Thank God for All Your Talents

music piano still life vertical
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

God has been talking to me a lot about talents lately. He’s been working on me about my own talents. When I was in my teens and younger I loved playing the piano. I would practice 2-3 hours a night, at one time I practiced so much I had tendinitis in my wrists and had to take a break for a month. I went to college planning on getting a degree in music, that didn’t happen, I had to pick a more “practical” major. I’ve tried to play in many different capacities but I always seemed to fall short and after a worship band I was playing in fell apart I started only playing for myself.

And I felt guilty for it. I would think of the parable of the 5 talents and think well I’ve hidden music in the ground. I would feel so guilty that I couldn’t use my talent. Even though I felt I was thwarted whenever I tried. Do you ever feel that way, guilty because your not doing something?

Well in this quarantine time I’ve started playing the piano and the Holy Spirit encouraged me to play hymns on facebook. I think I played four. Then my girls decided they wanted to learn piano so I started teaching them a few things. Then I joined a writing group and in the writing prompt time I started writing songs again. I haven’t written a song in years. But now I have 6 to work on. All the time I’m saying, God why are you doing this? It always falls apart and I get discouraged. When I admitted this to my close friend she said, maybe this time it won’t. But it’s scary. It’s scary either way. It’s scary to step out and post yourself playing a song and no one liking it. And it’s scary if someone likes it. There’s fear again, the constant companion that tries to stop you from doing anything. And to think I’ve wasted my talent is also a wrong mindset. I’ve always wanted to use it, I just never knew what to do, and I still don’t.

So I guess its important not to give up on your talents. God blessed each of you with unique gifts. Don’t feel guilty if your not using one of them but know that at some point God will use it. Our talents make up who we are, he wouldn’t plant them in us if he didn’t have a good reason for it. It might just be for me that God knew I feel joy when I hear music. Be thankful and wait patiently on him. I needed to hear that too.

Karitos Has First 10 Day Art Challenge

 

IMG_2118Community is important. Right now its hard to stay involved in a community. We are all secluded in our homes. However one of the ways to battle depression and anxiety is to have a good support system. To surround yourself with people who love and encourage you. People who check on you who you can be real and honest with. To be healthy you need other people to help you.

I am part of a few great communities. Karitos is one of them. Karitos I’ve talked about in previous posts but it is a group of artists from all kinds of art forms that gather together for a conference once a year in the Wisconsin/Chicago area. Karitos Worship Conference Creates New Opportunities for Young People is a post I wrote about our conference last summer if you’d like more information about it.

If your creative, like me, surrounding yourself with other creative people really does help you grow not only in your creativeness but also easies the anxiety you might feel sharing your talents. I’m very excited that Karitos is offering a 10 day art challenge. It begins May 13 and runs through May 22. If you go to the event and select that you are going you will receive a link to a Facebook group. Starting May 13 there will be a prompt every day around 9 a.m. EST. You have the day to create something based on that prompt. It can be a painting, a photograph, a poem, a short story, a dance, a song, a Bible journaling page, anything you create. Post a picture of your creation below the prompt in the comments for that day to complete the challenge.  Here’s the link for the event. Karitos Art Challenge.

It will also be posted on the Karitos Instagram site daily. If you would rather participate on Instagram the hashtags are #KaritosArtChallenge and #Karitos2020.

I hope you join the challenge with me. My creative outlets are crafting, sewing, writing songs and spoken words, chalk drawing and making jewelry. I can’t wait to see what happens during that 10 day time. I hope to see you and get to know you better.

 

Main Water Line Broke on Our Street Last Night

IMG_2097We had one big thunderstorm last night right around 3:30 a.m. It lasted till about 6 a.m. and at about 5 my whole house was awake. Crazy thundering and lightning. I checked out the window twice to see if our two trees were still standing. Either the overflow of water or the storm itself caused the main line of water near our house to break. My friend across the street texted me at 5 a.m. saying she had no water. I got up late due to the storm. Took my shower at about 9 a.m. I was worried that there was a leak somewhere in the house because the water pressure sputtered a few times. I got dressed, walked cautiously around the house praying not to see any water. We’ve had at least 6 leaks in our house since we purchased it 15 years ago and have had to replace the floor on our main level 4 times. Around 10:30 I could hear and see a number of people working on my neighbor’s corner. At lunchtime I went out and talked to one of the workers. He said it had been a large break in the mainline and had taken a long time to fix but that they were about done. My neighbor’s tree had been pulled up, and a part of the yard dug up.

