Walking by Faith Alone

Archive for January 2012

I will pray for you…

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I find it difficult to imagine the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, sleeping while their Savior prayed. Did they not understand or observe the turmoil brewing within Him?

Mark 14:37-40, “And He cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again He went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer Him.”

I tend to be critical of them, considering the fact they had the opportunity to witness first hand the miracles of God; to speak and learn from the Master Himself. Had He ever been concerned to the point of requesting prayer from them? Had His behavior ever been such? Our Lord and Savior, knowing what was going to happen, was sweating blood, and Peter, James, and John were sleeping. How could they?

In life, I have found that when I make a judgement against someone, God usually teaches me to point my finger towards myself. In this instance, it is no different. While I do not understand how the disciples could sleep at such a time, I do the same to others. I have slept while people depended on me for prayer.

A few years ago, a friend confided in me of a situation in her life. She was conflicted and anxious, worrying that the outcome would be too difficult for her to live. Through her tears I promised to fast and pray with her and diligently did for several days. Life distracted me, I guess, if there is a justifiable reason for my stopping my fast and forgetting to pray. Maybe I was too wrapped up in myself and my own problems. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I didn’t realize the depth of her fears. Maybe I was the disciples under the tree in the Garden of Gethsemane.  A week passed and she called me, excited the situation had turned positive for her and hope existed. Instantaneously, I realized I was no different from Peter or James or John. It was as if I too had fallen asleep. God didn’t let my sweet friend down, but I did.

I heard a sermon recently by a man who travels throughout the world to minister to others. He told of a story in which a tragedy struck his friend’s household. The young daughter of this man had died, right at Christmas time. What do you do in such situations? He reminded us of the Christian response, “I will be praying for you…” and rolled his eyes whispering, “…and you take out your checkbook and write him a check for $500.00 to cover Christmas so he doesn’t have to worry about it.”

We often use prayer as a scapegoat – a way to gently remove ourselves from the pain of others. “Oh, I’m so sorry for what you are going through. I will pray for you.” But how often do we actually do what we say we are going to do? We use the most powerful weapon God has given us against Satan as a phrase similar to a greeting. “How ya doing?” “I’ll be praying for ya!”

After the incident with my friend, I started a prayer journal and schedule. By putting people on particularly days, I would be able to keep up with who I had committed to pray for and maintain how he or she was doing. A day for my children, a day for my government, a day for my friend’s in need…I still fall short. I still let friends who I have told I will pray for slip through the cracks, but I try very hard not to do so.

Are you sleeping while others are counting on your prayers? Do you do what you say you are going to do when someone asks you to pray for them?

Not too long ago I received an email from a person I had asked several years ago to pray for me. I actually met her in a medical environment. We were struggling with similar issues and had spent the morning talking, while waiting to be tested for this and that. We had exchanged emails and had full intention of keeping touch. Her email was simple, “I continue to pray for you daily my friend. Let me know how you are.” My heart was filled with hope and the joy of knowing someone had been praying for me. She did not fall asleep but kept a watchful eye for me.

Prayer is a powerful weapon, so powerful that Jesus used it! The son of God used prayer daily. Imagine the enormity of that! If He needed prayer how much more do we?

Make a practice of praying daily. Keep your commitments to others.

Job 42:10, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Prayer is quite an investment for the future, wouldn’t you agree?

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 29, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Be Unstoppable

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One of my favorite stories of the Bible is the story of Esther, a young girl taken from her home to become a “contestant” per say for the role of Queen. Esther, a Jew, hides the fact that she is Jewish, uses a different name, and becomes Queen in a land that hates Jewish people. A time comes when she must defend her people, for she is their only voice. Esther 4:16, “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

One of my favorite books is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. To admit such tells a bit of my personality most are not aware for once you have read it, no other plot can ever compare. But it is a toast which Edmund Dantes, aka The Count of Monte Cristo, offers to a young man turning sixteen which intrigues me the most. “Life is a storm my young friend, you will bask in the sunlight one moment be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into the storm as you shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst for I will do mine.”

I, myself,  have been known to shout such a phrase into the wind when life has dealt a crippling blow against me.

My grandmother loved the Lord. She came from an aristocratic home in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father was Attorney General for the State of Georgia. He tried a case involving a black man and a white woman and found the black man innocent. My grandmother remembers the night the KKK came to her home looking for her father. Her mother met them on the front steps with a gun and five children standing firmly behind her. There was no doubt she’d shoot any one of them without blinking an eye.  “I have no cause to kill any of you;” she stated firmly, “Yet I will.”

Courage comes from a most unexpected place and when backed by God empowers us to Be Unstoppable. It is a boldness within that shouts to the world, “You may have knocked me down this time; but I’m coming back.”

No matter where you are in the life, The Creator of the Universe has an arm strong enough, long enough, compassionate enough, and comforting enough to rescue you. You only need to reach up and grab hold.

There’s a little bit of Lot in us all.

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I am spending time studying Abraham. To be honest, I am quite fickle in my loyalty as to my favorite Bible characters: Esther, Joseph, Daniel, Peter, Ruth. At this time in my life it is Abraham.

If you are familiar with the story, Abraham pleads with God (he actually bargains with him) to spare some of the people who live in Sodom and Gomorrah because his nephew Lot and family live there. These are the sister cities which God destroyed because they were participating in abominable sin. The Lord actually sends two angels to Lot’s home and they escort Lot and his family out of the city to spare them from the destruction of the cities. I’m giving a brief overview of a lengthy and involved story, but here is my point.

Would God have spared Lot had Abraham not asked Him to do so? Would Lot and his family have been destroyed had Abraham neglected to intercede on his behalf?

It is a rhetorical question for it is impossible to truly and unequivocably know the answer. Only God does, but it brings up an interesting aspect of prayer and God.

Peter refers to Lot as a ‘righteous’ and ‘just’ man in 2 Peter 2:7; yet, if we follow the story of Lot, once he separated from Abraham, his life changed dramatically.

Lot was blessed because of his association with Abraham and Abraham’s obedience and faith in God. It appears that when Lot separated from Abraham, Lot lost the favor of God.

Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham, “And I will bless those who bless you.  And the one who curses you, I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 39:5, “It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.”

It brings to question, how many of us are living on the blessings of others? How many of us expect others to pray for us and intercede with God on our behalf, have faith for us, while we ride on their coat tails?

I heard a minister once say that one of the greatest separators of God and man is the blanket. Instead of getting up and meditating with God in the morning, we selfishly pull the covers over our head. In the middle of strife, we call our preacher to pray for us and avoid studying the word ourselves or falling prostrate on the ground in front of God and coming clean. I think there is a little bit of Lot in every one of us.

I have a friend who often texts me and asks what verse in the Bible says this or what verse in the Bible says that. Since it is my nature to help, I instantly stop what I’m doing and find the scripture for her. Recently, I heard Joyce Meyer speaking about the very thing I was doing. “Let her find her own scripture because then she will be in the word.” Sometimes in our desire to help, we prevent others from establishing a relationship with God. Was this the case with Abraham and Lot. I’m not sure.

To have a personal relationship with God, you must seek Him through church, Bible study, prayer, and meditation. Relationships are complicated and involve work. If Christ spent a great deal of time in prayer, how much more should we?

Find what works for you and pursue God with all that you have. What you’ll find is up to God…

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm

And yet there is HOPE…

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Lamentations 3:19 – 24, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

The verse came to mind this morning as I meditated on the past, where I have been, the hand at times life has dealt to me, and the powerful force that brought me through it all.

I spoke with a friend yesterday who has walked a similar path in life as I have. I recalled several years ago standing against a wall in a crowd and seeing her across the room. Although we are different in appearance, I felt as if I looked in a mirror, for her countenance was similar to my own. As we spoke by phone, the realization that both of us had not only survived the pain and misery of the past but thrived overwhelmed us with joy. We reflected on God’s hand and how His faithfulness to us in the storms resulted in our ability to have a second chance at life.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering…”

During the passover, God instructed Moses to rub bitter herbs on the meat to remind the Israelites of the years of horror they spent as Egyptian slaves and who delivered them from the despair. Jeremiah in this verse of Lamentations is expressing the same thought but concludes in the simple words “yet” there is hope.

What should we do when life deals a harmful blow and what we know is disrupted and torn from our hands?

1. Praise God: Sometimes it is the last thought to pass our minds when we hear the devastating news that we’ve lost our job; or the cancer has spread; our marriage is over; our child is in trouble…but have you ever been an onlooker to a fire? The extreme heat and the blaze is mind-boggling. Fear resonates through your body until you hear the sirens that help is on the way. Firefighters dressed in flame resistant coats and boots with helmets appear, hose in hand, and suddenly you feel everything will be alright. 911 has been called and they are here! God is our firefighter when Satan hurls a blow that appears to consume us. God is our peace and strength. Just as we wouldn’t wave off the fire engine speeding to the rescue of the blazing fire, God needs to be the first to whom we call for help. Shout at the top of your lungs, “I know you are here God with me and I praise you!”

2. Remember the times God rescued you before and shout them out!  Proverbs 21:13, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.” When events happen in our lives that cripple us and cause us pain, God isn’t surprised. He isn’t thrown off-balance. Remember the times of your past when He has rescued you. Remember how He orchestrated events to make things work-out for you. In the end, the victory is His, not yours. No matter what situation you are in, prepare for the battle and understand that God’s will is the ultimate result. His timing is perfect. Remember and trust God to do what He has always done and help you out of the situation in which you are enduring.

3. Turn it over to Him willingly. This is the toughest part because we think we know what the best outcome might be. We have a plan in mind and if God will just do what we say… if God will just hear our plan… if God will just… Listen, God is so far ahead of your plans and ideas. I remember a time when I was in Russia. We were dealing with an issue that could potentially thwart all that we wanted to accomplish. I spoke up, believing that possibly my idea might help to which our attorney and expert on the situation at hand scolded me, “You are teaching me!” She was right. What on earth did I possibly know, an American in a Russian world. I couldn’t even speak the language beyond please, thank you, exit, enter, eat, and go. There is no need to ‘teach’ God. He is well aware of what needs to be done.

4. Ask what you can do to help. Women are funny about their kitchens. The worst thing you can do at your mother in-laws is to go into her kitchen and start telling her how you load the dishwasher or stir-fry onions. How would you like your dishwasher loaded? Do you hand wash your pots? What temperature do you prefer when stir-frying veggies? Ask God what you can do to help Him get you out of the mess. Read your Bible to give Him a passageway to communicate with you. Pray diligently and sit quietly to give Him time to speak to you.

5. Be willing to do what He asks. It is one thing to ask how He would like it done, it is another to actually implement the action. Do what you feel God is asking you to do even if it makes no sense to you at all.

And yet there is HOPE. No matter what you are facing in life, there is hope in God. Trust Him – not man.

His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness…”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Let chameleons be chameleons…

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I like chameleons. As a child my brother and I used to catch these beautiful creatures and put different colored leaves and branches in the jar to see how many colors we could force the chameleon to become. We, of course, would set it free. (Disclaimer: No harm came to the chameleon during this project!).  : )

Chameleons have this incredible ability to avoid danger by becoming the color of whatever is around them – a tree branch, leaf, rock – and because of this adaptation ability, the chameleon survives.

I often wonder how many times as Christians we change colors to “fit in” or “belong.” How often do we justify our actions by exclaiming, “People would just find me too weird?” Social settings, the work environment, school cafeteria, parties, we tend to put God aside so that we do not stand-out, so that we are not different. Business deals are business deals – money is money – and we discard what we know to be Biblical with the simple notion that what we are doing is best for the company.  We are kind and thoughtful to strangers, but mutilate our spouse the moment we pull into the drive-way. We are critical of others around our children or use harsh words to our children setting the example that acting one way in public and one way at home is acceptable.

God calls us to a much higher standard. Believe me, if He had wanted you and me to be chameleons, we’d be chameleons. Defending God, standing firm on what is right, choosing to act one way when others go another, is difficult. But isn’t that what Jesus did when He came to earth to save us? Every day you make decisions to act one way or another. Choose the Biblical way to respond.

Let chameleons be chameleons.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm

In the beginning God…

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They are the first few words of the Bible. In every translation those four words remain the same. It is a point in time to help humans relate to the fact that God started everything.

Yesterday morning as my feet hit the ground the words popped into my head, “In the beginning God…”.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.

But does it stop there? As Christians and believers in God, are we missing a significant point? Was God’s intention to simply pronounce that He Himself created the universe or is there more?

I am a believer in the more. Jesus’s teaching style was one that invoked thought. He didn’t “spell” it out in simple terms but gave us parables to contemplate the deeper meaning. He wanted us to find personal meaning in His teachings and a way to apply the lesson to our lives. I actually think He found delight in our pondering. Just as I think God smiles at those who find reason in “the Big Bang Theory.” It’s like a child’s belief in magic. It takes far greater intelligence to realize a higher power designed creation intimately and with careful detail.

As I got out of bed yesterday morning, I thought of those words. Shouldn’t they apply to all that we do? God calls us to give Him our firsts. The first of our day, first in our friendships, first in our marriage, first in our tithes and offerings, first in sports, first in our children, and first in our decisions. When we consider that if God is first in all that we do and say, then we fulfill His desire to be first in our lives.

I am learning to seek first God in all that I do and say. Before I write, I ask Him what He wants to say. Before I make a decision, I ask God for wisdom and guidance. Too many times we determine what we are going to do and then ask God for help to accomplish it.

