Discovering my Spiritual Stomach

I’ve sat with the same passage of scripture in front of me for over three months, “chewing on it,” and “chewing” some more. Several times I tried to find a take-away and move on, but, each time, it was over-generalized, and my heart was not satisfied. Then, at just the right time, the purpose that God had for me in this story became clear and it spoke wisdom into a trial that my husband and I were facing.

Although my childhood summers came each year by way of a country dirt road, I failed to learn the reason that cows chew all the time. The term “ruminate” means to meditate or ponder something. The meaning is derived from the part of the cow’s stomach called the rumen, whose function it is to return cud to the mouth to be re-chewed. The food travels through 4 sections of the stomach to fully process and break down the food enough to be digested.

The four parts of the cow’s stomach have become my physical picture of this process that I often follow when studying scripture. Each time this story moved from one part of my ‘spiritual stomach’ to the next, it was becoming softer, and I was gathering bits of nutrients until it was ready to be fully consumed – providing nourishment to my heart, mind and soul.

In the story of Abigail, located in 1 Samuel 25:2-42, Abigail is described as intelligent and beautiful, while her husband Nabal (whose name means ‘fool’) is described as brutish and rude. King David sends men to ask Nabal for some food to feed his men in return for the protection they had helped to provide Nabal’s shepherds and flocks. In a prideful response, Nabal insulted David and refused to share provisions. When David heard of Nabal’s response, he rallied 400 men to ride towards Nabal on a kill mission. Nabal’s servants who heard this interaction went directly to Abigail to ask for her intervention.

From here, I encourage you to read the exact interaction between Abigail and David in 1 Samuel 25:23-42. Look beyond the surface and recognize the ways that her speech is woven with evidence of God’s having molded her heart over time.

Here are a few of the spiritual truths that God confirmed through Abigail’s story:

  • The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.
    • Abigail feared the Lord more than she feared David, his men or Nabal.
    • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
  • Wisdom produces Humility
    • Abigail’s approach towards David wasn’t strategic – she didn’t have time to be strategic. Her words and her actions were a pure response from her heart.
    • “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)
    • “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
  • Humility precedes Grace.
    • Abigail bore the burden that belonged to her husband. “She fell at [David’s] feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. (1 Samuel 25:24)
    •  . . . Clothe yourself with humility toward one another because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Godly Wisdom produces Peace.
    • Abigail’s wisdom in her reasoning with David was honoring to God and it changed the course of David’s response to Nabal.
    • “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18)
  • Reward begins with the Fear of the Lord.
    • The lives of many men were spared, and David later remembered Abigail and asked her to become his wife.
    • “Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

My spiritual journey through this story began with a bite that was too big to swallow. It required meditation and the reference of many other verses to break it down into the purpose God had for me at the time. It’s your turn, go find a passage to chew on for a while. Moo.

About the Author:
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.

 

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The Challenge of Rebekah: Finishing with Faith

She was brave. She was beautiful. She was kind-hearted and hard-working. What man wouldn’t dream of a wife like Rebekah?  Indeed, Isaac “loved her very much and she was a special comfort to him.”

When faced with the choice to respond to a glorious recount of God’s divine intervention to unite Rebekah with her future husband (a complete stranger, by the way) she said, “Yes, I will go.” Rebekah followed Abraham’s servant back to a far away place to meet her new husband. Their first meeting was love at first sight, and in years to follow, Isaac still loved her so much that he begged God on her behalf. God granted Isaac his request, and Rebekah bore twin sons.

Rebekah was loved, but Rebekah was distracted. She was busy securing a future for her beloved son, Jacob. She was willing to deceive her husband to get what she wanted. She was willing to cast her other son aside, leaving him slighted and dejected. God had made her a promise, but she somehow thought that God needed her intervention to make it happen. She saw her husband as more powerful than God and so she attempted to thwart him.

Rebekah encouraged much strife, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, and spite within her family.

I am reminded of the words in Proverbs 14:1

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

 The life of Rebekah is a wakeup call for me. I see little in the life-story of Rebekah to admire her for. However, God in His sovereignty still accomplished all of His purposes regardless of Rebekah’s shortcomings. As much as I want the Lord to include me in His displays of faithfulness throughout the generations, I also want to be a woman that God exalts. I don’t want to be merely in a story of the faith, but I want to be one that the Lord exalts in those stories. To be so, I must relinquish the fears that overtake me so very often and allow God to accomplish His promises.

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25 

  • Is there anything that you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit of to confess right now?
  • Is there any fear that you are holding on to so tightly that you are not trusting God with?
  • Is there anything or anyone that you really believe could stand against God and His purposes?

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.

Don’t Worry, I’ll fix IT

I’m a fixer.  I fix things.  It’s what I do.  Someone’s got a problem?  Tell me, and I’ll fix it.  My friends even gave me the nickname “Miss Fix It” in high school.  This personality trait can get me into trouble, however.  I have the tendency to attempt to solve the problem immediately in a manner I think is best instead of consulting the Ultimate Fixer, God.  I can be impatient, determined that the problem must be solved ASAP, and convinced that my way is clearly the best.

Abraham’s wife Sarah and I have this trait in common. God has told Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars, despite the fact that they are both very old and at the time childless. We then learn in Genesis 16 that Sarah takes the matter into her own hands and tries to fix it. She sends her slave, Hagar, into her husband’s arms:

“Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Genesis 16:2b

Notice the keyword “I” in that verse. Long story short, this plan doesn’t work out. The results of that decision include hostility, catfights, and homelessness. We may not have much patience but thankfully our sovereign Lord does. He has the patience to let us make mistakes but receive us with open arms afterwards. Even though Sarah tries to fix it, God still blesses her with a son and her and Abraham’s descendants are indeed as numerous as the stars.

As I’ve gotten older and tried to fix oh-so-many things, I’ve learned that life is a lot easier if I sit in the back seat and let Him be the driver. He doesn’t even need me to be the navigator! I can take a nap, drink a Coke, listen to music, and do whatever I want (I’d probably choose the nap option to be honest).  And, that’s not a bad way to live. Consider Jesus’s own words in Matthew 11:28-30 NIV and let His peace wash over you:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The Message translates the last part of verse 30 like this, “Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Wow, what a concept! The Creator of the universe doesn’t need me to fix it . . .

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

Finding Comfort Where God has Placed You

When you look up the name Joshua in the Bible, you find words like conqueror, leader, and warrior – all inspiring titles. But from where I sit, my days look anything but heroic.

I know there are many lessons to be learned from Joshua’s courage and obedience during his conquests towards the promised land.  However, in this season of motherhood where I find myself battling the world’s pressure for an explanation of my life’s purpose, I crave a way to connect more deeply with Joshua’s story. All of our stories start somewhere, after all, and as someone who feels as if I’m floating around in that ‘somewhere’ part of life, I wanted to look at where Joshua came from. What made him who he was? How was he able to discern the will of the Lord so clearly? How was he able to lead so confidently?

The very first mention of Joshua in the Bible occurs in chapter 17 of Exodus. We open on his life somewhere around the age of 40-45 years old when Moses chooses Joshua to lead the Israelites against Amalek. Moses tells Joshua,

Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. Exodus 17:9-11. 

After Moses’ arms grew weary on top of the hill, Aaron and Hur supported his body as he held up the staff until the Israelites had won. Verse 14 continues, Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ ” (Exodus 17:14).

We see God giving Joshua an opportunity to learn first-hand what courage and obedience looked like in Moses, a man who knew God face-to-face. Moments like this were used by God to prepare Joshua both mentally and spiritually to become the successor to Moses who 40 years later in leading the Israelites into the promised land. Now you and I may not be leading a nation anytime soon, but the message I take from this is to live today exactly how God has instructed you. Walk in obedience. Absorb every moment. God has divinely planned these circumstances to teach and prepare you for the purpose to which He has called you.

