling and she sees all God has done for her.  If I've asked him to take something away from me, I don't even recall it until I go back and read that I asked for it. Rereading my journal is amazing and astonishing. My mind does forget all the many things he does for me and all that he has provided for me.  God clearly just says "start again!" 

In my confessing and praise and praying out to him in journaling...I've learned that he wants something more for me, not from me. As I reread my journals, I feel the Holy Spirit strengthen me and encourage me to continue.  He delights my heart!

We can review all we've asked him for and see his divine providence at work.  It reminds us to put our focus on Him rather than things that distract us or pull us away.  I have read all the many times he has given me grace and mercy over and over...and it builds me up and I know that Jesus is mine forever! Journaling helps me to take my daily thoughts captive and make Christ the theme.  My spiritual growth shows through journaling, and it indeed strengthens my faith and love for Jesus!

So, if you happen to fall into a lapse in journaling--pull up some old pages and read them--let the Holy Spirit strengthen you and start again!

-- Lorraine Pruitt © June 2019

An Occasion to Remember

Photo credit: Unsplash - Kevin Lanceplaine

Photo credit: Unsplash - Kevin Lanceplaine

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:21b-24

As stones were to the Israelites, the flag and other national symbols can serve as reminders to us of our Father’s provision and protection. And just as the Lord instructed the Israelites to teach their children and pass down the truth of God’s actions and word, we need to remember, as well.  For, as God provided pathways for the Israelites, He continues to provide for us as Americans, as well as people all over the world. On this Independence Day 2019, let’s follow the Israelites’ charge. Let’s pass along the story of God’s guidance and provision to Americans – nationwide and in our individual homes.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on!

WOW-Women for Oppressed Women © July 2019

Submitting to a Soul Search

Is it weird to be known better by someone else than you know yourself?

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Part of the journal prompt for June reminds us that “we can unpack difficult scripture passages by recording and observing in our journals.”  My initial perception of “difficult scriptures” would be those that seem hard to understand or “above my head.”  I’m happy to think about how I can break down parts of a scripture by writing it down, doing some research, asking the Holy Spirit for insight and then journaling through all of that in my effort to understand it.

However, when I look at Psalm 139, I do not personally see anything that is “hard to understand” no matter how I slice it.  The difficulty of this chapter for me at times is that I DO understand what it means, but I DON’T always like it.  WOW’s June journal prompt reminds me that God knows me better than I know myself.  This realization can prompt me to sit before Him asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any grievous ways so that I can confess them in writing and allow God to forgive me and lead me in the way everlasting.  This is all good…except when I don’t want to think about how I’m grieving the Holy Spirit and I panic a little knowing that I can’t get away from Him. 

This reminds me of a trip my husband and I took to Hawaii for our 30th Anniversary several years ago.  I have a sweet friend who’s lived there for most of her life who allowed us to stay on her beachfront property on the North Shore of Oahu for a week… literally a few feet from the ocean.  Sounds amazing, right?  It really was; however, for the first two nights, I struggled to sleep.  The incessant sound of the waves was overwhelming, and they NEVER stopped.  No ear plugs or stack of pillows over my head let me escape the reality of the waves, and it was a little rough for a few days.  By the third night, my brain decided it was OK to sleep by the ocean, and by the end of the week, I LOVED it.

This is how I can be with the knowledge that I get from Psalm 139. The passage explains that there’s never been a moment since before I was conceived (Nope… I don’t remember that) that God was not fully aware of everything about me.  It goes on to tell me that there is NOWHERE I can go to avoid His Spirit.  I’m an open book to Him!  A further look at the Holy Spirit helps me to understand that He illuminates God’s Word, truth and glory. 

Whenever I sin or even try to close my eyes to this light (like I did when trying to shut out the sound of the waves), it grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, Acts 7:51).  The Holy Spirit serves and speaks what He hears from the Father (John 16).  He’s my direct connection to God that is always there.  I have to be honest and say that at first glance, this is just a little irritating to me, because I want certain things to just be my business.  But, as I learn more of God’s Love and unbelievable Eternal plan that includes me… even though He does know EVERYTHING about me... I actually end up LOVING this whole concept (just like I eventually loved the “incessant” sound of the waves).

