little leaque challenge effort today results in rewaards in future

Effort and Attitude | Spiritual Meditations

A Little League Challenge

At the beginning of this last baseball season, I told my players I was looking for improvements in effort and attitude as the season went along and not results. The results, I promised them, would not be there this season, but would show up in the far distant future if they kept putting in the work and having the right attitude.

Most of the kids accepted this and, with course corrections along the way, really took to heart the challenge of playing in this setting. Most of our players were 8 year olds playing against teams comprised of mostly 10 year olds.

It is the spiritual application of a ‘todays effort = a future reward’ attitude that I want to share with you today.’

A Little League Challenge Applied to Life

This morning I had a conversation with a man who has begun the process of turning his life around. I’ve known him for a few years and we talk every so often (it’s getting more frequent). He has intentionally set himself on a path that will eventually lead to great things – restoration of his lifestyle and independence, the possibility of forming relationships with others, and even potentially a rewarding career one day.

However, none of this has happened yet. In fact, what he wanted to talk to me about today was that he feels like his life has gotten WORSE since he started making an effort. There were more demands on his money (which is severely limited), more demands on his time (which is less free than it used to be), and more demands on his character (which increases the more he goes out into the world).

I assured him that this is all perfectly normal for what he’s going through. We have to work hard and put in the effort for a long period of time before we see the results.

God’s rewards

  • God does something, forms something in us along the way, as we walk closely with Him and others who share Christ’s name.
  • God does something in us as we focus on developing Christ like virtues and values in our lives.
  • God does something in our lives as we put our heart and soul into our work and relationships.

These are all seeds that have been planted, but must be watered and be allowed to see the light of day before they will be able to grow and bear fruit in us.

Delayed Gratification…hmmm

As human beings, we don’t do very well with delayed gratification. We want what we do today to bear results today (or maybe tomorrow at the latest).

  • Yet in most situations, the best we can hope for is a pay check every two weeks showing us some marginal return on our effort.
  • In the best situation, the most we can hope for is a phone call two weekends a month from friends wanting to get together during free time.
  • In the best situation, most of us get new cars every 6.7 years or longer, according to the US census.

These things take time and cultivation.

  • If we stop working today, we get more time, but in three weeks we will really feel it.
  • If we stop cultivating relationships with others, we might not feel lonely for a week or two, but after a month we will notice.
  • We might enjoy spending all of our money today on fun things, but in 8 years, when our car dies on the side of the road, we’ll feel it.

Our Walk with God is the Same.

We might not notice if we stop praying today or reading our scriptures today or worshipping this week, or serving others this month. But in the long run, we will notice.  And it will make a difference in our lives and in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We might be able to get away with not focusing on cultivating the virtues and values of Christ in our lives today.  But several years from now these virtues and values will be like fruit withered on the tree.  When called upon or needed they will be rotten instead of ripe.

And that’s what this season taught our players (most of them), We can get away with not working today, but by the end of next season and in five years, our lack of effort will show up.

Conclusion

We can get away with not focusing on following Christ today.  We might even have more free time if we don’t focus on following Christ.  But in five days, or weeks, or months, or years, where will that path lead us? We won’t see how God will use us, or even bless us, in the future…especially when we are going through trials or hardships today. But we do know that everything we go through today, trains who we are for the future.

May we all choose to follow Christ today.

Written by Rev Nathan W Carlson

Relevant Scripture

2 Peter 1:5      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge

Philippians 2:5      Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus

angel sculpture

Angels in Our Lives…Literally | Spiritual Meditations

Do angels exist?  I’m not talking about your grandmother or the person that let you cut in line at the grocery.  I’m talking about the messengers of God, the beings who give guidance, protection, care and comfort to us lowly humans.  I’m talking about God’s army or angels.

I’ve never encountered an angel…at least not to my knowledge.  Have you?  The Bible is loaded with them, but I’ve never given much thought as to how they relate to my life.  But this week they are becoming a little more real to me.

My friend, Becky, was hesitant, but I encouraged her to tell us about her beach angel experience.  Here’s is what she shared.

Childlike Acceptance

I grew up in a coastal town with a beautiful harbor and a mountain which graced it’s entrance. On the outer side of the harbor, the mountain connected to a 20 mile long surf beach.

I was brought up in the church and, at the age of eight, I gave my heart to the Lord at a large evangelical meeting. I didn’t totally understand what I had done and didn’t follow up on it much.

Witnessing the Spirit at Work…I Want It !

As I grew into a teenager I became rebellious, but I found God again through my older brother. He had accepted Christ into his life and I could see the love of the Holy Spirit shining through and into his life. I desperately wanted this change in my life also.

I started attending the Baptist church that my brother was attending and, at age 18, I decided to be baptized. In the Baptist church, baptism is by full emersion and it was the most incredible feeling. As I came up out of the water, I felt the Holy Spirit fill me. My old life was washed away; I was born again; and I felt God’s power running through me.

But I Have Questions !

My close girlfriend (who was baptized the same day), my brother and I were enthusiastic to learn more about and serve the Lord. But as the months passed, we became disillusioned with our church. We were not getting the growth and mentoring that we needed to deepen and mature our faith.  Our questions were not being answered.

We had to rely on each other and frequently prayed together believing that “where two or three are gathered, there I am also”. And Jesus was there, leading us through some wonderful spiritual experiences, including the gift of tongues.

Ascending the Mountain

One sunny, winter afternoon, the 3 of us, climbed part way up the harbor mountain to a grassy hill overlooking the ocean and the beach. We desperately asked God what we should do about our unsatisfying church experience. We had stopped going and felt that perhaps the Spirit could lead us through life. But were we doing the right thing? beach where angel appeared

An Angel at the Beach

After about an hour, we descended on a path that took us to the beginning of the beach and led into a rocky area close to the base of the mountain. There was a beautiful long white beach in the other direction.

My brother and my girlfriend walked to the local shops and I went down onto the beach near the rocks. I walked towards the water, still silently praying that God would give me some direction.  Should I continue to attend church or should I leave the church that was not fulfilling my needs and be guided solely by the Holy Spirit without any Christian fellowship?

Due to the cooler weather, the beach was deserted. Or so I thought. But as I walked towards the water I noticed a man standing not far from me. He was possibly in his late 40’s or 50’s, with light brown hair slightly balding. He was of average height and build and smiled as I approached him.

I had always been a shy girl and never would normally have started a conversation with a stranger, but somehow when this man spoke to me I felt only calm and comfortable speaking with him. I do not remember the whole conversation but I know that we began speaking about the Lord almost immediately.

I explained to him that my friends and I had been praying on the side of the mountain; that we were dissatisfied with our church; and that we had asked the Lord if we were right to leave our church and be led solely by the Holy Spirit. Right away he answered me, looking deep into my eyes and said; “You are doing the right thing”. I felt like God was speaking to me…it was so profound and touched my very soul. After this we said goodbye and I turned to walk away.

After only a few steps I turned to glance at him, as it had been such a special encounter. I expected to see him still there, or to see his back as he started  to walk in the opposite direction. But there was no one there. The rocks were too far away for him to have reached them in such a short time but I walked to the nearest, largest rock and looked behind it. There was no one anywhere.

I knew than that God had sent an angel to answer my fervent prayers and give me unquestionable direction. I was to live my life, following only the direction of the Holy Spirit.

This was a great faith building experience; knowing that God was listening to me, heard my cries and cared about my path. Ever since then I have trusted that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing in this life, even though it was not a typical Christian life. In hindsight, I look back and know that God was shaping me and molding me for his purpose.

This was a life-altering experience for Becky.  God had sent her a messenger in response to her heart-felt fervent prayer.  The kind of prayer that God responded to for Pastor Tim and his sister, and for me.