Our obedience fills the gap between having faith IN God and experiencing victory THROUGH God.

Every time I read this story, I linger on verse 14; God tells Moses to recite it back to Joshua after writing it down. Joshua needed to be trained from the beginning of his leadership role that any victory experienced was a demonstration of God fulfilling His promise.Women, we are to recite the faithful promises of God to those around us. Through this, glory will always be given to God and we will recognize how our obedience in faith can be used by God to accomplish victory.

Just as Joshua’s future was forever defined by the example he had in watching the faith and leadership of Moses, we too can learn from the generation before us. And then we can turn around and fill that same role for the generation  after us. You are exactly where God wants you to be. Lead and be led.

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.

Where Are You Going?

Have you ever felt invisible, as if no one even knows you are alive?  If we as free women sometimes feel that way, I can’t imagine how Hagar must have felt when she decided to run away from Sarai.  Hagar was a slave; she wasn’t free to live her life as she pleased.  She was the slave of Sarai, wife of Abram, and Sarai chose to give Hagar to Abram as a wife because Sarai was barren.  Now the fact that Sarai was taking matters into her own hands rather than waiting on the Lord is a topic for another blog post, but Sarai thought she was doing the right thing when she did it.  Her plan backfired on her when Hagar became pregnant and, as scripture states, she treated her mistress with contempt.

Sarai was quite unhappy with her barrenness, and, now that Hagar was pregnant and was treating her disrespectfully, she was really angry. She blamed Abram for the situation, and Abram told her to do whatever she wanted to with Hagar.  After all, Hagar was her slave.  Therefore, she treated Hagar very harshly.  Sarai’s abuse resulted in Hagar’s decision to run away.  This was a pretty drastic measure for Hagar.  The country was rugged and she was alone and pregnant, running away from the only home she knew.  She really didn’t have a plan; she just wanted relief from the abuse.

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”Genesis 16:7-9

Hagar responded by calling God El-Roi – “the God who sees.” She realized that God truly saw her amidst her struggles and she was willing to submit to His plan for her life; a plan that included her obedience to her mistress. We may feel abandoned by everyone, even by God, but, when we realize that God truly sees us in our time of distress we are moved by His mercy to be obedient to His call on our lives – even when that means going back to what we don’t understand.  

Perhaps you find yourself in a situation you don’t understand.  Perhaps you can’t see how God can bring good out of your current situation.  I challenge you to be obedient to God’s call and to trust Him for the outcome –  even when you don’t understand His plan.

About the Writer:
Anna is a mother to three grown children, Nana to four grandchildren and enjoys coordinating Prison Ministry for her church.  Her desire is to finish this life well by pointing others to faith in Jesus Christ and to a deeper reliance on Him.

Put Your Family First . . . Right?

Wife.  Mother.  Daughter.  These titles come with joyful responsibilities (most of the time.)  We work hard to take care of our families.  All other commitments are under the umbrella of our primary task which is to provide for those we love.  They are “our job;” very often, they are our responsibility in addition to the work outside the home, making them our second, third, or even fourth job.  Many times, we sacrifice ourselves to ensure they get what they need.  But in our determination to fulfill these responsibilities are we forgetting the One who gave us this task in the first place?

Abraham is known for being a faithful follower of God.  He was always willing and ready to do whatever the Lord told him to do, even sacrificing his only son.  According to Genesis 22:2-3a

He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey . . . 

Abraham obeyed. The Bible never mentions him protesting or coming up with an alternative plan.  In fact, in Genesis 22: 12b (NIV) we read, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac and provided a ram in some nearby bushes.

Notice how many times the phrase “your only son” is used.  Throughout this chapter the Lord uses this phrase 3 times. The first time He used the phrase He made a point to say “whom you love,” just to be clear.  The Lord emphasized this phrase because this account was foreshadowing how God was going to save us.  He sacrificed His Son, His only Son, whom He loved as a sacrifice for us so that we might believe and get to spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

God wants all of our heart.  And he should get all of our heart.  He sacrificed His only Son for us after all.  He demands to be our top priority, even ahead of our family. Nothing can be more important than Him (Exodus 20:3). We have been given stewardship over the blessings God has given us, and that includes our families. Anything that replaces God as a priority in our hearts becomes an idol, even the blessings He gives us to manage.  Abraham realized this and lived it out, despite not having an example (or multiple examples) of faithful men before him as we do.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:3

One of the most memorable professors I had in college was a middle-aged, never-married woman who had a fierce love affair with the English language. Every year she took a pilgrimage to Oxford, Mississippi, William Faulkner’s home. She returned animatedly to class describing tidbits of information concerning her favorite author. As a newly engaged 19-year-old, I was in love, but it certainly wasn’t with English, nor Faulkner. All I could think about was finishing college early and marrying my fiancé, who I was sure would fulfill my deepest longings for happily ever after.

We both loved Jesus, and looked forward to a life in vocational ministry. However, my devotion during that final year of college couldn’t be described as sincerely and purely given to Christ. We took as many classes together as possible, one of which was the Southern Literature class taught by the Faulkner-loving professor. We remarked how sad that her devotion to a long dead writer, given to run on phrases and strong liquor, seemed a substitute for relationship with a living person.

Fast forward a few years, and our own fairy tale was neck-deep in babies, bills, and bad attitudes. What started out as stars in our eyes became a meteor shower of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. My devotion to the idea of my husband meeting all my heart needs wore thin, as did his patience in dealing with a perfectionistic wife. Thankfully, God answered our desperate prayers for help, and we met some wise counselors who redirected our focus back to the only One Who truly fills the holes in our soul.

Like Eve, the first woman and mother of us all, our hearts are easily led astray when we look to anyone or anything other than Jesus to be our everything. Eve’s sin was in believing that God hadn’t already given her what she needed for life and godliness. The serpent seized the opportunity to appeal to Eve’s desires, which in themselves were not wrong. What was wrong was allowing those desires to replace God’s plan for fulfilling them and believing a lie.

As this new year begins, let’s allow Christ alone to capture our heart’s devotion. Let that apple fall far from the tree!

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.

 

The Goldilocks Disorder

My name should be Goldilocks!

When ordering from a menu, I like my food to be “just right” – dressing on the side, no cheese, water with lemon. When folding laundry, I fold towels so they fit “just right” in the cabinet. When dusting, which I probably don’t do as often as you, I return decorative items so they sit “just right” in their assigned places.

How does trying to live in a “just right” Goldilocks world affect my spiritual life? It’s like oil and water! It doesn’t work!

Sometimes when I pray, I tell God how I would like things to be “just right” in my life – a quiet child, a calm day, good health, a check in the mail. Very seldom do my requests become reality because God is a good Father and a wise Sovereign. He allows only what is best, and I’m learning His sovereign plans for me really are “just right.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

What does it mean to say God “plans to prosper us”? He doesn’t promise to prosper us by putting money in our bank account or giving us a better job. His plans are custom-designed to teach us to thrive . . . have fortitude . . . have courage in times of trouble. I would not have chosen some of the situations God has allowed for me, and some of life’s difficulties have been lingering for many years, as possibly some have been for you as well. I’m learning God’s Spirit enables me to persevere through the challenges He allows. Because of the situations God allows in our lives, our faith can grow stronger and we can have empathy (your pain in my heart) with others. God wastes nothing.

What does it mean to say God “plans to give us hope”?  Hope in scripture is not crossing our fingers – hoping a husband won’t leave, hoping we can get pregnant, hoping a child will graduate, or hoping we’ll be able to retire. Hope in scripture is a blessed assurance…a peace that comes during difficulties. God is ready to give us an inner quietness even when life is hard.

What does it mean God to say “plans to give us a future”? As God’s children, our future is assured (guaranteed . . . secure) because He has prepared a place for us to live eternally with Him.  As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

For those of us who have The Goldilocks Disorder, how should we face the new year?  We can rest in God’s plans.  Rest?!  In 2019 God wants us to rest?!  Life in the 21stcentury is on the fast track and there’s very little time to rest physically, emotionally, or spiritually – right?

 

Where was Goldilocks at the end of the fairy tale?  She was resting . . . she was even asleep!!  She had given up trying to make things “just right.”

Yes, the story of Goldilocks is a fairy tale, but God’s Word is not. He is our Faithful Father and His plans are always perfect. God promises His plans will give us hope in 2019 and an eternal future. He allows only what is best, and His sovereign plans are always “just right.”

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

 

 

Will he know where I am?

I can remember this one Christmas at the age of  six or seven.  We were making the trek to Dallas from Houston, and the only real issue I had with this trip was that this was the year I was supposed to get an American girl doll.  It was a big deal, and I needed to know if Santa would know where I was.  Would he be able to find me and bring me my doll?  Would my doll be all alone in Houston while I was in Dallas?

For my little girl heart, it was a real question.

Later in life I learned the truth of Santa and the realization that my doll was never going to be alone in Houston.

But have you ever asked yourself these questions of God?Will He know where I am? Will I be alone in this new city or new adventure?  Will He be able to find me?

The beauty of Christmas is the reminder that God loves us so much He sent His son for us.  In that truth, there is the hope and peace that He knows where we are always, and loves us so much that He sent His son to this world so that we may be saved through Him.

What a calming peace!

I remember walking down the stairs Christmas morning to see my doll there waiting for me.  The joy that I found at that moment is one I can still remember.

How much more joy is found in knowing that I never have to question if God knows where I am.  I never have to wonder and wait for a sign. I can stand boldly on the truth that he knows everything about me.

Psalm 139 teaches us this:

Lord, you have examined me
    and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
    You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
    You know everything I do.

As a child of God, I am sure He knows me, and,  if you are a believer, He knows you, too.  There is no question, no reason to wonder! This Christmas rest on the truth that Christ came because of God’s love for us.  And, in that loves comes the truth that He knows us personally.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days teaching 6th graders the value of math and science while also displaying the love of Christ, and 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.

Christmas Traditions That Point to Jesus

Many Christian moms strive to make sure the Christmas season doesn’t get swept away in commercialism, but is truly a time of joy. What an opportunity we have to celebrate with our family the greatest miracle the world has even known!  God coming to earth as a baby named Jesus to rescue us from the curse of this world is worthy of jubilant celebration. Christian moms know this and desire this for our families, but cutting through the expectations of the season and getting to the heart of Christmas can be difficult. What’s the solution?

There is no formula. What works best for one family doesn’t create a mandate for others to do the same. Some mothers excel at and relish in Pinterest-worthy advent projects.  Others find doing simple things like reading stories that point to Jesus’ coming in the Old Testament best for their family. I humbly share a few things our family does with our young children to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps one of these strikes a chord with you or gives you an idea all your own.

  1. Our girls love playing the “Star from Afar” game. My husband and I move the star every night, and the girls wake up each morning to search for the star. Upon locating it, they move the wise men under the star as they follow it on their path to meet the new King! When my girls wake up Christmas morning the star is over the manger and they along with the wise men find the Savior!
  2. We host an annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, normally on Christmas Eve. It’s small and simple. We have a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We sing a few Christmas songs and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. The children put on a play of the Christmas story using things we have around the house like sheets, sticks, and blankets as costumes.
  3. We snuggle on the couch and watch a YouTube video of Joy Williams song “Here with Us” set to scenes from The Nativity Story.

Children thrive on rhythms and routine. Having a few traditions in your family that clearly point to the wonder and awe of Jesus’ birth will seal in the lives of your children the miracle of Christmas. Celebrate and rejoice!

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.