1 Samuel 15:24
“Saul gave in and confessed…“I’ve sinned. I’ve trampled roughshod over God’s Word and your instructions. I cared more about pleasing the people. I let them tell me what to do.”
People are very influential beings, and often very selfish. They think about what they want, when they want it, and they use people in order to get it. Words can be as sharp as a double edge sword or as smooth as butter, leading people to their downfall. God placed kings to be examples of good leaders, designed to bring peace and prosperity their domain, if they sought after what the Lord would have them to do, and stayed in that will. He also placed certain kings to be examples of discipline and downfall, to show what would happen to the people if they strayed from him, to let them know how helpless and purely mortal they were. Riches and stone towers cannot protect people from everything. Even kings were ruined, sometimes inside their lavish homes. Some kings were evil and caused the people pain, but the people brought it upon themselves because they wanted a king, and were not content with God’s power and leading alone. Saul was the first king, made king because of this desire of the people.
This verse was written after he had blown his last chance at being a God-fearing king. He has heard the news that he is to be replaced, and that the Spirit of God would no longer dwell in him. God was tired of having the being in which he dwelled, consistently pursuing the wrong things. So, God said, “Enough”. It was that “last straw” that got my attention. It was his confession that got me thinking. His last chance at proving himself a godly king ended because he tried too hard to please people, and not hard enough to please God. Many times, the downfall of a leader is another person, or in this case more than one person. When we try to please them, instead of pleasing God, it creates problems. Our focus comes off of what God’s will is for something and onto what will make the most people happy. Often times, the things God calls us to do don’t make very many people happy, but that is where it becomes important to choose him over popular opinion.
I’m a people pleaser. I love people. I want them to like me. If they don’t, I think there is something wrong with me personally. I don’t stop to think that maybe they are the ones who need to do something different, instead, I try to change myself. Now, that doesn’t mean I go off and become someone I’m not, but I take their opinion of me personally, when their opinions aren’t personal to me at all. It’s hard to be task oriented when you focus too much on the people involved. It’s hard to be people oriented when you focus too much on the task at hand. There has to be a balance. Because if there is no balance, either nothing gets done or people get their feelings hurt, and sometimes, some of both. Saul in this verse, not only paid too much attention to pleasing a crowd, but he got so caught up in pleasing the crowd, that he went in the wrong direction completely. God was angry because he specifically asked Saul to do an important task and Saul said “no”. So God said “no” to his being king any longer. Leaders are entrusted with an important task, and straying from that task in order to please others is just as bad as saying “no” to the face of a holy God. There is no respect, no fear, where there rightfully should be, and God’s command isn’t something we need to rebel against like an immature teenager. At the very end of the chapter, 1 Samuel 15: 35, reads “…God was sorry he ever made Saul king in the first place.” I would hate to have God be sorry that he ever entrusted me with a task as great as the one he has given me.
We are not defined by what people think of us, we are defined, and always should be defined, by what God thinks of us, because his opinion matters so much more than any other person on this planet. “Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10. We are not here to please ourselves or to please others, but solely for the glorification of our God and one true King. Leading well requires us to forget about pleasing people, and instead make it our aim to please God in everything we do.
Proverbs 14:28 (MSG)
28 The mark of a good leader is loyal followers;
leadership is nothing without a following.
This is the second lesson that God is teaching me regarding leadership. The verse really speaks for itself, you are not a good leader if you have no followers. It makes a lot of sense, you don’t to talk to people you don’t want to hear speak. You don’t hang out with people you don’t like. You don’t follow people who don’t lead well. Because this next year, everything will be new to me, I will see how many people follow me.
I will post things about Youth camp later this summer, but I wanted to shine a light on the commitment that I made to my youth group while I was there. Each night, we would have a worship session and then the speaker would stand up and give the message. That night, the message centered on this question, will you be able to walk across a graduation and have people say about you, I can follow her because he/she follows Christ. He/She constantly seeks after what God desires of him/her and I know that he/she is going to be on the right track, I know I can follow him/her because of their relationship and closeness with Christ.
