Third Sunday of Advent: Psalm 126

By Rachel Price

We have all experienced a lack of happiness, whether it be heartbreak, anger, guilt, or sadness. In Psalm 126, we are reminded that God will show us joy, even when it seems impossible to smile. God has blessed us with many things, so there’s always a reason to smile! There will always be an uphill battle, there will always be something to mourn. God will take us out of negative circumstances and give us a reason to shout for joy. We are called to change our hearts for the better: in that, we will find happiness. I struggle with looking for silver linings. I am most definitely a pessimist. This scripture brought back good memories of toiling for a good cause and being joyful with the results that God blessed me with. Also, do not forget that you are not in this alone! Note that the scripture uses “our” and “we.” your sisters (and brothers) in Christ are here for you. You do not have to bear anything alone. Lay your burdens down at the feet of God; let your heart be lightened. You are not alone! Sometimes, I think we forget that we cannot control everything. I know I do, and it drags me down when I get stuck in that thinking. Let God take control of your life, and God will bring happiness into it as God did for Zion. Bad things happen, and it is okay to be down, but keep your chin up because God has happiness in store for you!

Rachel Price is Events Coordinator on the 2017-2018 national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries. For more information on the national leadership team, visit www.abwministries.org/nlt.

 

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Second Sunday of Advent: Mark 1:1-8

By Grady Nun Tha Iang

Have you ever felt so helpless that you just want to scream and shout at the top of your lungs for someone to help you? You’re not alone. Recently, my relationship with my boyfriend is slowly breaking up my relationship with my family and I don’t know how to mend it. They are both important to me and choosing one over the other is impossible. It’s at times like these that we need Jesus the most: the only Son of God and our only salvation, promised to us since the beginning of time.

It’s hard to admit that we’re all fragile people, capable of hurting and being hurt. It’s also hard to admit that we are wrong. Whenever someone corrects us, we take offense and put up barriers around ourselves, trying to convince ourselves that we are not wrong. The same applies to me. Whenever my parents point out my weakness, I pretend it doesn’t exist even though I know that Jesus can see it all, no matter how much I try to hide it. But we can find in Mark 1:1-8 that if we admit our weaknesses and repent our sins, that Jesus will baptize us by the Holy Spirit. As painful as it is to experience it, failure is part of what makes us successful. The best way to achieve true success is to learn more and be strengthened by our mistakes.

We light a  purple candle on the second Sunday of Advent to represent the hope of Christ coming to the world. This reminds us that, that even in the face of darkness, we can have hope. Even in the face of total defeat, have hope. Even in the face of emotional teen crises, have hope. Without hope, we’ll become empty shells of negativity. That’s not the plan that God nor Jesus have for us. If God can forgive Saul and turn him into his prophet as Paul, then have no fear. Even if we see nothing good about ourselves and think that we’re too full of mistakes, think twice. God made us for a reason. We’re all women with God’s purpose: to do God’s work. So for the second Sunday of Advent, let’s look back on our mistakes and repent. Remember: Failure is the start to success. Hope is the start to a brighter future. Repentance is your connection to Jesus.

Grady Nun Tha Iang serves as the Promotions Coordinator on the national leadership team of AB GIRLS.

First Sunday of Advent: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

By Anna Kouadio

Last month was a very special month, the month of Thanksgiving. That is when we give thanks to all the people who affect our life: family, friends, and the most important, our Lord. This when women and girls throughout the world come together and realize how far along we have come, not only in the eyes of others but in the eyes of the Lord. But our thanks-giving shouldn’t end with the end of November.

During Advent, we prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord. There is no possible way to ever thank God enough for all God has done, but 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 says the thanks that shows God a little bit of our love, and how grateful we are for God’s presence in our life. It reminds us to be thankful for the savior who is about to be revealed in the birth of Jesus. Paul says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

These word are powerful because they tell the truth of the world. With God in our lives, we women and girls of the world wouldn’t have achieved as much as we have done. God is our light, God is the reason we are here. Without God, the women before us wouldn’t had been able make a way for the women and girls of today. Our best thanks are to be sure God knows the strength of our faith and love. The most important thing is always to be thankful for all God has done for us, especially for all the women who came before to create American Baptist Women’s Ministries and AB GIRLS. Those women created a place for women and girls to call home. I say this because I feel at home in this organization. Home isn’t just a building; it’s not just a place. It can be people or things that makes you feel special, let you know that you’re special, and where you always feel welcome. And, with thanks to God, many women and girls in future generations will have that home.

