Lessons from Abigail

The story of David and Bathsheba is very famous – King David saw a beautiful, naked, (married) woman, wanted her, slept with her, got her pregnant and then tried to get her husband to sleep with her so that the husband would think he was the baby-daddy. When that failed, David had her husband killed so he could marry Bathsheba.

But did you know that David had other wives? He has at least eight wives. His first wife was a trophy wife, given to David by her father, King Saul, for David’s success on the battlefield.

Another wife was Abigail. In today’s reading (I Samuel 25) it told her story prior to marrying David. Abigail was a very intelligent woman and a very beautiful woman.  But she was married to a jerk named Nabal. Nabal was rich and crude and mean.

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Nabal had a bunch of people who worked for him and David and his men had always treated them very well.  One day David went to Nabal and asked him for some food and supplies, but Nabal refused. David was furious.  So furious he decided to go kill Nabal and his entire household.

When Abigail heard that David and his men were coming to kill her family she acted quickly.  She loaded up food and supplies and went to meet David, to apologize, offer the goods, and ask David to spare them.  David listened and thanked her for stopping him from making a horrible mistake by killing a bunch of innocent people.  And eventually, after Nabal died, David went back and married Abigail.

So what are some lessons we can learn from Abigail?

  • Her Married Life was Tough, but Abigail Stayed Strong: 1 Samuel tells us her husband Nabal was crude, mean, selfish, screamed insults at people, was ill-tempered.  I would assume Abigail probably didn’t choose Nabal as a husband.  In those days brides were given to whatever man her family chose.  But even in the bad marriage and tough life situation, Abigail stayed wise.  She observed the situation and she knew what she could change and what she couldn’t, and she used her intelligence to make choices to protect her family.

 

  • She Used Her Words Wisely:  When Abigail went to plead her case to David she was approaching an angry man with a group of 400 fighters with him, armed with swords.  David had just told his men “May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning”. David was intent on killing Abigail, her family and all their servants.  Abigail didn’t have an army or a weapon, but she had experience dealing with an angry man.  She knew she was the only thing standing between her family and an army, and she chose her words carefully. She was honest.  She was rational.  She was humble.  She appealed to what was important to David.

 

  • Abigail Stayed Calm Under Pressure:  I can’t imagine how scared I would be if one angry man, with a sword, approached my house.  Abigail had 401 men approaching her household, intent on killing everyone.  She knew her husband wasn’t going to be any help; he was the one who had gotten them into the situation.  Instead of panicking or running away, Abigail rationally thought through the best way to handle the situation.  She acted quickly, but didn’t freak out. She prepared food and wine for the men who were approaching to kill her – a peace-offering.  And she didn’t tell her husband what she was doing, as I am sure that would just make matters worse.  And then she headed out to take on an army.  One woman, armed with food, intelligence, experience, beauty and wisdom.  One woman, riding a donkey, intent on saving her household.

And save it she did.  David relented and thanked her for saving him from killing everyone.

When Abigail got home her husband was drunk and partying, so she didn’t tell him anything.  In the morning, when he was sober, she told Nabal.  He was so shocked he had a stroke and died 10 days later. When David heard about Nabal’s death he came back and asked Abigail to marry him; and she said yes.

While I don’t know a whole lot about Abigail, she is someone I admire.  She wasn’t a raging Mama-Bear (which I tend to be), but more of a thoughtful, stealth Leopard.  She was adaptable, opportunistic, and intelligent.  She didn’t tolerate intrusion on her household and was ready to fight, but not with weapons. She used her words, intelligence and experience to calmly take on 401 soldiers. And she won.

 

 

Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #1

A Call for Advice from Experienced Moms

I love my kids, but there are days when being a mom is a punch in the gut. Parenting shows me how little I know. How can I set a good example when I struggle with the very things I need to teach my kids?

Other moms, do you feel the same way? Especially for those who now have grown kids . . . any words of wisdom to share? Any secrets of success? This is a call for advice from moms who have successfully navigated the tween and teen years.  Any moms of grown children want to chime in?

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Here is what I am struggling with right now.  And I know there will be many more decisions and dilemmas as my kids get older.

The Infamous Cell Phone Dilemma 

  • 6th grader wanted a cell phone.  She begged for one for about a year.  Cried many tears.  She wasn’t “cool” and was the only kid in her class without a phone.  She made lots of promises, including doing chores to help pay for it.
  • I read all the arguments for and against, but my husband and I ended up getting her a cell phone and gave her some basic rules on usage.
  • I snoop on her phone.  I know there are probably parents who disagree, but I paid for the phone and she is my kid in my house and I need to know what she is viewing and doing on the phone.
  • I added NetNanny . . . not sure if that is the best tool, but I wanted something on the phone to restrict her ability to get on inappropriate sites.
  • Last night I found out she was texting boys.  Ugh!  Nothing inappropriate, but one of the boys told her he wasn’t allowed to text girls and she has continued to text him. Double Ugh!
  • She hasn’t been completely obedient with the rules my husband and I set (she is only supposed to use it for games or texting after she has done her homework and cleaned her room), but we haven’t been consistent with making sure she follows the rules.  We’ve never really grounded her from the phone or taken it away.

So now my husband and I need to come up with a new game plan for the phone usage and rules.

Moms, I’m not looking for specific pros and cons on cell phones (I’ve read a million arguments for and against), but more high-level suggestions. I especially long for suggestions and encouragement from moms who have already raised preteens and teens.

  • What is the best parenting advice you ever received?
  • How did you guide your preteens and teens through relationships with the opposite sex?
  • What is the best parenting advice you can give?
  • Any suggestions on communicating with kids ages 12-18?
  • How did you teach your kids to be wise in choosing friends in middle school and high school?

Moms, we need each other.  For you moms with more experience, your wisdom is much-needed for us moms now entering the preteen years.  It is daunting . . . and any insight you can share would be much appreciated!

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Lessons from the Olive Tree

Did you know there are olive trees alive today that are estimated to be between 2,000 – 4,000 years old?  There are trees at the Mount of Olives who some believe may have been there when Jesus prayed in the garden.  Pretty incredible.  Makes we want to plan a trip to visit the Holy Land!

I’ve never given olives or olive trees much thought (expect when contemplating going on a Mediterranean diet which sounds completely wonderful . . . except that anything with the word “diet” tends not get past mental contemplation for me).  But as I was doing my morning Bible reading I read a verse that stuck out to me:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.  Psalm 52:8 NIV

I love this image that David created in this Psalm.  “An olive tree flourishing in the house of God.”  I can just picture it – a beautiful tree in God’s garden.  So I dug a little deeper into this verse as well as other verses about olive trees and branches in both the Old Testament New Testament, as well as from a historical perspective.  The Bible is full of references to olives and olive trees:

  • The olive was a major agriculture product in Israel.  In addition to food, the oil was used for cooking, lighting lamps, sacrifice and anointing.
  • When Noah was on the ark, looking for dry land, he sent out a dove.  The dove returned with an olive leaf in his beak which was a sign to Noah that the flood was receding.  It symbolized that God was done with his judgement and the world was coming back to life.
  • When two battling enemies were ready to make peace they would extend an olive branch between them to show they were done fighting.
  • In Romans 11:17-21, Paul referred to Gentiles as wild olive shoots, being grafted into Israel.  He said:

    “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”  

  • Not necessarily an olive tree, but I love this picture that Jesus creates in John 15:

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

There are so many more verses that reference olives, trees, and branches . . . and so many lessons to be learned.

