Sunday, December 25, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Grace

Every story in our Bible points to Jesus, and Jesus brought grace.  I cannot mention anything about Jesus without also thinking about grace.

Last year at this time, if you would have asked me if I understood grace, I am sure that I would have said yes, but I most certainly did not.  But God was bringing about in me an awakening to the truth of grace.

Grace is unmerited favor with God.  It is His choosing of individuals simply because He chose them.  Not because they obeyed the rules or because they were good enough or tried hard enough.  Grace is explosive, out of the box, scandalous, and completely risky.

God became a man, stepped into our world, and suffered death on a cross.  All because He so loved every single person he ever made or created so much that He wanted to make a way for humanity to know Him.  Know as in a deeply intimate way.  He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners He suffered death (Ro 5:8).  He took a risk on humanity even though all of us would not chose to love Him in return for the love He offers.

The thing about grace is that it offers freedom.  When understood, it gives an amazing awareness to your sin all the while setting free.  However, I imagine that most of us will never totally grasp the concept of grace.

People are always making rules, rules that are meant to make it easier to experience God's grace, but those rules just make it harder to understand grace.  Some say we should teach our kids about Santa.  Some say we should not.  Some think Christmas trees are evil; some do not.  The truth is Christmas is rooted in pagan traditions.  Somewhere, some perhaps well-meaning group of people decided to merge the pagan celebration of winter solstice with their own Christian beliefs and began celebrating Jesus's birth at the same time.  Some say Jesus wasn't even born in December but in September.  So what should we do?  Does our celebration of Christ interwoven with pagan symbols such as the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and Santa Claus betlittle or degrade Christ?

I believe the answer because of God's grace is no.  In 1 Cor 8, Paul addresses a similar manner, and he says that we are free to eat food sacrificed to idols if we so desire, unless in doing so, we are a stumbling block to a weaker brother.  Romans 14-15 is also a passage important to this conversation.  I believe in this instance Christmas trees are like meat formally sacrificed to idols.  They have pagan roots, but are generally accepted by Christians as a fun way to decorate and celebrate Christmas.  And we are given freedom to do so in grace.

The Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth for us in the gray areas. What the Holy Spirit convicts me to do in certain situations, He may not convict you to do in your own situation. 

The truth of the matter is that people who don't understand grace often have much to say about others sin.  They see situations only as their rules dictate and have very little understanding of others heart conditions.  Grace gives you eyes to see and ears to hear and understand.  It doesn't allow you to get past your own sin without responding in gratitude and extending at least a portion or measure of the grace received.  Grace is gentle and speaks truthfully and lovingly.  It allows you to be you with no pressure of following all of the rules.

This year, the gift of grace is the greatest one I've received.

And I pray for you this:

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work
2 Corinthians 9:8

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Do Not Be Afraid

Earlier this week, I had a disappointment.  I am full of insecurities and this disappointment played on my insecurity.  It made me pause and question who I am and how I am made, and if I had heard truth spoken to me personally.  It lead me down the path of fear and of shame.

I was reminded of Mary and of Joseph and how crazy it must have been to hear an angel tell her that she was going to have the Lord's child.  How Mary must have wondered if she was crazy!  That is until she felt that baby kick within her and until she realized that a baby grew though she'd never been with a man.  Surely amidst the disgrace and doubt, she would have known it was true.  But just as certain as that, surely others looked at her in disgrace.  She had become pregnant without laying with Joseph.  As far as anyone else knew, there was only one way to get pregnant, and people supposed that Mary had done something shameful.  Yet she was innocent.  Isn't it interesting how God chooses the "foolish things to shame the wise" (1 Co 1:25)?  Our Lord was birthed into a blameless situation but people assumed otherwise.  Our sin already upon Him from the moment He entered our world.  The Pharisaical criticism already there.

The Bible does not talk about the details of those days, but I recently heard an interesting perspective on Joseph. Joseph was supposed to take Mary and have her stoned.  At the time he did not fully understood that Christ was within her, and he was going to give her a quiet divorce.  Perhaps, she even traveled to Bethlehem with him in hopes of protecting her and keeping her safe from others while he was gone.  He dealt with her with grace.  As he pondered what to do with Mary, he dreamed a dream and an angel told him the truth of Mary's situation.  He too would suffer consequences of saving and marrying a woman many believed carried an illegitimate child.

