Our youngest has hair that seems prone to tangle into knots. If she does not take the time to comb it often, the knots are extremely hard to get out, which causes a great deal of pain. The other night, as she rested her head on me, I slowly combed and she cried. Many times she asked me if I was almost done and if I could just stop. It was painful for us both.
Looking at the tangled mess, I was reminded of sin that so easily entangles us. When time isn’t taken to fill our minds with His Word or tell the Lord the truth about what is going on in our hearts, we find ourselves in places, mentally, physically and spiritually, we never imagined. And as I sat with our daughter, slowly working through the knots, I caught a glimpse of our patient Father. I was reminded of how He has so often listened to my cries in the mess my sin has made and worked to untangle me. He takes all the necessary time and does not stop until He accomplishes His purpose in me. Even as painful as it has been, it actually makes me love Him more. He really is a good and patient Father.
And another child turns sixteen in our home today. She is one remarkable, unique daughter. Her extreme sense of justice is quite unusual and her compassion is fierce. She has a quiet strength about her, that reminds me so much of my mom. She makes you feel safe when you are with her. Many times we have relied on her to track down solutions to problems and she comes through every time. As we gathered last night to celebrate this beauty, the scripture chosen was the story of Deborah, a judge in Israel. She was wise, direct, encouraging, worshipful, faithful and knew God to be trustworthy. This reminded me so much of our daughter.
So, my prayer for her this year is that she will grow to be confidence in the way God has created her. When the enemy tempts you to use your gifts to criticize others, you will remain compassionate, pray or help the person in need. When others are loud and being your quiet self goes unnoticed, remain content to shine your unique brightness. I am amazed at you, my daughter.
Taking ownership of our feelings is not easy. I have found blame to be far easier. Since scripture is full of people who lived, breathed and felt every human emotion we are capable of, I find it fascinating to read about them. We can learn so much and even save ourselves from repeating mistakes. Today I read this shocking statement, “Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for my suffering!” (Genesis 16:5). This woman, who would become quite a mom, is angry and hurting. Maybe because of the circumstance she finds herself in, she blames her husband for her haste in trying to build a family. She had received a promise from God and so did her husband. When the years passed and no answer came, she took action. How many times have I done this and my plans have led to nothing short of a mess? The easiest person to blame is usually the one closest. May we learn a valuable lesson of faith and wait for whatever it is we have not yet received. May the Lord ask of us, as He did this dear woman, “Is anything impossible for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:13).
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1
I read just a bit about Saint Patrick’s life today. He endured kidnapping and slavery as a young man. He finally escaped, but came back to the land he had been held captive. Interesting how he knew the life of slavery and freedom, but once free, he went back to set others spiritually free. Could it be that in freedom we find God to be gracious, full of blessings that feels like sunshine on our face? Not just when all is well, but even when circumstances say otherwise. Maybe that is what will be used to attract others to His way and His power that saves. May we be found with our faces shining on this day.
I wonder about a great number of things. Questions come easy as I go about the day. Some find answers and many do not. People set off a list of questions and it is fun to get to ask them. Answers vary and often surprise, we are all quite fascinating. Lately, I have been learning/asking about strength, for I have seen weaknesses in myself. There are many areas that have been neglected because other matters have felt more pressing. However, once you have been made aware, to do nothing or remain the same would be denial. And so I am learning to ask questions of people who are strong in areas that I am weak. Also, reading the scriptures give page after page of insight into the lives of others who appear weak, but the Lord gave them strength to carry out His plans. There is a source of feeling weak, not asking Him for the strength to carry out the plans He has for us.
Everyone has gifts that He gives when we accept His invitation of salvation. The temptation to remain distracted, weak and not using these gifts, probably will not go away. But with each denial to give into temptation, I feel strengthened and joy returning in my purpose. Amazing how that all works, isn’t it?
Something happens as you fall in love with studying the scriptures, you get to know the Author. You read page after page of beautifully written details, all pointing to Him. And because He knew we would need reminders of His original design, He wove plans throughout the entire book. When I read Nehemiah 4:12-14, I see a brilliant strategy that can be applied today. Apparently, the people rebuilding the city were being attacked at every turn. Nehemiah stations them by families armed for defending themselves in the most vulnerable areas. He also reminds them to not be afraid, but to remember who God is and for whom they are fighting. Sounds like the world we are living in doesn’t? Where are our vulnerable areas? Who needs to be equipped to fight back the darkness? Maybe it is the ones that feel alone and afraid that need to be pulled into a family. When we separate or isolate ourselves for whatever reason, we become an easy target for the enemy. Discouragement comes easier than courage when we stand alone.
I read a very powerful and honest question, asked by former slaves in the scriptures, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). This people group had seen plagues, walked through the Red Sea, had their enemies wiped out and have been fed food that fell from heaven. They found themselves in a place without water and they question God’s presence. Who of us have been in a place without and wondered the same thing? I find it is so easy to do, like it is almost natural. What happens when we expand our scope to what is happening in our world? Do you sense the question rising again? The answer I come up with is another question, where else would He be? He promised to never leave us and so we trust that God is with us. Sometimes we just need the reminder.
We studied a passage in Matthew today that talked about how we are to practice righteousness through giving. It is not a production for others to be impressed by, but a quiet act to be seen by One. Applause would be the reward of man, but that would eventually end. To be seen by God alone comes with His reward the scripture says. Man has a limited supply, but our God does not. The temptation is to settle for the human acknowledgement as a means of adding worth to our insecure hearts. However, as a mom, this reward system becomes extremely discouraging, for most of my giving is unseen. I have yet to receive a round of applause for a meal made, laundry folded or for writing a lunch box note. What freedom there is when we know our God sees and will reward from His limitless supply.
Recently when studying the passage in Matthew, where Jesus clears the temple of the buyers and sellers, I noticed something. He reminds us of His original design of the temple and then after the clearing out, He begins to heal those that came to Him. Made me think of how God might use us, after we allow Him to restore us back to His original design? There is no denying the painful process it takes to separate us from our sin, but even in that, I have found Him to be extremely kind. And He reminded those in the temple that day that, “my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13). Since we are now His temple, wouldn’t it make sense that prayer be something we do often and not let the cares of this world rob us of communicating with our Creator? If we follow this same line of thinking, would healing not be possible too? It might look like a mess for a minute as things get turned upside down, but imagine being restored to your rightful design!
“Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition” Merriam-Webster Dictionary
There seems to be a common theme I encounter lately, this determination to continue. For those who have chosen this brave way of life, there are results and other times even more opportunities to keep training forward. The end might not be even in sight, but you never quit too soon. For example, consider the Israelites who Joshua led in a daily march around the wall of the city of Jericho for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around seven times, the priests blew their horns and the troops gave a mighty shout! Can you even imagine the sound of this unified sound? After all the years their ancestors had lived as slaves in Egypt, then the wilderness years and deaths of the older generation, it was finally time to take the promised land. Perhaps they shouted with joy, gaining strength for the battle about to take place or in honor of those not beside them. Each one took steps of training in the wilderness, each foot in front of the other in a defiant march to what was promised. These braves ones were now brought to this seventh circle of what had been promised. To give up now is unthinkable.
As I think about their example, I am encouraged to keep going, with the hope of shouting one day too. Who knows? Maybe we are on our last march, as we persevere today in whatever role God has planned for us. And if not, we determine to obey, each step in dependence on the One who never leaves us. For the day will come, this I know. Keep training forward weary one.
*You can read all out the outcome in the book of Joshua.