Walking by Faith Alone

Archive for July 2011

Thirst for Water

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I like to consider myself “the plant rescuer.” Odd title, I know. It wasn’t exactly self-determined but motivated by finances. To put it simply, at some point in my life, I needed some plants, didn’t have the money, saw where the staff at Lowes had pulled plants to discard because they were ‘sickly’ and I jumped, “Are you throwing those plants out? Can I have them?”

 Boom – the plant whisperer was born.

My grandmother loved trees. They were life lessons for her. Because they are the longest living things on earth, trees probably have withstood and endured more than anything else on the planet. The sturdiest trees are not the pampered ones but the ones who have been through droughts and storms. In a season of little rain, trees grow the deepest roots because they have to reach further into the ground for water sources; and those with the deepest roots have the strongest foundations to stand firm in the harshest storms.

Matthew 15:13, “He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.”

Recently, I spoke to a group of women about perseverance.  As survivors of  rape, daily existence can be remarkably difficult. One of them commented, “Could a God who loves His children put them through such ‘hell?’”

It is a question only God can answer and one I can only speculate as to an answer. It ranks up there with, “Who causes bad things to happen?”

My immediate thought was of Paul who suffered beatings, stoning, imprisonment, and countless episodes of torture; yet, he knew God’s plan was bigger than him and was made stronger. I would probably classify Paul as the most powerful voice of Christianity other than Christ Himself.

Could it be that the storms of life are God’s mercy in disguise? There is a song on Christian radio, written by a female vocalist Laura Story called, “Blessings.” It has become an anthem of sorts to me because it speaks to the heart of life. The pampered tree does not have the deepest roots and as it matures, it is easily toppled by the first sign of distress.  It is the tree that has endured pests, turbulence, heat, little water, storms, lightning, and fire that stands in magnificent glory for 100s of years.

When I walk through my yard, I realize my most sturdy and beautiful plants are those I found on ‘death row.’ The ones not worthy to sell. The ones others did not want… because they fought back, not just to survive, but to thrive.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Why Do I Love God?

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The question caught me off guard. It came in a cafe off Broadway Street over a shared bowl of Thai Noodles. Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” echoed in the background as I breathed in. Why do I love God?

I’ve developed a friendship with someone who practices Hinduism. We’ve been very careful to avoid conversations about our beliefs and only shared our love of people and helping others. With her permission I am writing this blog.

The psalmist David loved God. He loved just being in the presence of God and when he didn’t feel God, it bothered him to the point of grief. King David made many mistakes but despite his downfall, he held on to a remarkable faith and God honored him. Psalm 27:6, “And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; in His tent I will offer sacrifices and shouting of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.”

Shadrack, Meshak, and Abenigo stood before the fiery furnace and proclaimed in Daniel 3:16-18, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 

But even if He does not…my friend’s point was of the Christians she knows, there seems to be a love based, not on who God is, but what He can do for them. The phrase, “I am blessed,” annoys her. What if you weren’t blessed? Would you still love God? Aahhhhh…

I shared with her scriptures that have comforted me through many dark days:

1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

and my favorite, James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”

I love God for who He is. No other god has ever suffered and died for his children. Therefore, I have no belief in any other god but mine. His heart was so filled with love for me that He endured torture beyond comprehension. There is no other love like that in the universe and beyond. The blessings that come from loving my God; the protection that comes from loving my God; the assurance of an eternal life paid on the cross from loving my God are icing on the cake for even if those things were not given to me, I would love my God for who He is.

“But the people I know who claim to serve your God, curse Him when things do not go their way, when He does not give them what they want,” she questioned me.

I smiled just thinking about her words for they are true. It is the best example of unconditional love available. For no matter what we do or what we say, the God of gods, King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the universe, loves us anyway.

I love Him even more because of it.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm

The Squeaky Wheel

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You know it and I know it. The wheel that squeaks the loudest always gets greased first. The complainer, the whiner, the pusher, the puller…whatever it takes to be heard, human beings have bought the “squeaky wheel” phenomena. And most of the time the squeaker gets his way, but not with God.

