Walking by Faith Alone

Archive for November 2011

Peace in my pieces…

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“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”  Romans 15:4

Oh the past…the deeply rooted, intricate details, cumbersome trials that cause us to react, think, trust, not trust what is in front of us. The pieces to the puzzles of our lives scattered about with one common thread, we are who we are because of where we’ve been. From the way we’ve been treated to the mistakes we’ve made, no one escapes the brutal reality that looms behind…it can’t be changed or redone. There is no remake or false start. The past is a piece of our existence. So what do we do with it?

I grew up in a relatively small town in central/south Georgia called Dublin. Although most of my life has been spent away from Dublin, much of who I am comes from where I was first planted. I grew up in a family with two parents. My grandmother lived with us, and my three siblings and I were blessed to live in a stable, loving home. On Saturday mornings I rode my horse Wendy through the woods behind my house with only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to sustain me until dinner. Could life be any better? My plan for the future, which unfolded as Wendy and I strolled down various paths, had two routes: on the one hand, I was going to be a writer – a journalist – and live in New York. On the other, I was going to penetrate the iron curtain and save the Russian people from communism – a sort of modern-day Harriet Beecher Stowe. Since she was an author as well as an abolitionist, I felt the two complemented each other well. My poor father had his hands full with me, I’m sure.

Bobby Fischer, the renowned and mysterious chess player, once said that in order to achieve “checkmate,” one must maintain the knowledge of seven moves ahead of their opponent. Such seems almost impossible, for one would have to understand his opponent well in order to predict seven moves into the future. I’ve played a little chess in my life and must admit, I have yet to determine one move of my opponent let alone seven!

I often imagine God as a chess player. His opponent (Satan) has no idea that the very move he makes against my life, God has already planned a way, seven moves ahead, to victory. Whatever my choices, God calculates and determines the route to triumphant. Obstacles, trials, struggles, heartbreak after heartbreak, God already knows where we are going to put Satan in “checkmate.” Oh, but the moves to get there sometime leave me wondering.

My understanding of the rules around the game of chess state that once the player’s hand has been released from the piece, the move stands and cannot be taken back…cannot be redone. Very much like our own lives, the decisions we make, once taken are forever etched into the puzzle pieces of our lives. Why then do we spend so much time trying to undo that which is impossible to undo?

Every piece of your past, the passions God imprinted on your heart, the dreams, the bad choices, the hurtful events can be used to win. He is seven moves ahead of the financial burden, seven moves ahead of the divorce, seven moves ahead of the cancer. And although at times it seems a checkmate is impossible, God manuevers our pieces so that defeat is not an option.

I imagine the night Jesus was arrested, the disciples who had spent three years with this King knew Jesus had the ability to get away. I’m sure they were waiting in anticipation for boulders to fall, the earth to quake. It’s possible they thought, “Wait until these soldiers see what He can do.” But as the minutes ticked away, as the hours, the beatings, the mocking, the unthinkable, inflicted pain advanced, the despair must have been overwhelming. Was all the past an illusion?

But Sunday was coming…Satan didn’t know it…no one knew the seven moves just ahead…but God.

As I look back on my own life, the pieces of my past, the passions of my heart, the failures, the successes, I see the hand of God in it all. And while He is still moving and maneuvering that which the enemy wanted to use to destroy me, I find peace in my pieces knowing Sunday is coming.

Whatever trial you are facing today, believe, the King of kings and Lord of lords is seven moves ahead. The very moves of your past are the very elements God will use to achieve victory. Do not despair. Your “checkmate” is coming.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm

To have a grateful heart…

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I met an older woman recently who had not celebrated the holidays for eight years – no Thanksgiving, no Christmas – no turkey with cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and cinnamon. The lights and candy canes have remained in her attic tucked away since 2002, and this year would not be any different. Her only daughter and grandson had been killed Christmas Day at the age of 26 and 18 months. My heart broke for her as she pulled from her wallet his picture – blond, blue-eyed, dressed in Osh Kosh overalls and a cowboy hat, complete with boots.

“I learned that year what it meant to have a grateful heart,” she whispered.

As I listened furthered to her story, she told me as she sat before his tiny grave the reality of the season of thankfulness became clear to her. The times in our lives that we are to show our thankfulness, we spend completely entranced by preparation and activity. How she used to cook! Her table set in Emily Post’s manner and the most delicious sweet potato pie, her grandmother’s recipe. Her tree was always in place and decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Friday was spent shopping until her feet could no longer move. Sunday after Thanksgiving began with Christmas parties and festivities until in a complete whirlwind of events, she found herself putting away Christmas decorations by January 1st.

The last conversation she had with her daughter was hurried. Christmas brunch was in the oven. She’d have to hear what Santa brought when they got to her house. Her only child had uttered something before hanging up the phone but she couldn’t remember what it was because in her busy state, she hadn’t listened.

Psalm 30:11-12, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”

Her holidays are spent differently now, not with preparation but with the people she loves. Her heart is still and patient as she listens to the voices of those around her. The hurriedness is gone and replaced with humility.  And if she had that one moment to live again? That last conversation, the Quiche would burn, and she would know the last words her daughter said to her on Christmas Day.

Give thanks in all things…with a grateful heart.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 23, 2011 at 11:49 am

Would you build an ark?

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Rainbows fascinate me. I don’t know anyone who can ignore a rainbow in the sky. The mere existence of such invokes awe whether you are Christian or Hindu or Buddhist. In my faith it is a covenant between God and man based on the story of Noah from the book of Genesis.

Noah was a man of faith who loved God and because of this, he found favor in God’s eyes. The Bible states in Genesis 6:13, “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark…”

What interests me the most about this story is the simplicity of Noah’s obedience. There was no burning bush. Angels did not appear with swords drawn. God did not come down and visit Noah’s home. The Bible states, “So God said to Noah…make yourself an ark…”

Would you build an ark?

I often contemplate what I would do in situations such as this. When I travel I imagine if I were separated from the ones I know could I find my hotel? Would I have helped slaves get to free territory during and before the civil war? When Jesus walked up the hill carrying His cross, would I have defended Him? And in the situation of Noah, would I have built the ark?

God reveals Himself to us in many ways – rainbows for example are God’s promise to us that He will never destroy the earth by flood again. But how many of us are asked to do a task but because it seems illogical, difficult, or out-of-line with the world, we shrug it off as too much pizza the night before or some hair-brained idea. How many of us are not willing to obey God because what He is asking does not make sense…to us?

The Bible tells us that “Noah walked with God,” (Genesis 6:9). It doesn’t say Noah talked to God. It implies a very quiet companionship where Noah listened to His Heavenly Father and obeyed. What an outrageous request to build an ark! Can you imagine the ridicule he received? 2 Peter 2:5 describes Noah as “a preacher of righteousness.” Noah didn’t hide what he was doing from his neighbors, he warned them. I can see him carrying a large, long cypress plank while the men of his village mocked him and Noah continued to preach despite them.

Several years ago someone told me they disliked (the word hated was actually used) the way I talked about God all the time.  Because this person was special in my life, it hurt my heart. And although their statement brought a moment of insecurity, I remember God empowered me. I felt this boldness and my words were no longer my own. My response to him/her gave me strength. It was probably at that moment that I started talking about God even more and do not intend to stop.

The question to ask yourself is “Could you be Noah?” and if not, why not? In the end, wouldn’t you rather be Noah, on the boat? in the most horrific storm of the world’s history? And as the leader of his home, I think his family was probably very proud they were a part of his life and were with him.

God is calling you to do certain things.

Be a Noah!

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm

It is no surprise…

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Fall is ending in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, the area I call home. Recent rains have hurried the process and the once orange, red, and yellow leaves appear no more on branches above us. All signs point toward winter. Our season is changing.

Not one leaf falls without the full knowledge of God. A horse does not drop her foal or a dolphin leap above a crashing wave without the Creator’s eye looking down. All we are, all we have, all we will become are offered unselfishly by God with only the condition that we love Him in return.

“…who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1Timothy 6:17

There is no arrogance in His gifts to us, although there could be. My son, Will, told me a joke the other day. There was a debate between God and an Agnostic. The Agnostic said to God, “Anyone can create something.” Our God responded, “then show me.” The Agnostic bent over and picked up dirt to form a creation to which God replied, “Get your own dirt!”

The question then must surface, “Is God your ‘assistant’ or is He your ‘life’?” It is not to be answered quickly but with thought. Many of us call upon God when we need help, when times or seasons are changing in our lives and we feel out of control. We call upon Him when there seems ‘no other way out.’ We don’t speak with Him daily or pray for direction in all that we do. We don’t make our every word – His; our every move – His own.

I remember as a child my Mom requesting that we pray she be able to find a good parking spot. I love that in my Mom. As we approached down town she had no doubt that the Lord would help her find just the right space to unload three small children. Some might say we shouldn’t bother God with such trivia. To them I would reply, I have no doubt the Creator of the Universe smiles when my Mama asks for help finding a parking spot and He diligently moves just the right automobile for her because He is not her assistant – He is her life.

The configurations of the seasons, the setting of the sun, the very signs of greying hairs on our heads are all calculated by God – He has never been surprised – not once.

I remember a time when I received bad news and as I sat trying to take it all in I heard the voice of a friend, “Do you think God is freaking out?”

It took me a moment to take in his words. “Freaking out?”

“Yes. Do you think God is going, ‘Oh no! This is happening to Nora! What can I do? How can I help her out of this?”

The words of my friend still ring in my head anytime I face a tragedy or uncertain situation. If God already knew in advance that such would occur in my life, then He already knows what needs to be done to get me through it. I only need to roll up my pants legs, tighten my boots, and get going. And because God is not my assistant but my life, I willingly must be able to trust that He is in control and will take care of what needs to be done. I only have to do the work here and believe.

God weaves His history into our lives, preparing the way, giving the direction, providing the answer.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Swimming Up-stream

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Salmon is my delight – smoked, grilled, baked, steamed, fried – it is the “what if you were stranded on an island and could pick but one food” item at the top of my list. Unlike many other fish, salmon do not enjoy the easiest of life cycles. Hatched in fresh water, they will spend a few years growing and adapting to life before entering the Pacific Ocean (salt water). They grow to maturity in salt water and reenter the fresh water swimming up-stream through difficult miles of rapids in order to reach their spawning grounds. The intricate details of their lives so divinely and intelligently designed, it is hard to imagine and yet they are but one of thousands of creatures existing on this planet of ours – all with a plan in mind. I often wonder why a salmon has such a difficult plight while a catfish simply dwells on the bottom of the pond.

The past few years of my life have been some of the best and at the same time some of the worst of my life – tumultuous waters, storms, high winds, leaking boat – I would describe my life in terms of a salmon as one swimming up-stream during a hurricane.  Truth be known, I have quoted Dickens throughout the day to no one, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” only to follow-up with a rendition of Annie, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Sometimes it is hard to imagine that our tribulations can possibly turn for the good. There are times when the losses seem far too great and the distance to where we are going impossible to reach. I imagine the salmon must think the same thing, if in fact salmon can think such things. I imagine that the currents push against them and the battle to return to their homeland seems a task of unreachable proportions. Does it ever occur to a salmon to just lay the eggs somewhere easier?

Over the years I’ve come to realize that it is more about the way we carry out the plan than the plan itself. If one compares that such care is given to a life cycle of a salmon, how much more involved are the plans for our own. At times we do wonder why our neighbor’s life seems detailed in such a different way from our own. It is all about the journey and how we determine to find our way back to our homeland with our Father.

Remember who designed you.

You were created to do great things in His name.


Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 19, 2011 at 4:31 am

What are you called to be?

