Category Archives: Stories of Encouragement

A God Who Rescues: The Attack and the Prayer

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Photo by Ali Arapoğlu on Pexels.com

In my Junior year of college, I had one of the most fearful, and yet awesome experiences of my life.  Awesome because it was the beginning of my understanding of God’s personal love for me.  Fearful, well that you will quickly understand.

Early one Sunday morning, I walked across the University campus on the way to the Student Union where I planned to study before heading off to church.  A man walked briskly ahead of me into the Hall where classes were usually going on, but on Sundays was empty, and he let the door slam right in my face.  I decided he must be having a bad day, and I continued walking through the Hall which was attached to the Student Union. He turned into an empty classroom, presumably to study, and I walked on, thinking about all I planned to do that day.  

Suddenly, I heard the sound of someone running behind me, and then felt an arm go around my waist and a fist fly into my eye.  I struggled to get free from the arm around my waist, and wrestled something out of his hand (later in the struggle I realized it was a table knife).  I yelled for help, but he told me to shut up or he’d hurt me. I believed him so I shut up.

I dropped my backpack to the floor in hopes he would grab my valuables and go; and I crumpled to the ground so he wouldn’t think I was going to try to hurt him, but he did not stop punching me, so I raised myself up again to do something, but I was shoved against the wall, hit again so blood was in my one eye, and my other eye was blinded by the swelling of the first blow, and everything was a blur to me now.  He pulled me into the room he first turned into and began strangling me on the ground and then tying my wrist to a table in the room.The thought that this was really a bad dream and not really happening came to me, and my thinking became clouded and like a swirl, but reality hit and I was again aware this was very real. What was I to do?

The room was unlit, but the morning sun broke through the window, and I was reminded that I never asked God to help me in this. So I did.  I prayed the most heartfelt prayer I have ever prayed and I prayed it out loud, “God help me!” And he did. Out of the chaos of my half-thoughts, God brought the first clear thought through to me.  He reminded me of a woman’s story that I heard on a radio program a few months earlier, and her question to her attacker, “Do you know Jesus?” So I asked my attacker that very question, “Do you know Jesus?”

He waited a second, and then said, “yes.”  That was not the response that I expected and so fumbled for my next words by asking him, “then why are you doing this to me?”

At this point, he began to gather his things, and said, “Just stay there, just stay there, I won’t hurt you.  Don’t leave, just stay there.” He got his stuff together, ran into the hallway, grabbed my backpack, and ran out the door through which we had both entered the building.  When I was sure he was gone, I ran the other way, where I knew there would be people to help. I ran through the Student Union to the Information Desk, where the staff saw me coming and ran to help me as I collapsed at their feet.  They were awesome and helped me through the shock and police report and trip to the hospital for the fractured cheekbone I had received.

Though this was a traumatic experience, it was a turning point in my faith.  My parents were out of the country at the time, or I would have gone home that night of the attack and wouldn’t have pressed on.  In the following days, I had to face my fears head-on. I walked through that very building the next day only to see my blood still on the floor as people nonchalantly walked over it on their way to class.  I went to my classes despite my pain. I took my tests while my brain was still hurting and my eye still swollen. I persevered. I chose not to live in fear, but to trust God to fight for me.  Thankfully, I had an entire faith community come around me and help me through it all, and one truly beautiful best friend who listened to me process a lot.

I saw how I had been trusting in my own strength.  Truly, as soon as I recognized the Lord in the middle of this situation, he rescued me from it.  Take time to read Psalm 71. I believe it. I feel like I own that Psalm! I had been focusing on very foolish things up until this time; this put my life into perspective. Lives are fragile. I began to live my life for God because I suddenly realized how I wanted to be with Him in the end, and there is no certainty as to how soon that will come for us.  I would never have chosen in advance to be attacked, but looking back, I would never change it happening, because the good that God brought from it was so life-changing and so very good for the benefit of my soul.

“Bend low to my whispered cry and save me from all my enemies!  You’re the only place of protection for me.” –Psalm 71:2-3 TPT

Maureen Silveyra

Copyright 2020

Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com.

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Don’t Despise a Tiny Start

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Is there a problem in this world that needs your help?  Is it bigger than you can conquer?

I remember when I heard about the great devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought to the Gulf Coast.  It made me want to do something.  What I wanted to do was pick up and go down for a long time to help people rebuild and recover, but I was only one thirty-year-old woman who didn’t really know anything about disaster relief…at all.  So what could I do?  Where could I start?  I really did not know, so I did nothing.

