God Is On the Move

 

The week leading up to my birthday this year was one for the books. On Tuesday, I rushed to the bathroom several times expecting Aunt Flo.  On Wednesday, repeat. Odd. When Thursday became a no-show, I was in full-blown panic mode. On Friday morning (1AM) I woke Josh and exclaimed that I could not sleep. I was “late”, and I was certain I knew what that meant. Even still, I tried to google and explain it away: maybe I was stressed over Joshua’s end of semester and last-minute assignments, maybe it was due to weight change, maybe my cycle was just a little off. Or, maybe…  I was pregnant.

She seemed very worried, almost distraught. As she stood there in the kitchen with that worried tone and depleted look, I felt the same feeling in my heart which I had felt the day we found out about our first pregnancy. “God hasn’t abandoned us,” I said. “If we are [pregnant], He will get us through it.” A few short hours later, my 5AM alarm rang. I woke up with mixed feelings of curiosity and doubtfulness regarding the possibility of pregnancy. I opened my bible app and started to play the audio to Genesis chapter 38. The story of Judah and Tamar began to play. This piece of history is an early example of how one person’s refusal to surrender to God’s divine plan will NOT stop him from working everything out for His glory. Tamar is the daughter-in-law to Judah via his son Er. God kills Er because he is wicked. Then Onan is to carry on Er’s legacy with Tamar, but purposefully spills his seed on the ground (Genesis 38:9). My heart sunk. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit because we were trying not to have kids, moreover, our hearts didn’t want any more kids (at least for another year or so). Onan was destroyed because he refused to have children for his brother. Judah then promises his youngest, who was not yet of age, to Tamar. Judah forgot about his promise, so Tamar tricked Judah into having intercourse with him and conceived. I was reading the NIV. My curiosity climaxed as my doubtfulness dissipated with every word of verse 27: “When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.” I immediately knew that God was telling me, not only were we pregnant, we were pregnant with ANOTHER set of twins AND they would be boys. NIV is one of two versions to express the specific gender of the twins (in verse 27) that Tamar conceived (though that information would be gathered by later context in the chapter); God’s Word Translation is the other.

So, at who-knows-what- time in the morning, my husband comes in with a Bible, a commentary on Genesis, and a lovely note of instructions and encouragement. I halfway acknowledged him and went back to sleep. Breastfeeding twin moms don’t play when it comes to sleep, and I had already lost too much due to anxiety. Once the girls woke up to eat and we were all situated, I began to read. My response was not as radical as Josh’s, but that’s probably because I’ve already (recently) been through two twin pregnancies and was terrified of the idea of going through another so soon. Maybe this meant something, and maybe it didn’t. We’d just have to wait and see. That night we took the test to confirm what we both knew. The Harris family is expanding; by how many feet, was yet to be confirmed except on faith of God’s Word.

We agreed not to tell anyone in our family until we saw a doctor, but we wanted to tell everyone else in our prayer circle, for obvious reasons. I’m not the type of person to tell strangers I’m pregnant when I clearly don’t look pregnant yet; Josh, on the other hand, told everyone who dared to lend a listening ear. Our conversations in wal-mart went something like this:

Stranger: Oh, look how sweet! Twins? *gestures towards Madeline and Magnolia*

Me: Yes, these two are identical, but the older ones are twins, as well. Fraternal, of course.

Stranger: Wow! You have two sets of twins!?

Josh: *places hand on my abdomen* And two boys on the way!

Stranger: *gasp* (response varies)

Me: We don’t know that for sure, yet. We haven’t seen a doctor.

This went on for about 8 weeks. As the day of our first appointment approached, my attitude about the pregnancy changed dramatically. I would refer to whomever was in my womb as “baby brothers” and hoped for the sake of Joshua’s faith that it was true. He was SO sure God had spoken through that Bible study. At the same time, I was so sure I was only carrying one baby. I’ve had relatively easy pregnancies before, but this one had been a breeze for the first 12 weeks. No way could there be two babies in there!

My boss’s wife and daughters agreed to keep Jonah & Aniston the day of the first Dr.’s appointment. I wasn’t nervous, just anxious to find out anything I could about this pregnancy that would confirm what I knew to be true. Raye wasn’t sure whether we would get an ultrasound, but we both had high hopes. As Raye said before, I had told everyone (short of family) our story. I told them all about the bible study and how sure I was that they were boys. One of my co-workers said “what are you gonna do if it’s not boys, or twins for that matter?” “It’s still a miracle!” I told them. While we were in the waiting room, both of us grew jittery with butterflies. Raye was nervous about not knowing what to expect; I was nervous to find out what I already knew, to finally get to see this miracle with my own eyes. We entered the room and, to our pleasant surprise, the doctor had ordered an ultrasound. As ADHD as I am, I wasted no time in telling the nurse and doctor about our story and what God has done. The usual skepticism was incurred, but it didn’t slow me down. The nurse readied the machine and the moment of truth finally came. Raye couldn’t see, but I stood squashed in a corner with a baby on each hip because I COULD NOT wait another second to see this. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat. It’s twins, and by the looks of it identical! Congratulations.” Wow! Mind BLOWN! I told Raye earlier on that if she was in fact carrying twins, then I knew for sure they are boys. God heard my faith and went a step further to put a doctor in our path who is thorough and educated enough to be able to tell us they are identical. So whatever the gender, they’re both the same. *If you haven’t read our blogs before, we didn’t find out until AFTER the girls’ first birthday that they are identical.*

Well, that’s all it took to convince me that God had genuinely spoken to Josh. 12 weeks’ gestation is too early to distinguish genitalia, but from that point I believed whole-heartedly. It made sense that I was having the easiest pregnancy because A) that’s God’s grace on me for taking the physical brunt of whatever this grand plan is that He has in store for our blossoming family and B) my body must have an easier time carrying boys than girls. Per the decision we made early on in the pregnancy, we now had to face Goliath AKA tell our family the news. We expected disapproval and fear of the medical and financial unknown from our closest loved ones. We prayed and asked everyone who already knew this GREAT news to pray for our families to receive it with politeness, if not excitement. That’s all we asked. And, what do ya know? God blessed us with open-arms, tears of joy, annnnnnd mostly shock. This is the kind of shock that won’t wear off until we are taking our new “first family photo” which will give way to a new wave of shock. And, at that point, what’s not to be happy about, right? Thank you, Lord!