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Several months ago I attended a meeting in which the facilitator asked for introductions. Of the twelve plus men and women in the room, the typical responses began to flow from our mouths, “I’m a mother of 6 and writer; I work for Wells Fargo, married 5 years; I’m a physician…”

We all have an identity. We’re somebody’s son or daughter; wife or husband; former wife or former husband; somebody’s mom or dad. We are coaches, teachers, carpool drivers…but is that truly who we are?

When the introductions were finished, the gentleman leading our session whispered, “Now tell me who you are called to be…”

I have two friends who travel together every year for vacation. Each year they pretend to be obscure and different people from whom they really are. The whole scheme is tremendous. They study and read all about these prepared scenarios and spend their cruise together being biologist or morticians or violin instructors. At the end of the cruise, the one who convinced the most people and has the most believable part wins $10.00.

If you were to google, “Purpose in Life,” thousands of books, articles, blogs, and devotions would appear, all attempting to help you navigate the “Steps to Find Your Purpose in Life.” But is it really that easy? And how many of us are on the right track?

In Galatians 1:10, Paul writes: “…If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

We identify ourselves according to the world’s standard, “I am this…I do this…I’ve been here…I know them.” But what we are called to be is servants of Christ. The purpose filled life isn’t complicated when we look at what we are doing and determine how we can serve Christ in doing it.

My grandmother, Mama Dolly, taught me to iron. I thought it to be one of the worst jobs available on the planet, such a tedious and unpretentious chore. I remember after a down pour of tears because I despised my chore, she told me her secret to ironing. She prayed for the person who would wear the shirt she was ironing. Instantly, the job for me became a mission, a huge responsibility, a necessary part of my family’s life. The jeans my brother would wear or the starched white collar on my Dad’s shirt all held the touch of God.

The passions of our hearts are intimately planned and directed by God. He only asks that we use those passions not for the sole purpose to make money or impress our neighbor but to serve Him. In so doing, we fulfill our calling for our lives. Like ironing, when we take what we’ve been given to do and turn it into an opportunity to serve God and His people, our purpose can’t help but be changed.


Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

All Things New

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I attended a wedding recently, an outdoors ceremony surrounded by autumn colored trees. The timing was just before sunset and the streams of light reflecting off the yellow, orange, and red hues of the leaves gave an atmosphere ripe for romance.

It was the first wedding celebration I had attended since the end of my own 26 years of marriage and the mere fact that the bride
of this ceremony was one of the flower girls in mine made the day even more significant. I observed with caution and mixed emotions, not allowing myself to get involved too much in the sentiments of the moment but relishing the ambiance and excitement of those around me.

The pastor talked of love, commitment, hard days, and joy. He described the meaning of the rings and how covenants are made in
the eyes of God and he prayed that even when times are unbearable, this couple will strive to endure.

As I sat on a wooden bench, brown leaves beneath my feet, bright yellow and orange ones around me, I thought of spring – the newness, fresh and sweet, young and bursting with life. I thought of babies, little league baseball, Division 1 Swim Meets, college graduates, brides… I thought of me.

There is a song I used to sing throughout the day by Stephen Curtis Chapman,  “He makes all things new…” When I was working internationally, I came across a young girl, aged 14, who was prostituting herself in order to survive. She had cigar burns on
her skin and as I applied antibiotic ointment, I realized I was singing that song. When she asked our interpreter what the song was about, I gave the guy a brief idea with little depth because at that particular time I did not fully understand what it meant.

But on this particular day, sitting on a wooden bench, dead brown leaves beneath my feet, yellow, orange and red ones hanging
on the trees above me, and a new committed couple standing before God beginning their life covenant, I do. He makes all things new, over and over again.

You turn winter into spring
You take every living thing
And You breathe Your breath of life into it over and over again

You make all things new
You make all things new
You redeem and You transform
You renew and You restore

You make the sunrise, day after day after day
But there’s a morning coming, when old things will all pass away
And everyone will see

You make all things new
You make all things new
Come redeem and come transform
Come renew and come restore
You make all things new
You make all things new
And forever we will watch and worship You

Now and forever You are making all things new
You’re making all things new



Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm