Friday, September 21, 2018

Good Seeds in the Soil of My Brazilian Heart

Good Seeds in the Soil of My Brazilian Heart

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018 BY CINTIA LISTENBEE (TEXAS)
The Brazilian economy was no joke while I was growing up in the 1980s. There was so much turmoil around us, and the country needed to change its currency several times in order to achieve stability. I remember my grandmother saying that she’d go to the bakery to buy bread with cruzeiros, but the currency had changed and the baker was only accepting cruzados which made her money invalid. I can’t begin to tell you about the violence in the slum near our home. We could not trust in the law enforcement. In the midst of hearing drug dealers firing shots in the slums, I also heard the sweet voices of my parents, grandmothers, and other adults in the family praising God. While they couldn’t shield me from the harshness of society, they taught me how to find safety in the words of the Bible.   
Cintia (in green) with her Vó Maria da Gloria Inacio Furtado (center)
and her Vó Lady de Souza (right) celebrating their birthdays in Brazil,
following a thanksgiving service to God
My family used creativity in their way of teaching me the Bible. I heard biblical wisdom being sung and spoken by my parents and grandparents every day. It wasn’t until I found myself reading my English Bible in America that I realized that all the advice I got from them over the years came from the book of Proverbs. Now, that was brilliant! Speaking and singing about the Bible was a daily habit in our family. The adults in the family were not preaching at us, they were professing a living faith that burned inside their hearts. Those words of life went straight to my spirit, and it is now bearing fruit.    
One of the scriptures my grandmother quoted the most was Psalm 91. In Psalm 91, the psalmist starts by declaring that he who dwells under the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty and says of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2, KJV).
I don’t know if my grandmother thought about the turmoil in Brazil when she quoted Psalm 91. I did sense a great trust in her. She would sing about this Psalm when she was hand-washing her clothes. She would say it in the afternoon, right before she enjoyed a cup of sweet black tea. The words of the Bible were such an organic part of life because all of life was for God’s service. I can't thank my family enough for such spiritual heritage.    
My family modeled the importance of verbalizing our trust in God in everyday living. My own journey started when I was a freshman in college, all alone in a foreign land. I found out that my folks set me up for success with all their Bible singing and talking. Before my grandmother passed away, I became hungry to experience God for myself. I learned that in order to know God, I must read the Word. I continually read and study the Bible. I do not read to become an expert, I read because God's words are my very life.
Unlike my grandmother, I don’t hand-wash my clothes but I do sing and speak God’s words when I’m doing other chores. I try to find multiple opportunities to organically speak the words I find in the Bible to my children. Sometimes I teach the Bible to my children informally, like my ancestors did. I am reminded that I need to teach God’s word to my children when I sit at home and when I walk along the road, when I lie down and when I get up (see Deut. 11:19). I am hoping to plant good seeds the young hearts of my children. I trust God to be faithful to the words in the Bible.      
I’ve been in the U.S. for 20 years now. While it is unfair to compare this country with my homeland in the 80s, I can say that we live in difficult times. When the going gets tough, my spirit goes back to the words from Psalm 91 that I heard long ago. My mouth is inclined to say, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”   
My spirit has been blessed by the intentionality of my family in Brazil. They could do nothing about the declining economy or the shootings around them. What they could do was to believe God, profess God's word, and plant good seeds in my young heart.   
What type of seeds are you planting today, my friend? Are they seeds of faith or fear? I encourage you to hold on to God and to scripture. Confess God’s word so those around you can be blessed by it. 
- originally published in The Upper Room's Blog

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