How to Be a Flourishing Olive Tree

  1.  Be Planted in Good Soil:  Jesus told a parable of a man scattering seeds that landed on different types of ground – a path, rocks, thorns and in good soil. I can relate to each of these  – sometimes I think I’ve been each of them in the span of a week! What does it mean to be good soil? Jesus explains in Mark 4:20: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”  Read the Bible, believe it, and apply what it says.
  2. Stay in the Vine: How do we bear fruit?  Jesus says it is by staying in the “vine”. Spending time reading the Bible.  Praying.  Meditating.  Fasting.  I even love meditating on John 15 and picturing myself as branch attached to Jesus.  If I am spending time with Jesus and applying what I learn from him I will naturally bear fruit.
  3. Let your Light Shine: The fruit of an olive tree is an olive.  When crushed, olives produce olive oil.  Olive oil had many uses in the Bible, including lighting a lamp. In Matthew 5, Jesus said:  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
  4. Accept Pruning:  God is my gardener.  And sometimes I need pruned.  I need to get rid of bad influences and bad habits.  I need to cut sin out of my life.  I need disciplined.  And I need to understand that God does it because he loves me and it will help me mature as a Christian.

Let’s follow David’s lead.  Let’s become Olive Trees.  Flourishing.  Trusting God.  And going deep into the vine of Jesus.

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Freedom

Jesus didn’t come to save people who are perfect . . . he came to save the sinner.  The drunk.  The prostitute.  The liar.  The cheat.  The adulterer.  The mom who struggles with anger and unforgiveness and unkindness.

He didn’t just come save us from hell; he came to save us from the sin we are currently living in.

We don’t change from a lifestyle of sin by following a bunch of rules.  We change by faith in Him.   Everyone who believes is set free from every sin!Acts 13-38-39.jpg

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.  Acts 13:38‭-‬39 NIV

Finding My Mission

I’ve been married for 13 years this August.  I’ve been a mom for over 11 years.  These are very important roles for me – loving my husband and children, taking care of them, providing for them, etc.  But sadly, they have often taken a back seat to my career and the busyness of life.  Several years ago God started to put on my heart that they are more than just my family.  They are my mission field.

In August 2014 I was sitting in a Bible study on Gideon (by Priscilla Shirer) at the Gretna United Methodist Church and I was praying for God to reveal his grand purpose for my life (and I was convinced it was grand) and it suddenly hit me:  My purpose was to be a missionary.  In my house.  To the man I married and the two children I love.

And I’m embarrassed to say, since then I’ve had a million excuses not take that mission seriously.  But God keeps bringing me back.  I keep looking for my grand purpose in my career.  Or a grand purpose through other “mission” work – service projects, church volunteering, humanitarian organizations, christian ministries, etc.  And while all that is important and good, God keeps bringing me back to that calling I heard several years ago.  He closed the door to my old life as a political fundraiser, so I took another full-time job in a non-profit organization.  He closed that door.  He is telling me over and over that my mission field is right here.  In this house.

My number one priority is to spend time with him every day and follow him.

My number two priority is to minister to my husband and children.

I get it.  I finally get it and accept it, but it is still a struggle.  I’m learning what it means to be a missionary; usually by way more trial and error than success.  I’m learning to resist the daily temptation to start chasing a “mission” that looks a lot more exciting than Mom/Wife.  But I feel at peace that I am finally in the place God wants me.  And I know he’ll give me the strength to run this race and will guide me to the end.

P.S. I’m reading through the Bible in a Year – using the YouVersion or Bible.com app.    My reading today was a good reminder on my keeping my priorities straight, following God’s direction, and the importance of observing the greatness of God and passing on that message to the next generation.  Psalm 48:12-14:  Walk around Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.  For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.   (NIV)

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Three Easy Steps for Controlling Your Temper

My temper gets me all the time.  Even if I don’t explode I can feel irritation creeping up.  90% of the time my irritation is toward my husband and children.  The rest of the time it is toward the telemarketer that keeps calling my cell phone or the person at customer service whose service is pretty crappy.

Earlier this week I heard a radio program as I was driving to the gym – it was James MacDonald talking about a simple discipline to help me not give into temptation or lose my temper.   I’m testing it . . .and so far results are pretty good.

Example A:  My husband and I are both currently working from home.  I am so happy to be working from home and believe 100% that it is where God wants me.  Even so, it is an adjustment.  We haven’t both worked from home, together, for several years.  We are sharing an office.  We have very different work habits.  And very different philosophies on how the office should be organized (his style includes piles on the floor).  Yesterday as he was dropping our daughter off at school I could feel my irritation level getting higher and higher as I tried to find an organized and clean place in the office to work.

I have found that starting my day with daily Bible reading and prayer makes a huge difference, but often in the moment I still lose my temper.

When faced growing irritation with my husband I tried the steps below.  And it really seemed to help.  I didn’t handle the situation perfectly and I am sure I was more irritated than I needed to be, but it could have been a lot worse.

  1. Stop and say:  “I am Dead to That.”  Out loud.  (I did it in the bathroom, looking in the mirror.)  I love this concept – thank you James MacDonald!  
  2. Pray:  Ask God to give me grace, peace and His love in dealing with the situation.  
  3. Meditate:  Over and over in my head say the verse Romans 6:11 “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I’m going to keep trying this and see if it helps . . . as I need all the help I can get!  But bottom line as we just celebrated Easter, Jesus didn’t just die to save me from hell, He died to save me from a life of sin.  There is freedom in Him.  I just need to grasp that freedom.

In closing, I love section from James MacDonald, found here:

I know what you might be thinking. If I’m dead to sin, why do I feel so alive to it? Dead is the last word most of us would use to describe our experience with sin. Forgiven, maybe. Or cleansed—even changing. But dead?

First consider what dead to sin does not mean. It doesn’t mean sinless perfection or that our old nature is gone. And it doesn’t mean we’ve merely identified theoretically with the death of Christ.

It means that because Christ died in our place, we are dead to the power of sin. It’s as if we used to live in an apartment with an awful landlord who would burst in whenever he wanted, but now we’ve moved to a new apartment with a new landlord. We have new locks; we owe the former landlord nothing. He can’t get into our new apartment unless we open the door and invite him in.

Unfortunately, some Christians still open that door and listen to the old landlord. But he’s no longer in control. In Christ, the power of sin is broken and defeated. Sin is not in charge. You have a new Master.

Times of Refreshing

When I started this journey – and shortly after started this blog – my intention was to become like Mary.  To sit at the foot of Jesus and focus my energy and attention on what mattered most.  My walk with Jesus.  My husband.  My kids.  Serving others.  Loving others.

A year and a half ago I told all my clients I was quitting – shutting down that chapter of my life to find a new pace where I could be more balanced.  I felt strongly that God was leading me every step of the way.

But I still need to pay bills.  I still needed income.  The doors of another job opportunity opened and I walked through those doors.  I prayed for God to open the doors and they opened.  I never felt 100% peace in the decision . . . but I felt 90% peace.  And the doors were wide opened.  So I walked in.

It wasn’t a good fit.

So, why did the doors open?  I am not sure.  Maybe God wanted me there for a short season. Maybe it was to teach me once again that my “career” doesn’t define me.  That I need to find my definition in Christ.  Maybe it was to teach me to wait on Him.

Now that I have quit that job I can see even more clearly the importance of being still with God.  Listening for His voice.  And experiencing His refreshing.  And once again to focus on the things that matter most.

Acts 3:19:  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (NIV)

Today’s Reading:

  • Joshua 13
  •  Joshua 14
  •  Acts 3:11-26
  •  Psalms 43

Resolutions

Dear Readers,

Happy 2017!

 

This year we did resolutions following this tip I had seen on CNBC:  A career coach suggested drawing/mapping your goals rather than writing a list.

My children, husband and I sat day on New Year’s day with big sheets of paper, markers, crayons and pens and went to work.

It was a fun project – especially to see what our kids said.  Everything from improving grades to making new friends to being nice.  And our youngest had some great artwork to add as well.

Some of my resolutions:

  • Put our House on the Market (Minimize and Cut Spending)
  • Monthly Date Night (Marriage)
  • Read a Nightly Devotional with my Girls (Parenting)
  • Explore Guest Blogging
  • Read Through the Bible in 2017 (Time with Jesus)

What are you resolutions?  Or do you have any creative ways to creating goals and tracking them?