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What’s Up Ahead?

There are two things I love outside of my family: writing and knitting. Oh, and the color blue. Give me anything blue and I’m the happiest woman in the world! Yet, if I had to choose, I’d write until I had no life left. Unfortunately, Ninja Turtles barge in with swords and masked faces to interrupt all that I hold dear, if for no other reason than to keep my attitude in check so I’m reminded of what’s really important.

Knitting is a lot like writing. It has a tendency to keep you isolated. I could visit my favorite shop and sit with other ladies and knit until my heart is content. But at some point, I always find myself in my favorite chair knitting alone. Writers are also loners. It doesn’t bother them to sit for hours at a time to create a story. I, for one, don’t need anyone to keep me company; and I don’t need to be inside a knitting store to get excited over a new project or new skeins of yarn.

Because I’m wearing a lot of the scarves I’ve made, my knitting projects have come to the attention of many at my congregation. Unexpectedly, knitting is doing something out of the ordinary. It’s drawing people into my inner circle. And this unexpected gift is what has inspired this article.

Weeks ago I had a new knitter come visit me and we sat and knitted while we talked. Since she’s been knitting for a little over a year now, I challenged her to spread her wings and tap into new knitting techniques; to try SSK (slip, slip, knit), simple basket weave patterns, and new ways to cast on. As I tried to demonstrate the Provisional Cast On method, I noticed she continuously asked if this was the only technique used to perform a Provisional Cast On. I said yes, then hesitated, realizing rather quickly there are several ways to perform a Provisional Cast On—with a crochet hook, or with a knitting needle and two different colored yarns.

I wondered:  Why does she need a road map for each new technique?

Then something occurred to me. More often than not we all want to know what’s ahead of us. Where is the next turn? How far do we need to go? Will we make it by dark? Is there enough food? Will the pain be bearable or longsuffering? Just how long are patients on a waiting list for a transplant? Will mine occur soon enough? Is there a cure? Will it hurt to die?

I grew impatient with this probe into the unknown. I wanted to get on with knitting. I had a learn-as-you-go attitude. I have no fear of this adventure because I’m accustomed to it. My new knitting partner, however, had no idea where she was headed. She was afraid. Reluctant. And it didn’t take long for her anxieties to transform her lazy way of talking into a rapid, almost breathless screech of despair. Her hands shook. Her voice raised a decibel or two. Without warning, she declared rather loudly that all she wanted to do was knit and purl as before, not be thrown into an abyss.

Can you imagine laboring over half-filled fishing nets, dragging them to shore as you weigh your debts against your menial profit? Then from out of nowhere, a fisherman calls out to you, “Come, follow me!”

I’m certain my initial response would not be: Drop the net and follow the stranger. I don’t care how peaceful or loving he appears, I’m not following anyone I don’t know. My deep, furrowed brow would convey my reluctance and my thoughts would be: Has this guy lost his mind? I’ve got a family to feed.

Dread would surely consume me if an angel entered my dreams and said, “Behold, Donna, the Son of God is growing inside your womb.” No way I’d hear the announcement that I should name the child Emanuel, the Prince of Peace. Not me. This angel chose the wrong woman. Sorry, Gabriel, but you got the wrong house. I think you meant Mary across the street. I’m telling you, I’d leave my bed and take out in a dead run, stopping only when I felt safe and out of harm’s way.

For God to stop me on any road to confront me and redirect my path to Damascus would have scared me so bad that my heart would probably burst open. And not being able to see would have caused sheer panic and soiled garments.

And yet . . .

I can’t find a place in the New Testament where one of the disciples ever asked, Why? Where are we going? How long is the journey? I’ll be right back. Let me call my wife.

Who are these men? What’s driving their faith? Aren’t they worried about the unknown?

To answer these questions, I had to get real and dig deep into my journey as a knitter.

There was always something intriguing about using a single strand of thread (yarn) to create a garment. I desperately needed to know how to manipulate this strand . . . how to twist and stretch and whirl it around so it would lay neat and flat in all its splendor. My curiosity intensified to the point that I ignored fears of entering a store to inquire how to knit. That visit led to another, and before I knew it I was knitting a child’s sweater.

