Saturday, June 24, 2017

RENEWING MY MARRIAGE VOWS

June seems to be a traditional wedding month. However, more and more couples who are advancing in age are opting to repeat the marriage ceremony in another fashion these days...Me too!

"But how can you participate, Leona? You aren't 'a couple' anymore. Aren't you a widow?" 

Yes, Ted and I were a couple for forty-six years. Our wedding vows were "Till death do us part." And death did part us twenty-five years ago.

Remember that hymn, "Loved with everlasting love"? Some of the lyrics are: "His forever, only His; Who the Lord and me shall part? In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine; But while God and I shall be, I am His and He is mine...." The renewing of vows I am talking about are my declarations of "I do!" between my Lord and me. Not on the occasion of a twenty-fifth or fiftieth anniversary, but daily! And out loud!

Why should I start each day as I awaken by declaring my commitment to the Lord? Isn't pledging myself to God a one-time decision like a wedding ceremony? Why repeat it? Who hears it anyway?

It is important that three set of ears hear my daily vows renewed. 

First, with my own ears I hear myself declaring, "Lord, I present my body a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [my] spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1). I renew my "first love" to You, Lord. Today I renew the surrender of my mortal body with all its needs, disorders, and growing limitations with the years. I remind myself that I am not my own; I am all Yours today: body, soul and eternal spirit, mind, emotions, my will, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hold in stewardship from You. I renew my vow that I want to do Your will today on earth as it is done in Heaven."

The devil is listening. He is not omniscient or omnipotent. He is not a mind-reader as God is, so he can't know my thoughts. But he can hear my words. I give him notice that he has no authority over me. He hears me repeat my vows. He realizes that he must back off because once again as I have re-declared Jesus' Lordship over all my life, and specifically this day. He can't interfere with my vow to do God's will. 

God hears me! He doesn't get weary or bored with my expressions of love. As the chorus goes: "I love You Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul, rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."
God delights to hear my verbal desire to give Him my "first love." He accepts my daily declaration and blesses me with His graces according to my needs and His good and perfect plans for me in the day ahead.

With Nehemiah I pray and renew my vows, "O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant...who delights to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today...." (Neh. 1:11) 

How about my friends who have never been married? You can also renew your marriage vows. "For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts...." (Isaiah 54:5). There is no "until death do us part" in your relationship with God. You too may declare, "Loved with everlasting love: I am His and He is mine." Jesus, in turn, has promised, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Promises for Days to Come


Relying on God's promises for the days of advancing age


"AS YOUR DAYS"...WHATEVER EACH DAY MAY HOLD...COME WHAT MAY....

On my 92nd Birthday
 June 22, 2017

Deuteronomy 33:25
Various translations:

As your days, so will your strength be
Your strength will equal your days
So may your work be that your strength lasts all your days
.as long as you live
.the rest of your days
Your strength will be equal to your days
Your old age shall be like the days of your youth
As your days, so shall be your strength, rest, and security
According to your days, so will your leisurely walk be

Coupled with Psalm 103:5

[God] satisfies your mouth [your life, your years] [your necessity and desire at your personal age] with good; so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle's [strong, overcoming, soaring]! Isaiah. 40:31

Amen! So be it
For me, and for you, too 

                                                                                Days of my youth

 

                                                                                                                                  

Friday, June 16, 2017

RESTFUL AVAILABILITY

I've just returned from an exciting extended weekend in Paradise—Pennsylvania, that is—near Lancaster.
In my blog post on June 1, I described the purpose and the relevance of my being there. I'm the only remaining co-founder of the large para-church university campus ministry, Ambassadors For Christ, Inc.

While there, besides speaking, I was scheduled to be video taped for an interview about my nearly thirty years' friendship with the Leaman missionary ladies and the famous Chinese Christian lady who deeded their property to the AFC ministry. Christiana Tsai came from an affluent family during the late Qing Dynasty. She spent over fifty years as a bedridden invalid in a dark room necessitated by the light sensitivity her illness caused.


