Pressure Cooker Pressure

I grew up in the Peruvian Andes. We lived over 10,000 feet above sea level. One of the characteristics of that living was that the water never got hot when it boiled. You could pour yourself a cup of tea and drink it immediately and it would not burn your lips. If you wanted hot food, you had to make sure to take it right out of the pot on the stove.

A pressure cooker was a must if you wanted tender meat or if you didn’t want to spend all day cooking. Especially when it came to beans!

One important feature of pressure cooker is a valve that lets out steam. You can’t cook under pressure without it, or the “cooker” will explode. That is not a fun situation! I know that for a fact, from a very unpleasant experience.

We once had a pressure cooker explode. We were cooking beans, and a little bean got stuck in the valve. No steam could escape! It exploded! The lid flew off and the bean stew spread all over the kitchen. We had tiny half-cooked beans stuck on the ceiling, the cabinets, the appliances… you name it! We had to repaint everything after clean-up!

Pressure cookers are great, only if they have an outlet for the pressure that builds up. It’s the same way with life!

Have you ever had such pressure that it felt like you were in a pressure cooker? That’s just a figure of speech, because none of us have been a bean in a pressure cooker. But we know pressure when it pressures us.

I heard a good message last Sunday about C.U.P. = Confidence Under Pressure. It was Pastor Robert Madu preaching at James River Church in Springfield, Missouri. I enjoyed it in live streaming on-line. It got me thinking. Let me share my own take on C.U.P.

“Sometimes the pressure can make you implode or explode. It’s good, it makes you pray,” said Robert Madu. The beans in my pressure cooker in Huancayo, Peru exploded!

Let me give you four P’s for Coping Under Pressure.

  1. PRESENCE

We have a Promise of God’s Presence until the end of the age. And after that, we will be with Him forever. Maybe you haven’t thought of this. I hadn’t. The Book of Matthew starts with the promise of the coming of a Savior, of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). It ends with Emmanuel’s promise to be with us ALWAYS, “to the end of the age” (28:20).

Whatever is causing your pressure (if not now, it will come; no one is immune), know that Jesus is with you. Nothing can bring more comfort.

  1. PLACE

More than anything else you need a Place of Prayer. When Jesus was under most pressure, when his soul was so “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38), he went to a place he knew well, the place of prayer. Read about it in Luke 22:39-46. His anguish was so extreme that his sweat was like drops of blood. He knew what it would mean to take all our sins and carry them on the cross. He prayed to God, asking if it would be possible for his Father to take the CUP from him, the cup of suffering for our sins. At the place of prayer God sent an angel to strengthen him. But Jesus had to drink the cup!

The place of prayer is where we are strengthened to move on, to overcome, to gain victory, to forgive… whatever the pressure is, the place of prayer is where the load is taken off. God could not take away the cup of suffering from his Son Jesus, but Jesus has taken our suffering and he will give us peace amid the storm. (See Ephesians 6:18.)

  1. PEOPLE

Jesus took his closest friends with him to the place of prayer. They were “exhausted from sorrow” and could not keep vigil with him. In our pressure we need People for Support, hopefully those that will keep vigil with us.

I read a testimony on Facebook of a mother who weekly seeks support in prayer for her autistic son in the prayer line of James River Church. I know this mother, we used to work together at Assemblies of God Headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. I read of her struggles with Z. She has daily pressure, as do many mothers in similar situations.

Where did Peter and John go when they had the pressure of prison, pressure of percussion? (that was a lot of p’s) They went to their friends, the friends that prayed.

Read their prayer in Acts 4:23-31.

We need people. We need each other. I told you about my hairdresser (see previous blog). She took some of the pressure off me. She listened, and she prayed. That’s the best support!

Search that kind of support. Be that kind of support!

  1. POWER

Here is what happened when Peter and John went from Prison Pressure to their praying friends:

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

When Jesus knew he would not be with us in person, he sent his Holy Spirit to live in us.

Such sweet presence of the Holy Spirit cannot compare with anything. His supernatural power can fill you to overflowing. Peter and John continued to speak the word of God with boldness, even under the pressure of persecution.

Thank you, Robert Madu for getting my train of thought working “under pressure” of all the deadlines I have.

God bless you this day abundantly. I need to get back to work. This was the “fun” part of the day! To cope and Prevail under Pressure I need to Practice what I Preach.

May you cope and prevail!

 

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A Praying Hairdresser

Here comes a greeting from my assistant Cristina and myself wishing you a Happy Summer if you are on the Northern side of the Equator. For my other friends I will have to wish a Happy Winter.