I think that’s the way it happened with the disciples. Jesus didn’t just hastily spring upon them. I tend to believe the coming Messiah was so much on their hearts and minds that they spent hours upon hours hashing and rehashing how he’d appear . . . when he’d appear . . . imagining how much raucous he’d cause once he showed up. John the Baptist’s preaching of the Messiah fed their anticipation, their desire for him reaching unimaginable proportions. By the time Jesus stood along the shore and beckoned them to, “Come, follow me,” they were eager to obey.

See, they didn’t need to ask, Why? They understood why. Of course, their reasons for his coming and what he’d do once he came were misconstrued. But their hearts never waivered at his appearing. Their soul and spirit knew.

We also know.

Amid all the noise, turbulent storms, strife and heartaches, sickness and despair, we know.

We just need reminders. Encouragement. Refreshed hope. (“I take great joy and encouragement in your love, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7)

Every last one of us wants a bright and prosperous future. And we don’t want anything to impede our hopes for it. But that’s unrealistic. Broken hearts need mending. Those who promote social injustice need repentant hearts and forgiveness. Truth needs to replace lies. Diseases need to be cured. And the dead, spiritual and physical, need raising.

When prayers for such things go unanswered and the road map leads in another direction, we proclaim God isn’t listening. Surely, if he loved me . . .

Consider this:

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . .” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Really?

What if God gave you this warning:

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11)

Why is any of this significant?

Because God does not promise we won’t encounter hardship. One of you may be overtaken by a deadly disease. Another, by injustice. Yet another, by poverty. And then another, by famine.

If the ire of those who suffer go against God, who will be left to serve and praise him? Are there any righteous among you?

I declare to you: God is alive and hears every plea placed before his throne.

“When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held the golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8)

God is a fine architect. The finest of all. He has designed a segue of pillars and floors and walls and roofs to protect and keep you safe.

He knows the number of hairs on your head; knows everything about you; and can read the heart of man and discern his intent. (1 Chronicles 28:9)

For us to declare that we know what and how God will do what he sets out to do is foolishness. No matter how we spin it, we will never know the fullness of God until we meet him face to face. My knees shake as I think of what it will be like to see him, to bow in his presence, to feel him, to encounter his endless love.

It is absolutely useless for us to fret over what’s around the corner. We are like children, holding daddy’s hand as he leads us through life’s supermarket of twists and turns. We can no more guess what’s ahead of us than we can predict the return of the risen Savior.

Our time is better spent reflecting and praising God for all that he’s brought us through. It’s time for us to go down Memory Lane and smile at all the times he rescued us from the perils of our own misdeeds. It’s time to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for his endless mercy. To remind ourselves of the grace we’ve been given and don’t deserve.

Life is indeed a supermarket with gnarled speed bumps in the aisles. Some of those bumps slow us down and hamper our goals toward success. Often those speed bumps are so dangerous that we must choose another route. We often become disappointed and discouraged by these detours, only to find out much later that God had something better in mind for us.

We cannot second guess God. We need to stop trying to do so.

There is, however, one thing certain.

He loves me! He truly loves me!! And he wishes no harm come to me.

“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)

God will never lead you astray, leave you alone, or allow you to fall farther than he can reach. He doesn’t know how to fail. And he surely didn’t fail when he created you. He designed every fiber of your being with his masterful hand. No mistakes made. Everything is set in its proper place. And you, dear friend, are a masterpiece. Unique. One of a kind. Special. Kept completely whole and continuously cleaned by the blood of Jesus Christ.

You are a living and breathing child of God. Only he knows what’s best for you. He’s created a road map specifically for YOUR life. Your destination: heaven. At a long, splendid and elaborately set table is a seat for you and in the next room is a place to lay your head. You know your starting point. You know your end. Everything in between is a marvelous, adventurous journey with testy steep hills, high winds, rainy Sundays, and at last, brilliant Son-Rises. We must find joy while on our journey and not get distracted and sidetracked along the way.

Trust and be obedient to God and he will save you.

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

The next time you set out on your spiritual journey, pack the sword of truth. Set aside your anguish. Gird yourself with joy, peace, love, and hope. Because just over the hill, to the right, in that bend in the road is a shining light waiting for your arrival. Prepare yourself. Strap in tight. For God Almighty is about to reveal himself in all his glory. And with outstretched arms, he’s soothing all that aches inside you.

Take a deep breath and feel his presence.

Amen!

Donna B. Comeaux

God’s Wisdom and Power

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,

but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

I Corinthians 1:18-25

I talked with a former high school friend and, at first, our conversation seemed cohesive.  Then I began to praise the Lord for all that he had done for us.  I noticed after some time, she became quiet.  Before I could find the words to question her silence, this spilled forth:  “But don’t you think Jesus is just a myth?”

As I confessed my faith, I asked her to think on this:  When has man ever put the whole world above himselfTo the point of death?  For free?

Those are deep questions that challenge us as we deal with evangelizing the world.  Self-centered by nature, we must constantly guard against taking Jesus’ death for granted.  We must stay in the Word of God so we can readily give account for what we believe.

God is holy!  God is wise!  He purposely used man’s foolishness to reveal his greatness.

So I ask you, if Jesus’ blood doesn’t clean us, what will?

 

Prayer:    God, thank you for your precious gift, Jesus Christ.

Think:     Has worldly wisdom ever challenged your belief in Jesus Christ?

Read:      Romans 1:16-17; Romans 1:21-25; Romans 3:21-26; Titus 3:5-8

 

 

A Sacrifice With A Purpose

At the beginning of each year, we have the good intention to achieve new and important goals.  But I can’t recall a time when I’ve intentionally given up anything to the point of death.  I’m not referring to the giving of my time, or putting extra money in a collection plate, or filling someone’s gas tank.  All of those things are within my power.  The type of sacrifice I’m speaking of is one that hurts through the marrow of your bones; a sacrifice you’ve chosen to perform that causes great spiritual and emotional anguish.

The one real life example that comes to mind is a situation one of our brothers is in today.  He’s been accused of stealing money from the church, but unbeknown to his accusers he and another brother are the ones who donated money to make needed repairs to the church building when the church didn’t have enough funds to pay for the repairs.  The accuser is threatening to take one of the brothers to court, claiming he’s been threatened with bodily harm.  Of course, there’s no basis for this accusation, but the accusation embellishes the accuser’s point so he can acquire sympathy and support from others.

 

The question is this:  Who will back down?  Who will deny themselves?  And how did things escalate to this point?

 

Testosterone is high and each man’s pride is at stake.  One saying:  “You better pray because I’m not backing down for anybody.”  The other saying:  “I’ve been at this church forever and there’s no way an outsider is gonna come in here and take over my church.”

 

Is it possible to clamp down on your pride and fall to your knees before the Lord and give him your burden?  What happens to us when we face encounters like this?  Are we so bent on getting our way that we lose focus on the Word of God?  Does it no longer matter what we’ve been taught by the scriptures?  As I await your comments to these questions, and perhaps the sharing of your own stories in similar situations in the church, read about another sacrifice that was made, one that, despite all the noise, was given out of a unimpeded freewill to save others.

 

John Griffith, the Bridge Operator

(Originally posted on CRI at http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/ )

This is a story that takes place in the roaring 20’s in Oklahoma:

 

John Griffith was in his early twenties. He was newly married and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful baby. He was living the American dream. But then came 1929—the Great Stock Market Crash—the shattering of the American economy that devastated John’s dreams. The winds that howled through Oklahoma were strangely symbolic of the gale force that was sweeping away his hopes and his dreams. And so, brokenhearted, John packed up his few possessions, and with his wife and his little son, headed East in an old Ford Model A. They made their way to the edge of the mighty Mississippi River and found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges there.

