Monday, April 30, 2012

Deeper Still

STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: Picture Praise, 4/30/12

In the northern region of Thailand, just 30 minutes from Burma and 35 minutes from Laos is a ministry called Deeper Still Ministries International. At the heart of Deeper Still is the knowledge that no matter how deeply we've been hurt, God is Deeper Still. No matter how deep our relationship with Him is, God is Deeper Still. No matter how deep our hunger is for more of His Presence, God is Deeper Still.

The young mother in the photo is an amazing worshiper and prayer warrior from the Lahu tribe. She is seeking hot after God and reflects the love of Christ through her eyes and her love for her daughter.

photographer: Julie Smude, Thailand. The Director of Deeper Still, Julie Smude, is a single-parent who knows how powerful and compassionate our God is. Throughout her life, He has performed miracle after miracle to get her to where she is today. For most of her life, Julie has lived below poverty, but knows without a doubt - that "No matter how deep the pit, God is deeper Still" (quote by Betsie TenBoom, The Hiding Place).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shall Trouble Separate Us?

STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: Picture Praise, 4/23/12

I was thinking about swords last December, as I walked around this silent ancient amphitheater in El Djem, Tunisia. Although not as large as the Colosseum, this structure is better preserved and has been made a UNESCO world heritage site.

The unremarkable rural township of about 10,000 residents which surrounds this sandstone giant today gives the tourist no clue as to the former 'glories' of a place where crowds of 30,000 citizens regularly gathered for public spectaculars, courtesy of local merchants who funded its construction with wealth generated by olive oil production and trade.

Like Rome's famous arena and others still standing across Europe and North Africa, this theater was built to offer local citizens and visitors excitement and entertainment: on this spot they enjoyed watching bloodthirsty battles between wild animals and fierce warriors (some scenes from the 2000 Russell Crowe epic, Gladiator, were filmed here).

As well, this site is documented as one where our Christians brothers and sisters of that era were sent to a terrible and violent death because of their refusal to bow the knee to Caesar. They honored the Lord by being willing to give up even their lives for His sake, and their spilt blood is an enduring example for us. Today, it is a humbling reality that Christians in many nations continue to suffer and die for their faith on a daily basis. May our Almighty God grant them--and us--by the Spirit of Christ, the grace and strength for whatever trials we must face.

photographer: Kathryn Day, France. "I'm an Australian, single woman serving in the south of France since 2010. I work in media production with an international team. Our ministry focus is on making the Gospel available across the Arabic-speaking world via Internet and social media, and in doing so to lead our contacts to Christ, and to support in-country disciple-making and church planting."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Joyful Clothing

STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: Picture Praise, 4/16/12

A mother of six kids, who just lost her husband, happened to come by when we were sewing sundresses for our kids. She made this one and I thought her daughter looked exuberant with joy.

photographer: Heather Hahn, Mexico. Heather is the director of Brave Heart ministries in Mexico City, (be sure to click the English tab!). "I grew up in rural Canada but I've loved living in the busy Mexico City for the last ten years. Currently, I spend most of my time with families on the street and lead university students who volunteer. It's my dream job!"

Monday, April 9, 2012

They Know His Voice

STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: Picture Praise, 4/9/12

This photo was taken on Green Monday in rural Cyprus, a small island in the Eastern Mediterranean with less than one million people. It has been very interesting to live in a land somewhere which is part of the E.U. but still developing. In the 70’s, rural people had outhouses, and were using donkeys to plow their fields. Until the ‘60s, people were still harvesting salt from the ancient Larnaka Salt Lake which dries up every summer and becomes blindingly white with crystallized salt. Even today, when people all have satellite dishes, and drive nice cars, Cypriots will sometimes stop their cars in the middle of the street and chat with a friend driving the other direction. Many still make their own olives and dry herbs for home use.

Green Monday is the beginning of Lent in Greek Orthodoxy, where people are supposed to fast for the 50 days leading up to Easter. It begins with fasting from all meat products, then gradually increases to include milk and butter and sugar and by the end, people are only eating bread and vegetables, to remind them of the Lord’s suffering. They celebrate the resurrection at midnight on Saturday of Holy Week with bonfires and firecrackers.

Meanwhile, the local farmers are fattening up their sheep for the slaughter which will take place the days just before Easter, as every family desires to have a large roast lamb for the joyful breaking of the fast with family members on Easter Sunday; if not the whole animal, then at least a leg.

Seeing this flock on a back country road reminded me that a good shepherd is so trusted by his sheep that he does not need to guide the grazing sheep by yelling or beating or whipping them, but rather he leads from the front. His sheep know his voice and willingly go where he leads, knowing he desires not thistles or bitter weeds for his sheep but sweet, green grass and quiet, fresh water streams. What a symbolic reminder of my need daily, even hourly, to hear and willingly follow my Master’s voice and gentle commands. When I resist obedience, I hurt Him and myself, as He must then use trials or discipline to get my attention. But a good sheep trusts and follows her Master’s voice in the right path.

photographer: Susan De Vries, Cypress.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Love the Patterns

STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO: Picture Praise, 04/20/12

You may be scratching your heads at the photo. It is a pattern in the sand made by the waves of the ocean on the northern coast of Peru. We were there for a few days of vacation a few years ago. Many people love to go to the beach in order to surf, boogie board, or swim. I don’t really care for any of those. This picture shows what I love about the beach. I love to see the patterns in the sand made by the receding waves, or footprints by the birds. Or to sense the awesome power in the sound of the waves. It reminds me of how God works. He is in the overarching picture. He is also in the smallest details, intricately woven into the patterns of our lives. He is to be awed.

photographer: Maria Ayala, Peru. "My husband and I are with Wycliffe, working with Latins who are leaders in Bible Translation. We usually live in Peru, but are currently in the US on furlough."


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