Last time I wrote I was busy working on a big translation and formatting. I exhausted myself. I’ve run out of energy. But life has to go on. I have my commitment to teachers, parents and children who follow my stories, especially now that we have a series about Moses and Joshua and the children of Israel.

What does that have to do with a praying hairdresser? We all need hairdressers, don’t we? I think men call them barbers. One time or another we need to have a hair cut. My grandson gets his at home, from his dad. That’s convenient.

I don’t know how men do, but ladies talk at the hair salon. Hairdressers know more than their share of stories. If you have a praying hairdresser, like I do, you are very blessed. Her name is Melba.

Last week was not a good one for me. I was not feeling well. I gave Cristina two days off to spend with her sister who was visiting her in the jungle, where Cristina herself is visiting.

I needed a hair cut. In my heart I was hoping there would be an opening even if I was calling the same day. No, there was none. But then God must have nudged Melba, because she looked in her schedule book and decided she could squeeze me in. It turned out to be her last appointment of the day.

We talked, the shop empty except for us two. Some things that had been weighing on my heart shifted place and touched her heart. To get your hair cut and get some weight lifted off your heart, what a blessing!

Melba knows how to pray. She knows how to touch God’s heart. I felt lots lighter when I left the shop. Not only because I had shredded some excess hair there, but because through prayer some weight was lifted off.

A hair-salon can be a piece of heaven. Especially if the hairdresser knows how to touch God in prayer.

Cristina and I need your prayers daily. Our artist Absalom needs your prayers. I would also like to ask for prayers for Ximena, who will be writing some new lessons for us. And for Nancy, who translates my Spanish stories to English. We are not a big team, just a handful. But I believe God can use even the smallest. We just need love and commitment.

I invite you to follow THE GREAT ESCAPE stories. This week I’m working on Commandments Written in Stone.

God Bless Melba and all the praying hairdressers. You are God’s extended hands. But you don’t need to be a hairdresser to be used by God in your daily life. Wherever you are, whatever you do, let the Lord use you to bless those around you. Even a stressed mother can be a tool of blessing. Especially mothers!

Make this the best summer ever!

Be God’s extended hand to a world in need!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Most Awesome Helper

Remember the happy couple from the previous blog? The guy that was supposed to stay home for a year and make his bride happy? Time has gone by and here they are with a happy set of grandchildren!

I gave my artist 500 points for this picture. I wish all grandparents could sit with their grandchildren telling them stories of the past, the children relaxed and enjoying every word.

Eleazar is telling about when he was a kid and Moses sent spies to explore the land of Canaan. Only two gave a good report, one of them Caleb (pictured here). He’s one of my favorite Bible heroes. At age 85 he felt just as strong as when he was 40! That’s the vitality I want to have!

Because of the unbelief of the people and the negativity of ten of the twelve spies, the people of Israel had to wander 40 years in the desert. Read about the spies in Numbers 13&14.

But this wasn’t what I was going to write about. I just had to brag a little on Absalom and the awesome pictures he makes for my Bible-story ministry. He is an awesome helper. So is Cristina. Here is a picture from her vacation in Mexico. She is an awesome helper.

The most awesome Helper is the Holy Spirit. I’ve had living proof of that this week and I have to testify to the glory of God.

When Jesus said to his disciples that he was going to send another Helper (Counselor), I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of  the twenty-first century, computers and programs like Photoshop and inDesign. But that’s the help I needed.

I’ve been desperate for help this week. I pleaded with the Holy Spirit to enlighten me, to “unfreeze” my brain, because that is exactly what I felt had happened. I needed to work on a project that has an urgent deadline. I’ve done the kind of job required before (I have files on my computer to prove it!), but my brain was frozen! Try as hard as possible I could not remember how to do it!

I called around for help, but people are busy, they have their own projects. Some call what happened to me to draw a blank… yes, that was me! My beautiful helper Cristina was not available until yesterday, so that was a draw-back.

When she was back, we prayed! We asked the Holy Spirit to be our Helper. I told him I was happy to do this project, which I have been translating all winter, a book on Spiritual Gifts. Now, that should have high priority for the Holy Spirit, don’t you think? I’m not trying to be disrespectful. I have the highest regard for the Holy Spirit of God.

I told Cristina to get online (she loves YouTube tutorials) and find out everything about document design for books, giving her the specific steps I needed help with.

As the title for my blog says, the Holy Spirit is the most awesome Helper. I sat down by the computer, opened up a file… the ice melted! Or whatever happened! Suddenly I KNEW how to do the job! I kept at it for 11 hours with just a short lunch break. (Can you tell I was excited!) I showed Cristina one step, today she’ll learn another step so she can help me move forward.

In the midst of this, some friends in Sweden felt they wanted to encourage me. Talk about encouragement at the right time! A gift for the ministry was deposited in the bank! Or was it meant for me personally? I put everything in one pot, to keep my ministry going! That gift was for that “pot.”

Now, if I’m gong to meet the deadline, no more talking (writing). I could not pass up this opportunity to express my thankfulness to the Holy Spirit by testifying of his help.

Are you in a bind? What has you worried? Have you had a brain freeze? Whatever it is, go to the Lord in prayer. Talk to the Holy Spirit as a Friend. Tell him all about your troubles. He is the one who comes alongside us. He is the most awesome Helper! Read John 14&16.

Got to go! My Spiritual Gifts project is waiting!

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An Entire Year to Make your Bride Happy

What is this all about you might ask? Or maybe you have read about this clever instruction. It amazes me how wise is our God! It shouldn’t be amazing because HE IS WISDOM! I think what amazes me is this rule he gave the Israelites.

When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife (or: to make happy his wife) whom he has taken. Deuteronomy 24:5

I’ve just written a story (in Spanish, but it will come in English) including this part. The imaginary boy and girl who are the main characters in The Great Escape are married and receive Moses’ blessing. Then he tells the boy that he doesn’t have to go into the army for one year, but that he should stay home and make his bride happy.

That’s an amazing instruction! I’ve been thinking about how different our world would be if that part of the Jewish Law was practiced today. Probably there would be lots less divorce and more happy families!

This is my imaginary couple, with Moses giving the blessing

I have 20 lessons about Faith Adventures with Moses and Joshua. It’s a wonderful opportunity to teach children about obedience and being brave in serving God. I’m writing these imaginary stories to accompany the lessons.

I wish I was a good story-teller. I am a better Bible teacher. I have no problem writing Bible lessons. To write these stories is really stretching me. But it’s a good thing. This gives me the opportunity to “teach” some of the interesting facts.

Apart from God providing nutritious food for his people during the 40 years of wandering in the desert, God saw to it that they had clothes to wear. There were no stores where they could go shopping!

I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. Deuteronomy 29:5

Something else, very important! Have you ever traveled in hot climate? Have you walked days on end? Then you know what usually happens to your feet. God saw to that detail, too.

Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Deuteronomy 8:4

No swollen feet for forty years! I struggle with swollen feet daily, one of the side-effects of my chemo treatments. Maybe that’s why this little bit of information hits home.

This has been a “trying” day — trying my patience! I felt like the tortoise in the fable where the hare and the tortoise had a competition. That’s how slow I advanced but I didn’t stop to take a nap, I just kept at it. It’s a computer problem. Just as we humans slow down as we get older, so do the computers. But they don’t last for 70 years! Mine is getting very slow after five years of wear and tear! Never before has it taken 5 hours to publish my story — but patience pays off. Now I know that thousands of children all over Latin America will be reading about Eleazar staying home for a year to make his bride Rachel happy!

That’s what I had on my mind to share. Let me finish with the verse that comforted my imaginary friends. May it comfort you!

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27

 

 

 

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Happy Memorial Day

 

HOME OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE!

God Bless America!

This is the 150th Memorial Day celebrated in the USA. I have celebrated 29, because this year it will be 30 years since I came to the United States. I will celebrate that happy occasion and write about it in July. For now, I want to extend my thanks to the million soldiers that have sacrificed their lives so that we can be a free nation. Of course, they cannot hear me but many of the families left behind can “hear” my voice.

There are today 2 million men and women in uniform.  To them and their loved ones go my heartfelt thanks. And especially to those who are grieving because their loved one in uniform did not come back from the field.

I also want to thank those who were hurt while doing their service. It saddens me that there is not enough financial help for them to get the adequate treatment. They should have priority! But, who am I to have an opinion about it?! I still do!

May God bless each one who is out there fighting the battles, so that I can sit peacefully in my living room fighting another kind of battle, the battle for boys and girls who need Jesus.

Thank you!

 

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Beware of the Little Foxes

In the center of the Bible is a beautiful love song in a book called Song of Solomon. It is the expression of love between the Lover and the Beloved. I remember as a teenager how excited it was to read this book, dreaming about a Lover that one day would take me in his arms and declare his love as beautifully as the Lover does in this book. And I would kiss him! That was very exciting for me (see chapter 8).

When I found my Lover, and he found me, it didn’t take us long to “tie the knot,” as they say. I have a picture of the light post where I got my first kiss, but couldn’t find it. I found another picture I haven’t shared here. I’ll let it represent the years of happy smiles we had together. There were also tears many times, but that’s life!

