Monday, April 29, 2019

The Revelation

 by Cindy Hester

This week has been a difficult one. As the anniversary of my birth arrived, a mixture of stress and unresolved conflict resulted in a discussion well-orchestrated by the devil himself. Words spilled forth without forethought, anger mounted, and what began as a pleasant day turned on a dime into an ugly shouting match unbecoming anyone and unlike any usual conversations held on a day-to-day basis.

I realize this is a raw and personal revelation, but I know in these demanding times we live I cannot be the only one who finds him or herself in such a situation reacting in such a way. As the day progressed, my mind replayed the statements made. By the next morning the first word that came to my mind the morning of my birthday was failure.

God has blessed me in too many ways to count. However, to pass my life off as a fairy tale of perfection would be a great disservice to the grace that has gotten me to this point. God has done great things in the lives of those whom He has given into my care, more despite me than because of me. I understand the challenge of loving a blended family of individuals who are each facing different struggles at different levels in life. I know first-hand the confusion of deeply loving someone who is a part of, you yet being brokenhearted that the world’s lies tend to make you the enemy. I am intimately familiar with the longing to be known and respected for what is genuinely in your heart although your words may not always be able to properly express those thoughts – especially to those who are closest to you.

As I stood worshiping in church Sunday, all I could do was cry out to God. I seemed to have nothing left, and I could not pinpoint where all of this was coming from. I confessed that I had made a mess out of trying to live a Christ-like life in front of my family. I admitted it was impossible. They know me too well. No matter how hard I try, I have to start over again. No matter how genuine my heart, I still fail. This thought was prevalent, I have failed.

The longer we sang, the more we worshiped, God began speaking to my heart. I began to understand and to realize the message of failure was not from Him. A scripture my Pastor had prayed came to mind, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. God reminded that I have been placed where I am with those who are in my life for a purpose. Then came these words, “It’s not over.”  I had allowed my thoughts to be consumed with a feeling of finality. In my mind, I had either reached my expiration date, or I was throwing in the towel. I had completely taken my eyes off of God’s ability to overrule my shortcomings.

It is true that I cannot be a witness or live a Christ-like life in front of my family on my own merit. I can only come close to being effective in that effort by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me by submitting myself to Him each moment of each day and by trusting Him to perform a work in their hearts. I will no doubt fall, but God is faithful to His promise to me. “The LORD will fulfill His purpose in me. O LORD, Your loving devotion endures forever—do not abandon the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8

I pray these words resonate with someone who may be struggling with an issue that seems hopeless. God specializes in hopeless. Our world is changing at a dizzying rate of speed, and challenges are presenting themselves in families in ways we once would have never dreamed possible. The one constant that brings us hope is the Word of God and the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is an unceasing source of honesty and peace. I pray God speaks His comfort to you through these words and that you’ll seek a living relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the reading of His Word, the Bible.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ordered Steps, The Journey Continues

by Cindy Hester

Meet my friend, Rose. We came across one another almost a year ago in this very same shop where she works as a sales clerk in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Our paths crossed I believe as a result of ordered steps. For the past year God has continued to bring Rose to mind, and I have prayed for her on a  regular basis.

 When I learned I was going to have the opportunity to return to her city, God immediately laid it on my heart to go see her while there. I almost didn’t grasp hold of this opportunity. My husband and I were later getting into town than we had planned, and as we ate lunch, I began to wonder if Rose still worked at the same shop. Even if she did, I questioned whether she would remember me.

We finished lunch and began walking back toward the taxis that were parked waiting to take us back to our ship. Instead of getting a taxi, Charlie proceeded toward Rose’s place of employment.  Although this is what I had planned to do, a sense of panic overtook me. I thought to myself how silly I was being. I was simply going by to say hello. Somehow I felt in my spirit there was something more to this visit, and I felt extremely inadequate. I began praying and the Lord told me not to fear because He was sending His Holy Spirit before me, and He would give me the right words to speak.