My youth pastor posed this question, and what I heard was a call for leaders to rise up in the youth group. I stood. It is a big responsibility to have an entire youth group looking up to you and watching your actions to see if Christ is evident in your life, but for a while I could hear God calling me to do something more with my youth ministry. The teens in the youth group were being poured into, but it was hard to tell if they were pouring anything out. It was time to start a revolution, beginning with me, because I was willing to let God use me to change the church attitude both in myself and in others. I asked for accountability, because if I’m leading, not only do I need people following but people alongside me to point out things in my life and bluntly tell me; Mackenzie, if you carry this on any longer, you are going to be leading people into sin.
I’ve been gone for most of the summer, and I haven’t had a chance to notice if my commitment had produced any followers. I may not ever see the people who seek after Christ because my relationship with him changed them. I hope I will be able to look back across the graduation stage and look back at people who have followed me as I followed Christ and know that even as I step out into the real world, I will continue after what he asks of me with all I am, no matter the cost.
I want to be able to lead the people at my school this next year and the people in my youth group this summer and for the rest of my high school years, and if I notice that I have no followers, I know it’s time to back off and let someone else do the leading, while I follow. With Christ at the center of everything I do, I want to lead people to walk in his ways, and get up people out of the pew and onto the road. If you always live your spiritual life in one place with no risks, you’ve never really lived at all. And besides, I need some followers. You can’t lead if no one is following.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog, and before you go off on me about not writing for a few months, hear me out. I have this class that was a little behind grade-wise in AP U.S. Government and Politics (most of you know where this is headed) but before you go thinking that I’ve failed the class, I want to clarify that we are talking about a perfectionist (me) who “failed”. In other words, I was making a B and my 4.0 average began to slip down the drain. I’m not bitter that I was temporarily grounded from my blog, because I felt the same. Taking an AP class consumes a lot of your time, and like the usual me, I couldn’t get my priorities straight, and so my parents straightened them out for me. You have no idea how glad I am to be back and how glad I am to be able to write about the pieces of my life you missed this past month, and also about all the experiences I will have this summer. It’s going to be epic, just saying.
I titled this “Completions and Complications” because it sums up life for me right now, pretty well. As I have had the chance to read other’s blogs and let them pour into my life, I realized that I enjoy reading blog posts where people are real. Not the fake “I’m doing fine” not the teaching of what they learned about Jesus this past week, but when they sat down and said, look, my life is a mess. I don’t know why you’re reading this, but it’s for a reason. It’s hard for me to write this. It’s deeply painful to sum up what’s going on right now, but healing can be painful and I’m going to write and learn and listen until the very end. Join me if you want to. It inspires me. Because I never for one moment think; “wow, they don’t have it all together” or “their faith must be really weak because they can’t trust him with this”, instead I think, “I want faith like that”. It takes a lot of confidence to put out the things you are struggling with at this season in your life. You suddenly become more vulnerable than you’ve ever been, and it’s scary. Like stepping out on a limb that you’re not sure will hold you up. I’ve made the decision to write like that. I’m stressed. I’m worn out. I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions. I don’t know why you’re reading this, but it’s for a reason. It may be hard for me to write like that. It may be deeply painful. But healing can be painful and I’m going to I’m going to write and learn and listen until the very end. Join me if you want to.
The school year has ended and I cannot believe how many close friends I have made just in this school-year alone. This summer will be difficult to begin, I’m going to miss those dear friends so much, and they will always have a place in my heart. I’m finally beginning feel that I have accomplished something. I still have so much that I have to learn, and so many things that God has to pull out of my life. Just as the school-year ended, he put a pin-point on a fear I had lived with for a long time, and I was able to begin to overcome it. As this summer begins, expect to see shorter posts with more content, for as many days as possible. Thanks for coming on the journey this far, in June my blog will be 6 months old.
Here is a little short story I wrote for Easter Sunday. Enjoy!
As far as I was concerned, I was worth nothing. I had rags for a dress, soiled hands and a dirty face. I was an outcast of society; I deserved nothing but to be spit upon by a crowd of mockers. I was an orphan, without family or home. I had no name. I was exiled from the Kingdom, as ransom for a fault of my ancestors, many years before. They soiled the honor of our King. I suffered under the weight of their fault.
A prince sat in his castle window, staring out at the barren land where the outskirts of his father’s kingdom lay. It was dry, where the exiles lived. The exiles who soiled the honor of his father, exiles with rags for clothes and soiled hands and dirty faces; a people who knew no love, no home. His heart ached for them.
I worked hard with little pay and the only satisfaction I got was the hope of death, which was never a comfort. My freedom held me captive, all day long. I knew I was free to roam, but inside, I yearned for something more fulfilling. I needed to know my life had a purpose. I needed to feel loved. I shoved my thoughts out of the way, and toiled on. My search for water was unending.
The prince sat at the King’s table, feasting on the finest food. The king stood. “My son,” he said, “have you not longed to see what I have despised?” “Therefore, I send you out unto the exiles to live among them, to see what they face.” “Bring them back to me, and I shall make them my children, they shall be loved.” The prince, nodded solemnly, knowing this would be his last feast at his father’s table for a long time. His father continued, speaking softly “but you know they cannot be accepted without a price”. The prince stood, wiped away a tear and said, “It will be done.”
I watched the cloud of dust come closer, the only thing it could mean was a new arrival. The person who came stumbling down the road was not eye-catching, but there was something about him. When he looked me in the eye, I saw no scorn, no mockery, nothing I had been used to receiving from travelers. When he spoke, there seemed to be great authority, and his next words shocked me. “I am an exile.” “I came from my father’s kingdom to live here for a year and bring you back to him after your ransom has been paid.” I laughed at such ignorance, but lead him around and showed him the life I lived in this dust bowl, a life without water, a life that seemed to mean nothing. Through the months, his phrase echoed through the walls of my mind. “…To bring you back to him after your ransom has been paid.”
The prince lived among the exiles, and experienced the heartache of the people. He felt their sorrow, a stabbing pain in his heart. He healed the sick, and they listened to stories of life in the castle, although they never believed them. But the days were drawing close when their ransom had to be paid. They would know the joy of love and family; he would feel the weight of their burdensome faults. A pack of thieves galloped down the road; he bowed his head and prayed before leaping into action.
We never had thieves. There was nothing to steal, and yet there they were before us, holding us hostage. The prince came out of the cloud of dust, his face set in a firm line, holding out a ring with the king’s coat of arms. “I know what you’re after”, he said, “Let them go.” The thieves dropped us to the ground and sprinted to the prince. I could only watch as a cloud of dust arose and the prince’s cries were heard above the noise. I turned my head; I couldn’t bear to watch it unfold. The others around me laughed and jeered, ugly people enjoying the spectacle of pain they never saw the prince go through before now.
The thieves, after finishing their work, left off into the sunset, while the prince lay motionless on the ground. The others around me wandered off. I ran to him. I watched, in awe as the river of blood flowing from his veins took form, creating a beautiful red dress. The prince stirred, and said in a hoarse voice, “take it, put it on, and walk back into my father’s kingdom, there you will be accepted, and there you will find rest and love.” I took his hand, and he died. The ground shook and the sky turned black. I put on the red dress and started my three-day journey back to the kingdom, carrying the dreadful news to the King- that his son was dead.
The third day, my heart felt lighter, as if the weight I had been under for so long was now gone. I looked at my red dress; it was a brilliant white as I climbed up the steps to the King’s palace. They received me inside, although I had made no appointment. I walked the narrow hallways to the throne room, my heart pounding furiously. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror; no longer was I ugly, I wasn’t dressed in filthy rags, now I was stunning, the white dress reflecting off the walls.
A voice from inside the throne room called me in, and I walked into the brilliant light. There, my King stood tall and welcomed me to his table, and said I was his child. I opened my mouth to tell of how undeserving I was, when I saw my prince. He stood and spoke for me. He told of the wonderful things I had done for him while in exile. His father nodded. I was lead to the table, and knew that I was loved. I was lead to His table; and I knew I was home.
I’ve had people ask me a lot of challenging questions this week. I’ve gone through many faith-challenging things these last few weeks. I found that through my walk with Christ, I’m able to give things to God more easily. When something comes up that I feel like I don’t know how to handle, I’ve learned to give it to God. It’s still a work in progress. That phrase, “a work in progress”, describes me well. My tennis skills: a work in progress. My gym class tolerance: a work in progress. My faith: a work in progress. Mackenzie: a work in progress. There are many things I need to work on, and many things God needs to work out of me.
I find that people often say “be strong” when you’re faced with hard circumstances, but I’ve found God tells me just the opposite. He tells me that through my weaknesses, he is made strong. Basically, he says “be weak.” When you become weak, you become flexible to God’s schedule as opposed to your own. You’re giving him control, letting him turn something into a masterpiece, instead of trying to make it on your own, without even knowing how. You’re trying to make something perfect out of nothing. Have you ever done pottery before? Imagine an instructor sitting a ball of clay before you and saying, make a flawless teapot. I don’t want to see any cracks, and make sure all the air bubbles our out and make sure you use the spiral method. Oh, and don’t forget to wedge and knead the clay before you hollow it out, also score and slip the pot before adding the handle. Unless you really know how to make pottery, you might be a little lost.
I’ll explain. If there are cracks in the clay you are molding with, it will be hard to shape and falls apart easily. If there are air bubbles in the clay when you fire it in the kiln, your masterpiece will explode. The spiral method of making pottery is difficult and it usually comes out lopsided if the clay “snake” is not rolled out evenly. You wedge and knead clay to get all the air bubbles out so it doesn’t explode in the kiln. You must also hollow out the inside of your pot because you couldn’t use it if you didn’t and also because there is a great chance there are air bubbles in that clay and it will explode in the kiln if you do not knead them out. You score and slip pieces of clay that you want to attach together, because they would not stick otherwise. Slip is a mixture of clay and water that acts as a glue for pieces of pottery. Scoring refers to the process of roughing up the surface area of the two objects that you want to attach, where you want to attach them; scoring is like making scratch marks in the clay with a utensil such as a plastic fork before slipping it and attaching it. If you do something wrong, your masterpiece will either fall apart or explode when you try to complete it.
I wonder how many of us, would have known exactly what to do, without being told any of that information. How many of us could have made perfect, flawless teapots? And yet we treat our lives like a piece of pottery that we know exactly how to mold, which is the biggest lie. Does a pot know how to mold itself? So for God to accomplish his purpose in us, we must first become weak and willing. We are all works in progress. None of us are perfect. I’m not perfect. I never will be. But I look at people who don’t seem to have any problems in their life and wish I were them. Comparing myself to a broken, useless person who God has fixed, isn’t perfection. It’s a broken useless person who God has fixed and given a purpose to. I’ve misunderstood and undoubtedly misplaced perfection. We have God’s full attention. He is intent on making us into something wonderful. We never take the time to notice that our creator is perfect. We never take the time to compare our own lives to his. We are too caught up in comparing ourselves to “perfect” people. Like I said, I’m a work in progress, and only when I become weak, can God turn me into something breath-taking.
1 Corinthians 4:6-7 (MSG)
For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle.
The past few weeks have been a challenge and I was tempted to write a blog post about it. But finding out where to begin was hard, and I feel like I’ve posted enough posts about the sadness in my life. Optimistic and cheerful are two words describing me in the dictionary and I want to keep up the image. This blog is to encourage others in their faith, not to tell them my life story. So while I was worrying about what to do, a song came on my iPod.
“Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life, we have some trouble
When you worry, you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……”
I love this song. If you’re having a bad day, this song is perfect. Spiritually this song has great value as well… but not as much as this verse:
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
I hope today has been blessed, and don’t worry…don’t do it. Be Happy 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I’m a chatterbox. There is the plain truth in black and white. If someone asks me how I am, I’ll tell them. They will hear much more about my life than they ever wanted to. It’s comical really. But I also have a tendency to be a chatterbox to God. I talk and talk and talk about my problems. Why this, why that, I wonder about this, I wonder about that, on and on and on. It’s good to pray. It’s good to talk. But sometimes all the talking drowns out what the other person is trying to say and you miss something important. When my mouth isn’t moving, there is something wrong with me physically. When my heart is talking, there is something wrong with me spiritually.
