WMU Blog

Hear My Heart, Oh God

A friend recently texted me, “I thought about you today. I guess you will always be in my heart.” I answered her, “That was music to my ears. So I guess since I’m in your heart and you’re in my ears, we’re biologically related!” Of course, that was meant to be ludicrous, but it did make me think. How connected are my ears and my heart? When my heart is seeking God’s answer, but my ears are deceiving so that I disobey, can God still bless me? Or can He still bless others through me?

I have learned the answer to those questions is “Yes!” Thankfully God’s blessings don’t depend on my understanding. However, I have also learned through the times I mistakenly “obey” God’s will, the route is longer, the terrain is rougher, and the outcome may be less effective. Because God knows our human frailty, He offers grace when our hearts are right.

The most important lesson I’ve learned through unintentional disobedience is God will never give up on me. He will always speak to me again, maybe just a tad louder.

Dianne Swaim writes from North Little Rock, Arkansas. Her ministry email address is dianne@freshspirit.com.

A Christmas in August Story

This summer, I met a NAMB/state missionary while I was at a missions camp in South Carolina. After introductions, I asked about his ministry on the college campus where he and his family work. He shared with me his passion for reaching the nations through the international students on the college campus, but the conversation quickly changed when he realized I worked for WMU. He wanted to share his Christmas in August testimony.

He and his family were Christmas in August recipients several years ago. As NAMB missionaries, their ministry was chosen as one that could be supported by WMU members around the country through the Christmas in August initiative.

His face lit up as he told me about being overwhelmed with gifts and notes of encouragement. We laughed when he shared that they had trouble deciding where to store the gifts. They were sent so many gifts that they are still using some of the supplies! They are amazed when they receive a card or note in the mail from the churches that sent material support and are still sending encouragement through continued prayer—years after being chosen as a Christmas in August missionary.

Are They Real?

As I showed the picture of the Aylett family to my Mission Friends, Conner looked at the picture and asked, “Are they real?” I assured him that yes, the missionaries are real. We then talked about the Ayletts living in San Diego, and that there are people there who have never heard about Jesus.

Later I was still thinking about his question, “Are they real?” It seemed odd to me at the time because the picture is a photo, so it is obvious to me that these are real people. But at Conner’s four years, he still has difficulty discerning what is real and what is not real. In today’s world of photo editing programs, even photos can be manipulated so that what is not real appears to be real. As we think about preschoolers and their development, we know that preschoolers have difficulty discerning fantasy from reality. They have difficulty telling the difference between what is real and imaginary.

Focus! Focus!

My niece grabbed my face in her chubby little hands, looked deep into my eyes, and said, “Focus! Focus!” She did not want just a casual listener; she was demanding I listen for total understanding. If we desire to understand the meaning of what is being said, focusing by blocking out distractions is essential. The same is true for hearing from God.  

Blocking out distractions means we intentionally choose to listen not only with our ears but also with our whole being. So how do you do that?

I Can’t Hear You, God

I’ll be the first to admit I often block out God to take care of distractions. Shouldn’t that read, “block out distractions to listen to God”? It should. But honesty won’t allow me to make that claim often.

When I intercede for others, I can stay on track. I can easily block out distractions when I’m the speaker. But when I’m the listener, I’m overrun with incidental thoughts. They jump up and down for attention. I can’t keep them quiet or still.

So how do I practice crowd control with my thoughts? I distinguish between prayer chats and prayer conversations. I chat with God often during the day about everything from needing that parking place to blessing that person in the ambulance whizzing by. But serious conversations demand time, silence, and solitude.

Often I take a pen and paper into prayertime with me. When an incidental thought interferes, I quickly jot it down. It’s gone, and later in the day, I can tend to those interruptions.

I practice centering prayer—repeating a short phrase that focuses my mind on God (e.g., “Jesus, hear my prayer”).

Can You Hear Me?

Congratulations! If you are reading this then you have successfully found a moment to break away for some time for you. I know how precious and fleeting this time can be so please know these blogs that I write and share will honor what time you have. So let’s not waste any time…

Have you ever felt so distracted in your own environment that you can’t hear God? The sounds of little people’s voices arguing, chairs scooting across the kitchen floor, doors opening and closing, questions being asked, the clinking and clanging of snaps and buttons hitting the side walls of the dryer, dogs barking, a baby crying? It can be very challenging to find a place of peace, of quiet, and be able to focus, to talk to the only source to replenish our weary selves, God.

New Beginnings

Fall is the time for new beginnings—school, football, and a new church year. What are you dreaming up new for your myMISSION group this year? What worked well and made you determine it was a keeper?

Did you use Missions Mosaic and myMISSION Leader with your group? Faith, community, and missions continue to make up the core of myMISSION, and meeting plans are centered in those areas.

This year some tweaks have been made to the meeting plans. The meeting plans for faith are built for the Bible study in Missions Mosaic. These plans are interactive, fun, and move us to make life changes. We’ll also consider where we could take this Bible study (women’s shelter, jail, dorm, neighborhood) or what other group could join us for the study.

The missions meeting plans help us learn about the featured missionary in Missions Mosaic. But we are going to do more than just learn; we’re going to try to apply the missionary’s missions project ideas to our own local projects.  

Blocking the Distractions

Bike tires squealing, people selling their goods, goats and cattle making their presence known . . . these are the sounds that fill the space outside my window. It seems when I seek a quiet space, the outside sounds only get louder. Living in a foreign land has its challenges, but one of the biggest is tuning out the distractions.

Distractions in Madagascar might look a bit different than they do in America, but they still accomplish the same goal: they keep my attention from being focused on God. The funny thing is that it's my choice. I choose to let them distract me. My mind finds itself in a whirlwind of outside activity coupled with the toddler tornado that's happening inside my home.

Part of being a follower of Christ means that I am called to listen. I must choose to prioritize time alone with God and studying the Bible. Making this a priority for me looks like waking up before my toddler does (with the sun), turning on some Ellie Holcomb music (drowns out those outside noises), and sitting still.

Forgetting Step 1: Prayer

I walked into my college internship ready to lead my first meeting. Armed with a stack of papers and my red pen, I was eager to present my project to the staff. But before I could tackle my agenda, my supervisor asked if she could pray for the meeting. “Lord,” she prayed, “We want You to work through this project. Please guide our decisions because we need Your wisdom.”

Wow. I realized that praying for God’s guidance in this project was not even on my radar! I had become so caught up in my planning that I completely forgot to invite God into the picture. Did I want God to work through this project? Absolutely. Did I stop to ask Him for guidance? No.

It’s easy to ask God to help us with life’s big issues, like choosing where to go to college or deciding on a major. However, we often forget to ask God for leadership in decisions that we make every day. I wanted to do God’s will through the project, but I failed to seek His counsel in the first place.

Packaged with Love

In an earlier blog last spring, I described how my church does missions during the summer. We take a break from traditional children’s missions programming to better accommodate summer schedules. Now, that’s not to say we take a break from doing missions. Oh, no—not at all! This summer has been packed full of engaging, hands-on missions opportunities for children of all ages!

It’s been a fun summer for everyone, but now all area school systems are back in session. As school teachers have been getting ready to welcome students back to school, my church’s missions leaders have been busy, too, getting ready to welcome returning and new children back to missions!

This past Wednesday night we kicked off a new year in missions with a Christmas in August party. Each missions group was assigned a different Christmas in August missionary and asked to bring items from their list. Rooms were decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. Christmas music played in the halls as children gathered in their missions meeting spaces.

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