Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012 from At the Well

Langston Hughes posed the question what happens to a dream deferred.

Monica and John W. Fountain
So many live with the gnawing ache of dreams deferred.

But what happens when your dreams are fulfilled? When what you hoped and prayed for become a reality. When you plant and water and God through His grace and amazing love gives the increase. When the hard work of planting and nurturing, building and dreaming, working and planning finally come to fruition.

Joy.

Not just happiness at the circumstances, but a deep satisfaction and peace because you know you are in the space and place where God intends you to be, even if all the circumstances still are not perfect.

2011 has been a joyous year of dreams fulfilled for the Fountain Family and for that we praise God.

Our book, Dear Dad, that lived for years in our heart and mind has come to life. Lost family ties have been bound. In October, for the first time, I met my brother Walter face to face.  Awards have been won professionally and academically, on the field of athletics and in the discipline of martial arts. In 2011, my husband, John W. Fountain, was honored as the top columnist in the Chicago area by the Society of Professional Journalists.

We praise God for every blessing, but most of all we thank God for you--our family and friends.

The vision I had for At the Well has come to fruition. When my husband encouraged me to start blogging in 2008, he gave me the name At the Well based on the woman at the well who had a life-changing encounter with Christ. My hope for At the Well was that it would be a place of enlightenment, encouragement and edification. This year, it has truly been all of those things for me and I hope for many of you as well. Through the platform of social media and the Internet, I believe we have created a community where God's name is glorified, the Gospel is proclaimed, prayers are lifted and people are encouraged and edified for this journey called life.

Not only have dreams been fulfilled for me this year, but also dreams have been renewed.

The Well magazine is in the works and will be given birth to in 2012. The Well will be a quarterly magazine that will complement At the Well and have the same mission of edification, enlightenment and encouragement as well as inspiration. It will be a forum where we can share and learn from each other's testimonies and triumphs.I hope that many of you will contribute your testimony and story to The Well magazine. (click here for writer's guidelines) We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimonies. My prayer is that the testimonies and stories that will be shared on At the Well and The Well in 2012 will bring healing and deliverance.



Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me this year. I can't tell you how much it has meant. And I thank God for freeing me from fear and helping me to step out on faith. A special thank you to my best friend and husband, John, for giving me tough love sometimes and telling me to stop talking about it and get about the business of doing it.

The greatest treasures we possess are the intangible ones. Our health. Our relationships with family and friends, those who we love and who love us back. Not the things we accumulate, but the memories that we make. Hugging a brother for the first time. Laughing and playing games on a trip to Detroit. Watching your son be a pirate in a play. Singing and dancing under the sky at a music festival in Cincinnati. Driving with the drop top down on a humid summer night. Sitting by a fireplace with the one you love.

We pray that you treasure the moments and that your 2012 is filled with joy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Give Up

“I would have fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27: 13 (King James Version)


As a matter of fact I had fainted (Psalm 27: 13, American Standard Version).

I lost confidence, my strength, my consciousness of who You are.

I was knocked out. Down for the count. Tired. I was weak. I had messed up. I had given up.

But I believed. I believe.

Believe: to accept something as true, genuine or real; to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy or ability of something. (Webster’s Dictionary)

Not in myself. Not in my power or might. But in You.

I believe in God. The Great I AM. The Maker of Heaven and Earth. Jehovah Jirah, my provider. Jehovah Shalom, my peace. The Ancient of Days. The Lord God Almighty. The Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End. My Rock and my salvation. The lover of my soul. My creator who knit me together in my mother’s womb. My God who counts the number of hairs on my head and sees my thoughts afar off.

The God who sees me. The God who knows me. The God who knows the plans He has for me, plans to give me a future and a hope. The God who takes care of me.

I gave up. I quit. I couldn’t take it, make it or do it. I didn’t have the capability, ability or capacity to achieve my dream. I still don’t.

I would have despaired (Psalm 27: 13, New American Standard Bible)

Despair: complete loss or absence of hope.

But I have confidence in You. My hope is in You.

My success and significance are in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 (New International Version)

Before I close my eyes on this earth, You will fulfill the purpose you have for my life. You are good and your mercies endureth forever. Because I am also confident (sure, certain, secure, positive) of this: that he that began a good work in me will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

I have already seen your goodness. Your protection. Your provision. Your love.

I see it on the cross. A King on a tree, dying for me. An empty tomb. Resurrection power. Your Holy Spirit and still small voice. Your miracles every day. Your discernment and direction.

Your Word speaking to me:

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145:13 (New International Version)

“And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 (American Standard Version)

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (King James Version)

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 (King James Version)

Your word to me: Don’t give up. (Monica’s Modern English Translation)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ministry of Naps

Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.” 1 Kings 19:5-6

I heard a preacher once say, taking a nap is sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do.

I used to hate taking naps as a child. I remember being in pre-school lying on the mat looking at the other kids who were knocked out. I wanted to get up and keep playing. Why did we have to take time out to take a nap?

When I got to college and pulled all-nighters, I appreciated a nap, especially during finals week. As a stay- at- home mom, I felt guilty taking a nap during the day. What if my husband called and said, “Whatcha doing?” Taking a nap. That just didn’t seem right. I needed to be productive. There were too many things to do.

But we are human beings, not human doings and God wants us to rest. In creation he created a Sabbath day, a day of rest. He knows our frames. He knows that we need time for restoration. We also need time for reflection and meditation. Then we can get a revelation from God. If you want to be really effective, sometimes we need to stop and take a nap.

Research has shown that naps—short periods of rest—are good for our health and lives. Some of the benefits include: less stress, increased creativity and productivity, improved memory and learning and lower levels of heart disease.

In the book 1 Kings, the great prophet Elijah was feeling down. As a matter of fact, he was downright depressed. He had just had the mountaintop experience of defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He had seen fire come down from heaven and then a downpour of heavy rain after years of drought. The prophet had experienced God’s miraculous provision through ravens and widows. His prayers were so powerful that he cried to the Lord and a boy was restored to life.

But after all of that, Elijah was still just a man. He was afraid of the evil Queen Jezebel and fled for his life. He sat under a tree and prayed for death. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

But then he fell asleep. An angel woke him up and gave him something to eat and drink and Elijah went back to sleep. The angel woke him up again and he ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

The lesson from Elijah: after great victories or hard work, we must take the time to rest. When God has something great for us to do, sometimes we need to be strengthened and we need time to prepare for the task ahead. It’s OK to be still and quiet before God. Activity does not always equal ministry.

The other day I was feeling a little down. I was not accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. My to-do list was getting longer and my Plan A had turned into Plan C. My desk was a mess, dishes were in the sink, and clothes on the family room couch needed folding.

My husband came home and said he was going to take a bath so I spruced up the bathroom for him. Another lesson: What you do for someone else, give it your best. You might find out you’re doing it for yourself.

Next time I came into the bathroom, thinking I’m checking on his bath, I find a bathroom with candles, roses, a card and my favorite candy. I soaked in the bubble bath that had been prepared for me, devoured my candy and fell asleep. I thought I had dozed off for a few minutes. It was actually almost an hour. But when I got up, I felt refreshed and when I woke up this morning I felt lighter and the day was brighter. That rest did wonders.

God wants us to enter his rest—his ultimate blessing for our lives. He has a rest for our souls. “This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16).

If we want real rest and peace that passes human comprehension, we must walk in His ways. Are you tired? Are you sick and tired? Maybe, like Elijah, you’re depressed. You’ve worked hard and it seems like your labor is in vain.

Jesus invites you to take a nap.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Happens When We Praise?

Church mothers praise God during service at the
 Regina Mundi Church in South Africa.
Photo by John W. Fountain
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."
Psalm 103:1-2

Last month I embarked on a challenge. My brother, Rev. K. Edward Copeland, the pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois sent out an invitation on Facebook to join his church as they study "The Power to Prosper: 21-Days to Financial Freedom". He challenged his congregation to a 21-day fast from credit cards. It prompted an idea for me. How about 21 days of giving God something? 21 Days of Praise.

I had read a book about gratitude and on the local Christian radio station once I heard an author talk about how she had a goal of writing 1,000 things for which she was grateful. I thought it was a great idea and I had started to write my own gratitude list in my daily devotions, but as time went on I was inconsistent. I’ve heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. Why not challenge myself and invite others to join me in listing our praises for 21 days?

Part of the challenge was to think of something new every day and not repeat. I thought it might be a challenge. But the challenge ended up stopping the flow of praise to just a few. As I started to post praises at the At the Well Facebook group and others joined in with their praise, I found myself finding more and more to praise God for and along the way God made manifest what happens when we praise and why praise is so important.

Perspective

When we praise we get the proper perspective of who God is.

Praise is recognizing, appreciating and expressing God’s greatness. Perspective is defined as a view or vista; a mental view or outlook. It comes from the Latin word perspicere which means to look through or see clearly.

When we praise God, we see more clearly. We see who God is and we see ourselves and our situations in the proper perspective. The things that seemed so large in our human perception seem microscopically small when compared to the greatness of God.

When we praise God we start to really see who He is. Although our finite human minds cannot conceive or perceive all of his greatness, when we start to enumerate who He is, we start to see different aspects of his holiness, omnipotence, awesomeness, love and grace.

When we start seeing how big and great God is, everything else is small in comparison and we have a proper perspective on our problems, our position and our purpose.

Praising God jogs our memory and increases our ability to trust in the one who has brought us through before. We remember how God has kept us, comforted us and provided for us. The more we say what He has done the more we appreciate who He is and have confidence in what He can do.

We recognize that He is the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. The God we serve and praise is the almighty One who spoke and brought the universe into existence. This great God is our God. He is a personal God. Our father, Abba, Daddy God who loves me and knows me so well that he has counted the number of hairs on my head and sees my thoughts afar off. He knew me before I was me and He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

The same God who determined the number of the stars heals the brokenhearted. The same God who created the vastness of the cosmos and galaxies also created the subatomic particle of the atom. The same God who made the intricacies of my DNA is the same God who makes the rain fall, the grass grow and the seasons change. The same God made the sun and made it so that plants on earth take that light and turn into food through the miracle of photosynthesis.

And that same God who made the sun, gave His only begotten Son who was there with Him when the foundations of the earth were established. And that Son set aside His divinity, wrapped himself in humanity and shed his blood for our iniquity. What a mighty God we serve and He is worthy to be praised.

Praising God puts things in perspective.

Next: What Happens When We Praise? Purpose and Power

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