Why is there something wrong with me spiritually? It’s because I’ve completely ignored what God is trying to tell me. I’ve interrupted and kept talking. “Be still, and know that I am God.” For me, God is trying to tell me in that verse to stop being such a chatterbox and just quiet down and listen. He is God! He holds the entire world and my problems are nothing compared to him. One of the first steps toward having gentle and quiet spirit is to be quiet. Many of my friends are quiet people. That leaves me to do most of the talking. But when me and another friend both like to talk, it creates serious communication issues. You try to talk at the same time and all the words are jumbled together. When you tried to say “my fish is sick” and they tried to say, “I bought some tuna” you wind up with something like “my tuna fish is some stick”; not at all what you were trying to get across. It’s the same thing with God, though with a not nearly as funny outcome.
When you talk so much you can’t hear God, your almost saying “what I have to say is so much more important that what you have to say, therefore you must listen to me before I’ll hear anything from you.” It’s a detrimental spiritual disease called selfishness. It grows in your soul and has to be weeded out by a professional gardener; otherwise, it spreads and you think you are entitled to everything because the world revolves around you and what you want. This is what I’ve done when I needed to listen to God. Because I don’t, I wind up completely and utterly confused and lost. Because I don’t focus on his directions, I lose sight of the way he wants me to walk. Being quiet takes practice; it takes vigorous spiritual exercise to listen. When all you want to do is tell God about your problems, you forget that he is trying to tell you how to fix them. Spiritual chatterboxes don’t make strong Christians; they make confused Christians who have a selfish slant to their lives.
Praying is a wonderful thing. But prayer is a conversation, not a journal you’re keeping. With prayer, you talk to be heard and you talk to be answered. Spiritual talking is almost like a cheat prayer. You just talk to talk and whether anyone responds isn’t your concern. Each trial we face in our lives, is for us to learn from, whether we want to learn or not. The trials build up our faith and the more you learn from it, the stronger you faith becomes. But how much you learn depends on how much you listen.
While Valentine’s Day and New Years are very much different, I have resolutions to be the best fiancee. I read at least five verses in Proverbs about not being a nagging spouse. About how living with a nagging spouse is worse than listening to a leaky faucet and how it would be better to live in a cabin alone than to live with a nagging spouse in a mansion. Ouch. While I’m not married yet, I have the best future husband ever! This is the long post where I tell you all about him. But really, it’s too short to began to describe how awesome he is.
He asked me to marry him when I was six years old. And, of course, I said yes. We then began growing our relationship even more and began planning our wedding. He told me about a place he knew where we would have our wedding. It sounded so beautiful, I couldn’t help but agree. I almost didn’t believe him, except for the fact that he never lies to me.
I met his dad, and absolutely loved him. He remains just like a father to me and I usually tell him all about my problems. Did you know he is both a counselor and a doctor? His dad is a pretty good teacher as well, so my future husband has the gift in his genes. His dad lives in the place where we will have our wedding. I told him, “It must be so wonderful because you live there.” He most definitely agreed with me.
My future husband writes me letters all the time. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the time to read them, but his dad told me that you make time for what is most important in your life. It made me feel guilty about the things I hadn’t read yet. My future husband never forgets to tell me how much he loves me and how he thinks I am the most beautiful girl in all the universe. He writes me songs and sings them to me and makes sure that I always feel loved. He shows me where I am wrong and tells me gently how to fix it. Sometimes, I let him be the handy man and fix it for me. There are some things that are beyond what I can do to repair.
He tells me not to be a nagging wife and trust him always because he knows best. That’s hard. My future husband doesn’t want me to drive the car, he wants to drive it for me so he knows that I am safe under his watch. He hugs me when things go wrong so I know I am safe in his arms. He tells me to dream big, because his dad can do anything, but not to dream so big that I lose sight of what really matters. Because it’s more important to have a bunch of people move to where his dad lives and see the wedding, than it is to make a big show of how many decorations we will have.