In Sweden today they have celebrated Mother’s Day. With the 7-hours difference it’s time for all the Swedish mothers to go to bed now. That brings me to a funny detail, taken from Song of Solomon.

One of the first things my dad taught his Son-in-Law was the biblical way that the Lover and the Beloved should sleep. See here:

His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!

The Lover sleeps on the right and the Beloved on the left. The Bible has all kinds of practical tips! When my daughter and her husband got married, Dad gave them the same advice! Find it in Song of Solomon 8:3.

I’ve gotten sidetracked. I was going to write about the little foxes, those “invisible” things that can creep in and undermine a marriage, but also life in general. The advice is to catch the little foxes before they cause unreparable damage.

The little foxes, that couldn’t reach the grapes, would start to nibble on the vine itself. If they weren’t caught, they would finally tear the vine apart and it would die. The big foxes were easy to chase away!

We had a good sermon about this at church today; that’s what inspired me to write. It’s the little things that can cause the greatest damage. The man you see smiling on the picture was innocent and sincere. He didn’t nibble on the vine. Neither of us did! But don’t think we didn’t have our share of little foxes to catch. The secret was to catch them early! Like Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it in the bud!”

Our preacher today mentioned:

  • Covetousness
  • Disobedience
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Arrogance

Let’s just talk life in general, not only marriage. These things can so easily come in and cause havoc. God has a hedge of protection for us when we walk in love and obedience. Jesus is the True Vine. If we abide in Him and keep His Commandments, our life will bear fruit and be filled with joy. Read about this in John 15. He will help us catch the little foxes!

Live a transparent life before God and your fellowmen.

Here is an excellent prayer:

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

Beware of the little foxes. Don’t let them get in between you and Jesus!

Have a super-blessed week!

 

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Don’t Borrow Sorrow from Tomorrow

I wouldn’t say that I’m a person to borrow sorrow, but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t wonder sometimes about tomorrow. My conversations with the Lord about that subject mostly have to do with my ministry endeavors. I believe I’ve written about the way it works for me, that I need to find work, so I can provide work. Isn’t it the way it works for most of us?

Just yesterday I was having a conversation with the Lord about this situation. My question was if I ‘m supposed to continue. I’ve signed a contract with my assistant in Peru for the coming year. “If no work comes in, I’ll use up my savings,” I said to the Lord. Then I was thinking about how I would break the news about ending this work relationship. And should I cut down even more on the number of pictures my artist does?

I’ll spare you the length of my conversation. I would not call it to borrow sorrow, other than it would “sorrow my heart” to cut off the relationship. As I always end these conversations, which really are monologues, in which I pour out my heart before the Lord, I said, “Lord, as long as you provide for me, I’m willing to continue this ministry of publishing stories and Bible lessons.”

That was it. I wasn’t borrowing sorrow from tomorrow, just thinking about my plans and projects.

Guess what?

I got an answer today. A check for a job I’ve done has been approved and is on its way! I will not have to dig into my (meager) savings to go to Walmart the 31st of this month to send off money through MoneyGram. I don’t have to worry about this for half a year. I offered another job! I will be translating and formatting another book on my favorite subject, about the Holy Spirit. It can’t get better than this!

Just the other day I had found in my journals a poem about this subject about borrowing sorrow. It was copied in the early days of my grieving, after the death of my daughter and the loss of my job. I believe I lost my job because I was shipwrecked emotionally. After coping for 31 years with the challenges of my daughter’s cystic fibrosis and all other ailments that were added to it, when she passed, I collapsed!

But whatever our sorrows are, the Heavenly Father’s arms will always hold us tight. About the loss of my job, I got it back two years later. By that time, I had “rested” doing other projects. I don’t know how many times I thanked God for the “pink slip” that came my way. Amid it all, God provided for us. He never leaves us, he never forsakes us. Even when we must go through the fire or walk in deep waters, we can trust our Lord.

What’s my point? I had to tell someone about the exciting news I received this afternoon. Since I don’t have the love of my life anymore to share things with, this blog helps me unload. This time I feel the need to unload my excitement and thankfulness. Hopefully, I can encourage you to trust Jesus in all circumstances.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

 

Borrow no Sorrow

There’s a stream of trouble across my path;

it is black and deep and wide.

Bitter the hour the future hath

When I cross its swelling tide.

But I smile and sing and say,

“I will hope and trust always;

I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,

But I’ll borrow none today.”

Tomorrow’s bridge is a dangerous thing;

I dare not cross it now.

I can see its timbers sway and swing,

And its arches real and bow.

O heart, you must hope always,

You must sing and trust and say,

I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,

But I’ll borrow none today.”

–Streams in the Desert

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