Broken Pieces

The evening had finally arrived for me to walk across my high school gymnasium to receive my diploma. As the speakers began to reminisce over the 1985 graduating seniors, my mind was flooded by countless memories. Yet, as I sat with my classmates on that Friday evening, I could have never imagined the paths I would one day travel, nor the heartache, tragedy and loss that would occur.

Moving forward years later, instead of pondering fond memories, I would find myself at the end of a course, sobbing uncontrollably. I had blown it in the most horrific way. With my life in shambles, the mere thought of God ever wanting me again seemed unattainable. I would quickly learn, however, that God’s love for me was not dependent on me. My Shepherd came to rescue, redeem and restore. (Luke 15:3-7)

I soon came to experience firsthand that God never despises a broken person nor does He turn His back. He took the shattered pieces of my life and began to put them back together again, all for His glory. 

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:2-3)

Point to Ponder: A person never has to remain in the same shape brought on by sin he or she is in because Jesus came to redeem sinners!

At times, when an individual gets off course, the enemy will immediately whisper, “That’s it, you have out-sinned God’s ability to forgive.” Yet we must remember that God’s Word always trumps the enemy’s whispers. We must align our thinking according to God’s truth.

 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Whatever we may envision as the end, God sees a new beginning. While we may see only the pain, God sees the purpose. He will turn a trial into a blessing and a mess into a message. Although His rescue plan may include voyages we never envisioned, we can know with certainty He will never leave broken pieces unassembled. He loves us too much.

Prayer: Lord thank you for Your willingness to restore and rebuild shattered lives. Thank you for sending Jesus to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

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God Sees You

A writing venture was soon to begin, as I pulled into a vacation lodge in Alabama. I was both intrigued and overwhelmed by all that awaited me. As I proceeded with the production, my mind became captivated with the mere thought of finishing strong while the energy to continue was fading. Time was running out and so was my joy. However, as I continued to work hard on the job at hand, God was working intensely on the heart within.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 NASB

After days of writing, I knew I needed to remove myself from the room and take a ride in my car. Yet what I thought would be a time to clear my mind, God knew would be an opportunity to calm my heart.

I was completely engrossed by a sermon on the radio as I pulled up beside a boat dock that over- looked a beautiful river. Tears began to stream down my face, as I sat there alone, listening and praying. God knew that submerged deep within me were issues that needed resolving regarding my life.  As I poured my heart out to Him, I was deeply touched by the mere fact that His eyes saw me. I was in the middle of nowhere, tears pouring, yet my Lord took notice, just as he did for Sarai in the Old Testament.

Sarai, unable to conceive a child, wanted desperately to have a family. While taking matters into her own hands, she resolved to give her Egyptian maid, Hagar, to her husband, Abram in hopes of obtaining children. Yet immediately after Hagar conceived, a great friction took place between the two women, and Hagar ran away.

While traveling through the desert, Hagar found herself sitting down by a well, broken, rejected, and afraid. No sooner had she arrived than an angel of the Lord met her there. As He began to encourage her heart, she was engulfed with joy by the mere fact that God took notice of where she was and of what she was going through. She later sighed, “You are a God who sees.”

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees.” Genesis 16:13 NASB

Just like Hagar, I too was overtaken by the goodness and mercy of God. And even though my journey was producing discouragement, earnestly imploring me to quit, God met me where I was.

Discouragement and hopelessness will always beg for entrance to your life. Yet when you allow God to flip on His light switch to your heart, you will be amazed at what transpires. As He takes center stage of your spirit. Hopelessness will quickly bow out.

There is nothing which you and I will ever face that God will not notice. God met Hagar sitting by a well. He met me sitting by a river. And He will meet you wherever you are today.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

A Woman Who Fears the Lord

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Recently, I was part of a group of women “of a certain age” waiting to have our pictures taken for a brochure. The Texas sun was almost directly overhead as we gathered outside, searching for the most flattering angles and backgrounds. A couple of us opted to wear our sunglasses for the photos, a technique every woman knows can erase at least 5, if not 10 years. Much to our dismay, the sunglasses were nixed and we stood bare-eyed in all our middle-aged glory, squinting and smiling for posterity. The fact that the purpose for the photo shoot was a BIBLE study brochure didn’t lessen one bit our concern with how we would appear on those glossy 5 by 7 pages. After all, God reminds us that while He looks on the heart, men (and especially women getting their pictures taken) look on the outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Hebrew word “beauty” in Proverbs 31:30 literally means “a breath, or vapor”. Just as quickly as our makeup evaporated under the hot midday sun, so fades the “beauty” of what the world considers important. Those of us who have seen more than three decades know how literally we are outwardly “wasting away”. Yet, hopefully, we are inwardly being renewed day by day…IF we are fearing the Lord instead of fearing growing older. (2 Corinthians 4:16) For, truly, this is vanity: the preoccupation with our outward appearance, which is destined to be left behind once we step into the timelessness of eternity anyway.

The gods of this world: money, prestige, power, lots of social media followers, fame, physical beauty, and looking forever young are constantly vying for our worship and calling us to “fear” them, to be in awe of the created instead of in awe of the Creator. Psalm 1:1 tells us that we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s a good idea to check from where we are allowing our hearts to be most influenced. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her devotional “Keep a Quiet Heart”: “Be cautious when the advice given makes you feel comfortable when you know you’re really wrong.” But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised”  . . .  and she “smiles at the future (v.25) . . . laugh lines and all!”

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

Noble Wife

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  Proverbs 31:10

Have you ever wished that King Lemuel would’ve just run out of ink at verse 9? Me too. On the surface, the Proverbs 31 woman seems like this perfect specimen that we, mere mortal women, are supposed to aspire to be, a goal which seems impossible.  Here’s the thing about “impossible”: God LOVES it! God is just waiting for you to allow Him the opportunity to perform the impossible in you. Now, does that mean that your kids are going to get up in the morning calling you “blessed”? That’s the impossible in them, not in you!  Herein lies the REAL challenge: you are trying to become this Noble Woman whether or not your family is trying to become the Noble Family.  I don’t know about you, but I was NOT trying to be the Noble Daughter when I was growing up (my poor mother!) so why would I set that level of expectation on someone else? Now I am trying to be worthy of God’s blessing and live the purpose He has for me. Why? Because my mother was striving to be Noble! I think she succeeded! Perfect? No way! But always striving, she set the example for me, so now it’s my turn to do that for my family. While we are striving, and seem to be getting nowhere, God is there, working things out for good the whole time, and not for just our good, but of those who see our efforts as well. So even if you’ve never considered a field and bought it, and then planted a vineyard, that doesn’t mean you won’t someday. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever known a 23-year-old that I would consider Noble, (Proverbs 31:28-31) but I do know quite a few of 50-year- old women that I would put in that category. This is all process. God spoke all creation into existence but the Bible tells us that He formed man and then placed him in the garden. He fashioned the woman and then brought her to the man. I interpret that to mean that He took His time and used His hands, focusing on the details that make a human a scientific marvel. He brought it all about then as He does now: the impossible through God is just done! So don’t fret that you haven’t achieved nobility because there is a big, fat “yet” at the end of that sentence. Keep on striving, sisters!

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Promises, Promises

When I read the book of Joshua, I am overwhelmed with the patience and persistence of God to fulfill his promises to his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. Throughout the book we read about how the Israelites responded disobediently to the instructions of the Lord . . . taking things from the destruction of Jericho that had been set apart for the Lord (7:1), and building an altar for themselves to rebel against the Lord (22:16).  And what was God’s holy response to their acts of disobedience?  We find it in chapter 21, verse 45:

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

In fact, from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 23, we keep reading about the Lord and exactly how he fulfilled his promises.

Wow!  That just blows my mind.  When I think of the times that I have been disappointed by friends or family, it doesn’t come to my mind to fulfill all the promises I have made them.  I tend to lean toward unforgiveness, thinking of the unfairness against me, or even lashing out or getting even.  But not God . . . in His mercy He forgives my unfaithfulness.  In His grace he forgets my desire to build walls against Him or his loved ones. In His love He continues to fulfill all the promises He has made to me. Now, that is worth praising Him.  That is worth trusting Him.  That is worth serving Him.  That is worth loving Him.

As a matter of fact, when I read these verses, I want to be forgiving like God; I want to be faithful like God.  Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, or my own plans for improving my situation, I want to let Him continue to show me His character of faithfulness through these Bible truths, like he does in the book of Joshua.

He has such a long way to go with me, but I’m so very thankful he doesn’t give up. He just keeps on cranking out the lessons with His promised blessings attached.  And then I am reminded . . .  “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Broken Promises

I have been married three times. Unfortunately, I know the deep pain of broken
promises and breaking promises. Broken vows come with devastating consequences. Some memories take years to heal, and I still occasionaly struggle with the tidal wave of grief and loss for those earthly relationships and covenants that were never created to be shattered.

God holds us accountable for our words. In Matthew 5:37, when talking about promises Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” And finally, Matthew 15:11 “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

 Jesus had much to say about words in general, but vows carry an even heavier weight. In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, there is an interesting account of the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel by creating a heart-tugging story that wasn’t true so that the people of Israel would not destroy them as they had all the neighboring tribes in their conquest to take the Promised Land the Lord had set apart for them. The Gibeonites convinced Joshua that they were foreigners and begged for peace between the two groups of people. Joshua and the leaders made an agreement with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord. Within a few days the truth was discovered, but, alas, it was too late. The treaty was binding in the eyes of the Lord, and they dared not break it lest the Lord be angry with them for breaking their word—even though the Lord’s initial command had been to destroy all the nearby cities and peoples.

 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.’ The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ Joshua 9:19-21a

 Many of us have made promises or commitments only to talk ourselves out of them by our own logic. But for anyone who has done so or even just said a careless, hurtful word, there is hope: God sent His own Son Jesus Christ to suffer greatly, die, and conquer death and sin itself to remove that sinful stain from our hearts, minds, and spirits. In the process, God also teaches us to value our words and promises, even when doing so is uncomfortable or disquieting, as it was for Joshua and the Israelites. What a gracious God we serve to give us new opportunities to follow through on our promises.

 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Isaiah 44:22-23a

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

The Harlot is Mine

joshua-rahabRahab, the harlot, you have heard of her right?  The harlot of Jericho who God gave divine wisdom, helped the Israelites scout out the city of Jericho, and was given protection when the city of Jericho fell. She now has the privilege of being in the ancestral line of Jesus (Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5).

Her story sings the beauty of grace no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  It’s a message we must always remember; not only for ourselves when we sin against God, but also for others when they assail us.

What does embracing the broken actually look like in a Christian’s life?  Or as a dear friend likes to say, “What does it look like on a Tuesday?”  On a Tuesday means showing grace and mercy to the person who has wounded you the most, extending mercy to the supposed friend who cut you down.  It means mercy to the parent who has failed, to the child who has deserted the way he should go, to the boss who is unjust, and certainly to the adulteress.

Biblical truth says you are no more worthy than any of the people who have wounded you.  You need grace; and as a Christian, you’ve received it.  Praise God!  In your great joy of salvation, see how God can use everyone.  God has said even the harlot can be used by me.

Hear me, loving someone who has deeply wounded you is impossible apart from Jesus Christ.  You have to be safe and secure in the greatest refuge before you can extend mercy to those who have trampled on you.  If you try to will yourself to unconditionally love apart from Jesus you will find the task unbearable.  However, if you instead put your total focus on Him, your weakness is perfected in His power (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He will show you the way to walk.

Seek Him today.  It is the way to freedom for all, even the harlot.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  
I Timothy 2:3-4.

About the writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

Memorials for Generations to Come

I love being invited into my friends’ and family’s homes to see all the special decorations that they have displayed. Walking room to room alongside them, I’m given the opportunity to hear memories unfold behind each piece. As they continue to talk, bigger stories are unveiled about their lives: reflections of celebration and thanksgiving, lessons of hard work and hope.These memories come in many forms, like photographs, art, trinkets, books, or even jewelry. Each piece evokes fresh emotion in the voices of these dear ones, and I am inspired by their passions. In moments like this, when the past meets the present, I recall the stones of remembrance in the story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery.

In Joshua 4, God instructs Joshua to lead twelve members of the group to build a memorial from stones pulled from the middle of the Jordan river. In Joshua 4:6-7 he tells the men, “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

These stones served a purpose as a memorial for subsequent generations to see and recount the miracle that God performed that day. They represented God’s provision for His people and reminded them to focus on God’s immeasurable faithfulness, instead of their own wavering faith.

When I recall the many stories of God’s faithfulness in my own life, I am challenged to make these memories evident to my family. By telling our children about past experiences, we are teaching them that, in challenging times, we are not required to take a blind step of faith. We are instead able to place our trust in God’s promises for the future because of his demonstration of faithfulness in the past.

Through both good and bad times, our lives tell the story of God’s perfect plan to use all things for our good and for His glory. No obstacle is too large for Him.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Press On

Have you ever run in a race only to be frustrated to find you were not in or even near one of the top groups to finish? I can still remember participating in high school athletic track meets. The coaches thought I should be good in the shorter races, but I failed miserably and was in middle or near the last of the pack. In reflection, I cannot imagine why anyone thought I could win, as I was much less than enthusiastic about track and had never practiced, or even participated, until the last week before a competition.

Running the Righteous Life

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul reflected on the whole course of his life, which by worldly standards would have been considered to be quite a success. He was born into the right tribe, from the nation of Israel, a Pharisee (which meant he knew and followed the Jewish law), a persecutor of the church, and outwardly righteous. However, he counted all this as rubbish (Phil 3:8), as he had been practicing works-righteousness, and not faith-righteousness, which is only from God through faith in Him. Yet after his salvation experience, Paul had a totally different outlook, and encouraged the churches with his writings.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

In these verses, Paul was comparing our walk with Christ to the Greek Olympian games. He made clear that he had not “arrived” or attained the goal of being Christlike, but was still very much in the race of the Christian life. Nor has he become “perfect” or mature in his walk. He still had more spiritual heights to climb. Yet he was still actively pressing on toward Christlikeness.

I cannot count the times in my spiritual life that I have failed to meet the high standard of righteousness, and I cringe at the thought. But Paul tells us to continue on, to pursue Christlikeness with the following:

  • Enthusiasm- acting with maturity, yet vigorously and with zeal
  • Persistence- keeping on trying, pressing on daily
  • Purpose- remembering the goal, Christlikeness, because one day we will meet Him face to face
  • Concentration- forgetting the past failures that might overwhelm, or the successes that might bring complacency. Rather we are to keep looking ahead, always focusing on the prize. As Charles Stanley says, don’t waste time looking back.

My prayer is that I may never become stale in my walk with Christ, that I remain steadfast in my faith, serving Him with humility, yet with great joy and enthusiasm, remembering that one day I will be with Him for eternity. This earth is not my home; so I press on.

About the writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

Keep It to Yourself

Paul’s opening remarks to the Philippians are so encouraging and loving they leave no doubt about how important encouragement and support of them was to him. He was a prisoner of Rome; but, when he picked up his quill, he had nothing but positive things to say to his ministry partners in Philippi, partners that had come to his aid at a critical time.

Can you imagine your pastor or your Sunday School teacher greeting you in such a manner? If your answer is “no” then I would encourage you to examine the possible reasons. Are they grumpy and distant with never a positive thing to say? Or have you never given them a reason to think of you this way? Ouch. I know; I’ve felt the breaking realization fall on me with shame and guilt. Part of my own problem has always been my love of truth and my inability to realize that it doesn’t ALWAYS need to be said out loud with a directness completely void of any grace.  Question: “Does this make me look fat?” (I will never ask that question!) Response: “No, you are fat.” Better response: “There are other styles that look so much better on you, let’s go find one.”  When was the last time a pastor asked you, “How did you like my sermon?” I have never been asked that, but I have offered my opinion with no thought of it being anything other than truth that he needed to know. >hangs head< My opinions are just that-mine-and most of the time should stay that way! As a wife/ mom/nurse, I’m always looking for what could become a problem, inconsistencies and ways to improve, as I should. As a member of the body of Christ, however, I should be seeking opportunities to encourage, to uplift. I want someone to look past my failings and view me as a beloved sister ever in need of grace and mercy. Don’t you want that, too?

Paul ends his letter with the exact way to get this accomplished. When we think on what is lovely and pure, trustworthy and honorable, when we choose to fill our minds with these things, not only will we become a delight to our church leadership, but Paul promises that we will have the peace of God as well. That is a win for everyone!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [b]dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness all the way to her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!