notesbynora

Walking by Faith Alone

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.

 

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Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

January 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The Resolution List…

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A new year…fresh start…finally, the time to be the person I’ve always wanted to be, ridding myself of the past.  Time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. Act the way I’ve always wanted to act.

We all do it, whether consciously or unconsciously. We make our lists of resolutions at the turn of the year to reach our ultimate goals and declare with vigor, this is the year I finally get it right!

Magnolia trees adorn my parents home in Dublin, Georgia. My brother Lindsey and I spent many hours climbing the trunks and hiding amongst the enormous leaves. Recently I returned home for Christmas and spent time just wandering around the place I grew up. One particular tree which we could reach the top in less than minutes now stands regally, thick in trunk, with branches that spread beyond my imagination. Smiling, I noticed an unnatural twist on one side and remembered swinging from the young, limber branches in an arched like fashion, landing feet first (most of the time) on the other side of the yard. We enjoyed hours of  summer fun supplied by the young tree; now, some 40 years later, it dominates the yard.

This morning in my prayers, I thought of the damaged trunk which my brother and I caused to the Magnolia tree. It reminded me of myself and endless conversations I have had with God. For several years I’ve prayed for God to take away pains of my past, things I do not want to have happened in my life. Ironically, I’m often teased by my family that life to me is “unicorn and rainbows.” Even in my prayers, I ask God to change the past. Remove what happened and make it straight again.  The tree came to mind. The unnatural twist in its trunk makes it uniquely beautiful – even more majestic than the other Magnolias as it stands sturdy, strong, and resistant despite the bend.

 His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Sometimes healing comes not by removing what has occurred but by taking the damage and turning it into something rare and special. In Ecclesiastes 7:12, “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” I purposely did not capitalize the h in “he” because there are incidences in our lives that are caused by God for a very specific reason and others caused by Satan to defeat us. Either way, God is orchestrating the events of life, the good, the bad, the very things that we feel will destroy us, for a purpose far greater than we can imagine. When evil hurls a damaging blow, God uses it to make us majestically beautiful.

As you make your list remember a few simple tips:

1. Your ending is far more important than your beginning. Sometimes we spend too much effort looking at our past and trying to change it. Rear view mirrors are for glances. What’s ahead of you is far more important to God than what’s behind you. Plan accordingly.

2. Use your bends and twists. You are a survivor and what has happened in your life can be used as a source of strength. When obstacles come your way, when bad things happen, realize where you’ve been and who brought you through it.

3. You do have a choice. Each of us chooses every day whether to live in anger and despair over all the unfairness of life or to choose joy. The blessings in your life are just as significant as the difficulties. Give them each the proper weight.

4. Make Faith your first decision. Sometimes having faith is the last result. Make it your first. Believe first that God will handle the situation for your benefit instead of waiting until you have no other route to decide God can help.

5. Decide this is the year… you fill in the blanks.

Those who truly understand the value of knowing God will exchange all that they have to follow Him. Make this your year.

 

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I’ll be home for Christmas…

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The words rang from my lips as harmoniously as the song, although its been 23 years. “Mom, can we come home for Christmas this year?”

I grew up in a small town called Dublin, Georgia, just off I16 south of Macon. Dublin has grown so much since I lived here, it is hard to say “small” and be honest. My parents own a two-story brick house built in the early 1900s. It wasn’t my first home but I spent the majority of my childhood here. Everything about this house is “home-made” from the needlepoint ornaments that adorn the tree to the 100-year-old mantel clock which chimes throughout the night, this is a place for dreams.

As I stood in the shower waiting for the icy well water to turn warm, I thought of Christmases past. Twenty teenagers roasting marshmallows over a fire my Dad built; horses in the field; my brother shooting squirrels; my sister in curlers; my grandmother sewing; my Dad singing; and my Mom holding us all together.

Last week I heard a sermon by Pastor Mike Franklin of The Torch. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, he is phenomenal. His sermons penetrate your heart so that the entire week his message is heard. He talked about Christmas being the “beginning.” We often see the season as “the end” of the year – a closing of sorts.

Life is a series of starts and restarts – beginnings and endings. The last Christmas I spent in Dublin was the first Christmas for my daughter Collier. Her Dad and I had been married 3 years and he was studying medicine at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. This Christmas is my first “unmarried” in a long time, and I came home.

Even God started over. As funny as it sounds, its true. I imagine the difficulty of throwing an arch angel and 1/3 of his followers out of heaven; of removing Adam and Eve from the garden; of destroying His creation in the flood, but He started again. So many of us find ourselves in situations of loss and despair. We think we failed or someone failed us. We don’t see how anything could ever be the same. Could we possibly start again?

When God came to earth in the form of man, to walk among us as prophesied, He came to start again. To give a world hope. He came to give us eternity with Him. He came to bring us home.

Whatever situation life finds you today, you can start again. Loss is a part of living. Gratitude is as well. The only way to finish a book is to move to the next chapter. Too many of us want to continue to reread the same chapter or go back to the beginning. The message of Christmas is about rebirth, starting a new, fresh and eager to serve Him. It’s about finding a way in a trouble world. You are not stuck in your circumstances. And Christmas is the reason you can “begin again.”

I wish you all a New Beginning this Christmas – a fresh start to get it right.

“Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, Christ the Lord.”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Mr. Fix-It Man…

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We call my Dad “Mr. Fix-It Man.” From television repair, to automobiles, broken fences and Barbie DreamHouse elevators, if there is a problem, my Dad is the solution. Like a superhero with a cape, he comes onto the scene of brokenness, works his magic – a little WD40 here, a nail or two there – and we are all smiles. I remember a time when my parents were struggling financially and they needed the car repaired. Truth be known, they needed a newer car, the old one just kept breaking down. My sister and I heard them talking at the table to which she replied, “Daddy, just make a new one.” He laughed; but my sister and I did not change our expressions. In our minds, Mr. Fix-It Man could do it.

Matthew 8:5-13 tells of a Centurion who came to Jesus in Capernaum. Centurion’s were probably the “Special Ops” of the Roman Military, very skilled fighters of the time who moved up the ranks. A centurion would have 15 to 20 years experience in the Roman Army. The Centurion requested Jesus heal his servant who was at his home paralyzed and suffering terribly.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I will go and heal him.'” (7)

But the Centurion replied, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

He explained his belief by giving the example that he himself was a man of rank. He told people what to do throughout the day, and it was done. How much more authority Jesus had!  He knew that if Jesus just spoke the word, it would happen.

The enemy of our soul does not have the power to stop God’s plans but he can hinder them and he uses us to do the ‘hindering.’ One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Daniel, who was praying diligently for God’s help; God’s answer. Daniel was fasting for over three weeks, and as in human nature, he was probably feeling weak and anxious for God’s answer.  Daniel 10:12 – 14 “Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future for the vision concerns a time yet to come.'”

From these two scriptures much can be learned. The Centurion speaks directly to Jesus of his faith in His ability to solve a problem. He didn’t even need Jesus to come and lay His hands on the issue, he knew God would solve it simply by a spoken word. Daniel on the other hand is praying diligently and waiting on an answer. His faith is evident in his unwavering perseverance through fasting and prayer. It is faith at both extremes and speaks volumes for those of us standing in the wings, waiting on God to help us.

Someone once told me, “When God closes a door, He will always open another…but it is hell in the hallways.”

When the legions of angels fell from God’s grace, they became demons on the earth answering to Satan. It all sounds scary and it should. The angel who was sent to give Daniel the answer was wrestling with one of these demons. The angel could not overcome the demon, so the Arch Angel Michael came to help. The angel continued on the path to Daniel.

Sometimes we are waiting, waiting, waiting. Doubt enters our minds. Worry fills our hearts and weighs heavy on our bodies. We start to believe we are forgotten and unloved. Two points for Satan’s team. Those thoughts come from the enemy of our soul and serve to hinder God’s plan for our lives. If Satan can have his evil spirits interfere with our faith, then he can accomplish what he intends: to cause doubt, chaos, false belief, accusation, hurt, and dissention.

I remember a time when I could not get to Hart, who was working at a barn in Gainesville. A wreck had occurred which backed traffic up for miles. As I sat and watched the sun setting in the distance, my stomach became knotted. Her boss had left early that day and Hart was alone, in the dark, the cold, with no cell phone. (She had let her brother borrow it for the day.) As a Mom,  my mind wandered to places of danger and despair but I refused and stayed focused on God’s protective hand. I asked Him that His protection would be so complete, she would not even have an ounce of worry. When I finally got to her, after apologizing profusely for being late, I asked her if she was ok. She smiled that sweet smile that only my Hart can give and replied, “I knew you were coming. Or I knew you were sending someone else. I just sat in the tack room and played with the cat.”

We have a part in this too. It is our faith which honors God. The Angel explains to Daniel from the first day he set his mind on God… Many of us have problems which we have not even gone to God in prayer to ask for help. We just stand in the middle of the road spinning around begging. Bring your problems to God and then humbly give them to Him. Daniel didn’t put together a business plan with outlined solutions for God. He gave God control. Often we turn our problems over to God but when something additional happens we freak-out, fall on the floor, roll around and bang our fists. Is He “Mr. Fix-It Man,” or not? Either you trust His plan or not.

God is orchestrating events and situations for His purposes in your life. He does have a plan. He is in control. He needs you to turn it over to Him and be His biggest cheerleader. He may put you to work. He may require you to pull up your boot straps and sweat a bit. Know that no matter where you are. No matter what you’ve done. God is for you and He will not forsake you – simply believe.

When Satan’s evil doers put doubt in my mind, I say aloud, “Ahhhhh, just for that I’m going to work harder for God. You’ve done it now.”

And I usually write another blog. : )

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

The Recipe for Giving…

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It’s the season of giving, helping in soup kitchens, adopting families, making Christmas yummies, visiting Santa, and so much more. One of the greatest attributes of Americans is our love of giving and not just during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. We have always been a country that gives and for that I am proud. Giving puts us at our best and rejuvenates humanity.

But there are things that we need to give which are not tangible.

1. Understanding. Yesterday I was waiting to check out at Target. Two ladies in front of me had 2 buggies full of toys to donate to the Toys for Tots drive. In front of them was a sweet older gentleman with batteries in his hand. In front of him, a middle-aged woman who for whatever reason was having an issue with her debit/credit card. Embarrassed, the woman was trying to remove items to get to the point where the transaction would go through. I felt the tension mounting in the 2 ladies in front of me who prior to the issue had been full of Christmas cheer, telling me all that they were doing in this season of giving. “Honestly, this is ridiculous. Can you deal with her later? We’ve got to get this to the school before 3:00,” one of them said to the cashier. And the two started. There wasn’t time. People need to manage their money better. You’re holding up the line, etc.

The cashier picked up an item that might help lower the cost to which the woman with tears in her eyes explained, “No. That’s for my son. I have to mail it today to Afghanistan.” The gentleman behind with the batteries simple walked forward, scanned his card, and whispered, “Merry Christmas.”

The woman, overwhelmed by his kindness, quietly thanked him. “My pleasure,” he said. When she left, he turned to the women behind him with the buggy of toys, “There’d be no toys to give and no purpose to give them if not for the sacrifice of that woman and her son. I hope you make your deadline.”

If we act out when others need our support, what good are we? What is the point of giving if we can’t behave in line at Target? The greatest gift we can give is understanding.  George Washington Carver stated, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ”

2. For – Giving. It is the season for giving – yes – but also forgiving. Bitterness dwells in the hearts of so many of us and once rooted sprouts and spreads to every part of our being.  Often we remark, “I can’t forgive them. They’ve just done too much damage.” You are right. They have. And continue to do so until you let it go and move on. I received a letter via email recently from a woman who had done something against me years ago. I remember thinking when I started reading the email, “Who is this?” As I read the words, the feelings of hurt and pain came back to me. I did remember what she had done but Praise God I had forgiven her long ago to the point that initially I didn’t even remember who she was.

Forgiveness is not for the person who harmed us. It is for us – to prevent clogging of the arteries around the heart, and I don’t mean plaque.

3. Smile. In the movie, PS I Love You, it is quoted, “Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.” Smiles do so much for humanity. They are non-threatening ways to communicate with others. They demonstrate acceptance, compassion, and understanding. As you shop, work, go to school functions, parties and church, take the time to smile at people. One smile can change a person’s day. One smile can give hope to someone. Whenever I think of Jesus, I imagine His softness. I know He smiled and one day when I get to see Him, I intend to give Him the biggest smile back.

I work part-time for a small loan company. There is a particular lady who comes in every month to make her payment. Our manager tries diligently to make her smile. Even a little wrinkle around the corners of her mouth would satisfy him. He tells her a joke sometimes. Offers her candy. Every month when she walks out the door he remarks, “Next month, I’m gonna do it!”

Smile even if it is the last thing you want to do.

As you are out and about doing good, giving of your time and money for others, take a moment to remember ‘WHO’ you represent. Is your behavior what He would want? Make sure you represent Him well.

Even in the Mall, piled high with shopping bags, tired feet, and whining kids… God expects our best.

 

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm

The Faith List…

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For eleven years, I worked internationally in adoption and humanitarian aid predominantly in Russia and Guatemala. It is strange but as I am typing this blog to you,  the flow of miracles, one after another, fill my head to the point that I want to fall on my knees and praise and worship Him. No other time in my life have I seen so strongly the hand of God on lives. No other time in my life have I experienced the depth of evil and the existence of Satan and his angels.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is inspiring because it demonstrates those before us who through and by faith conquered evil. “By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”

“By faith, Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”

Anyone who has ever had an experience with adoption knows it is not the easy way out. I’ll take labor any day. Give me 42 hours of it in comparison to what these families go through in order to adopt, but by faith, they do. The first adoption I ever did took 4 months. No issues. Smooth sailing. Parents and child happy. I remember thinking, “Wow! This is definitely what God wants me to do. Look how good I am at it!” Ha! And I jumped in, clothes and all, and no part of adoption was ever easy again. But God’s hand never left me.

The story of successes are written on my heart because I know first hand the battles won through God. Whenever I am anxious or afraid, I shout them out, “By faith we found Maria and pulled her from the grips of those who wanted to harm her. She lives in Kansas now…by faith we convinced the passport office…by faith the money appeared…by faith we found the birth mother…by faith the document was signed…by faith the doctor agreed with us…by faith the Embassy worker left the file opened…by faith the orphanage director…” What Satan intended to use to destroy, God turned for good.

It is my faith list.  What is yours?

When my kids get together, I hear all kinds of stories. Do you remember when we did this? A burst of laughter fills the den. Their Dad and I just look at each other and wonder, where were we during this time? It is human nature to reminisce, to remind, to relive, to share. With God it is no different and the power it unleashes on a spiritual realm is indescribable. Speak of His miracles in your life.  Make your faith list.

There was a time in my life when the despair of all that was going on seemed over whelming. I felt as if I lived in a snow storm and each step I took left me exhausted. But a friend reminded me, “You may be going through a lot…but you’ve already been through a lot and you’ve come too far to stop now. The fog will lift. The path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter.”

Florence May Chadwick was a phenomenal young swimmer. She is accredited for breaking American Gertrude Ederle’s world record in 1950 by swimming the English Channel in 13 hours and 20+ minutes. But her greatest accomplishment occurred two years later when she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coastline a distance of 26 miles. Small boats watched for sharks and were there to help her if she needed it. A thick fog developed around her after 15 hours of swimming to which she called out to her Mom on one of the boats and told her she didn’t think she could continue. After another hour, exhausted and unable to see past the dense fog, she asked to be pulled into the boat. She had stopped swimming less than a mile from the shoreline.

Chadwick tried again two months later. Miraculously the same fog appeared – even thicker this time. But Florence did not stop swimming. She kept an image of the shoreline in her head with each stroke she took.

Your shoreline is just ahead. When doubt enters your mind, shout out your faith list, those times when God has pulled you through. Fog appears in everyone’s life. Times when we cannot see our hand in front of us. Times when the answer is nowhere to be found. As in all things, the fog will lift, and the Creator of the Universe will shine in glory beside you.

The path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

How beautiful are our scars to Him…

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 Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is a must for the Christmas Season. It is the perfect Daddy/daughter date or family outing. The Gainesville Ballet Company in Gainesville, Georgia just finished its production of the classic tale of the little girl Clara’s Christmas adventures in a mystical dreamland. Because my daughter is a dancer, I spend a great deal of time backstage with the other Moms doing the things Moms do.

I noticed a particular seasoned dancer who had just come from stage, her chest breathing rapidly in and out, perspiration on her forehead, laughing with her dance partner. How effortlessly he had lifted her and returned her to the stage to balance on the point of one foot. It reminded me of the music box dancer I had as a child.

As I continued to watch her, she  unwrapped the ribbons around her ankles and removed the pretty pink pointe shoes that adorned her feet. To the outside world, ballerinas are delicate with long thin arms and small features. They walk differently than most people, with a posed, straight-backed gait. Oh to be a ballerina – thin, graceful, lighter than air, beautiful…and then I saw her feet – calloused and red, swollen with almost a gnarled appearance.

“Do your feet hurt?” I asked intrusively.

Instinctively her hand fell, gripping the diameter of her foot, “Not really…anymore.” She smiled, “They look like they hurt, don’t they?”

Embarrassed, I didn’t know how to respond.

“It’s all part of it. The calluses actually help. I’d never get a pedicure.”

I remember when my son Bo was little, he and his buddy Bobby were eating lunch at the kitchen table talking about scars. Bobby told of his scars, each with an elaborate story, and Bo pointed out his to which both responded, “Cool!”

We all have them – wounds, scars, calluses from life’s battles. Some are visible to the outside world and some hidden beneath pretty pink ballet shoes. It is what we do with them that makes the difference. I’ve heard it said, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” In the right context, I believe that statement could be true.

Just by their very nature, scars tell the story of wounds which healed. The mark itself represents a time in our lives when something happened and we survived. On my finger I have a scar I got crabbing on St. Simons Island with Tracy Lou Lamb. Just below my knee, an accident playing war in a Magnolia tree with my brother. On the side of my neck from a surgery to remove suspicious lymph nodes and across the bottom of my belly, four c-sections to bring four of my six beautiful children into the world.

John 20:24, “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'”

Maybe he felt an impostor was trying to take the credit of the man he loved or could not bear the pain of it not being Him, for whatever reason, Thomas demanded verification and the one defining proof was the imprints of the horrific events which caused Jesus’ death.

But more than physical reminders of past wounds, many of us carry the pain of broken promises, rejection, loss, betrayal, and sin. We live day after day with battle marks on our heart and soul which forever change the way we view the world. Hidden behind pretty pink shoes, we dance and move as if the calluses of our past have no bearing on who we are.  They are however the very essence of who we are.

Matthew Henry, a great theologian wrote, “As the blood of his saints, and their deaths, are precious in the sight of the Lord, so are their tears, not one of them shall fall to the ground. ‘I have seen thy tears…’ He will remember them…God will not forget the sorrows of His people. The tears of God’s people are bottled up and sealed among God’s treasures…God will comfort His people according to the time wherein He has afflicted them, and give to those to reap in joy who sowed in tears. What was sown a tear will come up a pearl.”

Your struggles, the trials endured, the hurt inflicted can be the very catalyst to bring change in a world filled with anger, hurt, and grief. To God you are beautiful because you have endured. No need for a pedicure. The scars that mark your heart are precious to Him. Use them to be stronger, not just to survive. Use them to help others. To teach others. Turn what the enemy of your soul wanted to use to destroy into an avenue to defeat him. Turn it into a vessel for good.

1 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

December 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm