GLORIA’S GLADIATORS: HEROES BUILD HOPE

Last week I noticed this online news article:
A 72-year-old Woman Was Quietly Living in a Dilapidated House. Then an Electrician Sparked a Community to Help Her Rebuild” by Ryan Bergeron for CNN.

I think it is a great story detailing how rebuilding a home builds hope! It’s important to share such real-life examples when so much news today is sad and troubling.

Electrician John Kinney is a hero in this story. He entered Gloria Scott’s home in Massachusetts for a job that presented him with a challenge.  It became his opportunity to help someone and also to build hope — for both Ms. Gloria and for me.

Ms. Gloria had a problem that needed attention because “sparks were shooting out of one of her light fixtures.” Kinney succeeded in getting the lights on, however it was obvious that Ms. Gloria’s home needed additional work. Kinney explained, “There was extensive plumbing damage… holes in the ceiling, raccoons were getting in.”

Running water was a definite problem. Because the kitchen sink was spewing hot water, Ms. Gloria had shut off the water to her home. Every couple of days she turned it back on only so toilets could be flushed.

Ms. Gloria lived alone and unfortunately could not afford needed repairs. Kinney described her home: “It was definitely a hazard. It was a rough condition she was living in, and I noticed immediately.”

After leaving her house, Kinney continued to think about the elderly woman alone in her home that was plagued by so many problems. He was compelled to return with his tools and begin work — at no charge! He realized that she needed help, and he understood she was not going to ask for it.

Soon friends joined in helping with yardwork, but Kinney needed even more help. He began a fundraiser entitled, “Nice old lady needs help.” Local individuals responded overwhelmingly. Donations have poured in to exceed $100,000.

Professionals with the skills needed to work on the house were now paid, and volunteers still came to help. Materials and supplies were donated. Restaurants provided meals. Kinney reported: “The project kept growing and support kept pouring in.”

While Ms. Gloria’s house was being improved, her whole life was being impacted by the kind acts of Kinney and so many others. Kinney described the effect: “She’s been here by herself for over 10 years, so I’m sure it’s a big change for her, but she’s warmed up to everybody…. She’s so happy, she’s got all types of new friends. She’s out here making lunch for us, laughing, joking. It’s just a miracle to witness.”

In just over a month Kinney’s initial electrical work was upgraded to a total home renovation. Ms. Gloria’s home has new electrical and plumbing systems, new roof, new windows, new insulation, new paint, new back porch, and  new grass in her backyard.

Hero Kinney and other heroic helpers are now known as Gloria’s Gladiators with a Facebook page and more than 6,000 members so far. Kinney hopes for similar chapters starting across the country to help other elderly folks who have such needs. He explained, “It’s about getting the whole community to be gladiators and fighting for people who can’t fight for themselves.”

Even more lasting than home improvements,  Kinney and Ms. Gloria have formed an unexpected bond since this project began. He shares: “She reminds me of my grandmother. My daughter has bonded with her, my wife has bonded with her. It doesn’t stop here. Gloria is a part of my life.”

Newsman Bergeron expressed it perfectly: “What started around a broken electrical fixture has lighted up both of their lives.” That reality builds hope in me and makes me thankful for John Kinney and other heroes like him!

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.”  (Psalm 41:1)

“Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy….”  (Psalms 82:3 – 4)

“He has given freely to the poor, His righteousness endures forever….”  (Psalms 112:9)

“One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.”  (Proverbs 19:17)

“The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; The wicked does not understand such concern.”  (Proverbs 29:7)

“For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me, because I delivered the poor who cried for help and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.”  (Job 29: 11 – 13)

“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”  (Acts 20:35)

“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good to his edification.”  (Romans 15:1-2)

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (1 Corinthians 9:7)

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  (Hebrews 13:16)

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  (1  Peter 4:10)

“But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”  (1 John 3:17)

REMEMBERING CANCER:  LUNCH & HOPE

In September 2009, 11 years ago this month,  I was diagnosed with cancer and quickly scheduled for surgery. Thankfully the tumor was completely removed along with some unnecessary parts and also 13 lymph nodes that indicated the cancer had not spread farther than the tumor’s point of origin.