As we approached the shop door, I asked a gentleman sitting outside if he knew whether Rose still worked there. In true Jamaican fashion he said, “yeah man, she inside.” The doors and windows were open letting the Caribbean breeze blow. I entered the building to the soothing sound of Jamaican wind chimes.  I smiled because the sweet evidence of the blowing breeze and the beautiful sound it made gave me a visual picture of how the Lord can use the Holy Spirit in us to make something beautiful come from us that we cannot do in our own power.

I looked around, but at first I could not find Rose, and my heart sank. Just then, a woman with curious eyes stuck her head around a door that led to what appeared to be a small break room. The woman stared at me with caution and curiosity, then looked back at someone I could not see behind the wall. I smiled and asked if she knew Rose. Her eyes grew cautiously large and she slowly glanced again at the person I could not see. She slowly said yes and asked for my name. After one more glance toward the woman behind the wall, her eyes grew even wider as she moved toward me and, grabbing me by the hand, began leading me back to the break room.

The room was barely large enough for a table to fit, and scrunched between the table and the wall sat Rose. She looked up from her plate, and her jaw dropped. She grabbed me by the hands, looked me square in face, and with tears in her eyes she hurriedly said, “What did God send you here to tell me? I have been fasting and praying. You were the answer to my first prayer for a word from God almost a year ago, and here you are again!” If that does not humble you, I don’t know what will.

Without thinking, God began providing the scriptures and the words she needed to hear. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6. Among other things more specific to her situation, I told her that God had especially put her on my heart to pray for her throughout the year. She was precious to Him, and she has a special purpose to fulfill.

With tears streaming down her face, Rose climbed out from behind that table, ran and threw her arms around my neck. She stood there a few minutes, then brought the other sales clerk over to where we were. Rose said, “Just before you walked in, I was telling her that all we had was our God and what He could do for us. She was not sure what He could do. Now she must be.”

I almost missed that blessing. Although God had laid it on my heart to go back to see Rose as soon as I knew I was returning to Jamaica, I almost talked myself out of getting off the ship to go into port. I almost didn’t go to the shop because it was hot and humid and there were so many people. I told myself over and over Rose probably would not be there. However Rose was there, and she was seeking a word from God.

No doubt God would have sent that word to her through someone. The fact I had been praying for her almost a year, and the fact that God blew me away with His amazing goodness in meeting her need meant so, so much to me. God showed a lot of His character to me that day - His love, His provision, His mercy, and His protection. I just had to share this with you.

Take Jesus with you wherever you go and however you get there - by mission trip or cruise ship. We do not need to beat people over the head with the Bible or by trying to impress them with our spirituality. We simply need to love others. Laugh with others. Celebrate with others. Spread joy to others, and when necessary, cry with others. Share what God has done for us through living as though He has done something for us. When we fully experience His love, it cannot help but overflow from our hearts. This my friends, is what we are ultimately placed on this earth to do. 1 John 4:19 "We love because He first loved us."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Hope that is Christmas

by Cindy Hester

Merry Christmas my friends. In the interest of transparency, I must confess certain hesitancy in beginning my article with this greeting. My tentativeness in doing so has nothing to do with political correctness. It has everything to do with perception.

I love Christmas. I love celebrating the birth of the Savior of our world. What I have trouble with are the melancholy stirrings deep within my soul that accompany the joy of this season. This dichotomy of feelings troubles me greatly this year.

 As a child, Christmas held such a sense of purity and excitement. I was blessed with a loving family who appropriately sheltered me from the darkness in this world. They exposed me to situations where children were not so fortunate by teaching me to share and to pray for them, but my childlike mind could not truly comprehend the stark difference in their daily way of life.

As an adult, I learned firsthand that life’s circumstances are not always “merry” at Christmas. Life in this world is hard, and troubles don’t take a day off. Often those closest to our hearts - those meant to love and protect - inflict the most pain. Even individuals with the most loving families face the reality of a broken world. Many are facing the holidays without loved ones due to the actions of one consumed with depravity. Others are facing relational issues with loved ones still here. We all find ourselves exposed to the accusations of misconduct which saturate our evening news with salacious details more suitable for the courtroom than the dinner table.

