Take Courage!

Take courage, sister! The Bible is full of God’s promises and blessings. God never lies. He never leaves us. He never breaks His promises. He has a plan for your life . . . spend daily time with Him to discover that plan and ask Him for wisdom and strength to follow.

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So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. Acts 27:25 NLT

P.S. Paul wrote this, while a prisoner on a boat about to be shipwrecked.

P.P.S. Did you know you can visit the place where Paul was shipwrecked?  In Malta you can visit St. Paul’s Bay  and see many of the places where Paul walked and worked. Along with a Holy Land Tour, I’d love to do a “Footsteps of Apostle Paul” tour.  Has anyone done one?  Recommendations? Both of these are on my bucket list!

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Malta

Biblical Map for Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Lessons from David and Paul for living through a season of pain.

David and Paul – two men living 1,000 years apart.  Both chosen by God. Both given a special job and an important role in the history of Christianity. David’s calling was to lead Israel as the second king and be an ancestor to Jesus. Paul’s role was to bring the gospel to the gentiles.

God called both these men and equipped them to do their jobs.

But that doesn’t mean the jobs were easy or that their lives were pain-free. Quite the opposite. They were both persecuted, but by example, they both left us a map of how to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Before he was king, David was pursued by King Saul who was intent on killing him. David had several opportunities to fight back and kill Saul, but he didn’t. God had appointed Saul and David didn’t seek vengeance. Instead he spent his time hiding in caves and running away from his enemies. He didn’t get to see his family or worship God in the temple. He was constantly in fear for his life. He hadn’t done anything other than respect and honor Saul, but he was still a hunted man.

What did David do in this painful and scary situation? He trusted God. He called out to God – expressing his fear, anger and sadness. He also praised God.  Psalm 57 is a song David wrote to God, while hiding in a cave. He was calling out to God for protection and praising God for his love.

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Today in Acts, I read about Paul, who knew he would be heading into danger and possible death, but still he walked forward. He knew where God wanted him to go and do, and he did it. Regardless of the pain. Regardless of the punishment.

Paul did end up in prison many times. For several years he was actually forgotten in prison during a change of leadership. He was beaten. He was persecuted. How did he respond? He prayed. He praised God. He shared he gospel.

Honestly, I’m not going to pray for prison or torture or for enemies who want murder me. But I have experienced pain and I know that hard times will come. Death to loved ones. Eventual death to myself. Pain. Rejection. Times of sadness.

Pain is an inevitable part of life, but David and Paul set an example for what we should do in the midst of pain:

  • Cry out to God – tell him your fears, anger, sadness
  • Praise God
  • Thank God
  • Remain obedient to God . . . even when faced with trials
  • Have faith

I’m not saying it is easy – at least it isn’t for me – but these men give us a map to follow when life is at its worst.

P.S. One of the things I love about reading through the Bible is meeting mentors.  Real people who lived thousands of years ago who can mentor me on living life.  If you are interested in reading through the Bible, check out the reading plans on TheBible.com or the YouVersion app.  I’m currently reading through the Bible using the plan linked here.  Please comment below if you are reading through the Bible!

Generosity

Lessons on Generosity from Proverbs

I’m reading through the Bible using the Skövde Pingst reading plan on the YouVersion app. Click here to sign up and let me know if you are reading along. I’d love to have you join me in reading!

Most of my posts tie into what God is teaching me in my daily reading, which is also part of my S.O.A.P journal. Here are some past posts on S.O.A.P. journaling – Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer:  Reading Through the Bible and The Divine Mentor. I highly recommend making daily Bible reading and prayer a top priority.  Even if you only have 10-15 minutes a day; I promise it will be a life-changer!

Today’s reading included Proverbs 11. The Bible talks a lot about Generosity, especially in Proverbs. God wants us to give not because giving benefits him; but giving benefits us.  It changes our hearts. Where we spend our time and money is where our heart will be focused.

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Personally, I am trying to make a conscious effort to have my life focused on what matters most – my walk with Jesus, my marriage, my kids, serving others and collecting memories over collecting things.  Where I spend my money and time reflects these things.  Where we chose to spend our time and money also changes our heart to make those things a higher priority.

For example, if I am giving my money to a certain non-profit or church my heart will be more inclined to care about that church or cause.

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Generosity goes beyond just money. For me, it is very easy (and tempting) to get busy with my career and to-do list.  I find it helpful to regularly take a few minutes to contemplate where my heart is in the areas below.  If I am getting off track I need to make a purposeful decision to change my focus by giving more generously.

  • Time Generosity: How am I spending my time?  How many hours a day am I looking at social media or watching TV compared to how many hours a day am I spending doing something meaningful that has eternal value, like volunteering at a homeless shelter or praying and reading the Bible?

 

  • Attention Generosity: Where is my attention?  I often catch myself multi-talking when my children or husband are talking to me.  For example, when my daughter wants to tell me all the stories about recess I’ll often listen while also swiping through Instagram photos.  I need to stop.  Put the phone down.  Make eye-contact. Really listen.  Nod my head. Ask her questions. Have a conversation with her and give her my full attention, rather than having half my mind elsewhere.

 

  • Energy Generosity: I only have so much energy to expend every day.  Am I using it on activities that really matter? For example, how often am I “too tired” to have sex with my husband? Is my schedule so overbooked that I don’t ever have time to go on a date with my husband? Am I running myself ragged with so many commitments that my daily time with Jesus and my family get put on a back burner? These can even include good and healthy activities – volunteering, reading, exercising, cleaning, kids’ sports and activities, etc. But if my schedule is so booked that I get to the end of the day and just want to collapse into bed, I need to take a good hard look at my priorities.

 

  • Financial Generosity: In my life I know that the more I give the more I am blessed. Whether I am giving to my church, a non-profit that helps orphans or a cause that helps feed the poor; giving fills my heart. But there are times when I am looking at my budget and cringe. I don’t think I have the financial cushion to give. Giving money can hurt . . . for a season.  But I’ve never given money and then regretted it. Do your research on who you are giving to (for nonprofits you can review their financials at Guidestar) and then make a decision to give.  You will be blessed.Proverbs 11-26.jpg

 

 

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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National Day of Prayer

In America, today we celebrate the National Day of Prayer.  This annual observance is held on the first Thursday of May.  Since 1952, it has been designated as a day when people are asked to pray and meditate.

I’ll be honest with you.  Sometimes I struggle with my prayer life.  It is much easier for me to read and study the Bible.  Sitting quietly and praying is more difficult.  Meditating is even harder.  Honestly, it is easier for me to fast.

Here are some techniques I have found helpful:

  • Every day I pray for my husband and children.  For my husband, I use the book “The Power of a Praying Wife”.  See this blog post for more.  For my kids I have daily things I pray for – their friends, their faith, their schooling, their future husbands, their choices, etc.

 

  • I keep a journal with list of what to pray for based on the day of the week.
    • Monday – My husband’s family
    • Tuesday – My church (the staff, elders, ministry partners, any prayer requests I’m aware of from the church body)
    • Wednesday – My family
    • Thursday – I ask God to show me things I need to forgive or ask for forgiveness for. I also pray for my “enemies” (this ranges from people who have hurt me to terrorists)
    • Friday – God’s direction and for wisdom
    • Saturday – Elected officials
    • Sunday – My ministry to others and for God to fill me with love

 

  • Pray through the news headlines:  Take the newspaper or news headlines and pray for the top issues facing the world.  For example, looking through today’s news here are prayer ideas:
    • Prayer for elected officials to have wisdom while making decisions on America’s healthcare.  Prayers for our elected officials to seek God’s will.
    • Prayer for peace in Venezuela
    • Prayer for Syrian refugees and peace in Syria.  Prayer for Christians in Syria.

 

  • Praise: Make a list of all your blessing and everything has God has done in your life.  Go through the list one by one and thank God for what he has done and praise him.

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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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