Her life story Queen of the Dark Chamber, translated into over thirty languages and versions, brought an estimated 10,000 visitors from many parts of the world during the thirty-five years she lived in Paradise. With God-given strength, Christiana was able to rise to each occasion (while sitting up in bed) and witness under God's anointing to each of her visitors—university students, faculty members, church groups, housewives, businessmen, famous Christian leaders, school children, military personnel, and people from other countries. Although she could not continue to serve God in China, God brought the world to her bedside.


I choose only one reflection to share with you from my extensive preparation of down memory lane recollections. It started out to be only a few pages and went on to become at least a short book probably headed for publication. It is my personal, intimate look “Beyond the Books” which made her story such a page-turner.


Interruptions of visitors were almost a daily occurrence throughout their long lives. Of the four single, aged missionary ladies, Christiana was the weakest and most helpless, but the last to be called to her Eternal Reward at age 94. Even after she was left alone with her caregiver helpers, the Lord kept right on bringing people to see her and her witness to the gospel continued unabated. In fact it was during her final twelve years that she was the most productive and we wrote the sequel book to the flagship book, The Queen. People would come unexpectedly and at inconvenient times when they were exhausted and at their weakest. They taught me by their example to pray each morning, just as they always did, “Lord, bring only those people to us whom You desire, and keep away all who would only tax our strength and take our time away from Your ministry to the lives of people who really need You.”


They summed up the offering of their lives to God as RESTFUL AVAILABILITY. I have taken that prayer into my heart and written it in one form or another into most of the books I have published. These precious friends taught me by their example to keep pressing on, as the Apostle Paul declared, “for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That meant whether “in season or out of season,” convenient or not, to welcome whatever or whoever God sent into their lives—or mine.


Christiana always declared, “My bed is not a prison but a training school; the Holy Spirit is my Mentor, and my visitors are my homework.” It linked with Christiana's lifelong decision based on Psalm 84:11. “I never ask God WHY He allowed me to suffer for so long; I only ask Him WHAT He wants me to do.”


Can we think of a more pleasing attitude to offer our God, the Creator and Sustainer of our lives who lovingly only plans for our good? (Romans 8:28)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

LONGEVITY--GIFT or BURDEN?

Encore post--Updated!

                     

THUMBS UP FOR LONGEVITY? 

(In my 92nd year)

LONGEVITY is not an achievement for which anyone should pride himself. It is a cherished GIFT given and a FAVOR granted by our generous God who determines the measure of our years. It is a season of indeterminate length and a privileged time.


The anticipated number of our years varies with centuries past and with cultures, geographic locations, heredity, and many other factors. The biblical Methuselah lived 969 years. In the dentist's waiting room recently I picked up a magazine with an article about a woman in Italy who is now the oldest in the known world at 110. No one today is pushing one thousand, although longevity to a greater or lesser degree is still alive and well these days.


Longevity is defined as great duration of life span but not a specific number of years on the calendar. In real time, age it is irrelevant to longevity, although brevity of life is its opposite. Whatever one's age in earth-time, it is the last stage of our lives individually, notwithstanding its duration. At some point, even longevity terminates. It's not really the last stage of life, however. Eternal life for the soul comes after either longevity or brevity on Planet Earth. A person may be experiencing longevity in one's fifties, or sixties, or seventies, or eighties.


In my human family tree I am heir mostly to brevity of life. My paternal grandfather in Europe died at 41, my father at 59, my maternal grandfather at 39, my maternal grandmother at 58. When I went through lung cancer surgery at age 65, my surgeon told me afterward that there was nothing I could do or he could do to assure me that I would survive even to an optimistic five year mark. He said that it was entirely in the hands of God and His plan for my particular life.

I'm in my 92nd year. I think that I qualify to have reached longevity by the loving generosity and plan of God--and I'm thankful!


Realistically, I've already become what I have been becoming throughout my lifetime—unless I blow it. I now have a frame around my life picture that is pretty well permanent. But I dare not say “I've been there and done it all” although my life has been full to overflowing with God's goodness and mercy and opportunities. The Lord is always coming up with more blessings and surprises even at this late season of my life. That keeps life exciting and I press forward.


