What a Cadet Learned About Faith

What a Cadet Learned About Faith

cadet2I am a contracted US Army ROTC Cadet, which means that I am in training to one day trade in the black dot of the Cadet’s rank for the gold bar of the 2nd Lieutenant’s. This past spring, I stepped off of a bus and onto the hot, dusty ground of a major Army camp built on rolling hills and ringed by mountains. It was hot, there wasn’t any cloud cover to speak of, the terrain was rough, and our area of operation was vast: perfect for a land navigation (orienteering) course, which is where this story starts.

Since the Army is the primary land force of the military, its Soldiers should to be able to, you know, get around on land. Since we can’t always depend on GPS, everyone needs to have a basic knowledge of how to work with a map, a compass and a protractor. I was partnered with a less-experienced Cadet, and we were tasked with finding a handful of coordinate points, which were marked by metal poles with dog tags hanging from them, scattered among perhaps a couple hundred other points.

We consulted our map, developed a route plan, and off we went, carrying our map, compass, protractor, water, tactical vests and 50-pound rucksacks. We were having trouble finding our first point, and my partner was tired, so I left all the gear with her while I ran to inspect a metal pole some 200 meters away that we thought might be it. It was still the wrong one, so we decided to backtrack to our last known point. After we had shouldered our rucksacks and left the area, I asked my partner for the compass so we could check our bearing, and I heard five little words that nobody ever wants to hear:

“I thought you had it.”

I didn’t. Regular military folks often call those in ROTC “cadidiots,” which definitely applied here. We had failed to attach our compass to our tactical vests as we were trained to do which, In Army circles, is called “dummy-cording,” because it’s intended to prevent dummies like us from losing their compasses. Now, instead of looking for a two-and-a-half foot pole, we were looking for a small, green compass in a sweeping field of similarly-colored tall grass. After a fruitless search, we headed back to the starting point and told one of our leaders what had happened. He told us that if we didn’t find our compass, the Army would charge us hundreds of dollars, so we’d better give it our best shot. He gave us another compass, telling us that we should use it to get back to where we lost it.
 As a man of faith, I was praying silently in my head throughout all this. I knew that God wasn’t just going to drop the compass out of the sky and into my hand, so we had to go back over our map and our route in order to have any shot of finding the thing.

For some reason, I wasn’t overly worried, but I probably should have been: We were looking for a 5 cm x 7.5 cm green object in the middle of a huge, greenish field: the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack. We navigated back to the area where we had lost the compass, which took some time, but we found our lost compass after a careful search. We didn’t have enough time to find all of the rest of the points, but neither of us cared. We’d found the most difficult point in the whole course, and we no longer owed Uncle Sam 200 bucks.

I thanked God over and over again for His help, because I knew that things wouldn’t have worked out the way they did without him. It’s true, we used our knowledge of land navigation to make up for our previous carelessness, but I am thoroughly convinced that without combining it with faith we would have failed miserably. Along similar lines, I hope to strengthen both my faith and my land navigation skills in the future, because they certainly went hand-in-hand that day.

5 Ways to Find Fulfillment According to the Dalai Lama

5 Ways to Find Fulfillment According to the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama describes himself as a “simple Buddhist monk” yet somehow within his life’s simplicity he has been able to find personal fulfillment and share that fulfillment with others. How can we follow his example?

dalai lama-01

1. Believe you can make a difference

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Often in my life the things that made the greatest difference were not big. Someone wrote an encouraging note, dropped off a pint of ice cream, gave a hug. Those who performed these acts will likely never know the difference they made. Yet, the world was made better because of them. Your talents and unique viewpoints are needed. You can make a difference. The trick is figuring out how.

2. Choose positivity

“Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, ‘I am of no value’, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought – so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.”

How much power do we believe we have over our own happiness? According to the Dalai Lama we can determine how we view our situations, accomplishments, and attributes. Optimism is a choice. This agentic freedom means that although we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react. Circumstances do not determine our happiness. Decide today what kind of day it will be.

3. Face death, celebrate life

“You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”

Our modern world with its hospitals, hospice care, and funeral homes separates most of us from death. This protective wall provides a comfortable cocoon of false security. Only through escaping this cocoon and facing the fragility of life can we truly learn to live. In understanding death, each day becomes more precious. Insecurities and inadequacies which previously held us back become trivial. Life is too short to let the small stuff hold us back.

4. Serve others

“Eating, working, and making money are meaningless in themselves. However, even a small act of compassion grants meaning and purpose to our lives.”

Who do you know that is struggling? What can you do to help? Thinking of others rather than our own worries helps us realize how blessed we are and the difference we can make. What is more fulfilling than that?

5. Be patient

“Neither a space station nor an enlightened mind can be realized in a day.”

Discouragement often takes its strongest hold when we are faced with disappointing results to our efforts. Sometime we try so hard, only to have it blow up in our face. However, we do not know how things will develop in the long run. Often what seems like failure one day can be a stepping stone the next. Remember we are running a marathon not a sprint. Things will work out. Keep going!

Erin Facer is a graduate of Brigham Young University and proud southerner. Contact her at facererin@gmail.com.

15 Olympians Share Their Secrets For Olympic Success

15 Olympians Share Their Secrets For Olympic Success

The Olympic Games are always fascinating and inspiring times to watch some of the world’s most elite athletes compete. The years of preparation it takes to make it to the Olympics and the intense pressure during those final moments of competition are not for the faint of heart. Here is what 15 Olympians shared about their secrets for success:

Michael Phelps: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, men’s 200m butterfly, men’s 4x100m medley relay, men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, men’s 200m individual relay. Silver medalist in men’s 100m butterfly.

When Michael Phelps found himself in a dark place and he questioned whether life was worth living, his Christian friend and former NFL linebacker, Ray Lewis, stepped up and encouraged Phelps to get his life back on track. He sent Phelps a book, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Of the book, Phelps said, “It’s turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet … It helped me when I was in a place where I needed the most help.” Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Simone Biles: Gymnastics

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist for individual all-around, vault, floor and team competition. Bronze medalist for beam.

Biles has been called the best female gymnast that ever lived. Back in 2013, Simone Biles posted this insight on Twitter about what drives her to become better:

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Fencing

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s team sabre. Muhammad made history by being the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics while wearing a Muslim hijab.

“My religion. My faith. They are part of who I am,” Muhammad said in a video released by Mini USA. “When I realized that there had never been a Muslim woman who wore the hijab to represent Team USA, I wanted it, you know, not just for myself but for my community.” Watch the full video here:

Brianna Rollins: Track and Field

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m hurdles

“I just kept God first and just continued to let Him guide me throughout the rounds,” Rollins said in an interview with NBC. Her Twitter profile says, “I want to break world records and win gold medals, but I also want to be known as the athlete who glorified God by reaching my full potential.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings: Beach Volleyball

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist with April Ross.

On Instagram, Walsh Jennings revealed some of the words that empower her before competition:

Maya DiRado: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m backstroke and women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 400m individual medley. Bronze medalist in women’s 200m individual medley.

“Knowing that I’m a child of God and that his love for me is determined by nothing I can achieve or do on my own has given me a quiet confidence,” said DiRado in an interview with Christianity Today. “My faith has helped me chart my own course and pursue my goals when people around me may be going in different directions. Jesus’ love for me and all humanity is something that always helps me better love people around me when things get difficult.”

Simone Manuel: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m freestyle and women’s 4x100m medley relay. Silver medalist in women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

“All glory to God. Isn’t he awesome!” Manuel shared this message via Twitter:

Nate Ebner: Rugby

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Ebner made history for being the only Super Bowl champion who has played rugby in the Olympics.

“[My dad] taught me the importance of being Jewish with holidays like Chanukah and Passover, and I spent some time at Sunday Hebrew school,” said Ebner. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner.”

Gabby Douglas: Gymnastics

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in the women’s team competition.

“I take my Bible with me, sometimes two of them, when I travel…. I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor,” said Douglas in an interview with Christianity Today. “I would say little short prayers, quoting Scriptures: I can do all things through Christ, don’t fear, be courageous. Little things like that get me motivated.”

Steele Johnson: Synchronized Diving

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Silver medalist with David Boudia in men’s synchronized 10m platform.

In an interview with NBC Sports, Johnson said, “It’s cool because this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not what my identity will be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ, not in the flips we’re doing.”

Reid Priddy: Men’s Volleyball

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Priddy and the USA men’s volleyball team play Italy in the semifinals on Friday, August 19.

“Volleyball has been a major way God communicates life lessons to me,” said Priddy in an interview with Athletes in Action. “They go hand-in-hand; what I’m learning on the volleyball court I am able to apply in life and vice versa.”

Corey Cogdell: Shooting

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s trap.

Cogdell expressed her Christian beliefs on Instagram:

Feeling empowered this morning by this, ready to go conquer the world!

A photo posted by Corey Cogdell Unrein (@coreycogdell) on

Katie Ledecky: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m freestyle, women’s 800m freestyle, women’s 400m freestyle, women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

Ledecky told the Catholic Standard that her faith helps her keep things in perspective. “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she said.

Bubba Watson: Golf

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Although Watson did not medal in Rio, he participated in a historic competition as golf made its debut after 104 years of absence from the Olympics.

In an interview with BillyGraham.org, Watson credited regular Bible study with helping him stay centered. He said he looks forward to “Getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

Missy Franklin: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

Following a disappointing Olympics in Rio, Franklin Tweeted about the optimism and perspective her faith brings:

Watch this video to learn more about why faith matters to Missy Franklin:

How to Reach Beyond Your Limits

How to Reach Beyond Your Limits

Every great athlete has had to push through obstacles and reach beyond limits. How do they do it? And how can we reach beyond our own limits in our individual lives?

It takes commitment and effort from the beginning. It takes repetition, balance and strength to keep growing. It takes endurance and confidence when the road becomes rough. It takes resilience and humility to get back up after failure. And ultimately, it takes faith to believe in what once seemed unlikely or impossible. It takes faith in a higher power that will help us rise above the odds and reach our ultimate potential.

The only limits we really have are those that we place on ourselves.
How will you reach higher?

Halfway House Poets – Jasmine

Halfway House Poets – Jasmine

My name is Jasmine, but I prefer Pryncez. I love writing poetry. It helps me deal with things that are going on. I also can draw, but it’s based more off moods — mainly if I’m sad or mad. My passion is dancing, though, and it comes second nature. I’m an aspiring artist, actress and model.

My favorite color is hot pink. I love cooking (and eating, LOL), styling hair, and having hair done. I’m a very comical person. A day with me is a lifetime of laughter. I’m from the west side of Chicago. I have two children, Lyric and Lavail. They are my life and air that I breathe.

One thing I want is to give my children everything in life that I did not have. I want to one day be known around the world as that loving, funny, unique, stand-up, stand-out, brave, assertive, intelligent, talented woman that everyone who meets me has grown to know.
–Jasmine “Pryncez” Harris–

Part 4 of 4, The Halfway House Poets: Words of Faith by Former Inmates

Background by Brandon Crockett:
About eight years ago, I began teaching a poetry class at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for individuals recently released from prison on Chicago’s near west side. I went there, fresh out of college, with the anticipation that I would cause a paradigm shift for the residents and help them change their lives.