Both heard an angel say to to each of them separately, "Do Not Be Afraid."  Mary and Joseph had much reason to be afraid.  And yet they chose to submit and believe.

They acted in faith as they married.  No one would know whether this was indeed the Christ child until 30 years later when he began to minister.  Surely they saw evidences as they did at the temple when he was 12, yet I bet no one had stopped the scandalous whispers as Jesus grew up.  They chose not to be afraid of man's response and walked in faith anyway.

How often we are knocked off our rocker and driven by FEAR!  My disappointment could have driven me to fear.  In fact I considered it several moments throughout a day's time, and then God spoke and the fear was gone.  He reminded me of who I am in Him, not who the enemy wants me to think I am.

Rebekah Gilbert said on her blog recently, "Don't be afraid of the what-ifs. Don't be afraid to share the redemptive love of Jesus. Don't be afraid to live life. Don't be afraid to love. Don't be afraid of the people who would put you in shackles if they could. Don't be afraid."

Will you join me in walking in freedom from fear?
Come with me out of the darkness of men's lies and into His glorious light.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking Backing Christmas: more thanks

Christmas - sometimes I just find myself getting stressed with the season for no apparent reason, except the enemy.  At any rate, I want to count my joys and be mindful of my happies.  Actually, I've been missing my kids a whole lot and that's part of the problem - battling a sense of sadness.  Princess thrives in big school, but I just miss her.  {Can't wait for the Christmas break, which is far too short.}

So on to counting.

8.  Watching my son stand at the door in his footie jammies and hair sticking up this way and that waving to his sister as she leaves on the bus.  {Bittersweet because every day he too says, "But I didn't want her to go" and I join him in my heart.}

9.  Watching DoodleBug eat with her mouth so full of french fries it looked like she would explode.

10.  Watching her climb into the toy box and lay down on the stuffed dog and say, "night night."

11.  Listening to her chirp with glee, "bakpak, bakpak, bakpak."  (Backpack)

12.  Kissing Buzz Lightyear to hear Doodle's laughter.

13.  Encouraging emails from friends

14.  A love, a hope, a joy that wells up to overflowing due to the incredible goodness and presence of the Lord.  Inexplicable and immeasurable.  I have seen the favor of the Lord this year.  Experienced Him anew and grace, deep grace.

15.  Christmas cards!

16.  Listening to Princess read.

17.  Playing Star Wars music and making Princess and Speed Racer laugh.

18.  Seeing my children light up when they spotted me watching them rehearse their Christmas songs.

19.  A rendezvous to the gas station with my hubby.

20.  Waking up to this song:

First day of gratitude.

Join me in listing your joys, the things you are thankful for.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Conviction

I know I have probably shared things on this blog that God has since convicted me of and told me not to do.  As I grow and change, this little ole blog will grow and change.

God's been talking to me lately about convictions.  As believers we are one in the Spirit, but He convicts and moves us to different actions sometimes.

This blog and my Christmas posts are not intended to tell you how you should or should not celebrate Christmas.  I want to be careful to allow you to decide to do what God wants for you or your family, which unless it is spelled out black and white in the Bible will be different for each family.

The passages I've been looking at are Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8.  Romans 14:22 has particularly hit me hard: whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God, so that you do not condemn yourself by what you approve.  Being a word person, I must be more careful with my words.  :)

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.  As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.  If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.  Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.  It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.  So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves."  Romans 14:13-22

Monday, December 5, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Awake

As most of you know, I've been writing the material for our church women's conference for some time now.  The theme of it is Awaken: A Heart to Heart with God.  I am very excited about it.  But as I've thought about awaken, wake up, awakening, and all of those synonyms, I've noticed something.  God's people are regularly being called to awaken.  There are numerous books written with a wake up call in the title or subtitle.  There are more songs than you would ever begin to imagine about waking up and awakening, and bringing the dead to life by waking up.  These things are not by coincidence, and it has really left me wondering what God is doing in His church today.  What happens to those of us who do not wake up?  And what are we being made ready for?

In regards to Christmas, I believe He is calling us to awaken to the truth of the Christmas message.  This is a Christmas song by Casting Crowns called, "While You Were Sleeping."  I get teary every time I hear it.

What if you are being written into the greatest story ever told - His Story? 

Will you awaken to be a wise man seeking Him or will you be like the rest of Bethlehem, unaware of a King in your midst? 

Will you awaken to His call to be a disciple or will you be a crucifier?

There is no reason to be unaware anymore, and yet, He is still calling us to wake up!  The time is coming when time will be no more.  Will you be ready?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Tired


I awoke tired.  Its her birthday today, and I overslept, waking to look at the clock not realizing that it said 6:30 instead of 5:30.

The sounds of my son coming down the stairs, and my husband quickening to get her up made me take notice of the real time.

She groaned as I tried to help her quickly get ready.  Her grumbling caused daddy to grumble, and then me to grumble.  Like a snowball that builds, we were all building one bad emotion on top of another.

The day fell into me.  A sense of tiredness.  A sense of a need to stop.  To turn back the hands of time and restart.  To awake refreshed. 

Alas, my mind stops the snowball, and says, "Enough."  I quickly give Him the rest of the day to redeem from my grumbling tired mess.

He takes the battle of my mind, of my to-do list and says, "Rest."  Here in this moment.  "Let not yourself worry about tomorrow, for I am taking care of that day."

I relax, happy to oblige Him His work, and freely take mine - resting as I move about the day.


Taking Back Christmas: Giving

On the heels on my last post, a great find I am using this year for my little ones is this:  Truth in  the Tinsel.  You can make an ornament every day.  I know that I will not do that portion of things, but I love the way the story and activities are laid out.  Besides that, it seems to really  add a depth to the Christmas story for little ones that most of the advent calendars do not.

Let me be honest here, one of the reasons I struggle with Christmas is simple:  all the extra stuff.  As a mother who is totally learning home organization, managing my home and the stuff in it is many times my #1 struggle.  If Satan attacks me, he's always going to use my lack of skill in this area in attempt to defeat me.  I don't like the fact that my family has more than enough almost all of the time while others just want food or a warm coat.  Wrapping my mind around the fact that "Christmas is for kids and they should get all that they want" just isn't happening.  I'm not saying Christmas should not be a fun time for kids to look forward to, but I am saying that it does not feel right to provide above and beyond for wants when many do not have needs.  Christmas in my mind's eye is not only about God stepping into our world, but also a time to remember to give to someone in need.

Practically I want to learn to aside a portion of the new gifts we receive to give back to God.  Is this not a practical way to do what men and women of the bible did in the tithe and firstfruits?  I'm not talking about regifting gifts you did not want, but giving away gifts you just might like to keep, and teaching your children to do the same.  Is not this what we are charged with when we are commanded to teach these things to our children as we walk and talk and go about our day?  Whether I am able to give off the top or off the bottom (new or used) says a lot about my walk with Christ.

We give gifts because the wise men gave gifts to Christ.  He was recognized as a king.  But he was a lowly baby born in a stable, laid in a manger, in a town that had no room for Him.  They gave gifts to the lowly and needy king.  As God, He had no spiritual need.  As a man, He was not rich by earthly standards.  They gave to honor Him. 

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."  2 Cor 8:9

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."  Luke 12:33

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’"  Matthew 25: 35-36, 40

Some ways to give to the needy:
  1. Sponsor a child in need at your church or pick one up one off an Angel Tree in the mall or at Chick-Fil-A.
  2. Consider giving honorary gifts to friends and family by giving to Compassion.
  3. Sponsor a child from Compassion
  4. Buy products from Mercy House Kenya.  This is a house that exists to help pregnant women, making a safe place for delivery and providing care for them after babies are born.  The idea reminds me of my bff from college.  See their vision statement here.
  5. Buy products from Dayspring that benefit Mercy House. 
  6. Consider Amazima Ministries.
  7. Check out this list of shops to buy from.  The only link that no longer works is the Rahab Ministries link.
Let me know if you know of other ways to give gifts that give back.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: The Battle

On Saturday, we began to put out our Christmas decorations.  I don't know about where you stand, but I want desperately for Christmas to be about the birth of baby Jesus, not Santa Claus, not presents and toys, but Jesus - God stepping down into our world, God with us!

I have a kid's nativity set - it is the Little People version.  Each year, I search for the best way to share the Christmas message with my kids.  Last year, I purchased a advent nativity calendar, where the kids can stick on a new element of the Christmas story into the scene and read a piece of the story each day the 24 days before Christmas.  The stickers don't stick so well, so this year, I purchased the same sort of thing but it is a felt board, and I can use the story book from last year with the new scene.  At the store, the clerk and I carefully counted to make sure I had all 24 pieces, and I did.  I got home, laid the bag in the basement, and then got it out on Saturday morning to hang up.

While I was getting it out, I was also chasing DoodleBug around the basement.  She had followed me into the basement and was getting into mischief.  In the meantime, I was dropping two of the pieces onto the floor unbeknownst to me.  When I made it upstairs, I started sorting the pieces to find that four were missing.  Big sigh!  I went to check everywhere I had been, only to find two on the steps.  I was a little upset, as I walked around a few times not to find any more of the pieces.  Daniel and the kids came into the room and recognized my frustration.  I snapped and said that I just wanted some space.  The response I got was, "Now it's Christmas!" said in overt sarcasm.

I was defeated in that moment.  "Great - now I have a reputation for making Christmas this thing I don't want it to be."  The very reason why Christmas is a struggle for me had come to pass, and I wondered if Christmas could really be celebrated in its purest form.  No longer was a Jesus an infant in a manger in a nativity scene, but he was a man on a cross, and I was left to wonder if this man I worshiped was just going to die right before my eyes.  The battle raged within me - I am a sinner and there is no hope for me said my thoughts.

A mere man or a God?

I realized that Jesus is no more in the nativity sets and scenes than He is in Santa Claus.  We can take clean elements and make them dirty when our hearts do not lay prostrate before Him.  An idol can be formed of any image - even baby Jesus in a manger or a few lost stars on the basement floor.

My idol - a complete set, a few missing stars?

The battle of my mind continued on, and I wondered who would get the victory.  Satan?  Christ?  Who would win?  Where would my thoughts continue to go?  Could I really be free from the games Satan wanted me to play?  Was Christ a mere man on that cross?

I realized that Jesus came to die for this very moment, for what was happening in my now. Oh glorious day!  I did not have to fear who would get victory or who would gain control of the battle that waged within me.  No, that Christ was not a mere man who just died on the cross.  Nay!  He was and is God with us, and He has already won the victory.  He died but he arose!  He was and is truly God, who has won all the battles victoriously.

I am free to be a new me who is not defined by the Christmas struggle, but by the freedom He gives me to be His child, worshipping at His feet.  Not worshipping the elements of Christmas, but the One True God, who is "before all things, and in Him all things hold that in everything He might have supremacy." (Col 1:17, 18)

Worship At His Feet Pictures, Images and Photos
No more Christmas idols for me

I suspect God allowed me to drop those stars and find them later to show me that Christmas is about God living in me.  My children are entrusted to find Him at the time when He will open their eyes.  The story is vital to tell, but it is meaningless if I don't live the story that I tell.  So I watch for them to see God living in me, as He redeems me every day, even in this moment.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:20

What Christmas idols are you battling?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking Back Christmas: Thanksgiving

I am not sure that we can be truly worshipful until we are truly thankful.  When I find myself in combat over the Christmas holiday, it is because I am ungrateful in the direction I feel lead.  And sometimes that is my own doing.  So today I count my blessings.

I am thankful for:
  1. my husband, who I grow more and more in love with each day.  I am grateful to God that He grows us and binds us together.
  2. my children.  I am thankful for the noise and the life that they bring to our home.
  3. Princess.  She has become quite a joy to me as she's gotten older.  I am thankful that she is learning to read.
  4. Speed Racer.  He is sensitive and loving, and I am thankful for his eyes that speak without speaking and for his bright smile.
  5. DoodleBug.  My kids all look very similar, but Doodle reminds me of my dad, and I find peace in that.  I am thankful for feeling confidant in motherhood with her, for her being the third and possibly final child.
  6. You - for reading my words and encouraging me by doing so.
  7. The freedom to celebrate the holidays in the way that would be pleasing to the Lord.
I will continue counting as the holiday season progresses.  Join me.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking Back Christmas

I realize I am doing something many hate.  I am posting about Christmas before Thanksgiving is done.  But it is that time of year again - the time of year that I hate to love and love to hate.  I struggle to remain focused on the true meaning of the season of both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Last year I participated in Sarah Markley's 100 joys, but this year I am going to lead my own Christmas series.  I hope to post lists of my own blessings and joys as I did last year, while also thinking about the Christmas season.  I will write posts in order to refocus my own Christmas battles and to combat the enemy's desire to keep me from worshiping our Savior.  In doing so, I hope to help you refocus as well, so it will be a combination of a counting of blessings as well as devotions to the real meaning of the season.  I don't seem to be able to stick to it if I say I will post every day, so I'm not going to say that.  I hope you will join me in Taking Back Christmas.  Feel free to link up, add your own blessings, or leave a note in the comments on how you are Taking Back Christmas. 

I do hope to come back tomorrow, counting my blessings.  Join me, and be blessed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Valleydale

I am not sure how I will find the right words to say, but here goes...

The face of my church is changing.  In August I posted about the passing of Rob Murray.  At the beginning of October, our beloved missions pastor resigned, and just Sunday, our beloved senior pastor finished his last day at Valleydale.  Certainly, if Rob was considered the "face of Valleydale," Calvin Kelly was the "voice of Valleydale."  He was our faithful shepherd for 27 years.  That, in and of itself, is a great accomplishment.  How many churches or pastors could boast such a thing?  In my own growing up life, normal for me was having a new pastor every 3, 4, or 5 years.  I have been at Valleydale since 2000, so Calvin Kelly has been my pastor for 11 years - longer than any other pastor I've known.  Being a pastor at the same place speaks volumes in my humble opinion of the tremendous love he held and most likely still holds for his beloved Valleydale Church.  He finished strong with great courage and bravery that will not be forgotten.  I only wish I had greater words to write a more fitting tribute.

November is a time of grief for me as I remember my earthly father who was both born and who died during this month.  Now I actively grieve again, this time the letting go of one of my spiritual fathers.  Due to my lack of understanding of the church government, I know I've not always thought the right things or even said the right things about Valleydale, but she is my beloved church - a place of grace for me.  When I started to Southeastern Bible College {before kids}, I was the only one in my class who could communicate the purpose of her church to her class:

G - glorify God through worship,
R - relate to other in biblical community,
A - apply the truth of God's word through discipleship,
C - cultivate an attitude of service,
E - expand God's kingdom through evangelism.

In the years that have passed since those SEBC days, we've simplified our purpose to: worship, connect, serve, but it is still a place of grace.

When I started here, I was in the darkest days of my life and darker they became.  But truth was instilled in me and Christ set me free from the pit.  This past year, I've been seeing God's work in Valleydale.  I was both shocked and not surprised by Calvin's decision.  Shocked because that's not the direction I wanted to see, but not surprised because God's activity is unmistakable for Valleydale right now.  Through my eyes, I wish God's plan was taking another path for Calvin (as well as Saint) such that they were staying with us; however, I see and know that it is God's good plan for us, and I submit to that.

At the beginning of the year, Calvin shared the State of the Church address, and I encourage Valleydale members to go back and read this post to read the 7 things expected of every church member, to remind us of our obligation and of the things God has done in us.  What I believe God is leading me to post for encouragement to Valleydale is Ephesians 4:1 through 5:21.  I hope you will read it and allow God to speak to you through it.  Church transition can be a scary thing, but we must stand united and not allow our church to be divided during this time.

I am a mere eyebrow hair when it comes to my part at Valleydale, and no one has asked me to post this, but I am confidant in His work in Valleydale and in me.

Calvin resigns
Saint's final blog post

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beyond - Five Minute Friday


Beautiful pots of mums.  Seasonal decorations.  Candles lit.  Wreath on the door.  Every detail imagined prepared.  Every speck of dust removed.  Carpet vacuumed.

Photo Credit:
The girls arrived for food, conversation, and a game.  They eat the scrumptious food prepared.  The house is perfectly decorated to every detail.  Every picture hung.  Every piece of furniture in its place.  The table cloths perfectly arranged.  Hor d'oeuvres ready.

The women clamor in ready to eat.  Ready to talk.  Ready to play. 

The conversation is of football, Halloween costumes, and things lingering on the surface.  There is no smell of anything cooking beyond what we see.

And yet I long to go beyond.  To see inside the hearts.  To see beyond the surface and into the depths of them.  Does this perfectly manicured life truly satisfy?

While everything is beautiful and nothing is wrong with any talk or detail, I wonder as I watch how Jesus is allowed to go beyond the pristine image, beyond what appears to be, into the fullness of broken hearts hidden.

I linger, watch, and wonder if I will ever know their beyond.  I hunger for more.

It all appears the abundant life, and yet it is unlike the abundance Jesus promises.  Is He allowed entrance into every heart chamber?  or is He, unlike me, allowed to see what is really within?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vlog Day 20: Ruth 3:10-13

A woman of noble character
 A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
   all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
   and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
   bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
   she provides food for her family
   and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
   her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
   and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
   and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
   and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
   she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31:10-31

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vlog Day 19: Ruth 3:7-9

ps.  yes, that is my son you occasionally hear in the background defeating sith lords.

Also check out this great song by Mandi Mapes called "Sweet sweet Grace."  It is an amazing song about covering.  {I couldn't find an embed code for it.}

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vlog Day 18: Ruth 3:5-6

 "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission." 1 Timothy 2:11

"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

A day

I haven't done a real life post lately, so today I'm going to.  I haven't been to bible study in 3 weeks.  My little Doodlebug was sick today and last week I just needed a break.  The day started out well.  I am doing the South Beach Diet and lost 5 pounds in a week, so I was excited about that.  And then I emailed some ladies, and felt pretty good about that.  But that's about the highlights of the day.

And let's be clear, it's not as though the day has really been bad.  It's just been frustrating.  Nothing I've tried to do has worked out very well, from going to the pharmacy to talking on the phone or eating food.  I prayed before the day went in the opposite direction that God would touch and speak directly to me today.  I felt a quietness in my heart and soul, and I wanted to experience His quiet touch in response.  The day is not over, so I am hoping to feel His touch in some way before it is over.  I am a girl, so I'll let you figure out what this means in relevance to this post, but let's just say that the fact that I am a girl has not helped my day today.

The fact that I've been secluded here at home due to cold season doesn't help anything either.  And by secluded I just mean I've not been to bible study and been around other women - a thing that is most vital to my emotional well being and health.  These are the days made of weakness, when sin lurks just underneath the surface, a lack of patience is clear, and I am aware of my limitations and how closely I identify with the human race and not my Savior.  The bible says however that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and in my weakness He is made strong.  In truth a piece of me wants to run into a cave and hide and stay there for a few days, maybe longer, but He tells me to let my light shine.  {Little light comes out of a cave, by the way.}

So instead I write because maybe in my writing He strengthens me and it lights the way for someone else feeling frustration.

An excerpt of one moment of the day:
I wait in carpool line to drop my son off at preschool.  I turn around to unbuckle him, and when I look around I scream an unexpected scared scream because the car in front of me is backing into me, or so I think.  I see the women in the car in front of me react immediately to my scream.  I watch as the car in front drives forward, then a woman gets out and inspects her tail end.  She looked older and already tired from the day.  I roll my window down a little feeling on edge and wait for the woman to speak to me.  The woman inspects the rear of her car and looks at the front of my car.

The woman speaks, "I don't see any damage.  Did we hit?"

I say, "I don't think so, though I screamed because you were backing into me."

"No, I didn't back up.  This is a rental car.  It's a Toyota Prius.  I wasn't backing up.  I mean it's a piece, but I wasn't backing up."  the woman says.

I look at the red, pristine, car in front of her and wonder why it's being a rental car has anything to do with anything, and then I look back to the woman again.

"I mean I was not backing up." she says again.

I look at her, "Well, I didn't feel a bump so I guess we are good," but I began thinking to myself, "Either I was moving or you were backing up and I wasn't moving, was I?"

The woman gets back into her red Prius and moves forward. I move along carpool line as is normal never knowing exactly what just happened.

And I've had a series of these type of interactions today, not really knowing if they are interruptions or divine appointments.  I wait for the Lord to redeem the day knowing that He can and will.

Just as I was about to hit publish, an unexpected word of encouragement.  How like the Lord!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 16: Ruth 2:14-23

***Today I will finish Ruth 2 and tomorrow I hope to be back to vlogging."

See Ruth 2:14-23.

Now we see Boaz also offering her bread dipped in wine vinegar and a seat with the harvesters.  She ate until she was full and had some leftover, just like I talked about yesterday.  She can now feed someone else if she chooses with the overage. When He fills us to overflowing, we can feed others with His provision.

Boaz instructs his men not to embarrass her if she picks up in areas where she was really not allowed.  But instead he tells them to pull some of their own stalks out and drop them so that she can glean them.  She continues gleaning until she has 22 liters worth of barley.  Can you imagine?  Sounds like a lot to lug around to me.  She goes back to town at the end of the day to Naomi.  She does choose to feed Naomi with her leftover bread.  Naomi wants to know where Ruth worked and blesses the man who took care of her.  Ruth tells her that she worked for Boaz.  And now, for the first time, Ruth finds out who Boaz is to her and to Naomi.  He is their close relative and kinsman redeemer.  As Ruth talks, Naomi reinforces what Boaz has said to Ruth about working with his girls and says that in another field she would be harmed.  And Ruth continues working there until the end of the harvest season.

This is a really big deal for Naomi to find out that Ruth is working for Boaz - her kinsman redeemer.  Perhaps in her heart she is swirling with the possibilities of what might happen with this situation.  Remember Naomi doubted God's goodness to her, but here is more hopefulness, and she acknowledges God's goodness.  In verse 20 she says, "He has not stopped showing his hesed to the living and the dead."  She planted seeds of doubt in Chapter 1, but God is going to be faithful to plant hope and faith to reap a harvest of blessing.  You see His covenant with His people depends on no one but Himself.

The kinsman-redeemer was to buy back a relative from bondage, to avenge a kinsman's murder, to redeem and object such as land through payment, act as a redeemer for a deceased kinsman as in marry his widow.  This is huge!  I want to shout Hallelujah for Ruth and Naomi, don't you?  But wait, it's gonna get even better!

You may be in a situation of doubt and hopelessness, but if you are His child, God is working it out for your good.  You may be in a situation of desperation, where you have nothing, but He is working it out to provide for you!  He is faithful to His children.  And He is faithful to those who put their trust in Him.  Allow Him to show you to measure of His goodness and send His reviving to you. 

Listen to this song, "Give Reviving" by Chelsey Scott.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 15: Ruth 2:8-13

***Please accept my apologies for the break during a blog series.  Oops.  Today I aim to get back on track and keep blogging through the end of the month.***

So we are in Ruth 2:8-13.

This is the first time that Ruth and Boaz meet.  He tells her to continue gleaning in his field - that it is a safe place to work for her.  Being a foreigner made it dangerous for her to work in the fields because men of ill repute were likely to take advantage of her.  Her position was lower than a servant girl.  But he was making her at least equal to a servant girl, allowing her to glean with the freedom from harm and allowing her to drink from the water jars when thirsty.  He was providing for her needs both of hunger and thirst. 

The Lord  wants us to come to Him hungry and thirsty for Him, and He fills us up to overflowing with more of Him.  If there is only one thing I am known for at the end of my days, I want it to be that I was hungry and thirsty for God and He filled me to overflowing so that others became thirsty for Him too.  I'm not sure I am there yet.  But He is a great provider to the hungry and weak just as Boaz was for Ruth. Psalm 107:9 says, "for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things."  But looking to Matthew we see that after Jesus came not only are we to hunger and thirst Him we are to provide for the hungry and thirsty just as Boaz did: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" Matthew 25:35.

But also, we see in a Ruth a humility like that of Jesus.  She was lower than a servant girl, but still seeking to do her part.  Hebrews 2:9 says, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death."  She didn't let her position stop her from working and in doing so she was blessed.

We see Ruth asking "why me?" to Boaz, and he explains that she is known for her love of her mother in law in leaving her family in Moab and coming to live in Judah.  Doing this must have been at least as rare then as it is now.  He blesses her and says, "May the LORD repay you for what you have done.  May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

It is a repeat of the promise that God would cover her as He covers His own people.  Psalm 91:4 says, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

She thanks him and says he has spoken kindly to her.  The word here for kindly is labe meaning heart.  It means he spoke with great passion and favor toward her.  He was obviously genuine and compassionate toward her, and she acknowledges it.  It also implies courage - perhaps it was courageous of Boaz to act in such a way toward her.  But nonetheless, she is on his heart.

Oh, sweet friends, you too are on His Heart!  He loves you with an everlasting eternal kind of love.  Never ending, never failing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 10: Ruth 2:1-3

I've been thinking about Ruth and Orpah a lot.  God has stirred in me some thoughts about a controversial topic of which I'd rather not think about or write about, and truly I'm not ready to write about it.  But as He continues to stir these thoughts, I began to think about Ruth more, and her decision to leave Moab.  She had to accept that His ways were higher and better than the ways of life in Moab, even if His ways did not seem to jive with what she felt was true.  I wondered what drew her into this truth.  In what ways did she sense His goodness and love for her?  You see Orpah thought life was good enough in Moab so she didn't leave and presumably she missed a blessing.  We don't know what ultimately happened to her or if she remarried, but she missed an opportunity for a greater relationship with Yahweh.  What was different about Ruth?  Or was it simply her accepting an invitation?  a softness of heart?  A hunger for something different?

That aside, today we are looking at Ruth 2:1-3, which says,

"Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor."  Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”  So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech."

Here we see more evidence of God's behind the scenes work.  What are the odds that Ruth would find herself gleaning in a field owned by a relative of Elimelech and therefore, Naomi?  Was it mere chance that she picked that particular field?  Or was her footsteps directed in some way by a loving God?

"In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:6
"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  Psalm 16:11

I read over at Gypsy Mama today that success is found in obedience.  {You will be blessed if you go read this post.

I wonder how God is directing your path today?  Be still and surrender to Him.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vlog Day 9: Ruth 1:19-22

This song by Sandra McCracken, "O Heart Bereaved and Lonely," reminded me of Naomi.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vlog Day 8: Ruth 1:16-18

The voice and the video do not match up and so you may want to just listen rather than watch.  I know why this happened this time, but I wasn't sure I would capture what I wanted to say in another video, so left it as is.

Meditate on the precious promise of God's presence and love in this song:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6: Ruth 1:8-10

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home.  May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me.  May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband."  Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, "We will go back with you to your people."  Ruth 1:8-10

{Today I'm writing instead of vlogging.}

Naomi has packed up and prepared along with her daughters in law to go back to Judah.  Then as they are leaving, she tells them to go back to their mothers, which is slightly unusual.  Then she says something infinitely more interesting and intriguing to the story.  She says "May God show hesed to you, as you have shown hesed to your dead (my sons) and to me."  She kissed them.  All three wept.  And then both girls exclaimed that they would continue on with her.  She is telling them in essence, "Stay here to find another husband."

Why would either girl go with Naomi?  As Moabites, wouldn't it be hard to find another husband in Judah?  What did they have to gain?  Did they both agree to go purely out of a love and loyalty to Ruth? 

This is where we see whether any of them loved one another with an everlasting love - a love as powerful as God's.

So let's look at hesedHesed is a Hebrew word usually translated, "kindness," "love," "loving-kindness," "mercy," and at least one scholar suggests it should be translated, "loyalty."  When used of God, hesed refers to God's unconditional covenant He made with His people, that no matter what they do He would keep going with them and never turn away from them.  In fact, He promised this knowing that they would indeed be unfaithful to Him.  In regards to man or in this case woman, it means kindness to your fellow woman in doing favors, mercy, may mean lovely appearance, and in rare circumstances means love of Israel to God.

Truly all three woman are showing hesed as defined by woman to woman.  They have loved one another. All three of them are heart-broken widows.  Who will take care of them now?  Where will their hope come from?  Who will mend the brokenness? and restore new life?

Naomi recognizes that because these woman have married Israelite men, they are now under God's covenant.  But in asking the girls to go home, Naomi is not practicing hesed as in eternal bound for life with you loving kindness.  She does hope that God will display this to them. She is thinking in a worldly sense that their only chance of remarrying is in staying in Moab. She loves them dearly, do not get me wrong, but at the same time, perhaps there is a sense in which she no longer wants to care for them.

Have you experienced God's hesed in your own life?  You know the kind of love that sticks with you even if you commit adultery again and again.  God's love for us is like that.  And now, it is offered to everyone, even you!! 

Have you ever given Godly hesed to someone else?  This is a convicting question, and at the end of the month, what I hope to find is that I've learned how to love infinitely more than I do now.

Perhaps we will find as we dig into Ruth, "comfort for those who mourn, and provision for those who grieve, that He will to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Isaiah 61:2-3).   My heart keeps going back to Psalm 126

"He who goes out weeping,
   carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
   carrying sheaves with him."
Psalm 126:6

May we find God's love in unexpected places today!  A harvest of hope is coming!


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