What’s next on the agenda? The 4-week waiting game…waiting for our next appointment to prove to all the doubtful Dolly’s that God still speaks through His Holy Word. After all that waiting and anticipating and telling everyone that we would find out today, July 22, 2016, because we should be able to confirm the gender via ultrasound, we left the house with our two big twins in tow and a gut-wrenching thought occurred to me. “What if we don’t get an ultrasound today?” I thought out-loud. Bad idea. Josh was so distraught. He had charged the camera, and he was ready for soundwaves, camera, action. He was anxious to collect evidence that #GodIsOnTheMove today, and he did not want to wait. Certain that God would prove Himself in His own divine time, I was a little worried that Aniston and Jonah may not get to see their “baby brothers” like I had promised. Josh was bummed out, but he prayed about it. I couldn’t make out his exact words as I was busy searching for parking, but I know his heart. God sent him a distraction.

Thanks, God. I couldn’t see it as a blessing at the moment. Josh’s phone started this peculiar malfunction where his microphone would not work for outgoing calls, but somehow it still worked for incoming calls. He’s ADHD. You do the math. I sat in the waiting room trying to fill out paperwork with twin two-year-olds who were fighting over puzzles and notebooks by myself while he stood out in the hall making phone calls. When the nurse called me back, I could not get his attention. So, I just got those little ducks in a row and we waddled into the restroom together. Yes, Jonah flushed the toilet for me after I rejected his offer to wipe me, and Aniston pushed the Call-For-Assistance button. Never a dull moment. They stood nice and quiet against the wall holding their toys and my purse while I had my weight checked. When the nurse directed us to our room, I was surprised to see Josh waiting for us. He had already asked whether we would have a scan done today. The nurse told him no. Disappointment was all over his face. But, God kept on with that distraction. We bickered the whole time we waited for the doctor because he would not put down that stupid electronic and help me keep up with our tiny pretend “doctors”. The real doctor came in; no machine. Poor Josh had still been hanging on to a tiny glimmer of hope until he locked eyes on the Doppler in her hand.  After a little chat, she informed us that she had decided to do a quick look to make sure babies and placenta looked normal. She went on to explain that it’s difficult to make out two separate heart beats with the Doppler, anyway, which I already knew from my last two pregnancies. Wow! Okay, God, we’re ready.

I wasn’t even ready for this!! Yeah, so I had a fully charged camera, which apparently had reset itself and required me to “set the time.” I didn’t have time for that. Come to find out, it didn’t have a memory card, anyway. Plan B: my phone! That didn’t work out too hot either. I forgot to press record! It was all happening so fast. Before I knew it, I was seeing two sets of testicles. The crown jewels to carry on our strong Scottish name (be it God’s Will), moreover, our strong Christian faith. In short, it was quite overwhelming. The moment of truth finally came and the faith I had held onto so dearly paid off. God DID speak directly to me through His word. So here we are: a family of 8, now. Where are we headed? All I can say is, if He says, “Go,” we will go. What else is there? I’ve already been down unguided paths; they were dead ends. Not happening again. This miraculous “randomness” (cough, cough) only strengthens what I already know to be true. GOD IS REAL!

Here’s a little lagniappe for those of you who still may want to chalk God’s work up to coincidence, or those of you who just love to acknowledge the “little” miracles. Josh and I have always known we wanted six kids. For Josh, this dream started as a child. He has ALWAYS wanted six kids: 3 boys and 3 girls. Not ironic. God! When I was a child, I always imagined myself to have four kids. Now, I realize I only felt that way because my mom had “four kids.” Hindsight, it wasn’t that I wanted to “have four kids,” I just wanted to be like my mom. But, in fact, my mom had six kids, one of them being my twin brother, Larz. Not ironic. God! The chance of having two sets of fraternal twins is 1 in 3,000. The chance of having one set of fraternal twins and one set of identical twins is 1 in 10,000. The chance of having two sets of identical twins is 1 in 70,000. The chance of having three sets of twins (regardless of zygosity) is 1 in 500,000. We have never used fertility treatments of any sort, and I’m 24 years old. For two years my womb was closed; we didn’t understand why. Finally, we prayed that God only give us children if it’s His will. We vowed that we would raise them to be an Army for God. Six kids in three years…I’d call that an army. Not ironic. Not irresponsible behavior. God! An hour or so after we got back home today, Josh’s phone miraculously started working properly. Not ironic. God!

Here is a link to all the twin statistics. http://www.twinstwice.com/twins.html

Drake Elliott Harris & Judah Lane Harris will make their appearance in early December.

—-Josh Raye

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Proof In Answered Prayer

 

The Diagnosis

For much of my life I have wondered if God really hears anything I tell Him. The latter part of my young adult life was spent convinced that He doesn’t. “If there is a God He certainly doesn’t care to hear anything I have to say. He only listens to people like David.” These words played over and over again in my head as day in and day out I suffered with type 1 Bipolar, and ADHD. I was clinically diagnosed with ADHD when I was just 4 years old and immediately put on medication. I have been on medication daily now for 26 years. I was diagnosed with type 1 Bipolar when I was 16 years old. Rigorous psychological testing by a Dr. Penny in the greater Houston area was conducted. Type 1 Bipolar is a condition in which the brain is chemically imbalanced causing an individual to have severe spikes in mood changes. One indicator to this is where an individual is maniacally crazed, or simply out extremely happy and overtly enthusiastic. Then there is a sudden shift, seemingly out of nowhere, in the individual’s mood that goes from manic to majorly depressed and often to a suicidal point. The sudden shift in moods make it near impossible for people to live with the individual. They are often violently angry for no apparent reason and suffer a great deal from depression. The mania causes severe social problems and is often prone to ignorant impulses in decision making. This chemical imbalance causes a distorted view of reality where paranoia and severe anxiety encompass their thoughts and leave them very frightened of the world they live in. Many individuals, including myself, cling to drugs and alcohol to cope with this. To add to the severity, I also dealt with ADHD which is also a chemical imbalance where the brain functions at high speeds disabling the individual to hold attention to anything for any prolonged period of time and in addition causes the individual to engage in hyper activity often times appearing manic or overtly excited.

