No More Buckets

Sometimes the truth of scripture meets the reality of your circumstances in a way that it feels like you just got slapped.

I have a love affair with these moments.

When I think back on moments in which the truth of the gospel spoke compassion, grace and change, I think of John chapter 4.

John chapter 4 elegantly paints the picture of the reality of many of our days. It shows us who Jesus is, in a way that not only is tangible but encouraging and needed.

The Samaritan women was labeled, she bore a symbol of shame.

Her symbol meant disgraced, disgusting, man stealer. Her symbol was her bucket. The very bucket she was carrying as she walked to the watering well.

Their watering well was their social gathering place. It was their Facebook wall, their 140 character tweet, their instagram pic.

It was their social Mecca.

Her community would have come to the watering well when it was the popular thing to do, when photo ops were to be had, when the chatter was worth retelling. Her community would have come to the watering well together.

Yet she chose to come alone.

She came in hopes that no one would see her. That no one would talk about her shame.

In the midst of her careful planning, she still had to carry her marker with her. Her symbol of shame was not missing as she went to the well.

Little did she know that today as she tried to remove herself from being known, she was about to be met by a man who would know her better than any.

Her savior was going to be at the well.

Her cravings that she was feeding in all the wrong places were about to get met by Christ. He would offer not only water to drink but also living water that would satisfy her deepest spiritual need.

Christ knew her, and as opposed to measuring her to him, he chose grace, forgiveness and love. Christ reminds us that he knows who we are and says I am the way, the truth and the life.

Once Christ spoke truth to her and she believed. She ran back to town to share her story and to bring the crowd back with her. If you read too fast you will miss the most beautiful part.

The scripture states that she left her bucket.

No More BucketsShe went back to town no longer defined by sin. She went back to town a daughter of the one true King.

The person of God is Jesus, and Jesus knows us better than anyone here on this earth. So when we try to cover our shame, our marker, our bucket, Jesus says I already know and I choose you in the midst.

What is our bucket that we are carrying around hoping no one sees? What are the issues Christ is calling us to leave at his feet?

My prayer is that we leave whatever it is at his feet and move forward with forgiveness and grace.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days in seminary classes, spends her afternoons interning with First Baptist Dallas Women’s, spends her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest, challenging the worldly norm of a 28 year old.

The Grand Design

 Maybe you’ve heard people say “hindsight is 20/20” or “I can see God’s will more clearly through the rearview mirror than the windshield”; well I can relate, can you? So often I don’t recognize God’s will for my life and His provision until I look back over the past. Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

So it shouldn’t be a surprise when things are clearer looking back.

These last few months have been filled with looking back for answers, asking myself, “What did I miss, Lord?” Things like the anniversary due date of the first of several miscarriages, fractured relationships where I now have closure, and the dates of hearing for the very first time of an autism diagnosis for two of my three children. How does that translate to God’s provision in my life?

The Grand DesignGod allowed all of this “suffering” in my life for one reason, to bring glory to His name. He uses our suffering for good and provides His prefect provision throughout. While I will never fully understand why we had to endure numerous miscarriages, I do know I have been able to walk alongside friends during their experience and suffering in a very real empathic way–strengthening my faith in knowing He does work everything for good. Friendships that were lost and broken with hopes of repair were my desires, not that of the Lord. These relationships will never be what I had in mind because expectations ruin relationships. Yes, there are relationships that are not meant to be part of His plan, but the wonderful, god-fearing precious friendships He has provided me with far surpass my desire for any others I thought I needed. My relationship with Christ has only grown stronger as a result of failed relationships with people here on earth. Then there is autism. The daily trenches of a very real and not always obvious disability. How in the world could having three children with autism be God’s perfect provision in my life? Having autism keeps me at the foot of the cross every day. It’s the reminder of His grace and mercy given to me time and time again. It’s a reminder that without Him, I can’t accomplish anything according to His will and for His glory.

God’s provision isn’t always in the form of a check in the mail or other monetary things we often associate with the word provision. We must look for and recognize His provision, His protection, His goodness and love every day and remember God doesn’t reveal His grand design, He reveals Himself.  Do you trust Him to provide?

About the Writer:
Tamie is a stay at home wife and mommy of three kids with autism. She is a member of First Baptist Dallas and enjoys spending time hanging out at home with her family or a quiet dinner with girlfriends. Tamie is passionate about encouraging other woman in their daily walk with the Lord.

Tamie’s personal blog is about her journey rearing three kids with autism and the lessons the Lord is teaching her along the way.

God’s Plan is Better

“But Lord, this was not the plan. Weren’t you paying attention as I planned this all out. In fact, none of this seems to make sense, and I am 100% sure my way would have been much less painless!”

Sound familiar? I have had this conversation with God more times than I can count. I fully believe that God is an all-knowing, all-powerful God; but to be very honest, it is still so hard to trust that His plan for my life is better than mine.

It is in the moments of great stress, confusion, pain, and uncertainty, that I cry out to the Lord asking why He chose this plan instead of mine. Maybe you have been there before; maybe you are there right now. If so, read on!

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego is one you have probably heard before. It is found in Daniel chapter three and is the story of three Israelite men who refused to worship an idol set up by the most powerful king in the world. When this incredibly powerful and incredibly wicked King threatened to throw these men into a fiery furnace, they responded to him by saying,

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18

God's Plan is BetterDid you catch it?  “But even if He does not…” What a powerful statement! I’m sure they thought of countless ways God could save them that did not involve getting thrown into a fire. However, as these men were being carried into the mouth of the furnace, which certainly was not their “plan A,” they demonstrated a most amazing trust that God’s plan was in fact better than any man’s.

This seems backward doesn’t it! But for many of us, this is the reality of our lives. We have followed God, yet we still feel as though we have been thrown into the fire. Let me encourage you, that though God may not have chosen to follow your plan, His is so much better! You see, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego does not end with them in the fire and neither does yours! In the remaining verses of Daniel chapter three, we are told that even in the midst of the furnace, God was with the men. When they were called to come out of the furnace, they were found to be completely unharmed and not even smelling of smoke. They were completely delivered and more than that, they were used to change the heart of the most powerful king in the world. King Nebuchadnezzar himself declared, “…there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3:29b).

If you find yourself in the midst of the fire, uncertain of why God has chosen a plan very different from your own, may you be encouraged by the truth that God is with you, He is able to deliver, and He is working to bring others to Himself. May we live today with the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego trusting that God’s plan is better!

About the Writer:
Kate has a heart for helping girls come to know and build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She is also contributor to Lifeway Girls Ministry resources.  

Embracing Difficulties

Three years ago I tripped and fell in my bedroom shattering my right humerus as I slammed into a tall solid oak dresser. Thankfully, I normally carry my cell phone in my pocket, and I managed to get the phone out with my left hand to call for help. The humerus in my right arm was shattered at the top and the rest was broken into five pieces. It took two surgeries and a year of physical therapy to get the arm healed and as functional as possible.

The process of healing from the two surgeries provided plenty of time to think! Scripture indicates in Romans 8:28 that “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” During my recovery from surgery I soon realized just how short and fragile life is and began to focus on the things in my life that are really the most important. With this renewed focus on the spiritual side of my life came a real dissatisfaction with the stress associated with my job. Being away from work for an extended period of time allowed me to realize just how stressful my job was and that perhaps I would be better off if I found a job that was much less stressful or just took early retirement.

While breaking my arm was the worst thing that happened in my life in 2012, it was also the best thing that happened as it caused me to take a serious look at my life and reassess my goals. I am happy to say that I worked my last day at my job a year after I broke my arm and that I am now happily living in early retirement and enjoying being available to do the things that the Lord wants me to do on a daily basis.

Embracing DifficultiesEven during the most difficult of times, God’s love for us prevails. For me, embracing the difficulties during the healing process was the catalyst for change in my life. I pray that as you face difficulties in your own life that you will realize that there just might be something that God wants you to learn in the midst of the difficulty that will change your life for the better. The big lesson I learned was that His love never fails.

About the Writer:
Anna Schaefer leads the W.E. C.A.R.E. team for the Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a widow, a mom, a grandmother and grateful to the Lord for giving her opportunities to share with other women in several ministries through First Baptist Dallas.