The cumulative effect of these events and general everyday stress came crumbling down upon me a couple of weeks ago. I found myself crying inconsolably for seemingly no reason. I simply wanted to curl up on the couch under a blanket and let the world pass on by. I became increasingly vulnerable to the enemies lies of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Deep in the night last week as I bared my soul before my God, He began lovingly reminding me of the circumstances of the first Christmas. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was considered an unwed mother in the eyes of much of the world. Joseph, her fiancé, had to accept by faith to believe an angel of God that Mary was a faithful and acceptable wife.

When Mary was nine months pregnant, she had to ride a donkey ninety miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors for registration in a census. That alone took an obedient heart. To top it all off, after the long, grueling journey, there was no place for them to stay! There was no shower to freshen up or comfortable bed upon which to rest. Mary went into labor and gave birth to Jesus in a cold, uncomfortable stable full of animals, and all that goes along with animals.

Political unrest also existed at the time of Christ’s birth. King Herod of Israel was just one example. He was described as ambitious, brutal, extremely successful, a man who did not like opposition or competition with family or politics. King Herod was so shaken by the wise men asking about the birth of one who had been born King of the Jews, he ordered the murder of all baby boys two years and under in an attempt to kill this perceived rival.

I got up and began reading in Luke. Despite the challenging circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth, Mary chose to receive God’s gift to her with joy. She said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:46-50 
In Christ’s day, shepherds ranked lowest on the social ladder. Yet it was the shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Although King Herod meant harm when he sent the Magi or wise men to find this Christ child and report back to him so that he too could “go and worship him”, God had a much different plan. “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

God desires to impart joy to each of us. He longs to be the light in our darkest hour, and the hope for our deepest despair. When I allow these treasured truths to saturate my heart and mind, I find peace. It is because of these truths that despite the present appearance of current circumstances, I can earnestly wish you all a Merry Christmas. May each of you find rest in His gift of joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Monday, August 20, 2018

Ordered Steps

by Cindy Hester

Not long ago while traveling I walked into a little shop on the side of the road in Montego Bay. As we were looking around, I noticed the Jamaican sales woman about my age or a little younger watching me intently. I thought perhaps she was making sure I didn’t need any help. By the hot mess I was by the end of a long day shopping in tropical humidity, she may have been protecting the store merchandise!

After a few minutes watching me, she spoke and asked if there was anything in particular I was looking for. We began a conversation, and I found her to be warm and kind. I happened to ask her how she liked life in Jamaica. She replied that she loved her homeland and the natural beauty, however the crime rate was quite high. She spoke of the need for caution-especially at night. She went on to say she has learned to adapt. She emphatically stressed you cannot always be afraid, you have to live life. I replied saying we must trust God and enjoy each moment of every day we are given.

All of a sudden, her eyes lit up, and she grabbed my wrists. Excitedly she shouted, “Are you a Christian?!?!” I said yes, to which she responded, “I knew it! I just knew it! I could feel a difference as soon as you walked in the store!” It turns out she had just been praying for encouragement and had asked God to speak to her in some way to remind her of His nearness to her. She said that whenever I walked into the store, she felt a sense of kinship. She went on to say she did not frequently find many individuals who spoke so freely of their faith. She held up her arms displaying the chill bumps resulting from the immediate answer to her prayer. 

We talked a while and discussed salvation and God’s promises in passages of scripture from the New Testament. She spoke about the dark spirit that infiltrates her country. Then in her beautiful Jamaican accent she said “Grace...grace is a blessing. Were it not for God’s saving grace I wouldn’t be here.” She hungrily continued talking about the Lord with me. I couldn’t help but be amazed at how she had put scripture to memory and at the spiritual insight she shared about those scriptures.

When I got ready to leave, she gave me a warm hug. As she did so, she quietly, and somewhat desperately, asked me to please pray for her and for her country. I couldn’t help but wonder what struggles she faces each day. 

She walked me out of the store, and as we walked away she yelled, “My name is Rose. I will be looking forward to seeing you the next time you visit my shop in Jamaica. If for some reason I don’t see you again here, I will see you in heaven because we are sisters in Christ! I will be calling out your name until I find you!” 

I left in such amazement of how God works in all areas of this world. I left with a love for the people of Jamaica and desire for God’s grace to be upon them. Please pray for Rose and for her country. Someday I pray I will have the opportunity to introduce you to her in heaven. I have no doubt we will meet again to remember our special encounter that day in a little shop in Montego Bay.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Poem for Bear
By Maw Maw Cindy

My dear little Bear who sleeps soundly and tight
So peaceful and trusting, your cares free and light.
I give you these blessings to hold all your life
To keep you through times you face earthly strife.

I bless your bright eyes with visions of hope
To brighten your darkness with no need to grope
At things this world offers as fool’s gold - no worth
To steal what God’s promised from your very birth.

I bless your sweet mouth to speak words of truth
From God’s Holy Word you learn from your youth.
These truths crush the lies the enemy sews
Don’t let them take root, these lies are your foes.

I bless your soft hands with God’s loving touch
To share with this world, it needs Him so much
With strength and compassion and healing inside,
Let God use your hands and in His love abide

I bless your cute feet to be steadfast and sure
His feet took the nails that keep you secure
When sometimes you stumble, and losing your way
He draws you back close, He won’t let you stray.

I bless your whole life with eternal joy
As life takes you forward my sweet baby boy.
Remember I love you, deep down to my core
Live life with abandon, in Him free to soar.

Friday, August 11, 2017

True Freedom

by Cindy Hester

A couple of weekends ago while relaxing in Galveston with family, I happened to walk into the living room of the condominium where we were staying just in time to hear my nine year old grandson singing his heart out along with Toby Mac. He had no idea anyone was around, so he was giving it all he had singing from deep within his heart. The joy was palpable, especially when he got to the chorus. “When love broke thru, You found me in the darkness, Wanderin’ thru the desert, I was a hopeless fool, Now I’m hopelessly devoted, My chains are broken” - at which point he raised his arms to heaven joyfully breaking his wrists free from invisible chains. I could barely keep from shouting.

I had read an article earlier that week about how at one time the circus trained elephants to stand in place by latching a metal collar around an ankle, and chaining the collar to a stake in the ground. While still small, the stake held strong against the baby elephants’ attempts to break free. During the struggle, they would experience painful cuts which served as painful reminders of the consequences of such attempts. Once an adult, due to the elephants’ size and strength, they could have easily released the stakes in the ground. However, painful response learned as babies kept the adult elephants bound by a shackle that in reality held no power over the animal.

Often, we as humans are held bondage by such learned responses. We need the knowledge of our reality and strength in Christ to understand those restraints hold no power over us. I know from personal experience, however, that even after we realize we can pull the stake from the ground; it takes the power of Christ to sever the metal collar, chains, and stake we drag around after breaking free from the hold of the ground.

 Still others escape the physical prison holding them hostage yet continue attempting to function while still bound in chains - much like a prisoner who masterminds his escape yet his hands remain chained together. The prisoner may escape the prison, but until someone breaks him free of his chains, his ability is limited.

 I know what it is like to be bound by chains, even after escaping the prison of abuse. It has taken the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s matchless grace to break the chains of worry, anxiety, shame, guilt, inferiority, and hopelessness I carried into my new life. The old devil still comes around trying to slap that collar around my ankle and pound that stake back into the ground. However, by God’s grace I have learned to recognize his manipulation and lies. I have learned to run to my Father’s truth in order to refute the lies with which the enemy attempts to keep me grounded and in place.

You see, our Heavenly Father designed us for freely given, unconditional love and grateful obedience. Forced, ingrained restraint was never his plan. He wants to see us sing with palpable joy of how our chains are broken because we have personally experienced His grace setting us free. If you long for this freedom, it is yours for the asking. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him should be saved.” John 3:16-17

The Revelation

 by Cindy Hester This week has been a difficult one. As the anniversary of my birth arrived, a mixture of stress and unresolved...