It made me think of when we have a main line break in our spiritual lives. You see when we become Christians we have a direct main line to God though the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have God’s ear when we pray. God’s word to lead us and the Holy Spirit living in us helping us along the way. But when we don’t commune with God through reading the word and praying our mainline is broken.

When a mainline is broken there’s no water. We can’t cook, bathe, drink. When our spiritual mainline is broken its the same way. We can’t receive guidence, repent of our sins or have our spiritual cup filled.  We are frustrated, depressed and angry. We try to find water from other sources only to come up dry. The fruits of the spirit are still seen in us but only in spurts.

You can still be a Christian with a broken main line but you cannot be a healthy, thriving, growing Christian, You need water. You need time with God, every day. You need to establish that main line, mend it, bulldoze it up and repair it. You might feel exposed for a while but once its fixed you can grow again, you can heal.

Lord I pray for broken main lines today. I pray you put people in the path of those who need repaired and lead them towards your water, your word. I pray for healing of hearts and spirits. I pray for growth and leading to your purpose. Pour your water on us Lord. In Jesus Name Amen.

 

Hymns for A Time Like This part 1:”It Is Well with My Soul.”

We’ve been in quarantine for a while now. Here in Indiana It’s been since March 23rd. But I know we started staying home the week of the 17th because my daughter’s birthday was March 17 and that was the last day we went out as a family. So friends its been over a month. Many of my loved ones have mentioned to me that they are sad or depressed right now. Our lifestyles have changed for a while and friends we are all silently grieving our past routines.

And were the blessed ones. Already on Facebook I’ve had friends post that their loved ones are gone, taken by the disease. I’ve had friends post they are sick with the disease. I’ve had loved ones make it though the disease. Going out is scary. Two weeks ago I fell and broke my right knee cap and bent my back out of shape. I now have mandatory doctor appointments and physical therapy appointments that I have to keep. I enter the office with a mask on and my temperature is taken before I can proceed. It’s a different world and this change is saddening, hard and painful for many of us.

For the past four weeks the Lord has been talking to me though hymns. I love hymns. There what I grew up with listening to in church as a child. I had a piano teacher in my youth who insisted on teaching hymns so we would learn our chord progressions. They bring me peace. Calm me down. Give me a moment to breathe. Playing them in this time has given me space and lifted my spirits.

Four weeks ago the Holy Spirit laid the hymn “It is Well with my a Soul” on my heart. I had a hard time with this because life well, wasn’t well with me. I was busy praying that the virus would just go away and things could go back to normal. But He reminded me about how I felt in 2017, after I ruptured the S5 disc in my back. I just wanted to be well. I wanted things to go back the way it was. I wanted to wake up one morning, miraculously healed and go back to life but He reminded me that life isn’t like that. Things change and it will take time to get back to a state of normal. He talked to me about surrendering to His process. That God can work good through all the bad.

I hadn’t broken my knee at that point. I didn’t realize God was getting me ready for my next battle. For things to be well with our souls we have to learn to submit and surrender to God’s will. Sometimes when our priorities are not his we feel a little broken, depressed and humbled when we submit.

This hymn was written by Horacio Spafford in 1873. Spafford lost his 4 year old son in the Great Chicago Fire as well as a great financial loss from the fire. Afterward He planned to travel to Europe with his family. He sent his family ahead of him on the boat SS Ville du Havre. Which sank and all four of his daughters died. His wife alone survived.

Spafford’s world had changed. He had a Job-like experience and lost everything. He had every reason to be depressed and broken. His response to everything was to write this hymn. Spafford was still able and willing to find joy and surrender in his faith. His hymn encourages me to do the same. I’ve put the words of the hymn below. I encourage you to just read it. I hope it lifts your spirits today.