Anna Kouadio is Coordinator of Mission on the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Boxed Away, or Out of the Box?

By Deborah Malavé Diaz

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Photo courtesy Creativity103, used by permission, www.creativecommons.org.

These days the more connected we are the more separated we seem. As we are able to gain knowledge almost instantly about anyone or anything through the internet, cable, and social media we manage somehow to lose the realness of experiencing life with all in it. If we are not aware of how much of our everyday falls into a virtual lifestyle, we might jeopardize the blessing of feeling life the way God intended.

Many of us email, text, post, and “chat” every day for work, church, family and friends. We do this with the comfort of the privacy that our PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones provide. Our life can get compartmentalized since there is so much to do in so little time. This may cause what I call the “boxed away” effect. We might tend to live in-and-out-of “boxes” of duties, relationships, family, and church, with no interconnection among them. We may also overlook our feelings regarding each component of our life. Once I had a coworker that I only knew via email or corporate chat, as we worked in different floors. Every day we exchanged data for reports but never had to see or talk to each other. As time went by, we got friendlier, to the point of knowing each other’s plans for the weekend, hobbies, and so forth. After about six months of this kind of relationship, by chance we saw each other for the first time in the elevator. Our conversation was a short “Hello, how’s it going,” answered by an even shorter “all good.” After that, it was only silence all the way until the elevator stopped at the lobby. This moment was an eye-opener for me. We were boxed away in our virtual world in a little chat box—more  separated than connected, lacking the realness of an actual relationship.

The “elevator encounter” caused me to think a lot about my feelings about other people and, more importantly, how I was relating to God. Did I put God in box? Was my relationship with God like the one I had with my coworker? Was I chatting away with, and about, God like we were virtually so close, when in reality our one-on-one relationship was more like an “elevator encounter prayer?”

I realized that if we are not aware of how much of our everyday falls into a virtual lifestyle, we might jeopardize the blessing of feeling life the way God intended. It’s easy to live boxed away, mixing effectiveness, productivity, and interactions but ending up with very short, meaningless experiences. God’s call to us is to live out of the box, daring to feel for real and not virtually. Put yourself and your life out the box because God is out of the box.  Romans 12 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Deborah Malavé Diaz is the national Coordinator of Events for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Feeling God’s Everlasting Love

By Angel Sullivan

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

 

As I ride around my neighborhood looking at boarded-up houses, empty parking lots, and a store filled with despairing faces, I feel a sense of loss, having no idea what tomorrow will bring.

As I turn on the nightly news, I watch a city, a community, destroyed, not knowing if friends and loved ones are alive or dead.  I feel a sense of helplessness, a feeling that I want to do something but I don’t know what.

As I look at my phone and read the news feed, I see again and again that violence from the barrel of a gun has taken the lives of innocent men, women, and children. I feel numb. I cry out to God, “Why?”

It is in that moment that I feel a gentle touch in my spirit, as if a loving parent is cradling me in his or her arms, surrounding me in safety and love. I feel as if God is saying, “Trust me. In my time I will make everything alright.” In that moment I feel a light breeze blow past my ears and I hear the soft words of hope whispering, “Be of good faith and courage, I have overcome the world.” I feel a sense of courage.  I feel a sense of call rising up in me, challenging me into a new level of existence, inviting me to be the hope for today and the change for tomorrow.

My head and heart are both inundated with feelings of excitement and discouragement, fear and courage, sadness and joy, in a world that is imperfect, but made perfect in God. As I wrestle with my feelings, I am reminded that those feelings can be fickle, wrapped around worldly events and desires. I am also reminded, however, that the one thing that is constant and everlasting is God’s feeling of love and wanting the best for each of us.

Rev. Angel L. Sullivan is national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Gifted with All The Feels

By Jami Robertson

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Oh my friends, I am the queen of the feels. I am constantly processing, sensing, feeling everything. When I walk into a room, I can feel other people’s happiness or confusion, or sadness, or any of the hundreds of emotions God gave us all the ability to experience. Sometimes it is hard to tell my own feelings from another person’s. I’m sure I am not the only person on the planet that does this, so if you are like me, I feel your pain! It’s exhausting. However, I believe it is a God-given gift and I’m finally getting the chance to see that gifting being put to work. And Lord, I am so thankful for it!

Do you know how you feel like there is something in you that can be put into practice, but you don’t know what, how, or where to even start? I was there. It felt like I was at that point for an eternity in my Christian walk: just permanently stuck, wondering how I fit into God’s grand design in this tiny parcel of time. Then one day, well, I needed a job. Okay, for a lot of days I needed a job. We had moved to Indiana and I seriously started to think there was something wrong with me because nobody wanted to hire me. I’m old-school and dress up for interviews, brush my hair, teeth, and so forth. I almost always speak in logical sentences. I even checked my pits: nope. I didn’t forget deodorant!

Somewhere along the line, Scotty (my husband) had found out the local school district had a few job openings in the special education department. As my negative-prone self said, “There is no way! I cannot do that. I went to school for merchandising. I don’t see the correlation.” And honestly, there isn’t one. But surprises are always in store for us, sisters!

I remember going to that interview thinking, “I have no idea at all what I’m doing here. Seriously. Why am I here?!” Do I have experience? Nope. Do I have a desire? Hmmm, nope. I had a desire to support my kids, but that was about it. So, I took the job I was offered, even though I was scared, and even though I didn’t think I really wanted to. However, I have this other blessing God gave me—tenacity. If I say I’m going to do something, then it will get done. Even if I feel like calling it quits, I stick with it if others are depending on me.

Back to my overwhelming sensing of emotions. After working in special education for two-and-a-half school years, I felt like I had a good handle on things. I even liked my job. Then I was moved from the school I was in to the high school. That’s when I really discover that I love my job. That pesky “I sense everything” comes in really handy with non-verbal autistic kids, or any autistic kid, really.

This past school year my life was forever changed by one of my students. I never really noticed my gifting until a student “told” me about it. That’s a pretty powerful message, especially if you receive it from a non-verbal autistic student. It’s amazing that there are times in which you can just look at each other and get the message. Almost every day I come home from work and think, “God, your creations are good. I get it. I feel it. We are all different, but we all feel. We all sense. We all love. We all get to experience this life and world in different ways. And we all have gifting.”

Some people’s gifting might not be obvious to society’s standards, but it is there. I dare you to look for it, to experience it, to feel it in the most unexpected ways and in unpredictable places.

“Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4: 11-12, NIV.

“…With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposes in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:8c-10. NIV.

Jami Robertson is a member of the national young adult women’s ministries advisory team of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Fear and Faith

By Virginia Holmstrom

The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.

Photo by Kaustav Das Modak. Used by permission, creativecommons.org.

Scripture:  “The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.”    Exodus 14:19 (NRSV)

Sometimes fear overrides faith. We feel abandoned at the moment of peril. Where is God when we most need a protector and savior?

The Hebrew families fleeing Pharoah’s army felt the terror of impending disaster when they stopped short at banks of the Red Sea. The escape route abruptly ended.  There was no way forward! The Egyptian army bore toward them from behind. The deep waters in front of them prevented their desperate escape to freedom. Even God had disappeared. The assurance of God’s presence that had remained a step ahead of them in the form of a cloud pillar was no longer in front of them. Pressed between the sea’s edge and the approaching Egyptian army, trembling mothers clutched their children in their arms, the shelter of their embrace no longer a safe zone.

When we feel the dread that God has abandoned us during our most vulnerable moments of peril, we can identify with the Hebrew families, exhausted from their running, hearts pounding, hemmed in between death by weapons and death by drowning. Where is God?

The question haunts me today as I read the news of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar; a half million persons fleeing toward the border to the west, hemmed in between a brutal army pushing them out and a country unwilling to receive them.  Where is God in this?

Our faith is tested when the “pillar of cloud” symbolizing God’s presence shifts from our forward view.  God’s presence is not always in front of us, God’s escape route not always visible.  Let us choose faith that God’s salvation is bigger than the fears  of chaos and tyranny.  After feeling the panic of the Hebrew families stopped in their tracks by the Red Sea, I feel utter relief when I read the words of their victory song in the next chapter of their story.  “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

Choose faith over fear.  For the final line of the song goes like this:  “The Lord will reign forever and ever.”  (Exodus 15:18)

Virginia Holmstrom is executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.