At one point in my life I owned a restaurant. Great prayer went into the formation of the business and God was the center of the business. On a daily basis I gave it to Him in the people who came in to eat and in the people who worked with me. A year ago, I had to close the doors. Many have told me God took His hands off of it. Some have said, “It just wasn’t His plan for you.” A few have remarked, “You didn’t hear Him correctly.” Sometimes, God asks us to do something for reasons we cannot comprehend. Trials of this life come from God too and are not necessarily a result of something we did or did not do. God gives and takes away. We must learn to see blessings in all aspects of our lives.

Today as you go through life, say these 4 powerful words, “In The Beginning God…” and approach all that you do with Him at the helm.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I call You friend…

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My culture is Southern. I grew up a Georgia peach, surrounded by magnolia blooms floating in sterling silver finger bowls, homemade ice cream and mint leaves in sweet tea. Sitting porches were places to spend Sunday afternoons and the Cloister at Sea Island was not a vacation but a home-away from-home. Pecans fell from trees like manna. And nothing tasted as good as Estelle’s fried chicken. Church came every Sunday and our pew was the third row, left side, directly in front of the preacher. My Dad sat in the back row, left side, third seat in the choir loft. Jean Murphy played the piano and sometimes the organ on special occasions. The entire town knew one another. If I did something wrong, my parents would know the whole story, several versions, before I ever got home. Locks on doors were aesthetic additions and never necessary. Life moved slowly, deliberately, and with purpose.

The other day I spoke with a man as we waited in line to check-out at Wal-Mart. He was buying some drill bits. I had a gallon of milk and a bottle of Advil. We laughed because we were waiting for such a long time to purchase only a few things and yet those items were essential to both of us. A price check was called to assist the family checking out and he turned toward me and asked, “Is God your friend?”

I smiled, impressed by his boldness in today’s politically correct world, and answered, “Yes. He is.”

He then replied, “Are you His?”

Hmmmmm…Am I God’s friend?

Isaiah 41:8, “You, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham MY FRIEND.”

James 2:23, “And he (Abraham) was called the Friend of God.”

Years ago I was walking on the beach very early in the morning and noticed that our beach umbrella was blowing down the sandy terrain towards the water. I started to run after it and as gallant as a knight in shining armour can be, an older gentleman chased after it and brought it to me. To my utmost surprise, it was former President Jimmy Carter in tennis shorts and wearing a familiar smile. I recognized him immediately and with great admiration began to stumble over my words, trying to find some ample way to greet him and thank him all at the same time. The encounter took only moments, but for me, will never be forgotten. I actually hugged his neck as Southerners do and watched as he continued on his walk as I stood dumb-founded, umbrella in hand.

Does former President Jimmy Carter remember the day he rescued Nora Hatchett’s umbrella on Sea Island’s sandy terrain? Does Nora Almazan remember and call him “my dear friend, Jimmy?” I think you can decipher the answers to both.

So why did God call Abraham His friend?

The question brought me to my knees at 4:30am this morning, realizing that most of us claim with certainty “God is my friend! Oh yes! I know God.” But how many of us can God call His friend?

By definition, a friend is someone with whom we are comfortable. Friends complete us. We can trust our friends. And a true friend stands by us, never betrays us, and would drop everything they have to rescue us.

I described God perfectly; but, did I describe you? And me?

Abraham grew-up in Ur, the son of a wealthy man who actually worshipped idols. I’m sure Abraham felt about Ur the way I feel about the South. It was his culture and what he knew. It was where he belonged. But God asked him to leave it and go where he’d never been before. Abraham stepped out in faith and earned the privilege of being referred as a Friend of God.

Genesis 12:1, “1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “

Abraham didn’t say, “Well, my finances aren’t in order. The kids love their soccer teams. My wife could never really be happy not knowing if there is a Junior League there or if the school system is good. Where will I live? Who will be my neighbors? What about church, I was just appointed to the Deacon’s Board? Show me first God where I’m going, then ask me.”

Genesis 22:1-12, “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

The most significant part of this verse to me is Abraham’s simple response when God called his name, “Here I am.”

Such thoughts penetrated my mind in the wee hours of the morning and I fell to my knees at 4:30am because I realized how easy it was for me to say, “God is my friend.” He is the one “giving His all.” He rescues my strandedness over and over again. But why couldn’t I answer with certainty to the man in line at Wal-Mart that God could call me His friend?

Most of us enjoy a one-sided friendship with God, the Creator of the Universe. We proclaim with arms raised in full praise, “I can call God my friend!” The question to answer then is Can God call you His?

Step out of your comfort zone and respond to God’s calling for your life. Respond as Abraham, “Here I am.”

It is time for us to be people God can call friends.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm