Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Ashamed

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I am visiting my mother this week. I am staying with Mom in her apartment at the retirement community where she lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

This week is the year anniversary of my father’s passing on to his eternal reward. He is greatly missed.

My mother is doing well. She is active –

  • physically – exercising regularly
  • mentally – coordinating library services for her community
  • spiritually –  attending her local church and involved in Bible study in her community.

God has been so faithful.

Mother is very quick to give God the glory!

As we walk the hallways (two miles of carpeted hallways here), we see many people who I knew while growing up here in Wheaton. One lady yesterday said to me – “Oh, Gayle, I remember you in “Oklahoma” our school musical that year.

That was in 1969!

What really has struck me is the fact that I am immediately identified as Esther’s daughter. I was walking alone in the hall and a resident stopped me and asked me who I was. “You look familiar.” she said.

When I told her who I was and that I was Esther Barker’s daughter, she responded, “Of course! That is why you looked familiar. I knew Esther when she was your age.” (I now look very much like my mother did when she was 65.)

I have been told I look like my mother my whole life. I have never been ashamed of that fact – since it was so consistently expressed, it has always been one of those givens of my life, like having brown eyes, or being taller than average.

I have always been identified as Esther’s daughter.

That is who I am.

Is my identity as a daughter of my heavenly Father as easily identified? Do individuals that do not know me see Jesus in me?

Is Jesus evident in my words and actions?

That is who I am.

Paul says in Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

I realized that I have never been ashamed of being identified as Esther’s daughter because of the unconditional love she has always demonstrated toward me.

An even greater love has been demonstrated to all of us in God’s giving His one and only son  – Jesus – as the sacrifice for our sins.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. My desire is that I live in such a way that people identify me with the gospel.

May we live in these troubled times sharing the unconditional love our Heavenly Father has so freely shared with us.

Let us live  – not ashamed to be identified with Jesus.

 

 

Brokenhearted

 Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

How do I respond to the horrific, senseless violence that is sweeping the world?

Is it getting worse, or do I just hear about it more frequently because of the 24/7 media coverage that sends an unending stream of information and images from throughout the world?

How do I help my children and grandchildren process these events without causing them to live crippled by fear?

  • the killing of police officers in Dallas
  • the shooting of unarmed black youth in several US cities
  • the massacre of 41 innocent civilians in Turkey
  • the gunning down of 49 people in a night club in Orlando
  • 14 are shot dead in San Bernardino, California

and yet more personal …

  • the senseless murder of a dear young mother’s husband in Atlanta

This lovely young woman, a long time friend of our family, has been working tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking as an Assistant to the Attorney General of Georgia. She is now faced with raising her precious little girl without the loving support of a father.

I must respond with genuine concern and compassion to all those involved.

Jesus did that.

Right before he was crucified, on the Mount of Olives, Roman soldiers (the despised oppressors of the Jews in Jerusalem) approached Jesus to arrest him. Peter responded with violence – cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

Mark 22:51 – But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

NO MORE OF THIS!

Our response to the violence and suffering around us must be an example to our children and grandchildren.

No more of this. We are brokenhearted.

If we  – for one moment – we think “maybe they deserved this” we are WRONG!

We MUST respond with compassion. If we do not feel compassion for the those shot and their suffering loved ones, regardless of the situation, we must repent.

Psalm 34:18-19 (NLT)

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

Our children and grandchildren will form their understanding of suffering from the way they hear and see us respond.

  • if we express fear – they will fear
  • if we express hatred – they will learn to hate
  • if we seek revenge – they will seek revenge
  • if we express compassion – they will learn compassion
  • if we trust God for justice – they will learn to trust God

I heard an inspiring message Sunday from Rev. Reggie Screen of Atlanta. This Godly black man challenged us to have compassionate hearts in light of the violence all around us. He challenged us to be like Jesus. Reggie encouraged us that as things are darkest – the light of Jesus shines brightest.

We must be brokenhearted like Jesus.

We must have compassion.

We must love others and demonstrate that love at every opportunity.

We must seek justice and love mercy.

Oh, God, heal our land….

 

 

 

Gathering Together

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“Make sure you invite Mrs. Woody, too.”

My friend Alice Marie called me to tell me about a gathering of woman which was going to take place the next evening. Her granddaughter, Lauren, had invited her and Lauren asked that she extend the invitation to me.

Well, when a former student made the effort to invite her old, retired teacher to something, I certainly wanted to go. Alice Marie and I made plans to meet and attend together.

What a blessing!

In a coffee shop next to the campus of Western Carolina University, close to 100 women of various ages gathered to fellowship, worship, hear testimonies, and just enjoy being together. There was nice food as well.

Several things blessed me about this gathering.

  • the variety of the ages of the women who came – too often we are segregated by age, which for certain activities is great. Yet, it was so refreshing to see women of various ages coming together to just enjoy each other AND the Lord’s presence.
  • the variety of the groups represented – there were many different campus groups, fellowships, churches, Bible studies, etc. represented. All came together to share the love of Jesus – something all have in common.
  • the atmosphere of love and grace present – there was no “hidden agenda”. There was no charge, no recruitment for membership, no pressure. The time of worship and sharing were just that – worship and sharing.
  • gifts were freely given – most everyone enjoys a present and the door prizes were lovely paintings reflecting the theme of the event – Jesus’ love.

I felt an overwhelming sense of love that evening. It was such a blessing seeing high school students who had invited their mothers and GRANDMOTHERS to share in this time together. College students invited their friends and neighbors and various community groups such as CrossFit invited ladies as well.

It was truly a gathering.

In John chapter 17 Jesus prays for us, His followers, all those who will ever believe in Jesus.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

The world around us is going to believe that Jesus is God’s son, sent to redeem the world WHEN WE, HIS CHILDREN BECOME ONE –  UNIFIED IN HIS LOVE.

This gathering of women was a beautiful expression of the unity we share as God’s children. I pray that we all have opportunities to gather together and celebrate God’s love while at the same time sharing it with others.

Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. That should be our prayer as well.

If you live near enough, please come join the Gathering tonight, Monday, November 16th 7:00 pm at the Point Coffee Shop in Cullowhee. Prepare to be blessed!

Unfinished Projects

Projects, some finished, some in process.

Projects, some finished, some in process.

How many unfinished projects do you have stashed away?

I have many. I have my 20 year projects, my 15 year projects, my 10 year projects, and the projects I planned to finish this week…..all 38 of them.

You get the picture. I start something with great excitement and anticipation of its completed glory, only to get bogged down in the pressures and responsibility of everyday life.

Or, things get a bit difficult –  like my points don’t meet at the corners on my log cabin quilt squares. So, I put all the parts of that project in a bag and put it in the closet and wait for a “better time” to work on it.

Meanwhile, I start another project!

Well, I am retired now and I have begun finishing projects! Yes, and to be honest, I really had no idea I had so many projects stashed away.  I am not allowing myself to become overwhelmed – I am chipping away – one by one.

So family – be forewarned – these finished projects are potential Christmas presents!

While working on these projects, it dawned on me that I am an unfinished project. God began His work in my life 57 years ago when I became a Christian and He is still not finished.

  • He has not given up
  • He has not abandoned me for a more “exciting” project
  • He has hung in there even when I have resisted His alterations
  • He has not hidden me away on a shelf, embarrassed by my obvious lack of following His instructions

In Philippians 1:3-6, Paul writes the following to the Christians in Philpi.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

I am SO THANKFUL that God is not like I am. He is a loving, kind, and patient Father. He is willing to keep working on me. I love the part of the verse that says – “he who began the good work in you will carry it on to completion”.

What a precious promise! I am an unfinished project…..and God will keep working on me until He is finished.

Are We Ready?

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I had ONE more day of school left. There were 10 days left until my due date. After that last day of school I would …

  • paint the crib
  • wash the baby clothes given as gifts
  • decorate the baby’s room
  • pack my bag for the hospital
  • clean house so that all was ready for my return with the new baby

My water broke that night and I delivered our first-born – Benjamin Baruch Woody – on June 9th – the last day of school.

I was NOT ready. The “stuff” was NOT ready.

Benjamin was ready – God was ready.

Our pastor touched on this very issue Sunday during the sermon. We make plans and prepare according to those plans. Yet we are often surprised by the timing of events and the way things happen. God is NOT surprised.

I was SURE I would have 10 days to prepare for the birth of our first child after I finished that year of teaching.

Thankfully my mother was already here and was able to deliver the report cards to my kindergarten students at Almond School. She and Phil got everything else ready the two days I was in the hospital.

This is such a clear picture of how we often view our lives. We make plans and then difficulties in life happen. Those trials can turn our world upside down. Situations occur that we have NO plans for like;

  • a house burning down
  • the death of a loved one
  • cancer of other illness
  • an accident

God is not surprised by any of these situations – these situations are opportunities for God to demonstrate His faithfulness and great love for us.

Demonstrate His love? By the death of a loved one?

God wants us to be ready to face all of life that comes our way. We do that by being ready to trust God no matter what happens. Just as in natural birth, a baby comes when it is ready, we must be ready to respond in faith to the circumstances of our lives.

Is that easy? No. Birth is not easy either, but the end result is WORTH the pain and suffering. So is trusting God. In John 16 Jesus is preparing His disciples for the time when He will leave them. Jesus says –

21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Jesus goes on to say –

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus’s disciples were about to watch Him be beaten and crucified. Their world would be shattered!

But Jesus reminds them that He has overcome the world – take heart! He is saying that same thing to you and me.

Are we ready?

Create!

Painting by my Grandmother Svea Anderson Rohner

Painting by my Grandmother
Svea Anderson Rohner

“What do you enjoy about teaching art?”

I had to reflect this past week on teaching – specifically teaching art. The question was easy for me to answer – what I enjoy most about teaching art are the students!

It is really fun and inspiring to see the joy and excitement  – yes, these are high school students – on students’ faces when they master a new skill. When their drawing, painting, or ceramic piece turns out just as they planned, or maybe even better, you can see the pleasure reflected in their expressions.

It is so rewarding to see these students grow as artists, which is another one of the joys of teaching art. I have some of my students for 4 or 5 semesters – Art I through Art V.  I told one of my Art IV seniors today –  as she was recalling an incident in class when she was a freshman – “You have grown into such a lovely young lady!” She nodded and we laughed together. She knew how much she had matured!

I feel such pride and fulfillment with my students even though I know it is THEIR HARD work that brings about success. The best teacher in the world is only effective when the students follow through and do their work.

I was basking a bit in the glow of some of the students’ recently completed art work. I was so proud of them. It caused my thoughts to turn to God and how He views us as His creation.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 ( NLT) Paul talks about the fact that God created us with a purpose.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

It says in verse 10 – “we are God’s masterpiece.” WOW! I like that. Artists consider masterpieces works of art of highest quality that retain their value and high regard over a period of time. God looks at us that way!

God gets excited when He looks at us – His creation. Unlike my students who must work hard to do good art work, verse 9 assures us that God’s gift of salvation is NOT dependent on how hard we work -it is a free gift from God.

What a blessing to think about the joy God feels when He looks at us – worts and all – and sees His creation. God’s word says He is blessed.

As mothers and grandmothers we also get a glimpse of what God must feel. Aren’t we blessed when our children learn new skills and get excited about what they have accomplished?

The next time you feel pleased and joyful about something your child or grandchild has accomplished –

remember  – God feels that same way about YOU!

You are His masterpiece.