#165 He is Our Source

 

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

He is our Source. Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells us that our almighty, loving, powerful, and sovereign God spoke all creation into existence, and after seeing it, declared: “This is good.” After speaking creation into being, He created man and woman in His image. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” He created us with our five senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. I think one important reason He blessed us with our five senses is to enable us to recognize His mighty power and absolute authority.

 

A breathtaking sunset; a stunning sunrise; walking on the beach with your feet sinking in the warm sand and feeling the warm salty breezes ushered off ocean waves that pound the infinite shoreline reaching as far as the eye can see; a clear night sky; scattered stars twinkling brightly against a pitch-black background—again, as far as the eye can see; and this past year, we all witnessed a blood moon, a super moon, I could go on and on. All these examples of  breathtaking Creation  come and go, some each and every day—but,  just as our Creator spoke all creation into being, Creation speaks His Truth, and the Truth points to our almighty, loving, powerful, and sovereign God, our Creator, the Source.

This past summer, while tending my little flower garden, our Creative Creator met and blessed me there and whispered truths in my ear—how He is the Gardener of Life, for after all, He began life in the Garden of Eden and laid down His life in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42 says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup (of divine wrath) from me; yet not my will, but [always] yours be done.”

John 15:1-8 says, “Jesus is the true vine, God is the gardener and we are the branches.”

 

Little did I know how sweating and getting my hands dirty would yield far more than beautiful flowers, climbing vines, and two small palm trees that gently swayed in the summer breezes of long summer days. For the first time, I took cuttings from my little garden. When I first cut/pruned the vines away from their comfort zone—the moist, rich, mineral-infused soil they were thriving in—they wilted and were not “happy” in their new environment, a tall glass vase filled with water. To my surprise and delight after just a few days, almost supernaturally, these same wilted, unhappy cuttings seemed to latch onto the life-giving water before my very eyes! Isn’t it funny how something so seemingly small, like vine cuttings sitting on your kitchen counter, can speak to you? I almost felt Him asking me, “Aletia, do you thirst for me?” He promises in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal. life.” Ephesians 3:17–19 says, “I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the Lord’s people to grasp how wide, and how long and how deep is the love of Christ” (emphasis added). The Holy Spirit reminded me of the times God has pruned me or cut me out of or away from my comfort zone. I don’t like it one bit. I wilt, I’m uncomfortable, I struggle, and I focus on my old comfortable, comfort zone. I don’t like this new, uncomfortable place I find myself in. Until God, my Gardener, reminds me to focus on Him, who is my life-giving, living Water, and who is cutting, pruning, and growing me to be rooted in Him who has a new direction and purpose in store for me. I read a great quote: “Our daily need for water acts as our reminder to drink deeply of Jesus every day. He doesn’t just have what we need—He is what we need.”

In Hebrews 4:12, He promises us, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God, our Source, is all we need, and His creation speaks to and points us to Him, reminding us each and every day of this truth.

I saved the best “gift” for last. I started noticing several hummingbirds visiting my little garden. They were particularly fond of the Mandevilla Tropical Breeze “Velvet Red” flowers, visiting several times each day to feed. I was reminded of how my mother loved setting out her hummingbird feeder and filling it with the sweet nectar that kept these beautiful, tiny, speedy birds coming back for more. You see, it was her walk with the Lord and her faith that I watched and witnessed throughout my life—a sweet nectar, a wholesome fragrance that cultivated and nurtured in me the desire to want to walk with the Lord like my precious mother did. She was a vessel for Him and reflected His love, grace, and mercy every day in my life; it was her walk with God that pointed me to Him and that He is what I needed as I walk through this life “garden” with all its beauty, color, thorns, choking weeds, flowers, and fragrance. Mom was a living example to me of 2 Corinthians 2:14–16: “Wherever you go, I use you to tell others about me and to spread the gospel like a sweet perfume. There is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in your life. It is the fragrance of Christ within you.”

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#126 Journey to Jordan: God Is Love

Photo by James Ramos

It was golden hour, sunset in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. Our small group of Christian pilgrims traveled over sand dunes in the open bed of a small pick-up truck at a speed that both terrified and thrilled me. The sun was hot on our faces, sand beating and stinging our skin. My eyes wanted to close to shut out the sand, but I didn’t want to miss a moment of this otherworldly place, the indescribable beauty of it. The truck stopped and we got out to watch the sun melt into the vast, orange, sandstone mountains. I felt so small. Praise for God, who created this great cathedral of sand and stone, rose inside of me.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

Psalm 90:2

Darkness fell and we continued our journey to a Bedouin campsite. In the distance, white lights twinkled from the caves in the side of the mountain, homes to some of our Bedouin hosts. Bedouins are nomadic people who raise livestock in the deserts of the Middle East. They have inhabited this land for over 2,000 years. These kind, hospitable people prepared a feast for us—meat and vegetables cooked in a pit three feet under the earth, coffee brewed with cardamom over an open fire, crackling in the cool desert night. After dinner, we wandered beyond the campsite into the black darkness of the night, nearly bumping into a camel resting nearby. We laid down in the sand and gazed at the splendor of the night sky. I have never seen such a sky… so clear, so vast, so many bright, twinkling stars, even shooting stars. And again, I felt so small. A great sense of awe came over me, a deep appreciation of God as Creator of the universe.

Over and over while on this trip to the Holy Land of Jordan, I have asked God to reveal to me what it is that He would have me to learn about Him. What I have felt as I have traveled this beautiful Holy Land is a deep sense of His greatness and power. Although our human minds are unable to comprehend this completely, God has given us a glimpse of Himself in His creation.

And God has also revealed Himself to us in the life of His Son, Jesus. When we visited the baptismal site of Christ at the Jordan River, an expert explained the history and geography of the area. He shared that the place where Jesus was baptized, where He began His ministry, is the lowest place on earth. Of all the places Jesus could have begun His ministry, why the lowest place on earth? Perhaps to show us there is no depth that He will not reach to find us, to love us, to save us. No one—NO ONE—is so low that Christ cannot save him.

Lowly seems to be a theme throughout the life of Jesus. He was born in a lowly stable among common farm animals, the child of poor parents who fled with Him to become refuges in a foreign land. At the end of His ministry, He took on the lowly posture of a Gentile slave, humbly washing the feet of His disciples, providing a model of humility and service for us all. He was unjustly treated as a lowly criminal and endured a humiliating and excruciating death for our sakes because of His love, God’s love for us.  

As I leave the Holy Land, I am struck by the contrast of God’s greatness and the humble life of His Son on earth who came serving, healing, and saving us. “Who are we Lord that You, in your infinite greatness and power, are mindful of us?” (Psalm 8:4). Perhaps the question is not who are WE but who is HE? And the answer I believe is this: GOD IS LOVE, and this too is so vast, so great, so powerful that it is beyond all human comprehension.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38–39

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#114 In Awe of Creation

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

I have always wanted to travel the world—to meet people, learn about different cultures, but most of all to experience the natural beauty of the world: The Great Barrier Reef, Northern Lights, Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, Mount Everest, beaches of Fiji, and on and on. For years I prayed that God would allow me to stand in awe of His beautiful creation. I haven’t yet been to any of these places, and although I haven’t given up on this dream, I realize now that God answered my prayer without traveling the world. This started to become clear to me when I read a quote from Saint Augustine:

“Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

For years I taught human anatomy to undergraduate, medical, and dental students. This involved both lecturing in the classroom and teaching in the laboratory by dissection of human cadavers. Shortly after I read that quote, I was teaching students about the small intestine. The small intestine is responsible for absorbing nearly all the nutrients in the food we eat. The lining of the small intestine is thrown into many visible folds which increase the surface area significantly. Each fold is covered with little finger-like projections, called villi, which further increase the surface area. Finally, the villi are covered with cells that have bristle-like extensions—a brush border—further increasing the surface area. The whole system is set up for maximum absorption of nutrients. Structure is beautifully related to function. The engineering is magnificent, as is the engineering throughout the whole body.

Another example is that the male pelvis is narrow with a heart-shaped opening, while the female pelvis is much broader with a round opening to allow passage of a baby’s head during birth.