Looking ahead, there is really a next stage beyond longevity, but I won't experience it on earth. Like the count down we used to shout at play when we were children: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!” longevity is a “time to get ready.” I'm preparing to live forever—but not here. “And four to GO!” 

There will be a “Birthday Party” at the end of longevity that will launch me into a new welcoming environment of love and peace and joy in Heaven. How do I know this for sure? My lifetime faith in God and the promises of His Son Jesus will carry me through that door to immortal reality where faith will become sight at last and where I will know as I am known. That will not be a season that will pass, but an Eternal Dimension without end.


Meanwhile “back at the ranch,” as they say, longevity carries with it a responsibility to continue to be a fruitful and faithful steward of my length of days. I'm obviously not left here to be good for nothing. However, stewardship is no longer tied to doing some specific work as in previous seasons of my life, but to being. At this stretched-out season of my life called longevity, what I am or who I am is not determined by what I'm able to do.

If I'm not able to do anything, or if I find it difficult to do anything, or even if it's unnecessary to do anything, that doesn't mean that I am nothing. I can please God and He smiles on me regardless of my ability or capability or inability to be productive. After all, He created us to commune with Him and to enjoy Him and allow Him to enjoy us—not primarily to serve Him. We serve Him because we love Him. He created angels not human beings to be His servant-messengers.


Longevity is a time for reflection and gratitude. Not a time to waste on worry or regret but to "smile at the future," as was written about the woman in Proverbs 31:25. And in the same verse, “She opens her mouth in wisdom.” (If she can't speak with wisdom, it implies that she should “zip her lips.”) Trusting in the providence of God as we age should bring with it happiness, restfulness, and contentment. Let's count His blessings and say “Thank You!” to God for the opportunity to have experienced life on earth. Yes, we should confess that we have come up short. Nevertheless, we leave those regrets beneath the cross of Jesus with gratitude for His mercy and forgiveness. 
 

Of course there is struggle during longevity with growing weakness and disorder of our “earth suit” bodies and multiplying health issues. Therefore, we must lean all the harder on the strong arm of our Mighty Heavenly Father who knows our frame, recognizes our human frailty, and gently embraces us in His love. It is also a time for detachment, to loosen the bonds that have held us to things of this earth.

There is both joy and sadness in longevity. Certainly joy that God has “crowned us with loving-kindness and tender mercies”; joy that we have lived to see new generations birthed on the earth scene; sadness to let go of friends and loved ones and peers when they walk off the stage of life before we do. Then joy again when we are reunited in our Eternal Life after life!


With long life I will satisfy him and let him behold My salvation,” God promises in Psalm 91. To be “satisfied” and content is His provision for us in our season of longevity. “[The Lord] satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).



LONGEVITY IS A PRECIOUS GIFT TO BE TREASURED

BUT STILL INVESTED 
WHILE WE HAVE TIME TO DO SO!


To Chinese people, eating long noodles is a symbol of longevity


Thursday, June 1, 2017

SOME NEWS TO SHARE

I've been occupied recently with preparation for a significant event on June 10 in Paradise, PA. I'm the only survivor of the three cofounders of AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, INC., a ministry among Chinese students and intellectuals in North America and abroad.. I'm excited to have a part in the dedication of the fourth building on their mission campus at that location. 

The Christiana Tsai Memorial Guest Lodge pictured above honors one of the quartet of Christian ladies who deeded their property to AFC. Two of the suites in the Guest Lodge are named for the founders of AFC. I will have the first privilege of spending the weekend in the suite which honors my late husband Ted and myself.

The story behind the noted Chinese Christian lady whose life and witness is being commemorated is the author of the book below. It is a collection of all three of her books in one volume. 

LONG AWAITED BOOK RELEASE!

 

With an attractive soft cover of artistic quality this book is available both in Chinese and English editions and packed with photographs and art work. This 446 page book is offered at the unbelievable low price of $15. See below for ordering information directly from the publisher, AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, INC.

I highly recommend this firsthand missionary biography as a cross-generational and cross-cultural page turner that is sure to appeal to readers of any age. It is Christiana Tsai's own account of faithful missionary work in China in the dawn period of preaching and witness involvement by Chinese believers themselves. Christiana was a noted pioneer in this endeavor, one of the first Chinese women to receive a Western education.


