Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Power of Patience

By Wendy Custer

Shortly after Jessie and her puppies arrived, a family, who had recently lost their elderly beagle, discovered that we were looking for homes for the pups. We invited them to come by to pick out a puppy, and Austin and his parents wasted no time in choosing Lightning for the new addition to their family. Knowing that their puppy was not even close to leaving his mother, we encouraged Austin's family to visit Lightning often as he continued to grow. Every week since then,, they have come to play with Lightning and his brothers and sisters.

The puppies are five weeks old now, and Austin and his mom and dad made their weekly visit today. They are amazed at how much the puppies have grown each week. As he played with his new friend, Austin expressed his impatience at having to wait for three more weeks to take Lightning home with him. "Austin is not used to having to wait for anything." his mom explained, "But he knows that it is what is best for Lightning."

We studied patience in Sunday School earlier today, and I was amazed at how swiftly God was giving me an example in living color. I felt Him giving me a clear picture of what patience really meant this morning. In my Sunday School book I had written in the margin, "Patience is letting go of something I want for the benefit of someone else." Apparently, God wanted to impress this lesson on my heart today!

Austin really wanted to take his puppy home today! He was having fun playing with him and it was getting harder and harder to leave him behind each week. If he took him home, however, it would actually be harmful for Lightning. Austin was learning to give up something he wanted for the benefit of someone else!

God has given us the most beautiful example of this very lesson! In 2 Peter 3:9, God shows us what patience really looks like. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Though He is our maker, and He has chosen us for His very own, God waits for us until we are ready. He certainly has the power to make us His at any time, but He knows that it will be better if the time is right.

If the Lord can wait patiently for His children to choose Him, how much more should we patiently await the salvation of others. This does not not mean that we should just sit idly by, waiting for the eyes of the unbelievers to be opened. Instead, we should follow the example of Austin. We should continually spend time with those who have yet to enter the family of God. We should love on them, be kind to them, and work to build a relationship with them. When we join God in this patient process, we will encourage others to want to join us in His family.

Often, being patient will require me to let go of something I want for the benefit of the person who has not yet chosen God. I must decide - what is more important than the salvation of one of God's children? Is getting my way, no matter how significant it may seem, worth risking an opportunity for someone to see God's grace?

Every time Austin leaves my house without his puppy, it gets harder and harder. But each time he visits, Lightning is closer to finding his permanent home. Austin may be learning a tough lesson now, but in reality, he is building a relationship that is changing a life!

Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." What better way to honor another, than to give up your own desires for the sake of their very life? Only God can give us the ability to do this, but it is His desire that we join Him in actively waiting for the repentance of all!

Austin was sad when he left my house today, but under his sadness was the excitement of anticipation. He knows what God knows - love is worth the wait!

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
2 Peter 3:8

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Practicing Hospitality

By Wendy Custer

Several weeks before Christmas, a stray hound dog had eight puppies in the mulch under my parents' bedroom window. In the cold of the night, she was unable to keep all of the puppies warm and, when my parents discovered them the next morning, one of them had already died. Not in a position to take in a single, homeless mother and her seven babies, my parents called animal control, only to be told that they were off for the weekend! Without a collar or tag to identify the dog's owner, Mom and Dad were unsure who else to call; so they called us. We headed to their house to try to assess the situation.

After she gobbled down several bowls of dog food and quenched her thirst with clean water, we were able to get close enough to touch the mother and her babies. She was pitifully thin and her pups were quickly growing cold. Without hesitation, Jerry, the kids, and I decided to take her to our house. We loaded the pups into a carrier and carried the mother to our car for the short trip up the road. I am not sure if she was too weak to resist or if she simply trusted us, but we were able to move her with little effort.

It didn't take long before the kids had named the mama dog "Jessie" and each of the puppies earned a fast title as well. Knowing that the puppies would be with us for the next eight weeks, until they could be weaned and find homes, we settled the little family into our living room.

Jessie is an excellent mother, so caring for the puppies has been no trouble at all. I can't exactly say the same for her though. Jessie is an extremely protective mother, and though she graciously lets us handle her puppies frequently, she will not let our other dogs or cats anywhere near the room. She fiercely guards each entrance to the room and our other pets quietly sneak by the door so as not to receive the wrath of Jessie!

Jessie has obviously never lived in a house before. She eats and drinks whenever she wants, and invariably, her bowls become empty in the middle of the night. Though she doesn't bark, Jessie whines until I respond to her needs, and often that is several times a night. I don't do well with a lack of sleep, and after being woken several times a night for the last couple of weeks, I actually began to resent her being here.

After a couple of nights of grumbling, God reminded me that I was to practice hospitality. After all, Jessie never asked to come to my house, I brought her here! She was incapable of taking care of her own needs, but I had volunteered to serve her. It was with eagerness that I had brought her into my home, but once the newness wore off, I was quickly wearied by her meager needs.

God reminded me that He looks for us to serve Him by serving the needs of those who cannot. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks to us about caring for "the least of these." Though we know that he is certainly talking about people, God has used this little dog to speak to me about hospitality and compassion. We should be willing to open our hearts and our homes to those who are in need, but we must also be willing to continuously minister to them even when it becomes laborious or inconvenient.

Though it is not the original meaning, I believe we have come to view hospitality as entertaining or having a party. We don't mind having people over, but we hope they don't stay too long. We usually prefer to wait until it is convenient to us to invite others in, as opposed to welcoming those who are needy and unable to wait for our busy schedules to clear.

I have received so many blessings from having Jessie and her puppies in my house. They have brought joy to my family and all who visit our home. They have brought us new friends, as people come by to pick out their new puppy. They have given us the incomparable experience of watching a new mom care for her young. But, most importantly, by simply giving me the opportunity to serve someone who is unable to give anything in return, Jessie and her puppies have taught me the value of hospitality and patience in caring for others.

God is so creative in the way He instructs me! I can't wait to see who, or what, he brings into my life next!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:9-10

Share with Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seeds of Encouragement By Wendy Custer

I recently discovered that a dear woman that I knew briefly had passed away. She entered my life in 1999 when she and her husband called me to paint a mural in their home. As usual, when I am preparing to work for someone, I had several days to get to know them before I spent time in their home. I discovered that Nancy hosted a prayer group, and I had the privilege of listening to her, and the ladies in that group, faithfully lift up every prayer request in their church while I worked one day. It was like painting in the throne room of God!

My oldest son was two years old at the time, and I remember being a bit sleep deprived during those days. I showed up at Nancy's house one of the mornings during her job with tears in my eyes. Immediately concerned about my distress, she welcomed me in ready to listen and, when she heard my young mother's guilt from fussing at my little boy, she smiled knowingly. Nancy offered no advice, but gave me the best encouragement a person can offer; she sent me to the feet of the Lord. Providing me with a Bible, a notepad, a pen, and a cup of tea, Nancy sent me to her back porch, a place of tranquility, to pray. I don't remember what I read or wrote that day, but I do remember that I was encouraged, and I remember that I found peace!

Nancy and her husband, Gary, had a beautiful home and lovely landscaping. As a want-to-be gardener, I am always admiring plants. On my last day, as Nancy walked me out to my car, I asked about the name of some of her flowers. Instead of just telling me about them, she put some of the seeds from the purple Columbine into a bag for me to take home and plant. It was just like Nancy to give me something real that could grow and flourish instead of a short answer that would fade quickly!

I pray that I can be the kind of encourager that God created in my special friend. It was many years after I met Nancy that God placed on my heart the calling to be an encourager, but He certainly used her life to plant the seeds. It is a joy to know that she is now resting in His eternal peace! I am quite confident that she has heard the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. . . For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building.
1 Corinthians 3: 6,9