It is Well with My Soul
Written by Horacio Spafford 1873
When Peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say,
It is Well with my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is Well with my Soul
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
It is Well with my Soul
To listen to the hymn go to 2BecomeBrave
on YouTube.

Brave Women in the Bible, The Woman With the Hemorrhage for 12 years

She doesn’t have a name but she was very brave and full of faith. This women mentioned in both Matthew and Luke Gospels overcame unbelievable odds to be healed by Jesus. The story begins when Jarius a synagogue official approaches Jesus and askes him to come to his home and heal his dying daughter, (Luke chapter 8:40-49) Jesus agrees to go with him. Luke describes a crowd of people followed Jesus and in the crowd a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched the tassel of his outer robe. Jesus, feeling his power of healing leave him, said “Who touched Me?” While the crowd was denying it Peter said, “Master the people are crowding and pushing against you!” When the woman saw she had not escaped Jesus noticing her she came before him trembling and told him why she touched him. Jesus replied “Daughter, your faith (your personal trust and confidence in me) has made you well. Go in peace (untroubled, undisturbed well-being.)” (Luke 8:48AMP).

It isn’t as simple as it sounds. She didn’t just happen to be in the crowd. This women was suffering and she had a plan. First of all it says in both accounts that she had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. There are many things that could have caused this but Luke said she had spent all her money on physicians and could not be healed. This was bad in the Jewish culture. As long as she was hemorrhaging she was considered unclean. That meant according to the laws found in Leviticus chapter 12 she had to stay outside the “camp” could not enter the synagogue to worship. She should yell unclean when anyone approached her because if they touched her they would become unclean and would have to perform other rituals to be “clean” again. She definitely was not supposed to be in a crowd.  So we have to assume she was there intentionally to see Jesus and be healed.

Its also interesting where she touched him. She touched the tassel on his outer robe. Jewish men wore outer robes with tassels on each corner and there was a blue thread that ran through the tassel. This thread was there to remind the wearer of the commandments of God and represent the wearer’s “Holiness.” (Numbers 15:38-40) Being unclean the woman could not be holy. She touched the “Holiness” of Jesus and became clean. Now don’t mistake me Jesus healed her not the tassel. But I think the tassel is a good representation of how Jesus heals.

This woman bravely broke the Jewish cultural rules in order to get to Jesus to receive her healing. Jesus instead of reprimanding her for not following the old laws instead rewarded her not only with healing but also by praising the faith she had in him.

He had many reasons to be upset at her, to reprimand her. She had broken old testament law and social laws. She had surprised him. She had interrupted him on his way to heal Jarius’s daughter. But Jesus showed her love. He wasn’t upset or angry or frustrated that it was taking longer to get to his destination. He just loved on her.

I have personally struggled a lot with healing. The healing of my back and nerve damage has been a slow painful process. It will be 3 years next month since I ruptured my S5 disk. A week ago I fell and broke my right kneecap. Same leg as the nerve damage in my foot. I feel like I just took a huge step backwards in my healing process. My back is sore from the fall, my nerve pain is a little more intense than normal, its been deflating to say the least. There have been many times on this journey I’ve told myself. If I knew Jesus was walking around a city in USA I’d spend any amount of money to get to him to touch the tassel on his outer robe. And its only been 3 years, I can’t imagine how I’ll feel in 12. But Jesus continues to show me his love, he continues to heal me, slowly. I know he is always with me and is more familiar with pain than I am.

If you need healed of something today, don’t give up on your healing. Have faith. Press into that faith. Whether your sick with Covid 19, cancer, parkinsons, depression, anxiety or a broken knee cap Jesus can and will heal you. If you’re in need of healing I’d like to pray for you today.

Dear Sweet Jesus,

I pray for your divine touch on the life of my friend. I pray for your healing over their body, mind and spirit. I believe that you died on the cross to save me from my sins. I confess that you are Lord of all. I believe that I am healed by your stripes and covered in your blood. Thank you for your healing, your touch and your wisdom. Please lead my friend into my next steps to receive healing whether that be divinely though you or though the capable hands of many medical friends and their wisdom. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Brave Women of the Bible: Mary Magdalene

Happy Easter. It’s not been a normal Easter for any of us. Were not gathered with our families, we didn’t dress up in our Easter best. For many of us church was online this morning or last night. It’s strange and a little sad. But He is risen and that should be more than enough to find joy to celebrate.

Mary Magdalene plays a very intregral part in the story of Easter Sunday. She was present at Jesus’s death, she visited his tomb and was the first person to see him alive.  Mary knew fear. It says in Mark chapter 16 that Jesus cast 7 demons out of Mary. To live with 7 demons to me mean’s before Christ, Mary was terrified, depressed and full of darkness. Jesus saved Mary from torment. He made her brave. Mary in return dedicated her life to following him.

Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus and his disciples. She witnessed his teachings, his miracles and his death. She is mentioned to be with Jesus’s mother Mary in Matthew Chapter 27 verse 55 watching Jesus’s death. It goes on to say in verse 61 that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary mother of James” sat at the tomb where Jesus was laid after his burial.

They were grief stricken of the death of Jesus. However Saturday was the Sabbath and they could do no work on that day so esarly Sunday morning Mary Magdalene went back to the tomb to finish the proper burial of Jesus. On Saturday according to Matthew the tomb was sealed and guards were posted at the tomb.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all give a different account of who was with Mary Magdalene the Sunday morning of Jesus’s resserection. Matthew just reports Mary, Mark says it was Mary and Salome, Luke just says “the women” and John says just Mary. Mary Magedalene is the common denominator. All four men agree she was there and witnessed the stone rolling away, at least one angel present and her savior.

When Mary Magdalene found the stone rolled away it says she and the other women went to the home the disciples were hiding in (John 20) and told them what they had seen. Peter left and went to the tomb with John following behind. Peter entered the tomb and saw the wrappings that Jesus had been buried in and believed he was risen.  Mary Magdalene followed them and stood outside the tomb sobbing. In verse 12 it says that she stooped down to look at the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’s body had been laid. They asked her why she was crying and she said, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.” (verse 13) After she said this she turned around and saw a man standing by her. The man asked also, “Why are you crying? For whom are you looking? Mary supposed he was the gardener and replied, “Sir, If you are the one who has carried him away from here, tell me where you have put Him, and I will take Him away, ” (verse 15) The Man replied, “Mary” and instantly Mary recognized Him as Jesus. In a second her sadness turned to joy when she saw her savior.

She called him Rabbi. He was her teacher, her friend and her Savior. He was dead, she had seen it and then he wasn’t. I’m sure on her way to the tomb she was afraid. Unsure how she would face the Roman guards. If they would let her see her Lord. When she arrived there were no guards and no Jesus. Just imagine what it was like to see him standing there calling her name. Our faith is hinged on that moment. The moment Jesus rose from the dead.

So I hope you celebrated Easter yesterday, and I hope you celebrate it today too, and the next and the next. Each day we should be thankful that Jesus is risen. Each day we should remember when our morning turned to joy. He is risen, He is risen indeed.

 

 

Brave Women of the Bible, Mary of Bethany

Happy Holy Week. I’m sure for you as for me this is not like any Holy week we’ve ever had. My church’s Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services will be done via Zoom and Livestream. Many of us won’t see family on Sunday, except those we live with. Big meals and Easter egg hunts will look different. I won’t have to make devil eggs. For many there won’t be an Easter as they’re fighting for their lives at home or in the hospital. Some of us will be at work on Easter. All this change can make us feel a little more isolated, a little more lonely. But I think it will feel closer to that actual week that happened so long ago.

John 12:1 says that 6 days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. By my calculations I think that would have been today, Monday So I thought it fitting to talk about Mary of Bethany.

Mary, the sister of Martha, loved, I mean LOVED Jesus. When we are first introduced to Mary in Luke Chapter 10, Mary sits at Jesus’s feet while he is teaching while her sister Martha is distracted and busy with her serving responsibilities. Martha scolds Mary to get up and help her but Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part (that which is to her advantage) which will not be taken away from her, ” (verses 41-42 AMP)

Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mary was sitting, with the rest of the disciples, and her brother, who are men, listening to Jesus teach. In the Jewish culture of that time a woman was not supposed to study under a rabbi. But Jesus allowed her, invited her and then defended her when her sister scolded her.

Mary knew the social cues of her time. She knew she was doing something society said she shouldn’t. But she did it anyway. Her sister was doing more than just scolding her. She was probably trying to be a good big sister and reinstate the social norm. Protect Mary from any other ramifications of her sitting and listening to the rabbi. Mary was brave. She stepped out of the social norm for something better and Jesus protected and defended her in her stepping out. How comforting to know that when God invites us to step out of our own comfort zones He will be there protecting and defending us.

The next time we see Mary her brother Lazarus has died. Martha left the home and ran ahead to meet Jesus on his way to Bethany.  Martha says to Jesus when she meets him, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. Even no I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give to you.” John 11:21-23

Jesus then tells her that her brother will rise from the dead. Martha says she knows that Lazarus will rise from the dead in resurrection on the last day. “Jesus says to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) me (as savior) will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me (as savior) will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-27. Martha replies “Yes Lord, I have believed and continue to believe that you are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed, ) The son of God.”  She then went home to Mary and told Mary that Jesus had come and wanted to see her. Mary quickly went to Jesus.

Jesus had not yet entered Bethany when Mary met him. When Mary saw Jesus she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (verse 32). Jesus looked around and saw her sobbing and a group of Jewish friends surrounding her weeping. He was deeply moved and then Jesus, the Son of God, wept.

Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He saw how broken his friends and their family and friends were and he wept. Many of us are broken right now. We’ve lost family, friends, we know someone who’s lost someone or who is sick. I know I have wept. I believe right now Jesus’s is weeping. I believe he is sobbing over all of us. I believe is waiting, wanting to raise some of us from our deadened hearts, from our sick beds. I pray he rises us.

Mary again was unafraid to loose composure in front of her Lord. Her Lord had come again to her rescue but first he loved her enough to weep with her in her loss.

Which brings us to six days before Passover and Jesus is traveling to Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem again to Martha’s home. That evening Mary brought out costly perfume made from pure nard. It could have been the same perfume she had buried her brother Lazarus in.  She opened the alabaster jar and knelt before Jesus. Without words she untied her hair, poured the oil over His feet and legs and wiped it up with her hair.

Mary gave her greatest devotion and form of worship to Jesus in this act. She knew the perfume was costly, she and her sister probably paid for it when her brother had died. The Youversion Devotional “Alabaster Jar” by Tearfund explains that Jewish women kept their hair tied up and covered. The only person who could see a woman’s hair uncovered was her husband.  This act of untying her hair in the presence of Jesus and all his disciples was like she was saying “Jesus is like my husband.” It also says that Mary as she performed this anointment. Mary again poured herself out to her Lord, uncaring of the cultural rules she was breaking she bravely let the whole room and world know how much Jesus meant to her.

Again she was scolded for her act of love. Judas scolds her for wasting the perfume saying it could be sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor (John 12 verse 4-6) Again Jesus comes to her defense. “Let her alone, so that she may keep (the rest of) it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (verses 7-8).

Friends we cannot be afraid to cross our cultural norms to show the love of Jesus. We cannot be afraid to step out of our comfort zones to share encouragement, show love, help when help is needed. God will and does call us to do this. Right now we are tucked into our homes where many of us cannot physically reach out to others. But God is calling us out in different ways. Look at your circle there are people in it that need to hear God loves them, Christian and non-Christian. There are people in it that need hope right now. Be the light. Don’t be afraid to shine.

I highly recommend the five day study in YouVersion “Alabastar Jar” if you would like to study Mary of Bethany on your own. If you would like prayer please post it in the comments below. I’d love to pray for you.

 

Brave Women of the Bible, Mary Part 2

All parents go through a state of transition. We transition from caring and protecting our children to letting them go and grow into adults. But we remain their parents, still mom and dad. Mary’s story was a little different. She had to transition from caring and protecting Jesus to becoming a follower of Him. Letting go of her parental instincts on how to protect Him. She watched and followed him all the way to the foot of the cross.

Mary’s transition wasn’t easy. As per Jewish custom when Joseph died Jesus, being the first born was to care for her. In John Chapter 2 we see the account of Jesus’s first miracle at a wedding feast turning water into wine. Mary is present at the feast, probably sitting next to Jesus and his disciples who are also invited. When she over hears that the wine is all gone she says to Jesus, “They have no more wine,” (verse 3) Jesus says to her “(Dear) woman what is that to you and me? My time (to act and to be revealed) has not yet come.” (verse 4 AMP) When Jesus calls Mary “woman” the actual Hebrew translation was a term of endearment an older child would call their mother and not as insulting as it sounds in the English language.  However, Mary realizes she must submit to her son as she tells the servants in verse 5, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Transition is hard and scary. Change is not something we are comfortable with. Right now we are living in a frightening, changing world. Our daily lives have changed, for some of us our health has changed, our state of employment has changed, hopefully temporarily.  and ultimately it was God’s will that these changes are taking place. Many of us must learn to submit to God through this change because right now we have no other choice.

Mary had to learn to submit to her son. I agree with Marlo Schalesky in her book Wrestling with Wonder that Mary chose to go from parent of Jesus to follower of Jesus in Mark chapter 3. In verse 32 Jesus has been preaching at the synagogue and his mother and brother’s come to have a “word” with Him.” Marlo suggests that Mary and her brother’s were there to “talk some sense into Jesus,” Mary was probably fearful of the boldness and claims Jesus was making against the Pharisees. Jesus’s reply was (verse 33) “Who are My mother and My brothers?”

This had to be painful for Mary to hear. But I believe at this point Mary realized she had a choice to make. She could no longer protect him, it was time to follow Him. Mary made the brave choice to bear witness to her son’s life, death and resurrection.

We know that Mary was present during the crucifixion of Jesus due to John’s account. In John 19 verse 25-28 accounts Mary standing by the cross with John. Jesus sees them and per Jewish law he is able to give the care of his mother over to someone instead of his family if he wills it. He lovingly gives John care of her. Jesus loved his mom so much he took care of her even in his death. My friends how much he loves us and will take care of us just as much. Mary bore the hardest thing imaginable she watched her son be crucified. In doing so we are allowed to see a glimpse of how vast and deep Jesus’s love truly is.

Do you feel like you are in a state of transition? I do. Part of me is waiting for things to go back to normal and the other is preparing for the idea that normal is no longer. Transitions leave us in places were we have to make a choice. What choice is God presenting you with? Can I pray with you on that today? If you have a prayer request please leave it in the comments. I’d love to pray for you.

 

 

 

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Brave Women of the Bible, Mary Part 1

Well we have had a nice walk through the new testament. Don’t worry there are still lots of women in the new testament we can discuss. Starting in Matthew we have the story of Mary, Jesus’s mother. I’m breaking up her story into two parts. Mary, Jesus’s mother and Mary Jesus’s follower. In both instances she had to be brave, obedient and faithful. There’s a wonderful book about the story of Mary written by Marlo Schalesky called Wrestling with Wonder.  I will probably reference it but if you are interested in Mary I highly recommend reading this book.

Mary’s life was very simple and ordinary in Nazareth. She was 14 and betroth to Joseph who the Bible describes as a just and righteous man, (Matthew 1:19). I’m sure she was having just an ordinary day when Gabrielle, the angel of the Lord appeared before her. Gabrielle changed her life in an instant. No longer were her plans of a simple life of marriage and family. She was to bear the Messiah, the son of God. She was a virgin, she was 14. She felt totally unequipped for what Gabrielle was asking of her and yet she agreed to it. ” Behold I am servant of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38.

Our plans have changed, for some of us drastically. Many of us agreeing to the government’s request of staying in our houses, working and teaching school from home has found many of us unequipped. Homeschooling parents and educational institutions have poured resources into the hands of us parents who are trying to navigate a new way of educating our children.  Spring vacations have been canceled, restaurants have been closed, jobs have been lost, toilet paper is gone and the list goes on. My husband is currently conducting his work and conference calls from my 5 year-olds room because, he needs somewhere to get his work done that he can close the door. We’re not equipped. Hospitals and medical facilities do not have enough face masks, gowns or face shields. The news reports there’s not enough ventilators for everyone who gets sick. We are not equipped! But our state of being unequipped will hopefully last a short time, months. Mary was facing the rest of her life and I’m sure she felt unequipped to bear and raise God’s only Son.

But not only did she agree to God’s commands she was excited about it. She went to her relative Elisabeth’s home, and sang a song about how happy she was about all of it. Luke 1:46-55.

It was more than just being pregnant. She was 14 and a virgin. There were laws about adultery where if accused of it she could be forced to be barren or even stoned to death. Joseph had to believe her and protect her. He was ready to “quietly divorce her” when Gabrielle appeared to him in a dream and convinced him otherwise. Being unequipped did not scare Mary away from her destiny, to bear the Messiah and bear witness to the Messiah.  For Mary the promise we bigger and greater than the fear. What has God promised us that is bigger and greater than our fears? Can we dismiss our fears of being unequipped to teach for extra time with our kids? Our fears of sickness for God’s promises of healing and eternal life?

Mary faced many fears while raising Jesus. She had to give birth to him in a filthy, stable. She had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s decrees, She lost Jesus at and found him four day’s later in the temple and those are just the stories we know about.  Mary was brave because she had faith that her baby would save them all. He can save us all too. I believe faith fuels bravery and we build our faith by feeding on the promises of God in his word. This is a time for all of us to really listen to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  Build your faith in that and become brave.

Can I pray for you today? Please leave your prayer requests in the comments below. I’d love to pray with you about them.

Brave Women of the Bible, Esther

Well its a whole new world since I posted last week. The grocery shelves are bare in bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper. We’ve been told not to leave our homes unless its necessary. Schools are closed, resturants and small businesses are closed. Our calenders have been cleared of concerts, sporting games and many, many other things we had been looking forward too. And friends this may just be the beginning. Its easy, very easy when we see our worlds change like this to give into the fear all around us. It is a real qualified fear. But I’ll say it again, God did not call us to live in fear. We should submit to authority. Do what’s being asked of you to stay safe, but don’t live in fear and worry.

Esther gives us a good example of how we should face these unprecedented times. She, like all of us, had a calling on her life and instead of shying away from it she faced the possibility of death to save her people. Esther was an orphan and in the care of her uncle Mordecai. They lived in Persia during the late 1400’s B. C.

The king of Persia, King Ahasuerus, held a very fancy banquet and during the banquet his wife, Queen Vashti  also held a banquet. On the seventh day of the banquet the King commanded that the Queen come before him and his guests wearing her royal crown to “display her beauty before the people and officials for she was lovely to see,” (Esther chapter 1 verse 11) Queen Vashti refused and as a result Ahasuerus made a decree that Vashti was no longer queen and could not come before him.  After a time when Ahsuerus’s wrath subsided the king decided to look for a new queen and comanded all the young virgins in Persia to join his harem to receive beauty preparations and then be presented to the King. Esther was one of these virgins.

Now I’m quite sure like the crono-virus was not part of our plan for our lives, being in the king’s harem was not part of Esther’s plan for her life.  She was a devote Jew, we can see that through the way she handles what comes ahead. She probably had her own plans. But she submitted to authority and under the instruction of her Uncle Mordecai not to tell anyone she was a Jew. Esther went.

We find out that God showed her favor. He protected her. Hegai who was in charge of the harem gave her extra beauty preparations and 7 maids then transferred her to the best place in the harem. When she was presented before the king, God caused King Ahsuerus to fall in love with her and pick her to be the next queen.

Enter our nemesis Haman. One of the King’s men who was over all the officials of the kingdom. Esther’s Uncle Mordecai who sat at the royal gate daily refused to bow down to Haman and pay homage to him when he passed, as was required. When Haman saw Mordecai would not bow down to him he found out Mordecai was a Jew and became determined to kill all the Jew’s in under King Ahsuerus’s reign.

Haman approached King Ahsuerus and convinced him of a plan to kill all the Jew’s since they follow their own laws. A decree was sent out, by Haman’s hand, to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews including women and children. My Amplified Bible says this decree went out  on “the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar, or on March 7, 473 B.C.” I love that it’s so exact. I also find it interesting that we are in March now.

Mordecai found out about the decree and sent word to Esther. He also I might note tore his clothes and put on sackcloth before doing this, in prepration for mourning. Jews as they found out about the decree all did the same it says in Chapter 4 verse 3. “There was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.”

Esther was fearful when she received word of the decree from Mordecai. Her first response was to send clothes to him. She wanted to protect him. She didn’t want others finding out that he was Jewish. When Mordecai refused to wear the clothes. Esther sent the King’s eunuch Hathach to find out everything from Mordecai. Mordecai told Hathach everything that had happened and gave him the text of the decree to give to Esther. Esther’s first response was to do nothing. She said that if she approached the king without being summoned and the king did not welcome her by holding out his scepter she would be put to death.

Esther was afraid and a bit hopeless. But Mordecai then told her “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews in another place and you and your father’s house will perish (since you did not help when you had the chance.)” Esther chapter 4 verse 13-14. Then Esther replied with her famous words, “If I perish, I perish,” (verse 16) Now she did ask all the Jews to to fast for her for three days and three nights.

Are you afraid and a bit hopeless. Does this epidemic seem to big for you to wrap your brain around. This was too big for Esther to wrap her brain around. So she took a minute. Three days and prayed and fasted. At the end of three days God gave her a plan. Fasting is something not a lot of us do anymore. I never did until a few years ago. If done right, It brings you closer to God, it toughen’s you up a bit and it allows you to spend more time hearing his voice. I believe during Esther’s fast God gave her the idea to have a banquet with the King and Haman.

Esther was bold enough to approach the King and by God’s grace he extended his scepter and promised her half the kingdom. She asked the King and Haman to the banquet which both accepted.  Haman, still furious at Mordecai, had a gallows built 50 cubits high that he planned to hang Mordecai on.

Meanwhile that night the King couldn’t sleep and asked that the book of records be read to him, probably to put him to sleep. While the book was being read it was discovered that Mordecai had reported that Two of the King’s doorkeepers had planned to attack the king. The King realized he had never honored Mordecai for the report. Haman was outside the door ready to ask the king if he could hang Mordecai when the king called for him and asked him how such a man should be honored. Haman, mistakenly thinking the King was talking about him said. “let a royal robe be brought which the king has worm, and the horse on which the king has ridden and on whose head a royal crown has been placed. Let a noble official dress the man whom the king delights to honor and lead him on horseback through the open square of the city proclaiming before him, “This is what shall be done for the man whom the king desires to honor.” (Esther Chapter 6 verse 8-9).

The king then ordered Haman to do all of this for Mordecai. Then Esther’s banquet came and she during dinner revealed to the king that Haman planned to kill her and all her people. As a result the King had Haman hung on the very gallows he built to hang Mordecai. Then the King made a new decree that allowed the Jews to assemble and defend the lives, to destroy and kill and annihilate any armed force that might attack them and to take the enemy’s goods and plunder. And they did. The ten sons of Haman were killed, along with 500 men in Susa. In Esther chapter 9 verse 16 it says that 75,000 were killed who hated the Jews.  Because Esther was submissive to God and obedient to him and brave enough to face the King, all things were turned around for good.

We need to be brave in these times. God may call us out to do something uncomfortable or scary. Its important to remember we have a God who its turning things for our good even if we can’t see it right now. I’m sure Mordecai couldn’t fathom being lead around the city in the Kings robe while Haman was building his gallows but it happened. Remember God can turn it around for you too.

Have a prayer request or need? I’d love to pray for you, leave you request in the comments below.