He who is slow to anger has great understanding.” Proverbs 14:29

One of the fruits of the spirit, which God clearly indicates are present in true Christianity, is self-control. Many of us want to slip that one under the carpet and choose not to include it in our “fruit salad;” however, God is pretty clear on His instructions about anger. I’ve heard it justified that even Jesus got angry…once…in the house of His Father…over men gambling and selling…so…I can yell and scream at the cashier at Walmart because I had to wait in line. Hmmmmm…

Understand this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God wishes and requires.” James 1:19-20

Several years ago I was given the opportunity to speak with a gentleman who was born in Poland but spent years in a Nazi concentration camp. At the age of 12, he was sent to study piano in Moscow, Russia. In route, he was imprisoned with several scientists from Russia. A child prodigy of sorts, he was robbed of his opportunity to be a concert pianist by the Germans. He later studied medicine after the war and never returned to Poland because his entire family was killed during the invasion. When I spoke with him, his demeanor appeared slow and languishing and yet his wit was quick and intelligent.  As he talked of his ordeal,the realness of it all felt as if it had just happened; although he was a much older man now. “You are stronger than you know,” he said to me, pointing a finger ridden with arthritis. “Every day other men, scientists by profession, encouraged me with that one phrase. ‘You are stronger than you know.’ Do not allow life and people to make you angry for when you do, you are accepting the way they are treating you.” 

Responding to our struggles and obstacles instead of reacting to them allows us to feel God’s power in our soul. 

Proverbs 16:32, “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”  

Often when I myself feel frustrated, I remind myself, “There is a solution for everything. We just need to find it.”

Be a listener. Put thought in what you are going to say. And through your actions, promote righteousness as God wishes and requires.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

A Well of Joy

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Isaiah 55:12, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

          My grandmother, Mama Dolly, loved tracing paper, the thin paper that is transparent. She liked it because she thought her hand writing was poor. She would trace quotes and things that she enjoyed in printed form and tuck them away in books and drawers. This particular verse I found today. She had traced it and placed in one of my favorite books as a teenager. The imagery that comes to mind when I read it is of Julie Andrews in the opening Act of the movie The Sound of Music – standing in Austria, above the city of Vienna, twirling with arms outstretched as she sings, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” But I believe I am missing the point.

          Mama Dolly used to tell me living within us is a well of joy because of God’s presence in our lives. No matter our circumstances, we can draw from that well and feel secure knowing He is there. Our world flows at such a rapid speed; our minds click with all that must be done, could happen, or should’ve happened. We spend our days longing for something in the past, wishing for more in the future, and beating ourselves up over the “now” that we do not allow the mountains and the hills to break forth in song. We do not hear the trees clapping. But God tells us that they do.

          The peace that surpasses all understanding can only be found in a God who designed us for a specific purpose and loves us to a depth we cannot fathom. It lives and is ours for the taking but we have to know that it is there.

          Outside my apartment window there is a giant Poplar Tree in a small park frequented by many on their lunch break. I often see people eating on the benches or dog walkers taking a break. I love to sit and listen to the sounds of people, cars, and general business and feel that the ironed fence surrounding this euphoric dwelling brings serenity. Today I watched the Poplar Tree as its branches moved to and fro with the wind and passing breeze from large trucks as if clapping joyfully for God’s people.

          No matter what is going on in our lives: heartache, pain, financial struggle, betrayal, our God reaches down and brings a song of encouragement, a lighter step, and an instrument of hope. We just need to hear it.  






Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm

A girl…her dog…and God

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          I first saw her near the Gershwin Theatre between Broadway and 52nd Street sitting, knees tucked against her chest with her dog beside her. She wore a bandana wrapped around her head and her dog’s wrapped around his neck – matching. What impressed me the most is the dog’s conduct. A large mixed breed, regally perched upright next to her, he was neither hyper or unattentive but assuredly beside her. A note, written on cardboard, rested between them, “Homeless, no job, need help.”

            My daughter Collier is about her age. How easy the two could’ve been sorority sisters had circumstances been different. Many thoughts traveled through my mind and heart. I actually passed her by but then turned back. Who truly knows if she really needs help or finds it easy to make a buck or two this way?

            Just the other day, I passed a group of women with the Humane Society. They were adopting out pets that had come from Georgia! It excited me to talk to them and the links that are taken to find homes for these sweet animals. A pair of Dachshund, a Lhasa Apso, 4 Chihuahuas,and a Bernese Mountain Dog, I had to contribute, especially since they were from my home state! The outlook was good the women told me. They had had over 50 applications that day. Each would be reviewed and hopefully suitable homes would be found. How did so many sweet pets become homeless?

            1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

            I pulled cash from my backpack and returned to the girl and her dog. Saying nothing, I extended my hand toward her. She didn’t take the cash immediately. Her dog looked up at me. She did not. One eye was glazed and white the other seemed to roll freely around in her head, “Oh!” she reached up her hand, “Thank you.”

            I wanted to question her. Wanted to know how she and her dog ended up homeless. I thought of asking why didn’t she live in a mission home or where was her family but in reality, she knows more about homelessness than I do for she is and I’m not.

            Her dog nestled beside her as if to take a break from his watchman’s pose. There was a brown sack of food beside her that maybe someone had left for her. As I turned to walk away she asked me, “How can I pray for you?” I don’t recall anyone ever asking me such a question. Many have said, “I will pray for you…but never how?”

            Soli Deo Gloria – it is one of the few phrases I remember from my Latin class, although I had an amazing teacher at Dublin High School.  Literally translated, “glory to God alone” meaning  it’s all about God.  I often have to remind myself of this truth, usually on a daily basis. The reality of life is,  whether we like it or not, our lives are not about us. Easy to say but to live by it,  is a different story. Life is really about the ways we can live for God.

            My Dad has an amazing voice. One of my favorite songs that he sings “My Tribute” contain the words, “Just let me live my life, let it pleasing Lord to Thee, and if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary. To God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory, for the things He has done.”

            “How can I pray for you?” Her words impacted my soul more than any sermon or devotion I’ve read in quite some time. I’m not sitting on a sidewalk in New York with my dog and a cardboard sign; yet, she wanted to pray for me. I actually wanted to sit down beside her and her dog and talk but time would not permit it.

            “The voices of a million angels, could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to thee.”

             In all that we do, in all that we say, allow us to represent you, Lord, and pass the glory to You.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

A Full Day Off…

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         It is strange to fathom. I can’t even comprehend the words, but I’ve been told I have a FULL DAY OFF. My memory does play tricks on me, but I don’t remember the last time someone told me I had a day off. What does one do with a full day off?

          My daughter Dory started a list immediately. She had 45 minutes before she needed to be transported to the studio. You can exercise, go to that coffee shop, get a pedicure, have lunch with your friend, then you can…but I stopped her.

          Most of our lives are spent doing exactly what we want to do. We like to protest to such statements but realistically we work because we want money. We clean and decorate because we want a nice home. We mingle with friends because we enjoy them or we want a higher social standard or we need reinforcement. We cart our children from here to there because we want to keep them busy, give them opportunities, keep them out of trouble, or help them make friends. But when do we do exactly what God has in store for us to do?

          I decided to go to my garden musician. Meditation is good for the soul and his music warrants such. Surprisingly, he wasn’t there – maybe he had the day off too. It was then that I noticed a missions home. Earlier in the week, I tripped on the sidewalk trying to walk like a New Yorker and a person who runs a missions home close by stopped to help me. So I went in.

          He recognized me immediately.

          “I have the day off if you need some help,” I offered.

          A homeless shelter/half-way house for people who live on the streets, it reminded me of a place I’d been in Guatemala. Children were scattered about. Several women sat against the wall on a long wooden bench.

          One of his volunteers had called in sick. “Perfect time to stop by,” he said with a wink, “We are taking the kids to the museum today. Will you join us?”

          So much for my day off … and yet I bet it will be divinely orchestrated and therefore perfect.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

July 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm