Three Lessons In Leadership- Part II of II

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Yesterday we left off in Numbers 14, recounting Caleb’s leadership methods, join me as we continue today…

See, what Caleb remembered and what the 10 others selectively chose to forget was what God had promised, “I am giving you a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So, not only did these men contradict Caleb, they continued their frightful, “We can’t do this.” talk into that evening, they raised their voices, they wept aloud, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and count it, THREE times, they said they should have stayed in Egypt.

People, I’m not judging. I’ve done it myself, I’ve looked back, I’ve been Lot’s wife, I’ve been these Israelites, that rich young ruler…and Moses and Aaron did the only thing they had left to do, they fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there, Joshua and Caleb also tore their clothes and said to the whole Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” He goes on to rally the people, reassuring them that THEY will devour these strangers and not the other way around, saying, “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

The Lord’s anger burned against them and he wanted to strike them down, and yet again, Moses pleads on their behalf, saying that if the Egyptians see that Israel’s God has abandoned them, they will assume that their God was not able to bring them into the land he had promised. He asks, (14:19) “In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

In response, the Lord relents, but there is a consequence and that is this: not one of those who saw the Lord’s glory and the signs he performed in Egypt, but who disobeyed and tested him ten times–not one of them will see the land that God had promised to their ancestors. I’m sure, upon hearing, this took a while to sink in for Moses. But God makes an exception for Caleb in verse 24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” Belief yields promise, unbelief yields wandering, confusion and unfulfillment, it is sickening to say the least. They are the most sobering verses I can think of in the Bible, Num. 14:34-35 “For forty years–one year for each of the forty days you explored the land–you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”

God tolerated their complaining, their sin, idolatry, shortsightedness. Over and over again, He proved that he was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in great love for his people. Over and over, he gave them tangible signs of his faithfulness: manna, water from a rock, quail, his presence in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but still, their unbelief ruled their hearts and God would not relent in this case. They would suffer the consequences.

Maybe you’re in the position of leadership right now, you can hear the complaints, the discontent, sense the duplicity of your follower’s hearts. Know that this is a season and it is the Lord who is the ultimate lawgiver and judge. If you know that you are following God’s lead, that’s all that you can do, just yesterday, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to do something, the results weren’t what I expected, and as I walked away, I could hear in my head, “You obeyed me, that’s the important part.” That’s all I had to fall back on.

Or maybe you are one of the followers who has found yourself complaining and as a result has become more a part of the problem instead of a solution. Take this time to repent before a holy God, who loves you and wants to fulfill His promises to you. Pick out at least 2-3 promises in the Word that have always been particularly significant to you, write them down and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Claim them because you can.

Three Lessons In Leadership-Part I of II

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This past week’s Bible study opened up on a scene of dissention. Here, in the beginning of Numbers 12, we find Miriam and Aaron complaining their little hearts out against Moses (seems like a recurring theme in the Israelite’s time in the desert, doesn’t it?) They start off scrutinizing Moses’ life choices: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Then they question his authority: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” The Lord heard this, and was angry against the two of them. Verse 3 says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” My commentary later explained that “humble” here meant “meek.” God came to Moses’ defense, because he does not hesitate to call all three of them out to the tent of meeting to have a talk, He tells them that typically, when there is a prophet among them, God would speak to them in dreams and visions, but this simply was not so in Moses’ case, Moses was an exception, “With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.” He goes on to ask Miriam and Aaron, “Why weren’t you more ashamed to speak against my servant?” Leading me to my first point:

Lesson 1: Leaders Beware: People will complain, and when they do, watch the motivations of their hearts.

God calls whom He calls for a reason, for a time and a season and this is a GOD appointment, who were Miriam and Aaron–who are WE for that matter to question that authority? Yes, I realize that we need to hold everything, including people, against the light of scripture–just as the Bereans did with Paul (Acts 17:11). But we must also be very important to examine the motivations of our hearts when we do this, are we questioning authority because they have gone directly against the word of God, or are we questioning them because of jealousy, arrogance, selfish pride? My study shares this verse, Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Without a doubt, these leaders understand the weight of their leadership, even as a teacher and assistant in my church’s preschool for years, I understood the gravity with which I needed to undertake my role, as it says in James, “Don’t you know that we as teachers will be judged more strictly?”(James 3:1)

Lesson 2: The best leaders rise above the complaints and on top of all that show compassion to the naysayers.

After God had a talk with Miriam, Aaron and Moses, it says in verse 9, “The anger of the Lord burned against them and he left them. When the cloud lifted above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous…” It goes on to say that Aaron was horrified at this sight (probably fearing that he, too, would suffer the same fate) and turned to Moses to ask him for help–please?

This was his Moses’ chance.

He had Miriam and Aaron’s fate the palm of his hand, so to speak. Oh, there’s so many ways that this story could have gone, but what did Moses do? As the humble, meek man of God, he PRAYED. He pleaded to God to heal her. Ack, my heart dies a little here, because how many times have I been this same situation and chosen the wrong answer, “This is what they deserve, they are simply reaping what they’ve sown.” I reason to myself. But Moses, this God-appointed leader, puts aside any potential hurt and prays for his enemy before the throne of Almighty God. God does answer and he does heal, but not without consequence–verses 14-16.

Lesson 3: Leaders: Note that going against the tide will require you to dig your heals in and claim God’s promises. Here, I’d like to shift my focus from Moses to Caleb. As we move on to Chapter 13 of Numbers, we see that God asked Moses to appoint leaders from the 12 tribes of Israel to go explore the Land of Canaan, Moses instructed them exactly where to go and asked them to answer the following questions: What is the land like? Are the people there strong or weak? Few or many? What kind of cities do they live in–are they fortified? How is the soil–is it fertile? Are there trees there? Bring back some of the fruit from the land.

The report was a mixed bag: 10 said, no way, no how, these people are giants, and the cities are fortified and very large.

BUT, Verse 30, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Come back tomorrow to see how Caleb’s faith transformed his fate…including some tips for both leader and follower…

 

When It Feels Like the Whole Free World Is Against You

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From Exodus 5-7

Chapter 5 of Exodus begins with tough times for Moses: after his initial request to Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go out to the desert to worship their God and his blatant refusal, the Israelites are ordered to make bricks without straw and retain their daily quota. The task proves to be impossible.  Fingers are pointed, who’s to blame here?  Moses gets it on every side, the foremen come to him, as do the Israelites, everyone is either discouraged, angry or overworked, some, all three. The chapter closes with Moses asking God, “Why?”  What then, enabled Moses to stand firm and keep going–what fortified him to obey God and charge through these proverbial bricks walls?  Nothing was working out as planned, in fact, things had gotten way worse, so what then, helped Moses to stand firm throughout this process to free God’s chosen people?

1) A Constant Reassurance from God that He Would Do What He Said:

Exodus 6:1 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country…I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty…I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” And here, in the following verses are the words that this thirsty soul, for one, longs to hear. Because it is here that the Great I AM also becomes the great I WILL:

I will bring you out from the yoke of the Egyptians

I will free you from being slaves to them

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement

I will take you as my own people

I will be your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians

I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob

I will give it to you as a possession

I am the Lord

2) Supportive Friends and Family–You see, Aaron would be a constant companion to Moses throughout his lifetime, this wasn’t just a man who would do the public speaking for Moses. Yes, this public speaking thing was a plus and this was why Moses originally asked for help, but Aaron would become a rock for Moses. We see in 5:20, that the foremen found Moses and Aaron, again, in Chapter 7:1, God compares Moses to himself (imagine!) and Aaron as his prophet, that Aaron would listen and do just as Moses commanded him. Who’s in your corner? Listen to them, love them, respect them and above all else value them as someone God has placed in your life to help you accomplish His purposes.

3) Knowledge that It Doesn’t Take a Perfect Pedigree, Just a Willing Heart: It’s interesting to see that there is a lengthy side note going on in Exodus 6: 13-25, what may seem like a bunch of names and numbers is extremely important. We’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis how significant birth order was in a family, being the firstborn in a family meant being the recipient of so many rights and privileges: a father’s birthright, blessing and inheritance. We’ve also seen the devastating consequences when that order is upset by sin as in the story of Jacob of Esau, however, these verses point out that Moses’ family was no where cut and dry privileged, in fact, not a single person in his close bloodline was a firstborn, and yet here he was, hand-picked by God to save his chosen people.