What ended up happening was far different.

It quickly became clear to me that the difference between those who spend time in prison and those who don’t is negligible, at best. True, our circumstances vary, but we all have the ability to choose how we respond to our current situation in the ever-present now.

It is in this that I choose to place my faith. And it is here that freedom is found.

A poem by Jasmine “Pryncez” Harris

Not really knowing who I was, consistently trying to appeal to my family’s expectations while trying to live in my own identity.
Mad at everything outside and holding everything that hurt within me.
I thought You didn’t love me, but I was wrong.
Every time something went right I knew it was You all along.
When I was left alone in those cells, You stood out.
I thought I had no love, loyalty and trust but I had it from You without doubt.
I remember the first time You spoke to me; it was down the street, You said “be patient”.
I was, but only for so long and then I started to become complacent.
With certain things and specific people that really didn’t matter.
Owning a bruised heart that I allowed to almost get shattered.
Back then my family would never understand what I was feeling.
I had this image inside that was ready to emerge and become appealing.
I had to go “on the block” where I felt free.
It was the only place I felt I could be me.
I could sit outside all night and just clear my mind.
Feel the words and listen to the breeze at one time.
Sometimes I think about my life and what it could be.
But then again, that’s like wishing for a life without You with me.

Five Ways to Find Light in the Darkness from Corrie ten Boom

Five Ways to Find Light in the Darkness from Corrie ten Boom

By Camille Ward, Faith Counts Contributor

light in darkness“In darkness, God’s light shines most clear.” Corrie ten Boom’s faith shone even in the darkness of the holocaust. This courageous Dutch watchmaker overcame the despair of the Ravensbrück concentration camp as she shared her light with her fellow prisoners throughout the war.

  1. Show Gratitude: “Prayer is the key for the day; the lock for the night” Despite illness, abuse, and grief, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, did their best to give thanks to God. Upon installment in the overcrowded Ravensbrück barracks, Betsie reminded Corrie that they were to “give thanks in every circumstance.” However, when Betsie gave thanks for the fleas, even Corrie balked. Yet she gave thanks, and in the months following, discovered that the same fleas that tormented them nightly kept guards from intruding upon the safety of the barracks during the day.
  2. Serve: “The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God.” Even in prison, Corrie and Betsie prayed and read the Bible with those around them, bringing their light to the darkness of Ravensbrück. Though crippled by illness, they shared what they had and served those who could not help themselves. In serving others, Corrie found a purpose and a peace that would sustain her throughout the war.
  3. Love: When the love of her life married another woman and Corrie’s heart shattered, her father taught her this lesson: “’Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel . . . . Whenever we cannot love in the old human way, God can give us the perfect way,” . . . He had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this; places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all.” Corrie learned to love God’s children so much that she sacrificed her freedom to rescue approximately 800 Jews. Later, when she entered those darker rooms of the holocaust, rather than curling in on herself, hiding from the pain, she brought the light of love with her.
  4. Forgive: When God “tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” Corrie discovered that while she felt pity for the abused, Betsie found it in herself to love the abusers. After the war, Corrie fulfilled both sisters’ dreams and founded homes for both former prisoners and guards, giving them the love and time they needed to heal. Later in her ministry, a Ravensbrück guard asked her for forgiveness. He did not recognize her, but she recognized him. In this moment of agony, she turned to God and He filled her with the forgiveness the man sought. In her own words, she taught that “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
  5. Trust in God’s Purposes:Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” Corrie believed that “every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Instead of being angry at God for allowing her to suffer, Corrie had faith that God had prepared her to take the path she was on. If God willed that she labor in Ravensbrück, losing her sister and father along the way, she trusted that there was a purpose to her suffering. Corrie found the strength to bear her burdens by trusting that they filled God’s purposes. After her miraculous release, Corrie continued to use her experiences in Ravensbrück to share the light of God with people all over the world.

Corrie ten Boom died in 1983, having shone the light of God in some of the darkest moments in history.

You can read Corrie’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, to learn more about her life and faith.

Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and walk outside and is not to be trusted in bookstores or bakeries.

Halfway House Poets – Jesse

Halfway House Poets – Jesse

From the shore of Cleveland’s Lake Eerie, to the bank of Chicago’s Lake Michigan, I’ve always felt a special wonder for waters — living ponds of motivation and delight.

Originally I came as a six-year-old to live with my father in Chicago’s Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods. Sixty years later, I still retain in memory the awe of meeting a promising people who were engaged in doing positive things, and all of this juxtaposed to the glory of Chicago’s parks and waterfront.

Over time, tides have risen and fallen. Light breezes have given way to seasonal storms, as I, too, have experienced a warmth found in a family’s love and in education, as well as the cold and desolation found in incarceration — the one my blessing, the other my curse.

Yes, I continue to look up and cling to early inspirations and hopes as my light now dims and my days dwindle, feeling confident and comforted in knowing the next life promises to be greater than the first, and on a far distant shore.

Part 3 of 4, The Halfway House Poets: Words of Faith by Former Inmates

Background on the series by Brandon Crockett:
About eight years ago, I began teaching a poetry class at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for individuals recently released from prison on Chicago’s near west side. I went there, fresh out of college, with the anticipation that I would cause a paradigm shift for the residents and help them change their lives.

What ended up happening was far different.

It quickly became clear to me that the difference between those who spend time in prison and those who don’t is negligible, at best. True, our circumstances vary, but we all have the ability to choose how we respond to our current situation in the ever-present now.

It is in this that I choose to place my faith. And it is here that freedom is found.

By Jesse Anderson

High winds howl in the black of night,
Shimmying tree branches rise as if in fright.
An omen true of something approaching still,
Ill-fate’s advance, many lives to chill.

The seed was planted very long ago,
Rejected and lamented it continues to grow.
Despite our efforts to keep it at bay,
Fear and doubt plagues us yet today.

Through storms and struggles lives are tossed,
Taking some to the brink, their days near lost.
Prayers for mercy and redemption spring from pleading hearts,
That search daily for warrants of hope, or brand new starts.

For those confounded in nightmarish worlds of gloom,
One thing should give peace and a little room.
When all else has failed, or seems unsafe,
Stability and strength can be found in keeping the Faith.

Halfway House Poets – Charles

Halfway House Poets – Charles

My name is Charles and I’m 43-years-old. I come from Chicago, IL and was born a mixed child. I’m black and Spanish and I came from the Humboldt Park area. I was brought up by two wonderful parents that played a very big part in my life.

I was brought up around music and instruments which gave me inspiration in writing to the beats of both cultures. As I got older, I got interested in poetry, more say “spoken word.” With this, I’m able to surface my inner thoughts and get into the depths of myself and live life as a lyric to the beat of soul.

I’m a man of peace who ignores war and moves forward. Heaven before hell.

Part 2 of 4, The Halfway House Poets: Words of Faith by Former Inmates

Background on the series by Brandon Crockett:
About eight years ago, I began teaching a poetry class at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for individuals recently released from prison on Chicago’s near west side. I went there, fresh out of college, with the anticipation that I would cause a paradigm shift for the residents and help them change their lives.

What ended up happening was far different.

It quickly became clear to me that the difference between those who spend time in prison and those who don’t is negligible, at best. True, our circumstances vary, but we all have the ability to choose how we respond to our current situation in the ever-present now.

It is in this that I choose to place my faith. And it is here that freedom is found.

Letter to God
By Charles Brister

I have a letter for you, Lord
My eyes see past my mental windows of vision
That capture moments of doing life inside me timed by the Lord’s precision
Lord, you’re my mission
For you, Lord, I stop, look, and listen
For you, Lord, I stop, look, and listen
For you, Lord, are never forgotten
I’m devoted in faith
And my prayers are never missin’
I sit here before you Heavenly Father, in praise, Lord, not only for me
But for my kids, my family, friends
And even for the ones that play enemy
That’s against you and me
The ones imprisoned by negativity
Lord, protect me from this captivity
Lord, protect me from this captivity
Because it is you that I only see
And it is you, Lord, that sets me free
It is you, Lord, that sets me free
God’s Child

Halfway House Poets – Marketta

Halfway House Poets – Marketta

“I am a poet at heart. I love to dance. I am fun-loving, energetic and so into the poet realms. I enjoy poetry slams, cafe houses and all.” -Marketta

About eight years ago, Brandon Crockett began teaching a poetry class at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for individuals recently released from prison on Chicago’s near west side. He went there, fresh out of college, with the anticipation that he would cause a paradigm shift for the residents and help them change their lives.

What ended up happening was far different.

“It quickly became clear to me that the difference between those who spend time in prison and those who don’t is negligible, at best,” says Crockett. “True, our circumstances vary, but we all have the ability to choose how we respond to our current situation in the ever-present now. It is in this that I choose to place my faith. And it is here that freedom is found.”

This is part 1 of 4, The Halfway House Poets: Words of Faith by Former Inmates. To see all of the videos, visit our YouTube channel.

by Marketta

The beginning of my life was happy
God called my mother home in 1994
And my life became crappy.
I lived with my toxic auntie and cousin
A life around drugs, abuse, people stealing from me
And cursing.
I grew up fast, nobody checked on me
End up with 13 years of pain in the penitentiary.
I never gave up on the faith of a mustard seed
Show you how fast your life can be snatched away
So take heed.
Least likely one to go to prison and do time
God had another plan in line.
He purged me to be the woman you see
My faith through all my pain triumphed
A greater me.
I am free from toxic bondage that held me down
I can have a true smile
Instead of a frown.

What Zambia taught me about Faith in God’s Timing

What Zambia taught me about Faith in God’s Timing

Open the Flood Gates of Heaven, and Let it Rain
Faith in God’s Timing

By Shannon Hoffmann, Faith Counts Contributor


A recent humanitarian trip to the developing, third-world country of Zambia was a lesson for me on faith. Faith is not about our timing, but it is trusting God’s timing for the blessings we hope to receive. I was reminded of this over and over again on this trip.

We have so much here in the United States, and there are others with so little. Even some of us who don’t seem to have a lot here are materially wealthy in comparison to what they have there, but of course we can be rich in blessings without material wealth.

My visit was close to the end of the rainy season there, and things were still lush and green. However, rivers were already drying up at that point. What do you say to someone when you know the gardens and fields they planted will surely perish soon from the lack of rain?

I knew it wouldn’t be long before the vegetables they counted on to feed their families and to sell for income weren’t going to grow—and that it would be a problem throughout the country. They would all be affected in some way in this situation.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

Nshima, a food that looks much like a pile of mashed potatoes but is actually a dish made from maize flour (white cornmeal) and water, was already a big part of their diets–but would it be the mainstay at that point? There are actually probably many people there who rely nearly solely on it. It’s a humble existence there.

As I walked into a modest home that sits on the property associated with an orphanage, I noticed something written on the door frame. “Open the floods gates of heaven and let it rain.” I couldn’t stop thinking about this. This was a request to God, to send the rain so that gardens and fields could produce—so people wouldn’t go hungry. The owner of this home looks to God in faith and trusts Him.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

The people there are hopeful, and they believe in God and his timing. That’s not always easy. What if the crops fail before God opens up the flood gates and lets it rain? What if the rain does come, so fiercely that it washes the crops away? There’s a chance either way that they lose. They were already in drought conditions when I was there, before the rivers all dried up. They reminded me how important it is to do my level best so God can help the rest of the way.

They live in this dire situation. Were they crying and sitting around forlorn and worried? The answer is no. They were taking care of children, singing, spending time as sisters and brothers of a tribe, and leaving it up to God to bless them as he would. I had to take note.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hoffmann

I’m sure they have bad days, because we do as people in general. But my experience upon arriving at a certain village, in the back of an old Army truck, was one of a welcoming and giving spirit felt. They may not have a lot of material things to share, but they give love freely to all who enter their village. God would take care of the rest as they did their best and did all they could do. They were actively engaged in living every day no matter what.

One can’t do this without a good amount of faith that all will be well—that God has your back.

The country of Zambia is a self-proclaimed Christian nation, and they aren’t afraid to show their faith. There you’ll find business names such as “God is Able Barber Shop; Abundant Blessings Enterprises and School,” and you’ll see words of faith labeling taxis as well. They are in partnership with God, and will wait patiently for his timing to send blessings.

The people of Zambia are such a good reminder to me that we are in good hands with God, and that his timing is the right timing. I see his blessings in my life, daily. I know he doesn’t forget about me, or any of us. He knows our hearts, and he knows when we are ready to receive. That’s a beautiful, comforting thing to me.

5 Lessons Gandhi Teaches Us About Humanity

5 Lessons Gandhi Teaches Us About Humanity

By Cheri Peacock, Faith Counts Contributor


Born in India in the late 19th century, Mohandas Gandhi, known as ‘Mahatma’ (or ‘Great Soul’) is known for his civil rights leadership. He was the leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Although he was killed in 1948, his years of civil disobedience to promote peace have influenced countless other leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

What can Gandhi teach us?

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

Gandhi fervently believed in humanity. He trusted and had faith that there were good people in the world. In light of recent terrorist attacks, it has been hard to see that goodness (and much of it) still exists in the world today. But, it does! There is still hope. Gandhi’s words are poignant and true. Though there may be a ‘few drops’ in the ocean that are dirty, the entire ocean does not become dirty.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

When you look in the mirror in the morning, what is the first thing you think? If you are standing in a check-out line at the grocery store, what comes to mind as you see the polished figures on magazine covers? If you are faced with sickness, disability, or failure, what do you think about yourself? What are you becoming because of these thoughts? When we immerse ourselves with positive thinking, we will become positive ourselves. If we think that we might fail, we probably will. What we think, we become. Think GOOD thoughts. Think more of yourself. You are doing better than you think.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

We might feel like our actions are insignificant. It may seem that what we are doing is of no value. Maybe we tell ourselves, “There’s too much bad in the world. It will never change.” Instead of focusing on changing the world, focus on changing yourself. Set goals for how you can improve. If you could change any bad habit, what would it be? Work on remaking yourself first.

“I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.”

Again, with recent devastating events happening in the world it is imperative to look outside of ourselves. When tragedies happen, we unite. We show compassion and love. Pure religion is giving service and being sympathetic to those of different backgrounds, religions, and orientation. Today, try to understand what someone else (a coworker, a neighbor, a family member) might be going through—walk a mile in their shoes. When you ask how they are doing, really listen and seek understanding.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Have the faith to forgive others. Forgiveness does not make you weak; it is a strength. As you forgive others, you will feel an added measure of power. Forgiveness enables us to move forward with life, in spite of defeat or hurt. As we exercise the faith to forgive others, we will be more at peace in our own lives. Is there someone that you need to forgive who has wronged you? How can you move forward?

Gandhi taught us to never lose faith in humanity, to watch our thoughts, to remake ourselves, empathize with others, and learn to forgive. Gandhi was a wise man whose life lessons far extend past the 79 years he spent spreading messages of peace, acceptance and love on Earth.

Cheri Peacock Hendricks is a graduate of SUU who loves running on trails, baking and social media.

This is Why I Pray

This is Why I Pray

C. S. Lewis once called our world “the kingdom of noise.” Messages flood our world. They inundate us. We’re told daily how to act and feel, what to eat and drink, how to be happy. The messages are often contradictory and can send us into a tailspin of indecision and worry.

But there’s a way to sort through myriad of messages hurled from every direction. The way is prayer—heartfelt, meaningful, tender prayer.

Every day, I’m bombarded by messages. How to think, what to buy, how to dress, what to do. The messages are often convoluted, contradictory, brash. In this labyrinth of ideas, where can I turn for direction? How do I sort it all out? That’s why I pray. Powerful, peaceful, personal. Prayer.

Following Your Intuition

Following Your Intuition

By Michael Fitzgerald, FaithCounts.com Contributor


I was out for a morning run. I felt guided, even urged, to follow a new route. Along the way, I stopped at a busy intersection. I turned to my left and there was Maggie, crossing a street and walking towards me. Maggie (not her real name) is a homeless woman whom my wife and I had befriended and helped—in a city 20 miles away.

That run led to a chance meeting with someone I was very happy and surprised to see again. But was it chance, or were there greater forces at work?

What Is Intuition?

Intuition is an inner sense of knowing that can’t be easily explained or explained away. It’s not grounded in our five senses, as normal perception is. You “feel” something that you don’t actually feel with physical touch, or “see” something that you don’t see through your eyes, but what you “feel” and “see” turns out in time to be true and real. Here are a few examples that might look familiar.

You’re in your car, looking for a store that you’ve never been to before. You feel lost, even a little alarmed, until a calming thought floats into your mind: “Turn left here.” You turn left and in a few blocks there’s the store you’ve been looking for.

Or you feel like driving home from work a different way, on side roads, instead of the freeway. Then you find out later that you avoided a multi-car accident.

Or you dial up a friend and he says, “That’s so weird. I was just thinking about you.” Or you pick up a book and turn to the exact page you were thinking about or needed, even though it was not bookmarked.

The list could go on. We’ve all experienced intuition in one form or another, but how does it happen, and why?

Intuition and the Unseen World

We live in a world both seen and unseen. There is more happening in our world than meets our natural eyes and ears. Positive, invisible forces surround us but defy our understanding. I can’t say that I fully understand those forces, but we’ve got this in common: I’ve experienced them through intuition, and I’m sure you have too.

How Do You Know It’s Intuition?

You and I may not experience intuition in the same way, but here are four things that have helped me recognize it in my life.

First, I believe that human beings are both physical and spiritual beings. We have brains and hearts, but also minds and spirits, where intuition happens.

Second, I believe intuition is a real force. I’ve experienced it often and I don’t doubt it. And because I believe it, I’ve come to expect it, and because I expect it, it appears in my life almost daily.

Third, I meditate every day, though not usually in a formal way. Meditating to me is listening intently and paying attention to thoughts and feelings. It takes quiet and patience and a little getting used to. I ask questions in my mind and listen for the answers to come into my heart. I like to write those answers down. They’re frequently surprising and often sacred. I’ve come to trust them. And because I trust them, I continue to get more and more of them.

Finally, I act on my intuition. Believing is one thing; acting on what you believe is another. Faith is more than words. Taking action on intuition is often coupled with risk, but action confirms faith like nothing else and invites more intuition and guidance to come my way.

Intuition and Gratitude

My wife and I had not seen Maggie in months. My conversation with her was past due. It was great to see her and get caught up. Our friendship was renewed, as was my sense of awe. We parted smiling.

I believe the spiritual world is nearer than we think and that intuition is real. If we watch and listen with gratitude in our hearts, and stay open to possibilities, we can get messages from a Source much wiser than ourselves and learn to find help on any day, at any moment of the day.

The Parable of the Honda

The Parable of the Honda

By Coke Newell, FaithCounts.com Contributor


When a former classmate dropped his cellphone, ran the light at Maple and 5th, and T-boned the far side of Jessica’s ancient Honda Civic two days after high school graduation, she thought the flying glass would be the problem. When she couldn’t move her head or left arm 40 seconds later, she knew it was bigger than just cuts on her face and neck.

But even with a fractured left clavicle and two broken vertebrae, Jessica could not be talked out of college that fall. She had been admitted to the university several hours away, and she was determined to go.

Intending to protect their daughter from an inadequate recovery, though, her parents told her they wouldn’t pay for her living expenses at the distant school; she could attend the community college this first year and live at home for free.

Eleven weeks later, Jessica left home for the university, fully committed to covering her own housing and food. It wasn’t that she was a rebel, but that she had a dream. And she admired the Honda: still entirely drivable with mostly just a collapsed passenger-side door. It was emblematic of her determination.

So she went, she moved in, and she started looking for work. It became quickly apparent that she was in physical condition for few—if any—typical college-student jobs. The college employment counselor was truly very sorry.

Anxious to complete at least one semester of college before succumbing to circumstances, she started “extending” her food budget by eating only two meals per day, then two meals only six days a week. And simple meals, at that: cold cereal, oatmeal, and lots of spaghetti with dollar-store pasta sauce.

And then the Honda was stolen, the inevitable victim of that one-key-practically-fits-all quirk common to Civics of that vintage.

No job. No car. Possibly the city bus, but to where? Not to a job.

So she limped to classes. She trudged through homework. She told no one. And she took it to the Lord: OK, I’m not so smart; I’m not so independent; but I also don’t want to just give up.

Walking to Sabbath services that Sunday, she saw parked down the street a car that looked just like her Honda, clear to the smashed in doorframe weather-shielded with a 42-gallon lawn-and-leaf bag and a lot of duct tape. She called the police on her cellphone while she waited nearby, her right hand fumbling with the keys in her purse.

Thirty minutes later, she thanked the officers, then drove the Honda back to her apartment building, where she sat in the parking lot, pondering at length the only thing in the car she hadn’t left there eight days before: an apparently unused donation slip from a church in the next town over.

She took it as a sign—or at least a timely reminder¬—and she walked back to her church building, calculating along the way what an honest review of her records revealed was a tithe, the “tenth part” (Hebrews 7:2, ESV, KJV) she had occasionally paid as a teenager. Too late for the meeting after all, she met the pastor as he emerged from the chapel and handed him a check for $40. It was almost everything she had left in her checking account.

On Monday morning she received a phone call from the college employment counselor, who had something that might be of interest to Jessica. They met that afternoon, but Jessica was almost immediately heartbroken to hear that “this isn’t really about a job.” The real story: Another student had just opted out of school and forfeited a private university grant. Jessica was offered the grant—almost exactly what she needed to pay for housing and food for the remainder of the school year.

Jessica left the counselor’s office smiling but teary eyed. Who would have thought the wreck and the theft of the same ugly car could turn into such a lesson in faith and fortitude?

She thought of it from then on as the Parable of the Honda.

Why choose faith?

Why choose faith?

Kjerstin Ballard, FaithCounts.com Contributor

choose faith

I’m taken with the idea of choosing faith. I’m not sure it’s something we talk about often or deeply enough, assuming that faith—a belief in something bigger than yourself—is an attribute you have or one you don’t. Or more than that, assuming that belief, trust, and faith ultimately indicate a lack of honest questioning on the part of the believer.

In the world we live in, struggle and cynicism are virtues, and faith is often equated with naivety. In this climate of skepticism it’s easy to find yourself unmoored. Because if searching is a fundamental strength, what can possibly be solid enough to hold to? If questioning is the goal, any solid ground is suspect. Humans can only live in this unsettled state for so long, I think, before they grab for whatever resembles truth within their reach and hold on for dear life.

I had a conversation with my niece not too long ago. She’s lovely, seventeen and smart, and at this moment everything is happening in her life: graduation and college. Her future is wide open. More fundamentally, she’s beginning to understand that the world isn’t as black-and-white as she once understood it to be. Her perception of the world, too, feels wide open. She feels out of her depth, she told me, uncertain of what to hold to as everything she knew slowly flips onto its head. I don’t feel terribly qualified to answer. I thought that by now—mid-thirties, husband, kids—I would be done with these sorts of doubts. I find myself working really hard, everyday, to keep afloat of the same stormy waters my niece is dipping her toes into. I’ve found relief in my faith and sanctuary in thoughtful devotional practices. The storm is still there, howling away, and I still make a hard choice every day, but my life feels more manageable when I focus on my faith.

The late author David Foster Wallace, in a commencement speech at Kenyon University, offered some helpful advice along these lines. He said that everyone believes, or worships, something but that we can choose what we worship, and that the consequences of that decision are far-reaching.

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life…there is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things…then you will never have enough.

In other words, we are all believers. Our job, then, is to be intentional about what we believe, to be aware of the choices we are making or failing to make. Perhaps if we can find something expansive enough to be worthy of our worship it will help us be better, more complete people through association. Perhaps the struggle to hold tight to our belief, to act in line with it, is part of faith’s power to perfect us.

Why You Should Meditate Today

Why You Should Meditate Today

By Kimberly Reid, FaithCounts.com Contributor

meditation2When I was about seven and having trouble sleeping, someone told me the sheep-counting trick. I tried it, but my sheep didn’t scamper up to a fence and hop over it one by one, like they were supposed to. They charged the fence in a mass of matted wool and sharp hooves. The more I tried to shepherd them into a single line to be counted, the more frustrated and less sleepy I got.

There’s probably something psychologically revealing about myself in that story. Maybe I’ve always been anxious or I resist relaxing because it’s boring. Whatever the reason, I tend to lose sleep and overuse my brain to the point of migraines. Sometimes these headaches bring me to the massage therapist to work out the knots in my neck.

“Do you meditate?” my therapist asked me one day.

Meditate? Like sit in a lotus position, close my eyes, and try to banish the stampeding sheep in my brain?

The word makes me think of the man who lives down the hall from me in my condo complex. He burns incense and ignores the maintenance man pounding on his door until he’s finished with his practice. I’m not familiar with his eastern traditions, but I admire his focus.

I don’t do any of those things my neighbor does, but I figure my own Christian faith traditions count.

“Sure,” I say to my therapist. “I meditate.”

I read scripture and search for personal meaning, stopping to savor individual verses for as long as I can. I pray about the things I’m grateful for and the long list of things I need help with. If pondering scripture and praying aren’t meditating, I don’t know what is.

“That’s good,” my therapist says. “Meditation helps with stress.”

It turns out maybe I’m not meditating after all.

I’ve been noticing lately that my prayers, while sincere, don’t always center me on realities bigger than myself for as long as I’d like. Sometimes I don’t make it past the door before I’m swallowed up in the bedlam of the day. I decide to find out how an analytical, non-incense-burning, headache-prone person like me can find more lasting peace.

First, I learn that some who practice meditation encourage studying prayers and their meaning before meditating. The studying and prayers are not meditation; they are preceding steps.

Next, I learn that meditation can mean a variety of things. Some empty their minds by focusing only on the sound of their breath. Others fill their minds with positive words, setting their intentions for the day.

The second approach appeals to me. I like purpose, and I like words. As a Christian, it occurs to me that Jesus called Himself the Word. Is there something powerfully faith-building in simple letters strung together? Through using a few mindfully chosen words, might I grow closer to the Word?

Finally, I try it. After reading scripture one morning, I pray and voice my hopes: “Today I read scripture to experience Your wisdom and love. I would like these influences to stay with me through the day, and I will try to let them sink deeper into my mind and heart through meditation. Please help me.”

I sit on the floor. Yes, in the lotus position. I’ve read that sitting with a straight back is the best way to maintain alertness, and since I’m sleep deprived again, I’ll take any tips I can get.

With the first inhale and exhale, I think of two words: “Divine love.” With the second inhale, I focus on two more words: “Divine wisdom.” At first, my practice doesn’t seem like anything special. Getting some extra oxygen first thing in the morning is nice, but I don’t sense much change.

I meditate for only five or ten minutes. When I stand, I notice right away I’m walking a little closer to heaven. And it lasts. The fits and frustrations and stampeding sheep of the day don’t overwhelm me like they normally would. Beginning the morning in stillness slows the clock, giving me the capacity to see, think, and feel before reacting.

With scripture study, prayer, and meditation, I finally have all my sheep in a row.

How I Kept My Faith When I Lost My Job

How I Kept My Faith When I Lost My Job

By Steve Wunderli, FaithCounts.com Contributor

lost job2

A confession: I didn’t really keep my faith, but I did regain it.

The first thing you do when you lose your job is go through emotional stages similar to grief: denial, anger, blame, and finally acceptance. Somewhere in there is self-pity, depression, deflection of responsibility, and loss of faith. It’s a rough road, especially after all the sacrifices it took to get through college, all the late nights and all-nighters working your way up the corporate ladder, not to mention feeling like you had sufficient faith to get you through anything in life.

The next thing you do is look at everyone around you who is working and say to yourself: “I could do that. I could drive a dump truck, or be a bank teller or a school teacher or run a cash register . . .” It must be this primal survival skill of casting the net really wide.

Then once the panic settles down, you can find a realistic path. My advice is to discover: (1) what you are passionate about; (2) what your skills are; and (3) where the opportunities are. I found that when you get out of that space, you just get frustrated. Zeroing in did a lot for my self-confidence. But it wasn’t easy.

I had to learn to have faith in myself: my experience, my skills, my education, and especially my ability to adapt. This is really just having a spiritual sense of yourself and who God wants you to be. That’s the final dimension of faith: Asking Him what He wants you to do. Once you humble yourself to that point, then all the work you do to logically find a job starts to work. Unexpected doors open up, people call you.

I worked like crazy to try get a startup off the ground. I did consulting to make the house payments and I put all home and car repairs on hold. It all fell apart. More stuff broke at home, and the startup never got started. That’s when I asked: “OK, what should I be doing?” That takes humility. Something that does not come easy to me.

Change started to happen—bits of work came in. Nothing permanent, but checks came in here and there and we were making it, barely. And I was enjoying the work. I just needed more of it.

We went through our savings. Sold off things we didn’t need. Cut back on every category in our budget. I worked twice as hard for half the money. But with every little success I added to my portfolio of work. My faith increased. I prayed for more work.
What came was a request for me to volunteer at an inner-city school tutoring third graders in reading. Not exactly the answer I was looking for. But I did it. I was too afraid of what might happen if I didn’t respond to urgings that could be coming from God. Reluctantly I set off to spend an hour a week of my precious time helping with comprehension and word recognition when I could be looking for work. But here’s the thing: I was energized by it. Seeing these kids improve, having someone believe in them, even love them, made all the difference.

Then it struck me one day. That’s all I am, a child in this world trying as hard as I can to learn . . . and God is my mentor. My mindset changed from resentment to gratitude. It was as if God was offering the same words of encouragement to me as I was offering to these kids “Just keep trying, you’re doing great.”

Small miracles began to happen. Even without a permanent job, I was able to reduce our house payment. It took a lot of work and faith, but things began to improve, slowly… like moving up one grade level at a time . More work came in. My new portfolio was multiplying. The kids I was mentoring were progressing, and so was I. My prayers went from “bless me…” to “bless these kids…”
It sounds simple, but I truly believe that when you spend some part of your regular life completely focused on somebody else’s success, you also find your own.

When I finally did get a regular contract, with benefits and a sense of stability, I made one stipulation: Wednesday afternoons were non-negotiable. That time is reserved for building faith—and others.

Stop Everything Right Now and Just Be Still

Stop Everything Right Now and Just Be Still

In our chaotic and busy world, it’s important to take time to be still. A few moments of peace can bring perspective and strength to get through life’s challenges.

The world hears, but it doesn’t listen.
We forget to slow down,
to really pause in the middle of it all
and refocus our attention on what matters the most.
It takes faith to set aside time
to step back and ponder.
But it’s in the still moments that we discover
that the more pressing things aren’t always the most important.

Former CIA Operator Risks His Life to Fight Human Trafficking

Former CIA Operator Risks His Life to Fight Human Trafficking

Modern abolitionist and former U.S. special agent Tim Ballard now personally rescues hundreds children from the sex and slave trade around the world through a private foundation, Operation Underground Railroad. Watch how his story of faith unfolded in the face of great fear.

To learn more about Tim and his efforts, see the O.U.R. website or find out how you can watch his upcoming documentary, The Abolitionists.

Fear is darkness.
It is the opposite of what God wants you to do. In fact—it is the tool of what the enemies of God use to debilitate you, to stop you in your tracks, to kick you off course so you cannot accomplish the things that you are here on earth to accomplish.
My worst fear on earth is losing one of my own children. I deal every day with lost children. I see how easily they get snatched my evil people and it is the most miserable thing on earth.
Faith is action– it’s an action word. If you take the action away it is pretty much useless it seems to me.
I was a special agent for the U.S government, I was an undercover operator. I’d go in and try to find where kids were being trafficked in the U.S and outside. I started recognizing that there were gaps that private organizations could or should be filling. I started thinking, “I could do more, I could actually rescue more kids working with the government in a private capacity” and then the thought entered, but I dismissed it immediately, “maybe you should go do that.”
For me it was so scary I had six kids, a stable job and I’m thinking, “I feel that the lord is telling me to go do this thing, how am I going to get around this?”
“I’m not going to do that, that would require me leaving all the things that I think bring me security and peace. I wouldn’t know the answer to that until I quit the job and starting running at the problem. What happened was, the miracle of faith.
The lord just saw, “okay he is running, look at it, yes he is doing something.”
Resources came in to help finance our operations and our missions, these things happen. But they didn’t happen until I employed the faith.
I’ve walked in to those dens where they kidnapped people—children, and forced them into slave labor or forced them into things much worse than that.
My fear of those situations happens well before I get there. If I am already there I rarely, rarely feel fear when I’m there. Because I have already taken the action and the lord is with me and my team. We all talk about it, we feel that.
The greatest fruit of our missions is to see a child go from victim, to survivor, to conqueror of their situation.
It’s not an easy process. We have been able to go back and see them and contrast what it was like when they were in captivity verses now when they have hope, and that hope becomes faith. It’s something that is tangible. You see it, it’s physical.
Once we feel inside—and I think all of us feel it, once we feel our calling, faith is the thing you’re now going to use to realize that goal. It’s the action, it’s the belief that you are going to get to that place you fell you are supposed to go. It’s like moving there. That’s the faith.