I sat and did do nothing…until Pastor Ian from my church asked the congregation for volunteers to help out with answering phones to help the Red Cross raise funds for disaster relief for the victims of the hurricane.  That was something I could do.  It was better than doing nothing, so I signed up for answering calls early in the morning along with Ian and another friend, Shannon, from our fellowship group.  We went to the radio station and jotted down payment information for the phone call donations that came in.  After our time was over, Pastor Ian, Shannon and I went to McDonalds for a coffee and breakfast, and a talk that would maybe change the course of all of our lives a bit.

We sat and discussed how satisfying it was to help.  But I still couldn’t shake the idea that I didn’t do much that day, I wanted to do more.  But how?  I expressed this nagging thought to my friends, and they thought about that, too.

A month or two passed.  Surely it was beyond the time I could be helpful there.  Then one day, Pastor Ian announced that they made a connection with churches working down in Mississippi.  These churches had been bringing the needed food in to hurricane survivors and were going to be moving on the colossal task of gutting houses and rebuilding.  Our church was going to send a team down.  I made a deal with God.  I would go down if He would work out my schedule to go.  In another month or two, I gave my notice at work for a different purpose—to move to another state out West.  Before I left, however, I would take a week to fulfill my vow to God to go to Mississippi.  A group from our church would soon be going again to help for a week, and I signed up to go.  My friend Shannon from our church group had already quit his job to go down indefinitely.

When I went down, we all worked very hard.  The devastation was great even several months after the disaster, and the need of people tugged on my heart.  I had planned on moving to South Dakota in another couple of weeks for ministry there, but I ended up taking a longer detour to help with the immediate needs on the Gulf Coast.  The parable of the Good Samaritan came to my mind…how could I pass by the desperate need here to go on to another “call of God”?

I spent half a year serving with awesome people, hundreds coming in every week from all over the United States to help, some there for a little longer than others, and all bringing a lot of hope to a largely devastated group of hurricane survivors.  We gutted, repaired, painted, dry walled and roofed houses and reminded people of the goodness of God.

Is there a need in this world that is knocking on the door of your heart?  Don’t be afraid of its size.  Dream big and don’t despise small starts.  Just do something toward meeting that need.  Answering phones was not how I had envisioned helping, but it planted a seed.  That was the beginning toward doing what was on my heart to do, though the problem of how to get there seemed insurmountable.

A little step can lead to another, and another, until you are actually making an impact on the world around you in the way that you had dreamed.  And others will follow.  The breakthrough you bring will bring others around you who can go beyond that door you’ve pushed through.  Pastor Ian’s connection to the disaster relief in Mississippi brought Shannon through that door– he stayed there helping in disaster relief efforts for a long time.  Eventually Ian’s efforts brought me through as well, not to mention many, many other members of the church who were able to tangibly help bring healing to a hurting place.

In the book of Zechariah, chapter 4 (of the Bible), the prophet Zechariah has a God-given vision of what was happening in the spiritual realms in Jerusalem.  In reality their city was in devastation– they had returned from captivity to rebuild what had been great once and now stood in ruins.  Their leader, Zerubbabel, had laid the foundation of the temple in Jerusalem, but people were feeling overwhelmed with the task ahead.  Could it even be done?  Would what they could do even make a difference in Jerusalem and to the temple?  Then an angel asked Zechariah “Who despises the day of small things?”  Were they despising the little bit they had begun? Possibly—it is easy to do!  God encouraged them; the temple would be rebuilt–even in Zerubabbel’s life time.

How would that happen?  “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  And that is for us, too.  How will we ever accomplish bringing change for good to this world when so much is against us?  Not by might, nor by power.  Just by the Mighty Spirit of our Great God.  That’s all.  Don’t despise the day of small things.

 

–Maureen Silveyra

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God’s “I Love You”

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When my little boy was about 1 ½ years old, he would want something very desperately. Sometimes it was a sweet treat or other times he wanted to go outside and there was a good reason he could not that day. There was always a good reason when he did not get his way, but he was not old enough to understand why. Even if I had explained it, he would not yet comprehend. He would cry and cry and I would cuddle him. Even though I was the one who said “No” to him, he still wanted to be near me. Usually he would cry and cry when he was close to nap time, so I would cuddle with him in bed until he fell asleep with his arms around my neck. Because he would not understand why, all I could do what to tell him, “I love you, so much, baby.” To me, that was all he needed to know right then.

Have you ever talked to God, asking him “Why?” Why is this happening? What should I be doing right now with my life? Why can’t I do that?   And all you hear him say is “I love you.” Have you ever said to him…”Yeah, yeah, I know that already, can’t you give me something more profound?” What if that is the most profound answer? What if “I love you” explains everything you need to know right then? What if we couldn’t handle understanding why at that time? Maybe we aren’t really mature enough to handle the real reason God isn’t answering our questions or why we are enduring something we are going through, or maybe we are asking the wrong question to begin with? What if his “I love you” is the answer that should be enough to calm our questioning souls because we can trust him to be looking out for our good in all situations, just like a mother telling her crying infant (Why can’t I have cookies before I’ve eaten my veggies?) “You’ll be okay, I love you.”

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Missing the Bed

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I walked in the darkness back to my room. Usually we had a night light on but the bulb had burned out. I tried not to think too much so I could fall back asleep right away. I obviously succeeded at not thinking too much because, as I lay back down on my bed, my bed was not there! I fell through the air to the floor, crashing into my 3 year old’s box of toys as I landed. Hopefully no one heard that.

“Are you OK?” came from my sleepy husband. He had heard. I found where my bed actually was and assessed the situation. I had pulled a muscle pretty badly but otherwise, I was alright. As I pondered how that had happened, I realized that I had tried to lay down where our bed had been a few months before.

Have you ever done that? As I was thinking about how foolish I was, I realized that wasn’t the first time I had done something like that…you can “miss the bed” spiritually too.

Many years ago, I had a small credit card debt from buying a computer (it was about $1200). I didn’t have a big income and I expected it was going to be a long while before I paid it off. When Hurricane Katrina hit the southern coast hard, I made the decision to go down and help out with relief efforts. I quit my job, and wondered how I would pay off this debt. As I worked down there, God provided for me. I made sure that any money people gave to me to support me was not used to pay off my debt, and even still I paid it off far faster than I expected to when I had an income.

That experience made me believe that if I got into debt but was doing the things of God, that God would pay off my debts. I relied on what I thought I knew about God several years later while I was teaching at an impoverished inner city school. I used my credit card to buy things I needed for the classroom and my school children, and expected since they were for a good cause, that God would pay it off. Well, it took me a couple of years to repay this debt, and God did not do a miracle to help me settle it…it took some hard work from my new husband and myself to pay it back.

This is where I could just get mad at God for not coming through for me when I was doing work for him, but that would be a bit like getting mad at my bed for not being there when I tried to lay down on it. God does not change…the Bible tells me so. God’s promises do not change, like the size of my bed. It doesn’t change, it is always there. I can rely on it if I only know where it is! That is why it is ever so important to go back to the Word of God written in the Bible. When we go off-track in understanding God, it isn’t because he has changed, frequently it is because we forgot what the word really says about a matter. I trusted in God’s grace over his word. He says “Be in debt to no one” but I trusted on his grace to me at an earlier time as being a rule above his word.

But I was not relying on his promises, I was relying on his grace. Say that you have the rule in your house that your children can have television time once they make their beds. Your child fails to make his bed one day, but he had helped out around the house in other areas and has been a pretty good guy. You might say “That is okay, go ahead and watch your show on tv today.” That is grace. But if your child starts to believe that he no longer really needs to make his bed to be able to watch a show, it is likely you will find the need to remind him of the rule. He is relying on your grace rather than on the rule you have established.

Grace changes. If you try to lie down on the bed of grace where you did last time, you will crash to the floor. There are no rules for grace or it wouldn’t be grace, it would be a promise. The promises of God are trustworthy. Let us keep in God’s word so that we know where the bed is.

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Well-Resourced

well-resoucedJesus was born into a humble situation. He was born in a shelter for animals as his family traveled to Joseph’s hometown for to pay taxes. When he grew up, his ministry was not run out of a temple as glorious as the one Solomon had built for God. Jesus had no church building or temple to call his own to shepherd his followers in. He chose to minister out of the fields, to have no home, to reach those who did not fit into the acceptable circles of the religious world. His ministry changed the lives of hundreds during his days of walking on the earth, and millions to this day.

How did he do it? He had little of monetary resources. How did he change the lives of so many?

He knew that the resources of heaven were His. His love, word and deeds changed the lives of those around him. He showed his disciples to do what he did. He lived ministry, and only needed what the Spirit could provide. We only need what he did.

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74 Cents for a Mustard Seed of Faith

I went to the ATM that morning to withdraw some money for a bagel and coffee, but was horrified to find that I had only $275.74 remaining in the account.  I had just written my rent check out for $275, which left me with 74¢ to pay for my upcoming two weeks of bills and groceries.  My heart raced, but I decided to bring it to the Lord and trust in him.  I had heard stories of his amazing provision for people in the past, and would try in my weak faith to believe he would do the same for me.

The week or two before this, I began tithing again.  I not been tithing for a while because I was in debt and figured I should pay that off first.  More recently I had realized that God had asked us for our “firstfruits,” not our leftovers, and so I would trust him to help me pay off my debt even while tithing to Him.

But now I found myself in this situation.  I recently incurred some unexpected medical and car expenses; and a company kept automatically withdrawing money from my bank account long after they kept saying that they had it stopped.  From an earthly perspective, tithing hadn’t gotten me too far!    I prayed that the Lord would somehow provide for me in this, and then went on to work to face a dismal day.

I didn’t say anything at work, but my emotions there were visible.  A coworker asked me what was going on, and I didn’t say, but she asked if it was financial and I nodded.  Another coworker took me aside and said “You know God will take care of you, right?” I nodded, attempting to have faith.  I had a long day of talking to God at work.

Later that day, I would be going to a coffee shop to lead a Bible study we had there.  Just my luck, Danny stopped in my workplace—he was a long-haired hippie-type man who was a self-proclaimed prophet of something, but not of God.  He came in and said he was going to join our Bible study that night.  He stepped out of the shop and I began to pray, “Lord, I am not able to handle him today.  Either you will need to give me your wisdom in dealing with him, or you will have to make him not come.”  Just after the prayer, he came back into the shop and suddenly changed his mind about coming to the study.  This was my first breakthrough this day.

As I left work, I found a fifty dollar bill under my coffee mug with a note that said, “for you!”  I asked my coworker if she had put it there.  She suddenly began to dig in my purse, and then said, no.  I found that behavior a little strange, but she then told me she had put some money in my purse earlier that day and had wondered if someone had taken it out and put it under the mug.  No one had taken it out—the money she had given me was still in my purse.  I went home overwhelmed with people’s generosity and God’s provision.

As I walked to the Bible study that night, I was still shaken by my financial crisis.  I prayed to God to provide me with someone who would pray for me to have the peace of God before I would have to lead the study.

I walked in and ordered my coffee, shared about God’s provision that day with the barrista whom I knew a little, and this man asked if he could pray for me.  I was so blessed God was answering everything almost as soon as I prayed.  I sat down at my table to wait for others to gather, and as I waited, I talked to God to ask him for a longer-term provision so that I would not be in such a place of crisis if I had unplanned expenses again.  A few minutes later, my roommate (who had absolutely no clue of my situation) came in and asked me to pray about if I would want to tutor her brother in reading—her parents were looking for someone to help him, and would pay for the tutoring.  I told her I had already prayed about it, it was an answer to the prayer I had prayed just minutes before.

To top it all off, another friend came into the Bible study and had decided (out of character) to buy a ton of food from McDonald’s to share.  It was the icing on the cake.  God would provide!  He did provide for me throughout the upcoming weeks in very unusual ways through people who had no clue I was in need.  Somehow, I paid all of my bills off, was able to pay back my coworkers who had given me money, and in the long-run to pay off my debt in less time than I had anticipated.  I do not think I would have seen the Lord’s amazing provision had I not been faithful to show my trust in him by tithing.  The Lord is faithful and I am so glad I now know him as my Provider!

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No Reason to Cry

I was happy to see my friends Mike and Laura and their little one year old daughter walk into the coffee shop.  They came over to my table to catch up and talk, and I was enjoying watching their daughter climb around and adventure.  During the course of our talking, their daughter suddenly reached up for her bottle–which she wasn’t able to reach without help–and began to cry as if she would never be able to get it.  I looked and laughed. 

“Doesn’t she trust yet that you will give it to her?” 

Laura laughed and said, “No,  she throws a fit all the time even though we always give her her bottle!”

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit told me that their little girl was just like me.  The last couple of weeks I have been whining and having a fit in my head, about not having found a job yet.  Suddenly I realized that I was acting that way because I wasn’t trusting my Heavenly Father to give me what I needed when I needed it.

Matthew 6:31-   “So do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?  What will we drink? or “What will we wear?’ …for your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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