To Just Be Normal

I was raised in the church. Moreover, I was raised to have complete faith in God. This really came about as a result of my dad’s encounter with Christ, which is a whole other blog by itself, and his and my mother’s reliance on God to see me through my illnesses. My entire life has been a tremendous battle. Anyone who knew me growing up knows exactly what I was like. Life was terrifically hard for me. My parents and I prayed long and hard that God would help me and deliver me from these illnesses. For my entire childhood, adolescents, and early adulthood I suffered GREATLY because of the Bipolar and ADHD.

 

 

A Long Awaited Answer

It wasn’t until I met my wife that God really started to answer our prayers. Most of you know mine and my wife’s story. One part I should emphasize is how six months before we got pregnant with our first set of twins we decided to not divorce but instead give our marriage to God and allow Him to restore store it. We though that we had won God’s favor with just one set of twins but alas six months after we had our first set we got pregnant with our second set. By this time God had tremendously changed me mentally. I was able to hold down a job, and limit the amount of medication I took. I had absolutely no psychotic episodes, in fact my wife has never experienced a first-hand account of my bipolar disorder. (LUCKY HER RIGHT MOM?) I was able to get off drugs and alcohol and despite my ADHD was able to do quite well in school. When we first discovered we were pregnant again we immediately found out it was twins. Because of our tremendous faith in God and His divine presence in our lives we received numerous criticism and scolding remarks that summed us up as “careless.” My wife and I didn’t care, except that it hurt deeply to hear such opposition. I knew God was working in our lives and wondered what the chances of that are, back to back twins. I searched and searched and finally came up with the statistics, however reliable they may be. It’s a 1 in 3,000 chance to have back to back fraternal twins and then it’s 1 in 10,000 chance to have fraternal then identical twins. I prayed desperately for the second set to be identical simply because I knew it could only validate God and add tremendously to our testimony.

How God Works

When our first set were born we found out that their placentas were fused. They started off with separate sacs and separate placentas but sometime during the pregnancy their placentas fused. This also happened with our second set. Both started off separately then fused together. Despite having already had several ultrasounds during the second pregnancy I really hoped that God would answer my prayers for them to be identical. Why not? He answered my prayers about my illnesses. When that beautiful day came and I asked the Doctor if they were identical my gut sank when I heard those dreaded words, “nope separate sacs.” Fast-forward a year and a couple months. My wife and I have a cousin who also recently had twin girls and they sent off for a test to see if they were identical and it came back positive. My wife was in the middle of filling out a study on twins that we participated in a year ago and it came to her to spring for a test. When she approached me about it I immediately said no! I did not feel like God would have us waste 100$ on a test to find out what we already know but eventually she convinced me on the condition that we would never tell anyone that we wasted 100$, especially my parents HAHA. Just kidding mom, not really. A few weeks went by and we were anxiously awaiting the results. I was sitting in Chapel for a Sex Addiciton conference here at the Seminary when I received an email. IT WAS THEM!!!! I opened it up  and read it.

YES OUR TWIN GIRLS ARE IDENTICAL!!!!

God reminded me that day that He does hear me. He heard me before time began and planned my life out according to His will. He knew I would love Him and desire earnestly to serve Him. He took into careful consideration my desire for our girls to be identical. He listened to my parents pleas for God to help me deal with these illnesses and as of recently I am medication free. NO MEDS FOR ME. This is the first time in 26 years that I haven’t taken medication AT ALL!!!! I know God is real. This isn’t a coincidence. This didn’t happen by chance. I am a nobody. A worthless man incapable of pleasing God but because I love His SON He sees me differently and blesses me regardless of what I’ve done or will do. I don’t deserve this AT ALL but God sees it differently and it’s all owed to Jesus.

KEEP PRAYING. ONE DAY GOD WILL ANSWER YOU. SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE HOW WE WOULD IMAGINE IT BUT IT’S JUST PERFECT TO GOD.

 

Where the heart is…

 

For Scott and Squeaky, wherever you are my prayers are with you.

My mother-in-law Deann just walked out the door from a three day stay with us. It took about three months to come down to see us and what took three months came and went in just under 72 hours. Goodbyes are a hard thing to endure.

Both my wife and I grew up in a loving parental atmosphere. We are not shy as to what real love is: the sacrifice of it all and the drudgery of the mundane for the ones you care about. We both have parents who have sacrificed so very much for our well being and who have made sure we recognized the face of true love when we see it. I myself remember my Father and Mother indoctrinating me with the true meaning of love day after day. They always backed it up with the actions necessary to validate it. Likewise my mother-in-laws love for her daughter is evident. I can see it every time my wife parents our children with the love that she has learned from her mother. Our stay here is in fact lonely. We don’t have any friends to call up and fellowship with. We don’t have our family an hour down the road. We are here with the Holy Spirit and our faith. It’s easy for people, especially family, to simply say “pack up and come home, there’s school here.” The truth is that it’s very enticing but being in God’s will is oftentimes lonely and challenging. It isn’t an easy and beautiful thing. It’s filled with long goodbye’s and see you soons, that usually end up many months later. It’s a sacrifice we have chosen that is for the better, not for ourselves but for the guys like Scott and Squeaky, who are homeless and all alone in the world. These two precious men are just two people we’ve met and ministered to since we’ve been here. Scott told me he has a son in Ohio. He wanted a son so bad for so many years and now he just had him and he can’t see him. His sons name is Christian and he’s a year old. I’m sure glad that my wife and I came to New Orleans if for no other reason but for the time we spent with Squeaky and Scott. I looked into the eyes of these two men and I saw a tremendous amount of pain. I saw a void that I once knew myself. I wish I could have done more for them than I did but if nothing else they know just how much Jesus loves them. 

Home isn’t where the heart is despite culturally popular belief. The heart is a divided conundrum that will deceive you and if you are not consciously seeking the cross then you’re heart will rest in the womb of the world. The presence of God is where the heart longs to be. It’s the very reason why we are celebrating easter some 2000 years later. The very death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was so that one day we could come back home because He’s where the heart really longs to be. 

If you feel that longing in your life and you haven’t been able to figure out what it is then may I introduce that longing to you? His name is Jesus Christ and He just can’t wait to throw His loving arms around you and give you the hope that one day you’ll be home with Him in Heaven. 

One day we will all be faced with the presence of eternity and where our hearts are at now will determine where they will rest forever. Where’s your heart at?

For my brothers and sisters in Christ may I ask that you remember these two men Squeaky and Scott in your prayers? It’s not a big thing to ask for and the best part is that it’s free. Pray that God will relentlessly pursue them and that He will show them His love for them and that His pursuit for them will not be in vain but a triumphant victory for Heaven. 

                                                                                                                                – Joshua

A Dark Night of the Soul

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Right now, as I’m writing this, there are hundreds of thousands of people praying; by the time you finish reading this, a number of them will already have been answered. Jesus has heard them, taken them to the Father, and pleaded on their behalf. The little seminary in Jinja, Uganda is filling with students seeking the promises of Jesus Christ. There is a small village in China at this very moment experiencing unimaginable movement by the Holy Spirit. Believers in Australia, Norway, Italy, France, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Germany, India, Ireland, USA, Canada, Iceland, Norwich, Sweden, and many more countries all over the world are experiencing supplication with the very Author of creation. Some of them are experiencing tragic loss, miraculous healing, restoration, spiritual desolation, and true revival. The Holy Spirit is penetrating prison walls, family quarters, concentration camps, bars, sex clubs, drug slums, and back alleys. He is cross-culturalizing and filling in the gaps. No power is greater. He is unstoppable. God the creator is getting glory, as I type, and continues as you read this. He will continue to get the glory for eon’s after this fragment is written and forgotten. The very God who created every single person that has ever lived, the very God who breathed the universe into existence, the very God who walked alongside Abraham, is at work today. He’s everywhere. No matter what the world says, God is most assuredly on the move. He is not dead.

When my wife and I moved to New Orleans, I was expecting something miraculous to take place inside me. I was expecting God to grace me with His grand presence by immersing myself into seminary life. What I didn’t expect was a dark night of the soul. For those of you who have never heard this term, I will elaborate. St John of the Cross wrote a poem in 1577 entitled “Dark Night,” describing the soul’s journey into supplication with God. Although some claim “Dark knight” reflects the meaning of the phrase “dark knight of the soul,” this isn’t the case. The phrase has been used by the Roman Catholic church to reflect a time period of spiritual desolation in which you do not feel or hear God’s presence in your life. A 19th century French Carmelite, St. Therese of Lisieux, confessed her own experience to her fellow nuns, “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into.” In the 18th century, St. Paul of the cross experienced this for 45 years, until he finally recovered. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has had the most extensive case, lasting from 1948 up until her death in 1997, with brief interludes. One of America’s most beloved Pastor/ Evangelists, Charles Spurgeon, spent a large part of his ministry experiencing this. Sometimes it was so great that it left him bedridden.

When we look at the Bible and what it says about these dark nights or spiritual valleys, we get a clear picture of just what God is trying to tell us. It is a reoccurring theme that rings out. Many of our fathers in the Bible experienced this spiritual desolation: Elijah, David, Job, and Joseph, just to name a few. In the second chapter of Job, his wife told him to curse God and die. Then, he responded to her by rhetorically asking her whether or not we should accept only the good things of God and not the adversity. The author writes that Job upheld his integrity (Job 2:9-10). David writes of his valley in Psalm. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). In 1 Kings 19, Elijah felt such depression that he asked God to take his life. Joseph expressed to his brothers that God had allowed the things in his life to happen for a good reason (Genesis 50).

Even Jesus experienced the dark night that all of us go through, and He had never even sinned. Matthew 27:46 says, “’and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” Jesus was actually quoting Psalm 22:1. Jesus did not say this because God had abandoned Him. God cannot abandon Himself but rather He said this to fulfill the prophesy of Psalm 22,  which was a prophesy to Jesus’ type of death.

God never leaves us. “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). Though I am experiencing a great “dark night of the soul,” God has not forsaken me; He never will. This is a biblical promise for all who love and obey Him. I may not feel God’s presence in my life right now, but I can still see it all around me. God is still here, even if I can’t see him. If travailing towards the cross means trudging through the valley, then I press on in faith that one day I will see my resurrected King.

—Joshua

Mary, Mother of Jesus

 

The Hebrew name Mary has always been extraordinarily popular, dating back to the time of the New Testament. At least half a dozen women mentioned in the Bible bore the name Mary. For this reason, Jesus’s mother is often identified as “Mary, Mother of Jesus.” Mary was a beloved follower of God. Because of her faithfulness, she was chosen to bear and care for the Son of God.

Every time I read about Mary, I realize a new connection I have with her, directly or indirectly. She was a young teenager when she became a mother. My sister turned 14 years old shortly after the birth of her first daughter. Her favorite lullaby to sing to my niece was “Mary, Did You Know?”. When I became a mother two years ago, I found that the same song had a new meaning to me. Suddenly, I had a new connection to Mary, as I tried to imagine how it must have felt to hold Jesus as a babe, and to wonder at the marvelous miracles to come from him (Luke 2:19). The birth canal is the channel of life; Mary gave birth to the channel of Eternal Life for all of mankind.

Before I became a mother, I nearly became a divorcee. Like Mary, I experienced a time when my husband wanted to divorce me because of something I did which brought disgrace to him. During a difficult time early in our marriage, my husband and I were arguing before a trip out of town to spend Thanksgiving Day with his family. The argument rose to a peak, and I decided not to go with him. He refused to take me back home, but headed towards the Interstate instead, in a rage. We both had reached a point that we did not trust each other, and I called the police. All I wanted was to get out of the car, and at that moment, I could not come up with another solution. Being pulled over and having a policeman put handcuffs on you as strangers drive by peering out at you is a very embarrassing, disgraceful scenario. What brought disgrace to my husband is in no way comparable to Mary’s premarital pregnancy. We were out of God’s will at the time, but I could not continue on that path with my husband. When the policeman told my husband to get out of the vehicle, and we parted ways, I was putting the future of our marriage in God’s hands. I was trusting that He would fix what we had allowed to spiral out of control. And He did. At first, like Joseph, my husband’s immediate response was to seek a divorce (Matthew 1:19) But, God placed a love for me in my husband’s heart and, over a period of six months or so, directed my husband back to me. We both committed to being servants of God, and He healed our marriage, then blessed us with four children.

If I reach back in my memory bank, I can not recall the day that I met the man I call Dad. But, just before my 18th birthday, my mom confessed that my “Dad” is not my biological father. He adopted me when I was two years old. Through my mom’s eyes, I can see how grateful Mary must have felt towards Joseph for raising Jesus as his own son, because that is what my dad did for me (Matthew 1:24). Like Joseph, my dad provided for me financially and cared as much for me as for my siblings. Sadly, nothing is mentioned about Joseph once Jesus began ministering. I suppose we can assume that Joseph died before Jesus’ crucifixion and left Mary to be a widow, as Jesus asked his beloved disciple to care for his mother just before he died on the cross (John 12:27). Similarly, my dad left my mother around the time that my marriage was healed, which would be the ultimate jumpstart to my ministry alongside my husband. Now, I pray for God to send someone to care for my mother both spiritually and financially, be it through a godly husband or the salvation of one or both of my brothers.

Finally, I feel that I can connect with Mary in that we both were raised naively in a small town, only to be swept into the world of travel once married. I lived in the same house for seventeen years, but I have moved eight times since I’ve been married. With Joseph, Mary traveled to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Israel, and back to Nazareth. She submitted to Joseph, just as Joseph submitted to God.

Although I feel drawn to her life story for many reasons, the only aspect that I truly  wish to share with Mary, Mother of Jesus, is her character.  The mere fact that God chose her to be Jesus’ mother is proof enough that she upheld great moral character. The angel Gabriel referred to Mary as one who was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28,30). As Christians, we are all called to live like Mary. Elizabeth called Mary blessed and praised her faithfulness to God (Luke 1:42-45). Mary’s response was to rejoice and to sing praises to God (Luke 1:46-55). She was humble, referring to herself as a servant of God, even as the flesh of God formed inside her womb (Luke 1:38,48). She was knowledgeable of God and understood His equally infinite attributes of justice and love (Luke 1:50-55). She sought the wise counsel of her elder cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:56). Mary honored and submitted to her husband, as she trusted him and followed him faithfully (Matthew 2:14-15, 21-23, Luke 1:4-5). Joseph and Mary obeyed the law of the land by responding appropriately to the call of a census (Luke 2:1-5). As well, they obeyed the Law of the Lord by presenting Jesus to God and giving the appropriate sacrifices (Luke 2:22-24). They continued to raise Jesus in the church, keeping all the Laws of the Lord (Luke 2:39-41). Even when Jesus was grown, he honored the teachings of his mother, as it is written that he read in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day (Luke 4:16).

From Mary I have learned to humbly accept God’s will for my life, whatever that may be. I have learned that I should submerse myself in God’s Word and sing praises to Him always. As a mother, I observe that I should teach my children God’s commands, emphasizing the importance of loving and encouraging one another. As well, I should teach them to thirst for God by instilling habits of spiritual discipline in them and daily pointing out miracles of God which they may otherwise overlook. When I am in need of advice, I will seek counsel from people who are older and/or more spiritually mature than I. Where my husband leads, I will follow and submit myself to him as unto the Lord. I will conduct myself as a citizen with upstanding moral conduct and integrity, displaying the Fruits of the Spirit and confessing my faults.

As revered as Mary was in God’s eyes, we must all remember that she, too, was a mere human. The same story is repeated in three gospels of Jesus telling the crowd he was talking to that anyone who follows Christ is equal to his mother (Matthew 12:48-50, Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:21). Then, as he hung on the cross, He (God) spent some of his dying seconds showing Mary gratitude by assuring her that she would be taken care of (John 19: 25-27). The ultimate lesson Christians can learn from Mary is to follow the will of God. Even if at times that means feeling great agony like Mary felt as she watched her son die, God assures us that He will always take care of His flock.

–Raye

first family photo
Aniston and Jonah
M&M First Family Photo
Madeline and Magnolia

Not So Proverbs 31: My Confession for Change

She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.  Proverbs 31:15 NIV

This is the most convicting verse in the Bible for me right now. When I was younger, in my teenage years, I was an early riser. I lived in a 3-bedroom home with 5-6 other people, and I valued a warm shower more than sleep. I spent many summers at camp waking before the sun in that same race for a warm shower. Early in my marriage, I remember quietly sneaking to the kitchen to make breakfast for my husband. Often I worked 7 AM shifts with the occasional 5 AM shift for holidays or inventory. Even during our separation, I usually worked the 6 AM shift at Sonic. If I wasn’t at work early, I still had to wake early to get my niece and nephew to school. With all this history of waking early, I thought I had this verse in the bag. Been there, done that, got the Proverbs 31 Woman t-shirt. Ha!

In all my haughtiness, God gave me twins on top of twins. Waking up early is certainly a challenge these days. And, every time this verse comes up, I sink into my seat shamefully. Even this morning, after staying up late doing homework, my husband got up early enough to get ready for school, listened to some of the Gospel of Luke, made biscuits and fixed Aniston’s plate and drink for her, and rode his bike to class. I’m sure he was there 10-15 minutes early. As usual, I was still half-asleep in bed nursing babies when he left. I may have stayed in bed later had Jonah not come into the room (half-naked) holding up his finger and saying, “Mommy, got poo-poo.” 

After taking care of that mess and making it to the bathroom just in time to avoid making a mess of my own, I fixed myself a cup of coffee and turned on the tv for the kids. I told them I was going to my room. I went to my closet and opened up my Life Lessons From Women in the Bible book to Week 4, Day 2, The Proverbs 31 Woman: A Disciplined Worker, and that dreaded convicting verse. But, there’s no use avoiding it. After all, I did pray for this. Joshua has been praying for this. Maybe you’ve prayed for me, too. If so, thank you. This is the conviction I needed, the affirmation of what I already felt. It’s time for me to stop using my babies as an excuse for not waking early and tending to my duties. It’s time for me to start managing my household. I used to rely on Joshua to help me, and God took that away. God wants me to rely on Him! 

A Proverbs 31 Woman is a disciplined woman, and that is my personal goal. This will require training daily through prayer and meditation on God’s Word, as well as application of the message God delivers. Today his message was crystal clear, undeniable. As Dr. Rhonda states on pg. 81, “The Christian is not limited only to personal willpower.” Praise Jesus! As an equally encouraging note, she later quotes God’s Word from Hebrews 12:1, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (NIV). In response to these encouraging words, I am praying for The Holy Spirit to reveal my own personal way to be woken up earlier in the day, so that I might manage my household the way God would have me to. 

If you share this conviction, feel free to join me. I’d be happy to share my struggles, strategies, and strength through prayer.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.                       Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Once again, I recommend Life Lessons From Women in the Bible as a personal or women’s group bible study. It has brought both joy and conviction to me over the past month.

–Raye

The ‘Poop’etrator in photo below.  

The Hot Pursuit: A Gomer Story

Many moons ago, about this time last year, someone (Josh) got the bright idea to introduce our kids to the movie Frozen. Instantly, they were hooked. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t equally as obsessed. At some point, maybe a couple weeks or months after watching “YaYa” every single day, I noticed that every time Hans came on screen, Aniston’s face lit up. My one-year-old daughter had fallen in love with the bad boy. How did I let this happen? I desperately tried to convince her to like Kristoff by pointing out his good qualities. Mind you, I was speaking to a ONE-YEAR-OLD. She could care less. Of course, I had to bring this to Joshua’s attention, so together we watched Aniston watch the movie. He saw the same thing. It finally hit me, looking at her then looking at him: Hans reminds her of her PaPa. Alas, she is her mother’s child. Aniston still gets all dreamy-eyed every time she sees her Prince Not-So-Charming.

I wasn’t always one to go after the “bad boy”. I met my first two boyfriends at church. But, there was something about Josh. Of course, I didn’t see him in that light when he first messaged me on Facebook, “Hey, how do I know you?” He was/is quite the smooth talker, and I was instantly smitten, hanging onto his every word. It didn’t take long for people to start warning me about him. My dad, ex-boyfriends, basically anyone who had heard a story or two about my new love interest was letting me know he was a Bad News Bear. When I approached him about these stories, with no implication that they deflected my attraction to him, he started showing his true colors to me, as well. After only a few weeks of dating, Josh showed up at my house at 1AM, very distraught and angry. He wanted to give everyone a piece of his mind, and he wanted to break up with me before I beat him to the punch. That was the night I broke my own rule and told him those three little words. He was bewildered at the fact that I would still love him after everything I’d been told. After a couple more emotionally exhausting months, his bewilderment made more sense to me. After every random senseless argument, I found myself asking God why He made me love Josh. This guy seemed hopeless. Though we made many, many, MANY mistakes together, I continued to pray for God’s will and for tons of patience. God put the same love for me in Joshua’s heart that He had placed in me for Joshua. Slowly but surely, God used me to mold and shape Josh into the man He was holding out hope for all along. Josh had always been a kind, compassionate person but had been betrayed by people influenced by Satan. For over ten years Josh had lived a life controlled by addictions and discouragement. At first he made changes to his life to impress me. Eventually, his love for God surpassed his love for me, and here we are. Now, we are a month into the biggest adventure of our life (thus far) pursuing God and letting Him have total control.

In my minister’s wives class, we are studying women of the Bible. One of the women we studied last week was Gomer. Her story of hope can be found in the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet. God told Hosea to marry a harlot. That harlot was Gomer. Gomer continued to live promiscuously after her marriage to Hosea. They had 3 children together, and she still continued to worship pagan gods and live in sin. In the end, God tells Hosea to go and retrieve his wife. He paid another man to have his wife back. In Hosea 3:3 “[he] told her, ‘you are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” I can imagine that proclamation of love, after everything she had done, seemed bewildering to Gomer. That is the kind of love that can only come from God. In this story Gomer represents Israel, and essentially all sinners. Hosea represents Jesus Christ who paid the price of sin for us sinners. Oh, how He loves us!

If someday my sweet, compassionate daughter introduces me to her real-life Hans, that will be a hard pill to swallow as her mother. But, like my mother before me, I will have to trust that she is following God’s Will in a very trying pursuit. I may ask God why, but I will have hope. We are called to reach out to and love and witness to the “Gomers” of the modern world. Not to condone their behavior, but to encourage them that they can get out.

God loves me, and Josh, and our children, and He knew our entire future way back when Josh and I first met. God loves you, sin and all. And, He knows your future. He knows whether or not you will choose Him. He has paid the price of sin (death!) for you. If you are a follower of Christ, praise God! Now, extend that grace to the next person. If you are not a follower of Christ, God has already paid for you and there is no place you can go that He won’t pursue you.

I encourage you to read Hosea. You won’t be sorry. Also, if you’re interested in a great women’s bible study, I recommend Life Lessons From Women in the Bible by Rhonda Harrington Kelley. This study can be done individually or in a group. God Bless!

–Raye

  

Breathe

For Momma D. My kindred spirit. Breathe, Just Breathe 

I’m sitting here in the car on my way to Sams Club on Sunday @ 11:28 a.m listening to Breathe by Jonny Diaz when I should be in church praising God. Let’s start at the beginning though….
January 4th 2016 was a promising, sad, and exciting day for us Harris’s. It’s the day we began a new chapter in our life. A chapter of complete and total unknown. A step of faith that would ultimately prove to me how little I actually had in God and how much I really yearned for. My mom, dad, and sister were kind enough to break away from there busy lives to help us. We thank them tremendously for giving us their time. It was terrifically needed. I have to learn to accept that for my life….need. I’m not one to ask for it other than from my parents but it’s obvious to me that that’s how God is going to provide for us right now and that’s ok. I have to accept that no matter how hard I want to work it’s not going to be enough. We will need food stamps. We will need hand outs. We will need faith and it’s ok. I have to tell myself this over and over and over again as I try to sneak a swipe of my snap card at the grocery store for fear that people will see. I fear their judgement. I fear those dreaded words. “They shouldn’t have had four kids.” I didn’t intend for any of these children to be here. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want them because I did but I didn’t intend for their to be multiples. That part was just part of Gods plan for me and I was forced to accept it. 

We were running very late that day, on Jan 4th, and didn’t leave for New Orleans until noon which is another thing about me that I have to accept. I’m adhd and….that’s ok. People who don’t have it don’t know what it’s like. I feel sorry more for my family than for myself. It’s hard to deal with and love a person who has this. I’m a difficult person to love but I know I have a lot of people who do and I’m very grateful for it in particular a Heavenly Father who has told me through Paul that “my grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9)” after asking Him several times to deliver me from it. He hasn’t and He never will. It’s my thorn in the flesh.

Our arrival in New Orleans was bittersweet for me. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t look forward to the next couple of days. I knew that three days later my parents would leave and I would be forced to accept a change that I thought I wanted. All that I have kept thinking about this past year is how much I wanted Gods will for my life. How much I longed to have God lead me down the road He wants. Much like everything else I was impulsive and impatient and didn’t think any of this through. I didn’t stop to think of how stressful or how hard and how faith driven this plan, God has for me, would be. 

It was hard when my parents left that morning on Jan 6th but I kept going and looked ahead to the next adventure. I started work and that was ok. It made me miss my old job and coworkers. In the middle of the work week my school emailed me that two of my classes were being cancelled completely so I needed to find replacements to keep our apartment so I did. This may not seem that big of a deal but it is. I arranged my original schedule so that I could work the maximum amount of hours that I could and it brought me to 28 hours but with this schedule change I’ll only be able to work 24 hours and there was no other way around it which is Gods way of saying trust me. Eek! Wha-? I mean huh? Trust? Come on really? 24 hours a week at $10.60 p/h and you want me to trust you? Well you get the picture. I was stressed to say the least. I started clinching to the love offering given to us before we left Shreveport but I knew inside it would run out eventually. How? How is this going to work? I would like to give you an answer to reveal some great miracle but I can’t. It hasn’t happened and it may not happen but I hold my hope that I am where God wants me and He WILL work it out. Our needs will be met and His plan will be accomplished. 

These past two weeks have been nothing short of trying and faith testing. Our house is a shameful wreck, we have absolutely NO time AT ALL to clean it and our financial stress is daunting. We are away from our loved ones, routine is void, and it’s extremely difficult to find the time alone with God that I so desperately need. I’m never alone at all. I wake up at five o’clock in the morning to be at work at 6 and I usually have a fifteen minute window in there for alone time with Him. We don’t usually get to bed until about 10 and aren’t asleep until after 11. We ALWAYS have a full bed with us….always. It’s stressful. 
This morning we woke up late because we went to bed late again. We made breakfast for the kids and got them dressed. Not an easy task AT ALL. I don’t have enough pages to explain all the hiccups that occur every time we get them dressed but just know that it’s not easy. After we got dressed we finally get in the van at 11:05 and when I saw the time I just threw my hands up and said screw it we aren’t going to church. I was mad, hurt, stressed and drained. We decided to go to Sams Club instead to get diapers and wipes. On our way I heard the lyrics to this song Breathe, as mentioned earlier, and it just struck me like lightening. I understood what God has been trying to tell me these past two weeks. 

“Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

(bridge)
Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

(chorus)
Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe”
I’m not writing this because I need anything. Lol on the contrary I have been given everything I need to survive. Jesus. I’m writing this so that you can find hope in my messy example. I’m laying it out so you can see that all we really need is “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” 
Have a blessed day my beloved friends. 
Your brother in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Joshua Philip
P.S. I have terrible grammar. Sue me. I also want to thank everyone who gave to us. You answered Gods call and contributed to His kingdom. You have no idea what the value is on that. 

To, Rosevine Church of God in Hemphill Texas. Mom, Dad, Nanny, Uncle Joey, Grandma and Grandpa. Uncle Micah and Kristen. Peter and Christie. DeAnne, Mammaw, Daishya and Layne. Our home church The Refuge. Andrew and Cara Westbrook. Joel and Jenny Robinson. Dr Cliff and Becky Estes. Vikki Stevens. Brandy and Justin Presley. Lois and Albert Carnline. Melissa McElwee. Brad and Nichole Campbell. Jennifer Stanfield. Cathy and Bill McLelland. Brett and Brenda McAnn. Diane Mercer. Alex and Ur Flores for the beautiful music. Caleb and Jenni Robison for your faithfulness in leading worship. We thank each and everyone of you for giving to God. Each one of you gave and whatever that was it was enough for God. To simply obey and give is exactly what God calls us to do. That is why I chose to go to New Orleans. I want to obey God and give my entire life to Him after all He gave His for us. 

Growing Solutions for Faith

  
Dedicated to Brett, Randy, Ben, wild Bill, and John. My beloved friends and co-workers. 
A little over two years ago my life was in the gutter. I had lost my job in Nashville, was forced to move back to Louisiana, and almost lost my marriage and on top of that we collected a pile of debt and had no income to help us in the least. It was almost three months after we moved back to Louisiana that I gave my life to Jesus Christ. He first answered my prayer of restoring my marriage and almost immediately we got pregnant. Second He answered my prayer of getting a good job. I’m not an educated man. I have almost a ninth grade education. Most of what I know beyond that is simply self taught so finding something that was decent pay and could look hopeful in the future was next to impossible especially for someone who had such poor work ethic like me. I had been searching craigslist and stumbled upon an add that caught my attention. It was promising for me because “no experience necessary” was plastered in big bold letters. “What a relief” I thought. This job had decent pay and I didn’t have to have something that I would never otherwise have the chance to gain. I arrived for an interview and immediately was hired. The man I talked to, Brett, was the owner who later on would become one of my most beloved mentors. This man has an absolute heart of gold. He is in fact the second most patient and compassionate man I have ever met besides my father. He has an incredible testimony and loves the Lord deeply so it was no surprise to me that God brought us together. 

   Over the next eight months I struggled severely to keep my job. I was given chance after chance after chance. I was constantly pushing them to the very brink of termination but one day I heard Brett tell me something I’ll never forget and furthermore would cherish very deeply, he said “I have been praying and I believe God brought you here. I have faith in you and I know you will succeed here.” You see when you’ve spent your whole life as a screw up its an incredibly hopeful experience to hear someone say those things to you. After that day I did something I hadn’t gotten into the habit of doing prior and that’s praying. I prayed more and more. I spent a lot of time praying as I was always alone during work hours. 

   Things got so much better over time. I started making more money than I had ever made before. I got to get off work a lot earlier than most people and I still got paid regardless. I was allotted two weeks paid vacation and consistent raises. This job was more than I could hope for. 