When I surrender to the knowledge that He knows me better than I know myself and is ALWAYS there, and then I think about the POWER that I have because of that, I can honestly agree with the Psalmist. He actually seems giddy in 139:6 when he says, “… it’s too wonderful --  I can’t take it in.” (The Message).  Only then can I really go into the confession part of Psalm 139 in verses 23-24 with a better attitude instead of with a chip on my shoulder. 

“Search me O God and know my heart.  Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”   Psalm 139: 23-24 

I really do want to be led into the way everlasting with my grievous ways cleared up – don’t you?  So bravely journal about this scripture and see what the Spirit shows you!

 

--  Shelly Mountjoy © May 2019

Heart and Home

Photo by  Arthur Poulin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Arthur Poulin on Unsplash

I recently traveled through Greece following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. His missionary journeys changed the world as he proclaimed God’s grace through the gospel to the Gentiles. Walking among the ruins of ancient history gave me a small glimpse into these difficult journeys of hardship, suffering, and sacrifice. Scripture came alive at archaeological sites where Paul once ministered.


It was in Philippi near a river that the story of Lydia stirred up my faith in new and tangible ways. Lydia was a businesswoman, a dealer in purple cloth, and most likely wealthy. She was a worshipper of God and a woman of prayer. As she listened to Paul, “the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying” (Acts 16:14) . This was indeed a divine appointment! The Holy Spirit of God intervened to reroute Paul and ensure that Lydia would be in just the right place to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Lydia received this life-giving message making her the first convert to Christianity in Europe. Soon after being baptized she said to Paul and Silas, “come and stay at my home” and the church was birthed.


The book, Gospel Patrons, by John Rinehart characterizes Lydia as a patron of the gospel. The author states, “When God raises up people to proclaim the gospel he also raises up patrons to support them. They have different gifts and different roles, but are partners in the same mission.” Lydia was a woman of influence who used her wealth and talents to advance the message of Jesus and consequently is remembered for her contribution to Paul’s ministry. Standing by that quiet river in Philippi I was reminded that God is looking for women of influence in this day and generation. How can I use my resources -home, money, and talents to draw people to the Savior?

Kathie Brown © April 2019

Animal Crackers and Fruit Punch

My first recollections of Vacation Bible School are not the songs or the stories but the food---animal crackers and fruit punch.  Now before you think I was only there for the food, let me explain.  I have learned from many years of teaching children the Bible that what they remember most is what they experienced.  When I went to VBS I remember coming together with a group of children and experiencing fellowship.  Fellowship with others who learn and believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world!  And we ate animal crackers and drank fruit punch, too. 

Super City Hero logo B 20190501.png

This summer at The Chapel we are introducing a Community Vacation Bible School that will create a fellowship experience for children from the four local schools that The Chapel adopted —Leggett, McEbright, Glover and Mason.  Superhero City:  Unleash your Amazing! will help children learn that the world decides what their identity should be, but God has a plan to rescue us and give us an eternal identity through His Son Jesus.

Many of the children who will be attending have not grown up in church and/or do not know that Jesus loves them.  When they come to The Chapel on June 10-13th they will experience God’s love for them and will be surrounded by people who believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins.  For many, this will be the first time hearing this proclamation and I encourage you to pray for these young ones that they may respond to the gospel.  There will be activities and games, music and fun skits and of course there will be snacks.  All of these things create an experience that they will never forget. 

Photo by  Yannis A  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yannis A on Unsplash

Romans 10:17 teaches that “faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ,” and The Chapel is excited to proclaim this message of hope to these children.  Will you pray that Holy Spirit will fill the church body as they use their gifts and talents for God’s kingdom?  Pray too that the Holy Spirit will speak to these children and that they will respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ and share this same message with their families and neighborhood.  

God can use animal crackers and fruit punch to change a child because He did that with me.  As I got older I participated in communion for the first time and remembered that time at VBS when we ate this snack.  Those cookies and punch were my first introduction to the body and blood of Christ and what HE did for me on the cross.  That is the kind of experience we want to see happen for these children, too.

 

Lisa Marshall © April 2019

 

 

Halleluiah! What a Savior!

Photo by  Steve Halama  on  Unsplash

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

I recently read The Hiding Place, an amazing retelling by Corrie Ten Boom of her heroic actions in hiding and rescuing many Jews in Holland during World War II, and her brutal time spent in a Nazi concentration camp because of it.  I marveled at the faith of Corrie and her sister Betsie, as they withstood the most horrific conditions with little more than one flimsy outfit and some smuggled pages of the New Testament.  Their faith in Jesus was unshakable.

Yet even in her amazing faith and courage, Corrie was still human.  At one point in the story, when they were suffering perhaps the most in the dead of winter, Corrie tells of her discovery that if she maneuvered her way toward the middle of the roll-call formation where they sometimes stood for hours before the guards, she would have a little more protection from the brutal wind.  Corrie admits this was self-centered, as it meant that someone else had to stand on the edge and be subjected to greater cold than she.  Another time, Corrie recounts that new prisoners arrived without a blanket and her sister insisted that they give up theirs to share.  Yet, Corrie was only willing to “lend” her blanket, insisting on holding onto it in her heart.

Even Corrie Ten Boom, like you and me, wrestled with the selfishness of her own human heart.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)  Every one of us.  We need a rescuer.  A redeemer.  A Savior.

Who can rescue us from the depth of our sin and the selfishness of our own hearts?  This Easter we celebrate the fact that only ONE can and has:  Jesus.  The Word says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5: 8)  Jesus willingly laid his life down for all of us.  The greatest act of selflessness, for you and for me.  Jesus said:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)     

And as if complete forgiveness of our sins wasn’t enough, he offers us even more:  His JOY.  Jesus promises that for every believer who abides in his love and obeys his commands, His joy will be in us and our joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11) 

In the context of the horrific conditions Corrie Ten Boom endured, just hoping to survive each day, her confessions of selfishness admittedly seem small.  However, her hidden selfishness was affecting her joy.  Finally, Corrie had this epiphany:       

The truth blazed like sunlight in the shadows of Barracks 28.  The real sin I had been committing was not that of inching toward the center of a platoon because I was cold.  The real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me.  Of course it was not my wholeness, but Christ’s that made the difference. (The Hiding Place, 35th Anniv. Ed., p. 225, emphasis added)

Once Corrie Ten Boom reminded herself that she had no power to help herself or transform her circumstances—that the power of Christ was all sufficient in her weakness—all of her joy returned. This Easter, let’s lay down our selfishness and tendency to depend on ourselves.  Let’s freely embrace the complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ who willingly laid down his life for us so that we may have eternal life.  Let’s walk in the complete joy and victory he freely gave for us!

Halleluiah!  What a Savior!

-- Ashley Manfull © April 2019

 

 

Capture Our Feelings and Replace with God's Truth...

Psalm 32:5
”Then I confessed my sins to you, I did not conceal my wrong doings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins.”
Photo by Aaron Burden on  Unsplash.com

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.com

Confessing my sins in prayer to the Lord has never been difficult for me.  But trusting the Lord in his word about my sin has been another issue.  Psalm 32:5 says the Lord "forgave all my sins" as my heart cried out in confession.  Then it is done. Finished. They do not need to be confessed again.  But here, Lord, my weakness is revealed, as I journal my feelings.

When I first made Jesus my Lord, I had a habit of dredging up old sins and stewing on them.  I confessed the same past sins over and over.  It was hard to let them go. However, as I continued to read God's word, I heard him over and over impress upon me that I was wrong to hold onto them.

There are many scripture verses to tell me how the Lord deals with my sin. 

  • "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12) 

  • “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!” (Psalm 25:7)

  • “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) 

  • “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25-26)

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

In my humanness, it was difficult to understand how God could remember my sins no more – indeed, blot them out! I felt incapable of doing this. But this thought process revealed more about my faith and ability to forgive sin than my Lord’s.  Did I harbor bitterness or hold a grudge in my forgiveness to others? What does this say about me? Did I really trust the Lord in his word? 

In His infinite capacity for grace and mercy, his word tells me the truth of all I need to know -- my confessed sins are not remembered by my Lord!  I needed to trust his word completely.  It has been a journey in my growing relationship with the Lord to trust and love his word.  To internalize his word is far different from acknowledging it. It has been a process for me. But the Lord is long suffering and I have grown to depend on his word in all aspects of my life.

When I confess my sins, I know there are consequences, but I feel his grace and mercy,  compassion, steadfast love, complete forgiveness.  A burden lifted! I can model his forgiveness of me as I deal with others. No bitterness, no grudges.  And yet, still every once in a while, something from my past rears its head. At those moments, I stand ready to submit my heart and mind to recall those verses of love and forgiveness.  He is always faithful to forgive.

-- Lorraine Pruitt © March 2019