A Year-End Thank You

Father, I praise you and thank you for how great and wonderful you are.  You live in unapproachable light and yet you chose the still darkness of a silent night, a pitch-dark stable to make your appearance so that your light could speak for itself–so your messengers, your angels could come and proclaim the miracle of your birth.
You are the one whom no one has seen or can see, yet you made your appearance in the most vulnerable way possible–a squirming, hungry, fussy little baby–you allowed us to behold your glory.  Your first heavenly message came, not to the religious officials, kings, queens or diplomats, but was announced to a very scared and very young woman and an uncertain but somehow remarkably strong man named Joseph and finally, to a group of men who were considered so unclean that they had no place even close to the temple.  Your glory became abased for us, your splendor wrapped in strips cloth and your majesty confined to a tiny little stable and yet you, like your Father, love the world.
There are no words to say but “thank you.”
Now we bow our heads and we humble our hearts and we reflect on a year of how good you are, how you pour out your love in big and small ways–how we, if we pause can find the greatest gifts in our own home, sitting next to us on the couch, munching cereal at the breakfast table and requesting toilet paper from the bathroom door.

We say “thank you” for the moments of “oh my goodness!” and for the moments of sheer “help me.” Because you are you and you never leave us, never forsake us because you live in us.  Amen.

Five Characteristics of a Strong Woman

Life, or society or this thing that we are doing has appeared very confusing lately, with seeming injustice, tension, strife, all we want to do is throw up our hands and shout, “Who’s in charge?”  Truth is, when we leave justice in the hands of men and women who are not following after God, we, as a nation suffer the consequences, but I don’t want to go too far down that road here, rather, I want to concentrate on how we, especially as woman can do the things that God has appointed us to do.
Little A and I were reading in Judges 4 and 5, and, after coming out of the final chapters of Joshua with lots of names and places, it’s pretty neat to see how things are progressing for the nation of Israel, God is still pursuing them, just as he always pursues us, He wants the best for them just as he does for us, but chapter 4 begins with the admonition that again, Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that the last godly judge God had appointed to save them (Ehud) died. So, the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, with Sisera, the commander of his army (who happened to possess 900 iron chariots) cruelly oppressing the Israelites for twenty years.
They cried out, the Lord heard. And he had a plan for deliverance, only it needed execution.
Enter our examples of what God can do through the hands of two incredible women.  

First, is Deborah, a prophetess in Israel at the time; she held court where the Israelites could go to her and have their disputes decided.  A woman being assigned to this position was indeed unusual, but as my commentary pointed out, this position was a reflection on the weakness of male leadership in Israel at that time.  Second is Jael, but we’ll come to her in a bit.

Let’s take a look at these women and see what we can learn:
1) They are chosen
The people cried out for help in the midst of their oppression, God assigned Deborah.
God has chosen you, for this very point in life in this very role for a very important purpose, whether you are a mother, a doctor, a humanitarian or all three, God has put a passion in your heart for something, follow it and clamp onto it like a dog on a bone.
God would deliver the nation of Israel, but he needed a few good men:
She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ” the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.  I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'”(4:6-7)
And one of those men needed a good woman:
Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”(4:8)
2) They are available
“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. (4:9)
Deborah had a choice, stay in the place that God appointed to her to do a very significant job for the nation of Israel or become available to Barak.  You see, Deborah herself made the prophecy that God would lead Sisera’s nation into their hands, but Barak lacked the confidence and asked her to go with him.  This was not without the admonition that this victory would be credited to a woman 🙂 
I’ve been in Barak’s position before, it’s scary.  I cannot tell you how grateful I have been to friends who have been available to me in the past when facing some of life’s giants, or even those who have physically gone with me in a particularly difficult situation to judge what is right.  They couldn’t DO much; they just came with me, prayed with me, prayed for me and were present. 
3) They are confident
Once Barak had gathered his tribes and 10,000 men and Deborah was with him, word spread to Sisera.  Deborah rallied Barak with the words: “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands.  Has the Lord not gone ahead of you?”
4) They have a plan:
We all have a plan: calendars, daily planners, phone reminders, etc., sometimes I feel like a walking calendar.  These are all good things; it’s how we stay focused and how we get things done.  But we’ve got to be open to the bigger PLAN too; the vision to execute exactly what God has placed in our hands to do.

Introducing our second strong woman: Jael.

After Barak routed Sisera’s troops in battle, killing all of them by sword, Sisera managed to get away on foot to Jael’s tent because there was an alliance between Jabin and Jael’s family.

Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in.  Don’t be afraid.”  She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her.  “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.'”
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted.  She drove the peg through his temple into the ground and he died. (4:19-21)
Remember, Jael didn’t have to use force or coercion–maybe a little trickery–but she welcomed this bone-weary leader into her tent, offering him refreshment and at exactly the right time, God’s appointed time, she delivered a fatal blow that led to victory for Israel.
On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites.  And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. (4:23)
…Then the land had peace for forty years…(5:31c)
5) They give credit where it is always due 
Deborah and Barak begin their song in Chapter 5 with praise to the Lord:
When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves–praise the Lord!  Hear this, you kings!  Listen, you rulers!  I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel in song.(5:2-3)
My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people.  Praise the Lord!(5:9)
The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon.  March on, my soul; be strong!(5:21)