The pupils of our eyes are encircled by tiny muscles that contract and relax at just the right time to dilate and constrict our pupils to let in just the right amount of light so that we can see. 

I could go on and on. There are so many examples. The human body is an exquisite creation and there is a marvelous unseen orchestra underway every minute of every day inside of us.  It is simply amazing the way everything works together, from our organs, to our cells, to the chemicals released, so that we can eat and breathe and laugh and think and walk and love.  Day after day in the gross anatomy lab, I HAD stood in awe of God’s beautiful creation, the human body. God HAD answered my prayer. It just wasn’t the way in which I had anticipated it. David said it best in Psalms 139:13-14: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#76 The Beauty Of God’s Creation at B6

 Photo by Trevor Rapp

When I left Wednesday, flying out to California for work, it was very early. As I waited to board the plane at the airport, the sun was just rising. The sky was breathtakingly beautiful. I stood at Gate B6, gazing out the window, soaking it in and smiling at the gift that God so freely gives us every day. People were all around me—reading the paper, typing on their computers, looking at their phones, listening to the news on TV. And me too…how often I miss God’s beauty. It becomes a blurry background to my life filled with many deadlines, demands, and distractions. I wanted to share this magnificent sight, this sunrise, and proclaim to the entirety of Gate B6 the beauty of God’s creation. But I did not. My hope is that perhaps now I am sharing with even more people than those waiting at Gate B6.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#42 Standing In The Place Of Light

Photo by Shining Light Photography

It was December of 2011 and I was a single mom with a high stress job and multiple chronic health issues. It was the week after Christmas and I was mentally and physically exhausted. I had a rare opportunity to be alone for the night at a cabin on the lake. No phones, no television, no Internet, no responsibilities. I wanted to be alone—alone with God. My life was not healthy. I was anxious and overwhelmed. Life was just too busy, too hard, too stressful. I knew that I needed a change but I didn’t know what or how. I needed God’s help.

I arrived in the afternoon and built a fire. I read parts of several books, including the Bible, and spent time praying for God’s guidance. At dusk, I went outside and stood by the lake near the dock. The sun had nearly set but there was a line of bleeding orange in the sky to the right of the dock. That was west; I took note of the location and went back inside.

The next morning I woke early as planned. It was still dark. I dressed warmly and left the comfort of the warm cabin for the promise of a sunrise over the lake. I walked down to the dock and stood near the railing to the left. I reasoned if the sun set to the right last night, then the sun would rise to the left, the east. I stood on the dock facing east for a long time, listening to the birds, and expectantly waiting for the first glimmer of light. I prayed that God would reveal His will for my life. I longed to feel God’s presence and hope. The water lapped against the shoreline and still I waited. There was no sign of daybreak. Silence. “I am looking for you, Lord,” I prayed.

I felt that if I could experience God’s glorious sunrise and be flooded with that first light, that somehow I would be reassured and feel hope. But there was no sign of the sun, only a light gray band under the dark gray sky. I thought perhaps the dawn would be this way—gray with no color, a black sky fading into a white sky. I began to lose hope. The wind had gotten colder coming off the water and I walked back to the cabin to start coffee. As the coffee perked, I stayed inside, my face pressed against the sliding glass door, still watching the sky. A bit of color appeared—a lavender ribbon separating the layers of light gray. And then much further to the east an orange light blazed through the shadows of the tree branches in the distance.

I knew the beauty would come and go quickly. My gaze was steadfast as the light became brighter, and the eastern sky filled with brilliant hues of pinks, purples, yellows, and orange. The lake began to glisten under the light, and then the most interesting thing happened. A solitary ray of light illuminated the inky water. It was a most distinct ray of light that began from the sunrise and traced a straight course across the lake to the very spot on the dock where I had stood nearly an hour ago, searching into the darkness for the sunrise and God.

I quickly walked down to the dock and stood in the place of light. The experience was so beautiful. It was as if God Himself were revealing His presence and glory to me. Though my question about how or what to change in my life had not been answered that day, one thing was sure: I had a renewed sense of hope and peace. I knew that God was with me and that He would show me the path for a healthier life. And He did.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#21 He Heard Me! He Answered Me!

Photo by Killian Rose Photography 

My freshman year of college I went to Naples, Florida, with my boyfriend (who is now my handsome husband) and his parents for spring break. To give a little background, it is important to know I struggled with severe and at times crippling anxiety for years prior to this event, really since I was in middle school. I grew up in a Christian home and and went to a Christian school my whole life, so I knew about God and that He sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins. I had heard scripture and the truths within it my whole life, but I struggled to believe real grace applied to me. I struggled to understand that no matter what I did or thought, His blood and sacrifice was truly more than enough to cover it all. For me. I had no trouble believing it for everyone else, but why for myself?

This struggle and inability to feel truly forgiven and saved caused me to put God on the back burner toward the end of high school and into my freshman year of college. I invested my heart and time into my friends, school, and my social life, to try and distract myself from not feeling forgiven or that I was enough for Jesus. I continued down this path and started to feel farther and farther away from God. Friends and school weren’t enough to keep me distracted. I wanted more; I needed more. I needed to be reassured God was with me and loved me and I was enough. 

This brings me to spring break in Naples my freshman year. I remember so vividly sitting by myself down by the pool, trying to read my Bible and seek hope that He was still there with me. I randomly thought about Gideon and the sign he asked God to give him in making the fleece wet but the ground dry, and then to make the fleece dry and the ground wet. This was to reassure him that God would use him to save Israel (see Judges 6:36–40).

I thought to myself, God answered Gideon—maybe He would answer me if I asked him to give me a sign to reassure me He was with me. I thought of a butterfly in my mind; specifically, a picture of a yellow butterfly popped into my head. So I took the leap of faith. As I sat there beside the pool by myself I prayed, “Lord, if You are truly real and really here with me now, please send me a butterfly as a sign that You love me and are with me.” I sat there quietly for a few minutes, staring at the water in the pool and wondering if it was wrong what I had asked God to do, not having enough faith on my own.

As a stared at the water, a beautiful yellow butterfly flew right in the line of my vision, almost as if God was saying, “This is too good; you can’t miss this!” I thought my heart was going to explode. He heard me! He answered me. He was with me and loved me so much that He would send me not just any butterfly, but a yellow butterfly, just like I saw in my mind!! It was the sweetest, most affirming and faith-building moment in my life.

This was five years ago and every time I think back to it, it still reminds me of God’s amazing goodness and loving patience in so clearly reaffirming His love and presence in my life. Today I walk in so much more confidence, knowing our Father’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice in becoming sin on the cross for us is and forever will be more than enough for me and for all of His children

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#15. The Artistry Of God

Photo by Erin E. Photography 

When I was 12 years old, it was discovered that I had an inherited disease that would eventually cause my body to become deformed. In fact, the deformation had already begun. When I was 13 years old, the doctor told my parents that my internal organs were being compressed and I must have surgery or I would die. The first surgery included the implanting of a rod and the grafting of a bone—but that surgery failed, as did the second surgery. I spent weeks in the hospital. After a third surgery, I was sent home with a cast that covered nearly half my body. I wore that hot, heavy, itchy cast for nine months—not able to shower, sit at my desk at school, or wear normal clothes. Unfortunately, after the cast was removed, the deformity continued to worsen.

Because the doctor was able to only partially correct my problem, chronic pain and embarrassment have plagued my adult years. Now, decades later, when I reflect upon the “Why?” I know that God has worked everything out for good in my life and the lives of others. I am now a health care professional and I know that I am more empathetic, compassionate, gentle, and understanding with my patients because of my own suffering.

I also believe that because I spent so much time in the hospital and recovering indoors, I developed a profound appreciation for nature. I can remember when I was first strong enough to get outside a bit while recovering from the surgeries. I walked around the perimeter of our backyard, which was separated from a farm behind us with a fence lined with trees and brambly bushes. The sky was a beautiful blue, the birds were singing, and the sun was warm on my skin. I soaked it in and experienced pure JOY and GRATEFULNESS to God. Being denied God’s beautiful creation for so long had given me new eyes and a new heart of appreciation for the beauty of nature. My eyes were opened to the artistry of God, and to this day, my eyes remain open to the wonderful free gifts we have in God’s creation.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.