 

Day after day, John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Each day, he looked on sadly as those ships carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.

 

It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be birthed in John’s heart. His young son was now eight years old and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life, a life in which Greg, his little son, would work shoulder to shoulder with him. The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and fresh purpose. Excitedly, they packed their lunches and headed off towards the immense bridge.

 

Greg looked on in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive. He marveled that his Dad could singlehandedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure.

 

Before they knew it, Noon time had arrived. John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through. And then taking his son by the hand, they headed off towards lunch.

 

As they ate, John told his son in vivid detail stories about the marvelous destinations of the ships that glided below them. Enveloped in a world of thought, he related story after story, his son hanging on his every word.

 

Then, suddenly, in the midst of telling a tale about the time that the river had overflowed its banks, he and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that it was already 1:07. Immediately he remembered that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.

 

In the calmest tone he could muster he instructed his son “Stay put.” Quickly, he leaped to his feet, he jumped onto the catwalk. As the precious seconds flew by, he ran at full-tilt to the steer ladder leading into the control house.

 

Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight. And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below. As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest. For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.

 

Apparently Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gear box. Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed. Then an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind. Lowering the bridge would mean killing the apple of his eye.

 

Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down towards his son, pulling him back to safety. Then in an instant, he would move back down towards the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.

 

As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the futility of his plan. Instantly he knew there just wouldn’t be enough time. Frustration began to beat on John’s brow, terror written over every inch of his face. His mind darted here and there, vainly searching for yet another solution.

 

His agonized mind considered the four hundred people that were moving inextricably closer and closer to the bridge. Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed, but this was his son…his only son…his pride…his joy.

 

He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do. He knew he would have to do it. And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express—with its 400 passengers—roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.

 

John Griffith lifted his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the morning newspaper. A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly as his large vest pocket watch. Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars. A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a large dish of ice cream. Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.

 

No one even looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gear box that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and his dreams.

 

In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room. He cried out “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? What’s wrong with you?”

 

No one answered. No one heard. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. The train disappeared moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.

 

Even now as I retell this story, I’m moved by emotion. For this is but a faint glimpse of what the Father did in sacrificing his Son to atone for the sins of the world. Unlike the Memphis Express, however, an express that caught John Griffith by surprise, God in His great love and according to His sovereign will and purpose, determined to sacrifice his Son so that we might live. Not only so, but the consummate love of Christ is demonstrated in that He was not accidentally caught as was John’s son. Rather, He willingly sacrificed his life for the sins of mankind.

 

Well, the story of course doesn’t end there. Three days later, Jesus arose from the grave. For this reason, we celebrate throughout the year and particularly during Easter, the broken body, the shed blood, the mangled remains of our Savior with joy, because Jesus overcame death and the grave through His resurrection. Moreover, like Jesus, we too shall rise. You, I, John Griffith, his son, and those who believe, we will live forever with our resurrected Lord in Paradise Restored.

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This story was taken from The Christian Research Institute and can be found at:  http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/

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Keeping in mind God’s sacrifice for us, is it really so hard to give of yourself in order to serve or save others?  Is it not godly for us to suffer for what is right rather than escalating a situation and making it worse?  (I Peter 3:8-22)  And isn’t it moments like these that reveal who we really are in Christ Jesus?

 

What’s your agenda?  Are you willing to deny yourself for the cause of Christ Jesus?

 

by Donna B. Comeaux

 

Need another nudge toward forgiveness?

 

 

 

Waiting for the Messiah

(a fictional short story based on biblical truths and ancient customs)

“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”

“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you.  Let her be.  Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.

Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door.  “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”

“No!  Ephah, do not.”

“Are you not curious?”

“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business.  We should go.  We have work to do.  The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”

“Humph.  Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people.  “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”

“No, Ephah.  No.  Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach.  We have one week left to get ready.  Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone.  We have too much to do.  Come, go quickly.  There is so little time.”

A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith.  Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away.  Avi stopped weaving and listened.  “Adonai, thank you.  It is peaceful again.”

Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it.  The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay.  The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now.  Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.

Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup.  From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor.  A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days.  In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.

On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall.  Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.

For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk.  Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.

Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession.  Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it.  Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless.  But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.

With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work.  Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.

Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart.  Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth.  As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.”  They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine.  Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey.  She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths.  Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.

She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about.  The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine.  The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead.  The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water.  Avi couldn’t put that story to rest.  It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.

Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments. With the money, she bought fine expensive yarn.  Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it.  What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber?  Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly.  So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.

Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith.  Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles.  She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.

Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down.  Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never in want.

Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred.  She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it.  “Perfect,” Avi said.  Delight filled her eyes.  She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her.  Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.

Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low.  Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .

Their eyes met.

No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face.  If they had, their report was inaccurate.  There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed.  Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes.  The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”  As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him.  Before she drew a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”

“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”

“I am he,” Yeshua said.

Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him.  After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face.  In a low muffled voice she praised him.  Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word.  Yeshua touched her arm.  Avi stood.

“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever.  All is now well with my soul.”  Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time.  As she had worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished.  Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.

Point of Interest:  Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.

Definitions:  ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.

Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013.  Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life.  She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux.  Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.

Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren.  They reside in Oklahoma.

This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine.  Click here to purchase a hardcopy:  https://www.createspace.com/6972935.

This story can also be found on The Christian Post:  http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/

Parenting

PARENTING

Let’s face it.  Parenting is hard work.  Discipline is a constant challenge.  Decision-making causes sleepless nights.  Babysitters and daycares go awry.  And before you know it, you wake up every morning too tired to brush your teeth because you’re worried about it all.

Is this what being a good parent is all about?

Years ago when my children were approximately 10 and 7 I was tested over and over again by these little ones.  They had antennas inside them which they were dying to stretch in all directions to see which bad behavior would invoke a clear and audible response.  I dare not forget their conniving tactics to pin one parent against the other, proving once again how they could not only raise my blood pressure, but also outwit me.

Since we’ve all started off as children, it baffled me why I couldn’t tune into their behavior and get parenting right.  Why didn’t I recognize the many tactics children used?  And why couldn’t I predict what comes next?

Ever felt that way?

Though I never had a problem with terribly unruly children, many exist.  Spend time in a restaurant or go to a movie theater and you’ll see and hear them within two minutes.  I’m not referring to fussy, hungry children.  I’m referring to children who will not listen no matter how much their parents threaten or plead with them to behave.

Even more troubling is the generational disconnect between older and younger parents.  I have no doubt my mother probably had misgivings about my parenting skills thirty-plus years ago.  The most important and common element lost between the generations is our unwillingness to listen to older men and women.  It has become the norm to give credence to those with Ph.Ds.  What’s interesting about this belief is most of those who’ve earned Ph.Ds are ruled by the governing entities that issued their certificates.  Let’s not forget that most also don’t have God as their foundation.  (Remember that “it’s your thang, do what you wanna do” era?)

I’m assuming that your willingness to read this means you are also eager to listen to the words of an older woman.

Here is my disclaimer:  I don’t know everything.  And not everyone will agree with what I have to say.  And I’m not about to give you a list of do’s and don’ts, because my methods may not work for you.

However, I do hope I will at least stir your thinking and convince you to do something different so that you and your family can sit at a dinner table and not only enjoy the meal but also enjoy each other’s company.  I also hope I’ll say something that helps get your home under control and convince you to allow God to bring you to a place of peace.

Please use this commentary as a platform for discussions on the topic of parenting with older men and women, and from those discussions learn from each other.

Remember, I’m not looking for you to agree with me in everything written here.  I’m more concerned about you seriously considering making whatever adjustments God places in front of you and your spouse.  (I’m hoping women reading this commentary will also share this with their husbands, and vice versa.)

* * * * *

At the end of each day or each week, you are so tired that you can’t lift your legs to get into the shower.  You might feel as though you have to crawl to the bedroom.  It may have crossed your mind that parenting isn’t fun anymore.  Perhaps fatigue has interfered with your love life and eating habits.  Or maybe your home and work schedules have become so disruptive that you’ve contemplated not having another child.  If those thoughts ever crossed your mind, you are burned out, fed up, and at your wit’s end as to what to do next to fix your chaotic household.

I remember feeling overwhelmed and as though I was the one doing most of the work.

Doesn’t matter whose fault it is; we’re not here to play the “blame game.”  Let’s sit back and look at the main issue.

To illustrate my point, please make a list of all the things that go wrong in your home.  It would be especially nice if you can get your spouse to participate in this exercise.  But keep in mind that your list is your list.  Here’s an example:

  1. The kids get up grumpy every morning.
  2. You’ve prepared three different breakfasts and the kids won’t eat any of them.
  3. One child is slow; the other is fussy; another is bullying.
  4. Your spouse forgot to take out the trash and it’s the first thing you smell when you move about the house.
  5. There’s no milk.
  6. The cable has been disrupted and the kids can’t watch their morning show. Everyone is whining and demanding time you normally use for doing the dishes and sorting the laundry.
  7. Little Johnny conveniently forgot that he has a project due; and off you go to the nearest store to pick up much needed school supplies. Looks like you won’t meet the girls for lunch today.
  8. Susie forgot that she needed money for a field trip. You must double back to the house because you forgot your wallet.

This list can go on and on.  You can’t list a thing that isn’t valid.  Go crazy with this list.

Now that you’ve made this list, think about how your home could be different.  What would be a perfect day for you?  What does your perfect home look and sound like?

On a separate sheet of paper, make a list of your ideal home life.  Go nuts with this list.  Be as unrealistic as you dare to be.

Now, you have in front of you two lists.  They are as far apart as the sun and moon.  It doesn’t seem doable to turn your chaotic home into one that you’ve daydreamed about, does it?

That’s the very problem we should tackle—your belief system.

God never intended for us to live chaotic lives.

  1. 10This is why I write these things while absent, so that when I am present I will not need to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. 11Finally, brothers, rejoice! Aim for perfect harmony, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (II Corinthians 13:10-11)
  2. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.… (Colossians 3:14-16)

Today’s social networks foster the idea that busyness is a status symbol.  If you have enough chaos in your life with no time to sit and sip coffee with a friend, read a good book, study the bible at least an hour each day, and converse in good wholesome uninterrupted conversation with your spouse, then you’re a part of the “in crowd.”  Doesn’t it make you cringe inside when someone tells you, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back.  It’s been so busy.  Let’s catch up next week.  I’ll call you.”  They never do.  Anger festers and it’s not long before you develop a hands-off approach to relationships.

Our society is so disengaged that we spill out rehearsed greetings when we bump into one another, never looking into one another’s eyes, never fully understanding what’s been said.  Then we have the audacity to express inappropriate last words (i.e., telling someone to have a nice day after they’ve expressed remorse over the passing of their grandmother).  It’s time we begin again to make meaningful relationships.  I know how hard this is (and my children are grown).  I’m an introvert at heart, so I know the difficulty you face.  Still, we need to put more effort into being more engaged with one another and paying attention.  To do that, we must first begin at home.

Just how do you go about loving your family when your home is in such chaos?  Half the time you’re not sure you even like the people you live with.  Right?

You must change your belief system.  Your home does “not” need to be chaotic.  It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, or if your mother or ailing father lives with you, or your spouse is constantly on the road, or you work nights.  If you believe God can get you and your family under control, it will be so.

To change your belief system, you must be willing to be submissive to God’s will.  This submissive relationship requires that you must first admit that all you’ve done has not worked.  It seems like no matter what methods you’ve come up with none of them have worked for you.  My personal philosophy is this:  “After all this time, if it hasn’t worked, try something different.”  God’s intent is for you to come to him and ask for deliverance.  He’s the change you need . . . the change you crave.

The change you seek in your home comes about through prayer and action, not reaction to your circumstances.  I can bore you with all the methods I’ve used, but all that would prove is what worked for me.  What works for you may be a totally different animal.  God gets to decide what works for you.