My future husband loves me so much that he moved away from his dad to come and ask me to marry him. At first his dad wouldn’t allow it, but my future husband gave me a red dress to wear while I’m around his dad, and now his dad has forgotten all the bad things that I did to soil his honor. But that red dress cost a fortune. My future husband had to pay a lot to give that dress away. It cost his life. He loved me enough to do something like that. I didn’t think I was worth it. But he told me that I was chosen, and no one can take me away from him, because I belonged to him and him alone.
My future husband moved back to where his dad lived . But he never forgot me and still writes me letters. Sometimes, I forget about him and the price he paid to have me. I find exciting things that live around me and I forget about my future husband. They become more important to me than my future husband. And my future husband gets mad, well… not mad, jealous. They never paid as much for me as he did, and he tells me that. We go to marriage counseling with his dad and I tell my future husband how sorry I am. I broke the contract we had, I shrugged off that red dress like it was nothing. I never expected to be forgiven. But I was.
My future husband loves me in spite of what I’ve done. He tells me that he still loves me and always will. He says I’m beautiful. My future husband never gave me a diamond ring. My eternal valentine never gave me a box of chocolates, a necklace, or a rose for Valentine’s Day. He gave me him, and that’s all I will ever need.
My future husband and I are getting married when I move up to heaven and all the wedding guests have arrived. They’ll ring the bells and the service will start. The best food will be served and we’ll all be praising him and his dad. My future husband’ s name is Jesus and we hope you’ll come to our wedding. My future husband… he’s awesome.
I’m not often speechless… or wordless. Words are so natural for my person; most everything I’m good at has something to do with words. Being speechless is not something I like. Having the right words to say at the right time is something I find confidence in, something that I can lean back onto when most other people don’t know what to say. Very few things have left me speechless. I was left without words again this week; at a time when I counted on them to get me through a conversation.
I was shocked into reality by a truth this week. My imaginative, optimistic self doesn’t like to come into agreement with reality sometimes. It would much rather stay where it’s comfortable off in la-la land somewhere prancing happily around like nothing is ever wrong. But sometimes there’s no other way to come to agreement with reality without facing it head-on. This time, I didn’t have a choice whether to face it or not, I was forced to. God wanted me to see that some of the most perfect-seeming people are struggling, broken people just like I am; and I was shocked. Not that I think less of them because of it, not even that I don’t want to talk to them for a few days because of it. I was just shocked, speechless, wordless, while I processed that fact that my mental images had been shattered into a million pieces. That a person I thought I knew, I really didn’t know at all.
Not that it hurt me to sweep up the glass image; I needed the blunt truth shoved into my face in order to realize that God is doing something great with my life. Something so much bigger than myself and “Mackenzie’s World”. That I need to step out of myself sometimes and realize that people are hurting around me and I’m doing nothing more than staring blankly at their lives. Loving people for who they are, in spite of what they’ve done isn’t easy. I can only imagine how hard it is for God to look at my life and still love me in spite of some of some of the things I’ve done. I’ve broken his heart a thousand times, and he’s never left me. The thought of someone willingly dying for me is beyond crazy. Who would want to? It’s sad to think someone could love me that deeply and I brush him off as if finding that sort of love happens every day.
What am I supposed to say to a person who has gone through something I can hardly comprehend? I have to say something! But like before, I’m speechless. I’m wordless. No encouraging words will come. They all sound fake, like a person saying, “Don’t cry it’s going to be okay” when they’ve just lost their legs. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say? “Everything is going to be all right”? It sounds fake. They’ve heard it a million times but hardly anyone knows what it’s like to be in their place. You’ve just spoken a bunch of empty words. People talking because they don’t know what to say when faced with that sort of thing. People talking because they don’t want to be left…speechless. It’s as if a giant elephant sat down in your lap and you have no idea what to do with it now that it’s there. It ruins a conversation.
This week, I need prayer. I need the right words to say when I’m speechless. I need to be encouraging when all I can think to do is slump in a chair and process the words. I need God to show me just how to trust him for words and not my brain. I’ll finish with a letter from Paul to Corinth.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (MSG)
We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.