"But this isn't your book, Leona, is it? Your name isn't on the cover..." 

No, and that is as it should be. It was my great joy and privilege to be her "ghost writer" to write what Christiana wanted to say in two of the three books in this new collection. How did that work? Christiana asked me to "write in her voice and style" as she recollected and shared what she wanted to convey to readers as her witness for the Lord. Because we wrote her books in English, Christiana's second language, they were only later translated into Chinese. 


She was a loving but merciless and meticulous editor (perfectionist!) insisting that we literally "pray and weight" each sentence until she was satisfied that it was the best way to express it. I would bring her draft after draft for editing. Much of it still written in pre-computer days. That experience was invaluable to launch me into my own writing career.
 
The first book in this collection, the flagship book QUEEN OF THE DARK CHAMBER, chronicled her life from her birth in 1890 to 1949 when she fled the war and cahos in China with her lifelong friend and missionary, "China Mary" Leaman whom she called her godmother. Christiana lived the rest of her life in the historic Leaman homestead in Paradise, PA. Published in 1953, the first book was "as told to" Ellen Drummond, a missionary friend who knew Christiana and her family in China and witnessed many of the events firsthand.

Billy Graham personally recommended her book. "In her furnace of affliction Miss Tsai has discovered the secret of spiritual refining. In her dark chamber of infirmity she has found the Light of the world."

I assisted her in the writing of the second book in this collection, a chronological sequel, which the publisher simply titled CHRISTIANA TSAI. We worked in her darkened bedroom necessitated by her illness from malaria which confined her to bed for over fifty years. In this book she covered the exciting happenings from 1949 until her death in 1984 even while the drama of her life and far-reaching ministry was still unfolding.

It was at that time that the Leaman family and Christiana deeded their farmland property to AFC for their headquarters and expanding ministries on university campuses in North America and abroad.
In the third book in this collection, JEWELS FROM THE QUEEN, Christiana asked me to compile short illustrations from the many messages she preached from her bed as a pulpit. A flood of people from all over the world sought her out after they read her first book which was translated into dozens of languages and versions including Braille.

This book will touch your heart and inspire you to greater trust in God. Order copies for your family and friends and church library and recommend it to your book club.


ORDER THE BOOK DIRECTLY FROM THE PUBLISHER

Go to www.afcinc.org. Click on "Bookstore," proceed to "AFC Published items." Click on the cover pictured above. Click English or Chinese language.  Follow ordering instructions.

 HERE IS A BONUS! 

I produced a CD on which I read aloud verbatim the first 8 pages of the above book as an "appetizer" introduction with interludes of Chinese music. You can follow along from pp. 177 to 219. I believe this will enhance your appreciation and jump-start you into Christiana's story as it unfolds. Order the CD from me by email: leonachoy@gmail.com. It is available for a donation of any amount to cover cost of production and postage. Make the check for my CD payable to me at P.O. Box 2697 Winchester, VA 22604. Or you can use your credit card via Paypal: paypal.me/LeonaChoy. Please provide your mailing address.

 DON'T MISS THIS ADDITIONAL RESOURCE!
As you read the above book, you could use your imagination to visualize Christiana in her growing up years during the last days of the Qing Dynasty in China, her wartime experiences, her travels, and her worldwide ministry. You can imagine that you are one of the flood of visitors from all over the world who were drawn to the Lord through her 50 years of bedridden confinement....

BUT NOW....

Through this DVD, "WALKING IN THE LIGHT," in virtual reality you can GO to Paradise, PA" and SEE Christiana, HEAR her voice, and enjoy a "You are there" authentic experience! Professionally produced and narrated in the Chinese language, (Not to worry--there are English subtitles) you will enter Christiana's life visually. Listen to her recorded voice as she invites you into her dark chamber and shares her life motto. Despite all of her adversities, limitations and prolonged illness, she never asked the Lord WHY He allowed them in her life, but asked "WHAT can I do for You, Lord?"

Order the DVD along with your order for the BOOK directly through AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, INC. www.afcinc.org.