So, this week your assignment is to go before the Father every day and pray for a change.  Keep this one thing in mind—if you cannot commit to talk to God about everything that ails you, things won’t change for you.  Change comes about through our submission to God.  (Simply put, that means after you pray, you must wait on him.)  It doesn’t come from a counselor (though they have a place in our lives from time to time).  It doesn’t come from preachers.  These people are used as tools to get you to go to God.  No one knows what you need except the Father.

Kick start your week by devoting time to God in prayer about your home life.

Preparation is key!

Prepare for this time by hiring a babysitter to take the kids to the zoo.  Or team up with another parent and share your concerns and objectives then the two of you agree to keep each other’s children for a couple of hours so you can spend uninterrupted time in prayer.  Maybe your church has a mother’s day out program.  If so, drop the kids off and use that opportunity to get away from the chaos and spend time with God . . . not with a friend . . . time with God.

Please realize that too much shopping and running errands will breed discontent, leaving you tired and unfulfilled.  If you say that you will commit this time to prayer and you do something else instead, you will become unfulfilled, guilty, and angry.  And you’ll have no one to blame for this but yourself.  Don’t commit this infraction.  Don’t increase your burden.  Instead, stay committed to using those hours away from your family to commune with God.  If you can’t see yourself spending a few hours in prayer, look at your list again so you’re reminded how much you need to seek God’s counsel.

Once you begin your heartfelt confessions before God, you’ll soon realize a few hours aren’t enough.  When it’s time to reunite with your family, you’ll probably become anxious for the next week so you can pour more on the Father.  Seeking him first is precisely the point.

God wants you and I to look to him for the answers.

I pray God will transform your chaos to peace.

by Donna B. Comeaux
Tulsa, Oklahoma
January 21, 2017

You’re Not Alone

 

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

“. . . but the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth,

and the desire for other things come in and choke the word,

and it becomes unfruitful.”  (Mark 4:19)

Everyone is angry.  Those who don’t approve of the new transgender law imposed by North Carolina; the LBGT community who thinks many Christians are hypocritical in their determination to stay in line with the scriptures; the highly educated, riled by their fruitless efforts to find a decent job; and marginalized wage-earners who picket for a better pay raise.  All of us live with a degree of fear because of constant terrorist threats.  If that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, consider how consumed parents are over their daily warfare against outside influences on their children.

It doesn’t give us any comfort when, on top of all of our concerns, we must also deal with the political change in our country and a dysfunctional judicial system.

I could probably impress upon you how different things were when I was a girl, but in all honesty every generation has had its burden to bear.  I think of the 1940s and 50s when pop, R&B, and jazz artists like Billie Holliday, along with young wayward teenagers, struggled with drug abuse.  All Jackie Robinson wanted to do was play baseball, but he had to muddle through years of racial discrimination.  It’s the twenty-first century and women are still fighting for equality.  Amazing how the poor is still hungry and living in poverty and the rich is much richer and living lavishly—a fact that’s held true no matter which generation you examine.

Pinpoint a day in time and see if there weren’t problems induced by evil forces, cultural changes, different ideologies, wavering opinions, or religious traditions that didn’t create stumbling blocks.

Comparing generations is simply a waste of time, doing nothing more than further alienating us from the young.  Evil has always challenged and weakened leadership, and will continue to do so until the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We shouldn’t look at life in generational increments.  If we think our country didn’t have evil and complicated issues to overcome generations before, then we have arrived at erroneous conclusions about the realities of the world in which we live.  Sin is just as prevalent today as it was centuries ago and it’s constantly spinning and devouring everyone in its path.

It’s more about what you and I do about our relationship with God and man than how we perceive the changing times.

I hate to admit this, but murmurs for a new political party or new presidential candidate sound a lot like the Israelites’ plea for a king.  God wasn’t enough for them.  Thousands of years later we still tend to think that if we get a new president in office we’ll somehow find our footing and put this country back on track.

Do we need to be reminded who is really in control?

Consider this:  God promised Abram that he’d be the father of nations and his sons and daughters would be as numerous as the stars.  Through faith Abram believed though he experienced several failures because of his human reasoning (lying about Sarai being his sister; laying with his handmaiden instead of waiting on the promise to be fulfilled).

Unlike Abraham, you and I have the scriptures for daily guidance and spiritual strength.  Within it are examples of many who have endured and suffered great trials (for I’ve never wandered through a desert for 40 years, fought my enemy with a sword, or been stoned and left for dead).

The brotherhood needs to renew their focus and concentrate more on their individual relationship with God.  Our aim should be to fall in love with the Holy One . . . to place no one above him.  That involves a daily dying to self, spending quality time with God, questioning him, voicing our requests, nurturing our families with his holy word, placing the burdens of the church at his feet, and praying for the brotherhood of believers—especially those undergoing persecution.

The Holy One has not left us defenseless as the wicked one would have you believe.  God cares about us and provides a way out long before we discover we’re in a sticky situation.  The last thing God wants you to do is feel so much weight of the world on your shoulders that it distracts you from what is really important—your relationship with him.

God is so sensitive to our needs that all he asks is that you have the faith of a mustard seed.  A mustard seed is not much bigger than the eye of a needle, so why would God request such little faith?  Because the Holy Father in all his glory will do the rest.

This past year has been a treacherous mountain for me to climb.  My family is dealing with a bone disease and other health problems, in-law issues, personal failures, distrust, and anger.  In all the imperfect ways that I’ve reacted to my situation, God kept bringing me back into his presence.  I had no one to confide in, no one to ease my burdens with laughter.  It is clear that the Holy One is gently telling me that his grace is sufficient.

Like me, you may be on a journey that seems unfair and too heavy.  Let me be the first to encourage you that you’re not climbing steep mountains alone.  See, that’s what the evil one wants you to believe—that you’re alone and no one cares about you.  Too often we forget that we are surrounded by a heavenly host, in a spiritual brotherhood, clothed with godly love.  Think of it this way—

You and I are in a canoe, riding the rough waves of life.  Violent waters almost overturn the canoe and threaten to throw each of us into an angry sea.  But off in the distance is a constant light, guiding us, encouraging us to press forward.  Some brothers and sisters are thrown overboard by turbulent waves and we struggle to rescue them.  With all our might, we tug and pull, frantic to get them back inside the boat.  The reasons our sisters and brothers fell from the boat are numerous, many of the reasons like my own—weakness, fatigue, loneliness, a ghastly past, a hopeless future, a sense of worthlessness.  But the light shining in the distance gives us strength then we pass our strength onto another, then another, until an unbreakable chain forms and we’re able to pull another from the vicious grips of destruction.

You and I are never alone.  Each one of us is significant.  We’re in the canoe together fighting the same fight; battling the same sins; harboring the same anger; constantly being distracted by the evil one.  But the light binds and strengthens our faith.

Listen to these scriptures and believe:

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)

9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ 11Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. (Isaiah 41:9-11)

. . . If God is for us, who can be against us! (Romans 8:31)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:8-10)

4My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 6Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. (I Corinthians 2:4-7)

Believe and build your future on these words of truth.  Do not allow the weight of the world to distract or interfere with your love for the Lord and brotherhood of believers.  Replace your fears with faith and don’t grow weary with doing good.  The world will always be evil, to one degree or another, but you have been given a way out, an escape from death and destruction.  Empower and gird yourselves with the whole armor of God and live by it.  For by doing so, you may influence those around you and win many to Christ.  (Galations 6:9; II Thessalonians 3:13; I Corinthians 10:12-13; and Ephesians 6:11-13)

 

Donna B. Comeaux is a Christian writer, poet, and author who resides in Oklahoma.  She is married, has two children and eight grandchildren. She is part of the Ruby for Women blog team:  http://www.rubyforwomen.com.

The Nose Snubbing Club

http://www.christiandevotions.us/viewblogentry/291

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