My outstanding doctor/surgeon was confident he had removed all the cancer, but he presented me a choice to receive follow-up chemotherapy or radiation. I trusted in my successful surgery with good test results of my lymph nodes and chose against negative effects of both chemo and radiation.

Even knowing my doctor would not pronounce me cancer-free for 5 years, I believed my worst was over. Based on my medical history, I was at risk for more cancer, but I concentrated on recuperating from surgery and learning to live as a cancer survivor.

I believed the Great Physician had my case under control. In His care I had gotten needed medical attention before it was too late. I had a highly skilled and experienced doctor, known for being one of the best anywhere. I was blessed with loving, supportive family and friends.

I believed in the power of prayer, which was a great comfort. I learned a deeper level of trust in that Great Physician, Who is a reliable Strength for living (or potentially facing death).

I still had personal medical history to consider. The fact of both parents and my only sibling having had terminal cancer is serious stuff to ponder. I was the sole survivor in my own little immediate family into which I was born. It was unpleasant to experience frequent tests, uncomfortable exams, and anxiously waiting each time for clear test results. After 5 years of this, my doctor, my hero, declared me, “…cancer-free” — at last! 

Throughout the experience there were reasons to be thankful, but this anticipated pronouncement was definitely answer to prayers. It was cause for emotional giving of thanks and of praising God. The day for which I had looked forward for 5 years had finally come. Now it is years in my past. I remember, and I’m still thankful.

My husband was always by my side and  drove me to out-of-town appointments for 5 years. We discovered a small restaurant near my doctor’s office. It was uncrowded and quiet and provided tasty food, friendly service, and reasonable prices. It instantly became a favorite place for lunch.

I looked forward to going there on appointment days. It was where we talked, planned, and felt hopeful for the future. I can say they serve comfort food, but there is more to it.

Sometimes couples need an escape from everyday routine to better connect. This was an unexpected positive aspect of my experience — serendipitous as one may say. I am thankful that we share those memories.

Now if we are in that town, we still go to our little restaurant for lunch. I remember the good old days and find humor and hope in describing any portion of a cancer experience that way.

No matter the problems or challenges, I never have to face them alone. Jesus Christ is my Help in any time of need. His promise to never leave me proves true. These truths come to mind as I ponder my past experiences that include one called  a devastating illness.

I also recall sharing lunch and  hope. May I always remember and be thankful.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46: 1)

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” 
(Psalm 103: 2, 3)

“For we know all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8: 28)

SARI BY DESIGN: BEAUTY… PURPOSE… HOPE

Ravi Zacharias shared a story about visiting a site known for making the highest quality wedding saris in the world. His account reminds me that God’s child can trust the Father for He has a plan for creating beauty and purpose from even heartache and sadness. Any hope perceived is based on the fact that God is trustworthy.

Ravi shared, “With such intricacy of detail I expected to see some elaborate system of machines that would boggle the mind in production. But this image could not have been further from the real scene. Each sari was made individually by a father and son team.

The father sat above the son on a platform surrounded by several spools of thread that he would gather into his fingers. The son had only one task. At a nod from his father he would move the shuttle from one side to the other and back again. This would then be repeated for hundreds of hours until a magnificent pattern began to emerge….

The son certainly had the easier task. He was only to move at the father’s nod. But making use of these efforts, the father was working to an intricate end. All along he had the design in his mind and was bringing the right threads together….

God alone can weave a pattern from the disparate threads of our lives – whether suffering, success, joy, or heartache – and fashion a magnificent design. Perhaps today if you will stop and reflect on it, you will see that the Father is seeking to weave a beautiful tapestry in your life.”

I gain hope from Ravi’s account. It reminds me that Father God is the Master Designer. It challenges me to trust my Father enough to follow His leading. Then He will accomplish a work of beauty and purpose with my life. That truly gives me reason to be hopeful!

“For we know all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8: 28)

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.”  (Psalm 142: 8)

REMEMBERING 9/11: MIRACLES & HOPE

As I remember September 11, 2001, on this anniversary today, there is more to ponder than death and destruction. So many tragic stories of lives and dreams taken by Evil in the form of terrorists’ attacks remain in my mind. Thankfully there are many true stories of miracles, survival, heroism, and hope that I choose to remember.

Countless miracles occurred that day that resulted in lives saved and deaths averted. Miracles are sometimes mistakenly called luck, coincidence, or twist of circumstances, but I believe “miracles” to be the best description. Actually there are many miracle stories from that memorable day, and they all impart hope.

I recall “Miracle of Ladder 6,” the account of FDNY firemen, mostly from Ladder 6, who lived to share their personal accounts that need no embellishments to amaze and convince others that miracles happen. Their story is also described as “Miracle of Stairwell B.”  By either name the term “miracle” seems appropriate.

Join me in taking some time today to investigate some of the 9/11/2001 miracles. During our trying time in today’s history we can all benefit from hope that these stories give. Let us remember to pause and be thankful for Providential care… then let’s be ready for our own miracle when it comes!

“O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?”  (Deuteronomy 3: 24)

“You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.”  (Psalm 77: 14)

MIRACLES IN AMERICAN HISTORY: ANSWERED PRAYER & HOPE

Are you looking for an interesting book to read? Wanting to increase your American history knowledge?  Wondering if miracles really happen? Needing hope to cope during your own uncertainties? If any of your answers are affirmative, then I whole-heartedly recommend a book for you!

Read Miracles in American History: 32 Amazing Stories of Answered Prayer by Susie Federer for inspiration and hope!

Consider there may be much more to know about the French & Indian War, American Revolution, Barbary Pirate War, War of 1812, American Civil War, WWI, WW2, and other trying times in American history.

Many do not knowthe rest of the story’ of leaders whose faith and courage — and hope — made a difference in making history!

I think you will be amazed and hopeful as you read these stories of true circumstances that are best explained as miraculous and that resulted in that which was needed to save the nation! You may realize that Providence is a better and more realistic explanation than coincidence.

According to Scripture, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.”  (Psalm 103: 19)

In 1746, 70 ships and 13,000 troops sailed from France to destroy the American colonies, but Massachusetts Governor William Shirley declared a Day of Fasting, then….

Following the Battle of Monongahela, George Washington sent this message from Fort Cumberland to his brother, John Augustine Washington on July 18, 1755: “But by the All-Powerful Dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!”

Did the creation of the Continental Congress and eventual Independence of the United States directly result from Thomas Jefferson’s resolution for a Day of Fasting on June 1, 1774?

Americans were able to escape British General Cornwallis after the rising of three rivers during 10 days in 1781 — was it providential?

Was Benedict Arnold’s  plan to betray West Point discovered merely by coincidence?

George Washington declared, “The Hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this (the course of the war) that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith.”

Benjamin Franklin proclaimed: “In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain… we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection… All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending Providence in our favor.”

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a Day of Fasting for April 30, 1865, yet a freak accident two days later changed the course of the Civil War.

Woodrow Wilson made a certain declaration as the U.S. entered WWI….

What about Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression?

Other stories include FDR, and WW2 Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Patton.

What about President Truman and the Korean War?

Apollo 13 was literally lost in space, but President Nixon called on Americans to pray, then….

Do you know these true stories of miracles in American history? Be amazed and hopeful! Read MIRACLES in AMERICAN HISTORY: 32 AMAZING STORIES of ANSWERED PRAYER by Susie Federer.

These amazing stories are adapted from William J. Federer’s “American Minute”
(AmericanMinute.com).

If you like reading about real individuals and historic events, you will want to check out MIRACLES in AMERICAN HISTORY, Volume 2: AMAZING FAITH THAT SHAPED THE NATION also by Susie Federer.

KYLA MUELLER: STRENGTH & HOPE

If you watched the final night of National Republican Convention’s televised program last week, then you know there was a focus on “everyday Americans whose stories are filled with hope and patriotism.”

We met two Americans who are suffering huge loss and unending heart-break. Marsha and Carl Mueller of Arizona are parents of Kayla Mueller, a 26 year old humanitarian aid worker, who was murdered by terrorists of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in 2015.

Kayla was taken captive in 2013 while aiding Syrian refugees in Syria and Turkey. She endured brutal torture for more than 500 days until her murder. Kayla’s story moves us to tears, yet it also gives me hope.

In addition to this work in Turkey with an international aid agency, her previous causes include work in India with Tibetan refugees; in the Middle East; in Israel helping African refugees; in her own country and abroad providing free food, education, and medical care for those in need; and other causes to alleviate pain and suffering.

While working to help children at an orphanage in India, Kyla expressed, “I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how You are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek You.”

To say that Kayla’s life mattered is an understatement! She lived to make a difference, and she left this world a better place. She was described as “a devout Christian,” who lived her faith. She shared her God-given gifts wherever she went. I believe Kayla’s life gives hope to anyone who seeks to live a life with purpose.

Other captives who were released or who escaped were impacted by Kyla’s “strength and compassion.” Her concern for others was proven even to the point of giving up an escape attempt for other women’s opportunities for freedom.

After months of ongoing torture and brutality, ISIS members tried claiming she had abandoned her Christian faith in front of men prisoners, but in fact she defended it…. According to another captive, a Danish photographer, the men in the room “…were impressed by the strength that she showed in front of us. That was very clear.” Her faith was real and strong even in darkest trials unto death.

Kyla’s mother shared a letter that Kayla had written about 8 months after her captivity that had been smuggled out by another hostage. Mrs. Mueller said, “As we read it, we could see that God was holding her in His arms.”

This statement reminds me that no matter our trial — even surrounded by the enemy — God is the Source of comfort and strength for one’s soul. According to Deuteronomy 33: 27, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms….”

Kayla explained that she “felt tenderly cradled in freefall.” As a believer in such “freefall,” Kyla found there is a foundation on which to land. That foundation is “The Solid Rock,” “Rock of Ages” — Jesus Christ Himself. During the hardest experience of her young life, she must have relied on hope in Christ for strength to endure. Then she was carried in loving arms to her eternal home to rest in peace. At last.

Kyla acknowledged, “I have been shown in darkness, light and have learned that even in prison one can be free. I am grateful….” She experienced freedom in her spirit that reflected her inner condition not her outer circumstances. Her response was gratitude. What an example for me — for all of us!

Kyla added, “None of us could have known it would be this long, but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able, and I have a lot of fight left inside of me….” That resolve required strength beyond herself. Those who do not give up surely have hope.

I do not see Kyla Mueller as merely an “everyday American” but as a hero of faith. She was clearly a rare human with extraordinary courage and strength, whose story does not end with her murder. I believe hers is an eternal story that will continue forever. That is reason for hope.

I pray for Marsha and Carl Mueller to have strength until that blessed day when they will reunite with their daughter, Kyla, whose Christian faith became sight, the result of the glorious hope that was in her.

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31: 8)

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23: 4)

“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners.”
(Psalm 69: 33)

“From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?”
(Psalm 118: 5 – 6)

“Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41: 10)

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”
(Isaiah 61: 1 – 3)

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
(Matthew 25: 34-40)

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.”  (John 14: 26 – 27)

“These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose.”
(Romans 8: 28)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12: 10 – 16)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
(2 Corinthians 3: 17)

“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 9)

“For all things are for your sakes so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 15 – 18)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11: 1)

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves also are in the body.”
(Hebrews 13: 1 – 3)


“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay… On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand….”
(from THE SOLID ROCK by Edward Mote)

“Rock of Ages, Cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee…
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling…
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death… Rock of Ages, Cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.”
(from ROCK OF AGES by Augustus Toplady)