    I struggled with wanting to stay employed there for a while because of an employee named Ben. He has been in this business with Brett a very long time. He and I used to butt heads A LOT!!! Two people that are hard to deal with don’t mix. It flared my anxiety and stomach ulcers up severely having to try and get along with him. The only solution to this after a year and a half of working there was prayer. I started praying for him every single day. Asking God to help our relationship and most of all to help me love him the way Christ does. I can’t tell you how consistently good God is. Nothing I say can express that articulately enough so I’ll simply say that God answered my prayers. You have to change yourself in order to change others and that’s exactly what God did. He changed me not Ben. He changed my attitude, my anger and my perspective. He helped me love Ben like I never could have imagined. I can tell you this. I will miss Ben deeply because of how I saw God through our situation. I love him. He’s a wonderful man with a great capacity to love. He’s hard working and has taught me patience. Something I’ve never had. He helped refine my strong work ethic and held me accountable. He’s a good friend. 

    For the first part of my employment there I had a problem with being on my cellphone at work. It didn’t come as a surprise to me when the co-owner of the company came and talked to me about it. Needless to say Randy straightened me out. I’ve been scared of him ever since. Let me restate that. I have had an intimidation which is accompanied by a tremendous respect for him ever since then. Overtime God showed me how dedicated Randy was to his job. How important this is him. It made me want to give him more than I had been. He deserved it. Randy is a good man and I saw that. Ever since that day I strived to do a better job for him. I admire his perseverance even amidst some of the struggles I know he dealt with while I was at that job. I still pray daily for him. 

  There is a guy there who I’ll really miss. He didn’t like me for a while but I could tell by now that he’s grown fond of me. I’ve learned a lot from him especially work ethic. He’s a very dedicated worker and like Brett he has a heart of gold although I’m not sure he knows this. In the two and a half years that I’ve worked there I have grown very fond of Bill, wild Bill that is. He is one of my most favorite people I’ve ever met. His life is full of hard knocks and some of the intimate stories of himself that he’s shared really made me see him differently and ultimately love him more. I would consider him a very dear friend to me and I look up to him as an older brother figure. He will succeed greatly at this job and I will continue to pray for him daily. 

  Last but certainly not least there was an answer to prayer there that I just couldn’t even begin to describe to you the magnitude of how awesome it is. This new guy came along about seven months ago. I had really spiritually matured at an awesome rate and I heard God tell me right when I met John that he was a special guy. I could really tell that this guy was a diamond in the rough. I prayed tremendously for him and not too long after he started working there John gave his life to Christ. This is an answered prayer because I prayed for a while for God to send someone that I could disciple. He sent John. He and I share a similar story. Not of substance but of who we are as people. He and I have the same tender heart. I have seen God change him tremendously. I truly love him and would consider him one of my best friends and brother. John and I will be sharing our lives with one another far into the reaches of time. We will be old men calling each other and testifying to the goodness of God. I have terrific faith in John and I know that he will succeed greatly at this job. 

Each of these men have touched my heart in a big way and it’s very hard for me to say goodbye to them. Yesterday Ben told me that he might not see me again because he wasn’t coming back to work until after the holidays. I almost cried. This is someone who I look forward to seeing almost everyday . Someone I love very much. It was heartbreaking to know that I wouldn’t see him anymore and he wouldn’t be a part of my daily life. I wouldn’t get the chance to show him how much I love God through my love for him. I wouldn’t get to laugh and cut up with him. I wouldn’t get to banter petty things back and forth. Change is inevitable and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I will miss him. 

  I have four days left at this job and it’s getting harder and harder to let go. I do not look forward to my last day because I know that it will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do in life. I’ve invested a tremendous amount of my time and heart into this job and my friends there. I’ve laughed, argued and loved. I’ve spent a terrific amount of time praying for each man there even the ones who have come and gone in the short time I’ve been there. I’ve even had the chance to cry with my boss as he poured out a side of himself to me. 

Brett is the person I will miss the most. I’ve seen him love people in ways I didn’t think we’re possible. I saw this especially with his son Todd who had worked there a short time and I could see why. Todd is a good man and someone whom I also will miss greatly. I’ve shared intimate details of my life and God with him. Anyone who works at this place is absolutely blessed to. These men are one of a kind and it’s no surprise to me why God has blessed their business. This has been the best job I’ll ever have. 
Joshua P Harris
 

Go Tell It… Everywhere

   
As Christmas nears, God is laying a mission heavily on our hearts: to go and tell the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet, the mission is broader than that. You don’t have to go to a third-world country to share God’s grace on your life. Go to the grocery store. Go to the pharmacy. Go to a basketball game. Go to work. Go to your own church congregation; if you don’t have one, GET one*. If you pray for God to open the opportunity, He will tell you who to tell, when to tell, and what to tell. My prayer life is not nearly as hot as God or I would like for it to be, but every time the kids and I pray for God to open Josh’s eyes to an opportunity to witness, Josh has brought good news home with him. EVERY TIME!! 

God wants every soul to be reached. And, he wants every Christian to do the reaching. “He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields.'” (Matthew 9: 37-38 NLT). As we personally strive to make sharing our testimony a priority in our daily lives, we also want to encourage others to do the same. Being the introvert that I am, I struggle with making conversation with strangers and loved ones alike; but I have been praying for courage to speak for Jesus Christ. Though I didn’t realize it at first, God answered my prayer through the idea He gave Josh for a t-shirt design. (Follow the link below for the campaign which will end 12/23/15**) As mentioned in our campaign, we currently plan to use any money earned to assist with moving expenses (see previous blog, “We have a new address”). However, I believe God intended so much more to come from this than we did. The front (or back, depending on the style chosen) of the shirt reads, “Anything good you see in me is because of Jesus”, with the opposite side of the shirt broadcasting a Christogram, an emblem created from Christ’s initials. What a conversation piece!

Now, I’m not saying you have to wear this shirt to share the Good News, or that you must not believe in Jesus Christ if you don’t buy our shirt. But, I do pray that you would obey if God does call you to support our ministry. Above that, I pray that you do, in fact, believe that Jesus Christ has made a beautiful story out of your messy life, and I pray that you will share it often. Praise Him! 

Everyday we encounter lost people. Everyday God shows us His grace. Let us take advantage of every opportunity to share God’s graciousness with the lost and found alike. 

–Raye

*If you live in Shreveport, The Refuge meets at 2441 E 70th St. at 10 am on Sundays

** https://www.booster.com/moving-to-new-orleans
https://www.booster.com/move-to-new-orleans-2