A Follow Up Note From Becky:

I did eventually find a close relationship with the Lord and a wonderful church, however, it was many years later. Living life guided only by the Holy Spirit is not right for everyone, but this is how God spoke to me and he did keep me close and was molding and shaping me, unbeknownst to me at the time.

Dad’s After Death Message

Becky’s story stimulated my mind on the subject of angels, which reminded me to take a look at my journal of spiritual experiences and growth.  (I recommend you start one if you haven’t already.)  I found this.

My dad died in 2010.  Although he had always gone to church and read the Bible, especially during his final years on earth, I didn’t know for sure that he had accepted Christ into his life.  Maybe he was a Christian by habit.  It isn’t something we talked about and it is nearly impossible to really know another persons heart.  But 2 weeks after dad died, I was walking down the hall in my home, when I heard tinkling bells and my mind was struck with a line from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life  ‘Every time a bell rings, and angel gets his wings’.  I could find no physical source of bells, inside or outside.  I knew this was my father.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Part of the story in It’s a Wonderful Life was of an Angel 2nd Class who wanted to earn his wings.  To do so he had to prevent the main character, George, from committing suicide, which he was able to thwart.    At the end of the movie, a bell on a Christmas tree rang and George’s small daughter, Zuzu, tells everyone that ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings’.  The implication was that the life-saving angel had been rewarded.

What I found out this week was that the angel in the movie had the same name as my dad…Clarence.  In 2010, I was aware that my father sent me a message addressing my concern about his presence in God’s Kingdom.  But when I realized the connection between his name and the movie angel’s name, I was amazed by how specific he had been about being an angel.

My dad always liked to joke around.  It’s just like him to give me a message based on one of his favorite movies and then wait for me to figure it all out. Thus, I have to believe that we keep at least some of our personality in the next life.

So do I believe in angels?   Between what Becky has shared and what my father has conveyed from heaven, I have to.

How about you?  Have you had an angel experience?  Please leave a comment.

Relevant Scripture

For the angels are only spirit-messengers of God sent out to help and care for those who are to receive His salvation.  Hebrews 1:14

 

 

Generations of Women Endure Abuse But There is Help | Spiritual Meditations

She has been tending he sick husband for months. His decline had been slow in spite of having no medications to ease the pain and extend his life. He died of AIDS. She dragged herself through the customary death rites and funeral, while taking care of her 5 children and 2 grandchildren. Her daughter and son-in-law died of AIDS the previous year. Now she’s waits to see if her husband’s family will take everything in her house, as is their right by custom, but not by law.

Custom says the possessions are theirs to use to take care of her and her children, but as poor as they are, she isn’t expecting any care to come her way. Although there is a law against property grabbing, she has no money to hire a lawyer. Even if she did, her case would have little chance of being adjudicated quickly by the undersized court system.

She will be lucky if her family has a roof over their heads. She will have nothing…except hungry mouths to feed. The children will work the fields with her, but it won’t be enough. Before her husband became sick, the younger children went to school, but the funds are no longer available to make that possible…they will work the fields as well.

She will fall into extreme poverty and will be challenged to meet very basic needs like food, firewood and shelter.

This is MaMalawi on globelawi

This is a common life in Malawi, a land locked SE African country about the size of Pennsylvania. The population is 18.6 million and it is one of the poorest countries on earth…bottom 10. Depending on the source, some say up to 74% of the people live below the poverty line of about $2 a day with an average per capita income of $310 per year in 2016. The average life expectancy is 47.

A People Ravaged by Disease

About 11.9 percent of Malawians have contracted AIDS…fewer in rural areas and more in the cities. TB and malaria are also prevalent. In a society where men are the bread winners and women tend to the home and children, an ill husband results in a shortage of funds at the same time that medical bills become due. To provide the necessities, belongings are sold, food is cutback and school payments are withdrawn.

The AIDS epidemic has left millions of orphans and widows in its wake. Many widows adding to their own burdens by taking in orphans.  The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 17% of children do not have living parents due to HIV/AIDS.

A People Ravaged by Hunger

Farming is a major source of income in Malawi. Whenever there is drought, crop production drops or may fail altogether. The following years may also result in lower production. Farmers cannot produce enough to sustain their communities and their income plunges.

Between 1990 and 2006, in Malawi there were 33 weather-related disasters (drought and flood), a rise from the 7 that occurred between 1970 and 1989, according to ActionAid.

During the peak of the food crisis, from April to May 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a health assessment in Malawi. It found that between October 2001 and March 2002, there was an average of 1.9 deaths per 10,000 every day. There was a cholera epidemic with 33,150 detected cases and 981 deaths; a fatality rate of 3%.

Yet, the number of people seeking aid at health facilities decreased by 25% in that same period. The study suggested that the health facilities were crippled by shortages of staff and drugs, as well as poor communication and transportation systems. As people began to prioritize food security over all else, health and seeking treatment at poorly maintained facilities fell to the wayside.

Starving people began to eat unsafe roots, maize cobs, sawdust, and boiled fruits and many contracted food poisoning and other stomach illnesses

In 2016, droughts, driven by El Niño, devastated the entire southern region and badly affected other parts of the country. As a result, an alarming 6.5 million people out of a population of 17 million were in need of food assistance. This means more than one in three people faced having little to no food for months on end.window kids rice house

In 2018 there are still 3.3 million people struggling to get food.  Under advisement from countries providing foreign aid and the UN, the Malawi government has developed a National Nutrition Policy aimed at coordinating food security programs and USAID training is increasing the productivity of farmers and has increased access to high-quality health care.

Violence and Exploitation of Women and Children

malawi childrenFor many reasons, including accepted customs, women and children are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, poverty and disease. Two in five females (!) and one in five males aged 18 to 24 believe it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she goes out without telling him, if she neglects the children, if she argues with him, if she refuses to have sex with him, or if she burns the food.

Throughout the last several decades, Malawi has consistently had some of the poorest development indicators, including poverty, food insecurity, and HIV prevalence, in sub-Saharan Africa, circumstances which have the potential to increase the vulnerability of all children and young women.

In addition, there is a large population of children who are orphans, work in agricultural or domestic settings, and/or do not attend school, which constitute an unusually large proportion of children who might be particularly vulnerable to violence.

Although there have been no nationally representative data on violence against children in Malawi to date, available studies have uncovered high rates of physical and sexual violence experienced in childhood, particularly among girls and very young children.

The findings from the survey indicate that violence against children is a serious problem in Malawi:

One out of five females and one out of seven males in Malawi have experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 years.

In addition, almost half of all females and two-thirds of males experienced physical violence prior to 18 years, and approximately one-fourth to one-fifth experienced emotional violence.

Nearly one-fourth of all children experienced multiple forms of violence.

The results of this survey have significant implications for the design and implementation of Malawian- specific prevention and response programs and policies to address abuse and violence against children.

Ending violence against children and young people is especially important because violence against children affects the entire society.

If sexual violence against girls is not addressed, there is very little hope of stamping out the spread of HIV.

If children are not safe from violence in schools, the goals of providing quality education for all will never be attained.

If the violation of Malawian children is allowed, there is little prospect of breaking the intergenerational cycle of violence.

The UNICEF report

Governmental Regulation Alone Will Not Be Enough

Reacting to the UNCEF findings regarding abuse and exploitation, principal secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Esmie Kainja, said in an interview that it is not government’s responsibility alone to stop violence against children and adolescents.

She said: “It is everyone’s responsibility. Parents and caretakers at home, teachers at school, religious and traditional leaders and care givers in different child related institutions; we are all responsible for ending violence against children.” This is the only way this deeply ingrained societal issue can be derailed.

Unicef supports government’s efforts to improve services for children affected by various forms of violence besides developing policies and legislation that protect children through practical programs like community victim support units (CVSUs) and Police victim support units (VSUs), among others.

The Nation – Christopher Nhlane

The Role of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)

There are dozens of worthy NGOs working in Malawi addressing various national needs, but I’m only going to mention 2 because of their impact on the overwhelming amount of violence and exploitation of widows and children…the poorest of the poor.

Ujamaa / UNICEF

As one way of reducing sexual abuse in Malawi, UNICEF, in partnership with Ujamaa, a Kenyan charity, has started a program that teaches schoolgirls self-defense tactics.
malawi schoolgirls

According to reports, the lessons include physical skills such as punches and jabs, running for safety as well practical skills that would distract their assailants.

Over 25,000 schoolgirls have been trained in the program over the past few years. The schoolgirls learn the self-defense lessons for two hours every week over a period of six-weeks.  Currently, the lessons are being conducted in seven districts across the country.

Ujamaa rape incidents dropped by half among schoolgirls in Kenyan schools after the training. With the self-defense training, Ujamaa trainers expect sexual assault incidents to be reduced in Malawi as well.

“In the past, girls were not reporting it but now they are indeed empowered to report abuses. Some are reporting the incidents to us teachers and others to their parents for action,” said a teacher involved in the training program. Their awareness, as well as fear of HIV and availability of services may also be contributing to the increased reporting.

Healthcare workers can provide an effective HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for immediately reported cases.

Ujamaa training also targets boys, teaching them how to intervene if they witness cases of assault.

Women of Grace Widows Organization / PantiPlus

Because the training against violence takes place in the schools, it is essential that the girls attend. A hidden deterrent to attendance is the lack of feminine hygiene products which requires the girls to stay home every month during their menstrual cycle, missing up to 20% of the school year. Even if washable pads are available, underwear is a luxury.

malawi widow sewing

The Women of Grace Widows Organization provides sewing machines and teaches widows in the Mzuzu area (the largest city in Northern Malawi) how to sew PantiPlus kits. Each kit contains 6 washable pads, 2 panties and a purse to carry them to school in. The purse also includes soap, a wash cloth and a plastic bag to hold soiled items.

The widows earn money for each PantiPlus item they make, and the finished products are donated to schoolgirls in rural villages. Each widow can earn as much as $45 USD in a year, which is a large sum for a widow. This steady income is not affected by weather or drought and allows the widow to purchase essential food and medicine, and pay school fees for her children.  With remaining funds, the widows purchase locally sourced materials and make skirts and dresses  for additional income.

malawi girls with pantiplus purses

This well-thought-out project addresses several areas of need. It provides the widows and their children with an income. It allows schoolgirls to stay in school, which, not only improves their education, but allows them to attend self-defense training against sexual abuse. The lower incidence of sexual abuse reduces the cases of HIV/AIDS. With the reduction in HIV/AIDS there are more people working, poverty is reduced and food production goes up.

If you would like to learn more about this project, click on PantiPlus Project to see a slide show and several videos taken in Malawi, which were assembled by Margot McGorman.  Margot has been involved in the Mzuzu sewing project and has traveled to the region multiple times with supplies and guidance.  If you would like to connect with Margot, please leave your contact information in the comments for this article and I will forward it to her.  Your contact information will not be made visible on this website.

How You Can Help

If you would like to stay current on this and other Malawi projects you can find updates at www.holminafrica.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute any amount for sewing machines and start-up sewing materials, donations can be made through PayPal at www.pantiplus.com. There is a donate button at the bottom of the home page.  Just put Mzuzu Sewing Team in the ‘Add a Note’ box, and it will get to this project specifically.

Relevant Scripture

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?    Isaiah 10:1-3

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. (Quran, in surah 4, verse 19)

“Those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year’s maintenance and residence. But if they [the widows] leave (the residence) there is no blame on you for what they justly do with themselves” (Quran 2:240).