4) A God that Helped Him Take Baby Steps: What were these baby steps? Notice that when Moses initially went to Pharaoh, he did not immediately ask for his people’s release, he began with a more reasonable request: 5:1b: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness. Of course Pharaoh says “no.” He reasons, “I do not know this God, nor will I let these people go.”   But this wasn’t Moses’ first step of faith…

Leave the life you knew for 40 years, travel with your family to a place where you know you will find trouble and all kinds of heartache, all because God was asking you to? Check.

Prepare for your meeting with a mighty, godless leader by witnessing God turn a staff into a snake, your own hand leprous and then healthy again and watch water turn to blood before your very eyes? Knowing that you will have to perform these same signs in front of said godless leader? Check.

Stand up to the leader of the most powerful nation in the world? Check.

None.Of.These.Steps.Were.Easy. But they were necessary. Friends, God didn’t place us on this earth to do the easy stuff. He didn’t. He placed us here to reflect his glory and to do his work, sometimes it’s as “easy” as living a life of integrity, however, other times it’s going to mean a huge leap of faith. Just know that the Great I WILL will never leave.

This is How We Should Pray

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When nations are torn asunder and the victims of this unrest are the youngest and most tender, I wring my hands when I think of everything that my child has, every opportunity, every gift that she has as a result of a peaceful place to rest her head and my heart is broken.  And I wonder how to talk to God about all this.

I’ve been camped out for weeks in the last chapter of Richard Foster’s book, Prayer, particularly in a chapter titled Radical Prayer, and more specifically how we can embrace the whole world in prayer:

So we throw caution to the wind and pray not just for individuals but also for nations, not just for the renewal of the Church but also for the transformation of the world.  We pray for and work for the kingdom to com on earth–on all the earth–as it is in heaven.

Here is how a wonderfully wise woman of prayer taught me to pray for the nations.  We are to begin, she said, by focusing on one nation and prayerfully discerning what kind of nation it should be.  If it is an aggressor nation, for example, we may sense that it should retreat form its self-aggrandizement and begin “sending out into the world little golden arrows of trade and commerce and financial cooperation.”  At time we may narrow our prayers to those who make decisions that can change he course of a nation toward rightness.  We bless the broken bits of virtue these leaders already display and ask that they, like loaves and the fishes, will be multiplied and used for good.”

I could go on and on, but I will stop here and begin:

Lord, we pray for the nation of Iraq, that the subversive force of ISIS would be defeated by those who seek justice above all else, that men who hearts are fully devoted and committed to you would come to power, that for Syria, in this civil war now for four years in which more that 300,000 have been killed, major cities reduced to rubble and where 4M have fled, we refuse to see this as their end.  We refuse to accept this.  We refuse to accept the forces of darkness and we cling to your kingdom of light.  So we pray, just as the prophet Isaiah did for the nation of Israel,  the year of the Lord’s favor on Iraq, Afghanistan on Syria.  You have sent us to proclaim good news to the poor, you have sent us to bind up the brokenhearted, you have sent us, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning; and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  That they, those who have turned their hearts toward you, will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.  Strangers will shepherd their flocks; foreigners will work their fields and vineyards.  And you, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.  You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.  Amen.

Don’t Let Sins Derail You from the Father’s Grace–A Look at Moses

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When I was in counseling a few years ago, the therapist told me that pain is caused or experienced in three different ways: our sins, another’s sins and the sins in this world. I’ve taken that with me, processed it 100 different ways and still go back to it often. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, though, when my Sunday School teacher got down at eye level with me and the other women in our single parenting class and said, “Listen, ladies. I need you to listen to me. What your ex-husbands did–left you–this is not your fault.” It took 5 1/2 years for this idea to click. This was not my fault. Yes, I have acknowledged over and over again that it took two to tango, to get to the point where he even considered leaving, but it was his decision, and that’s it. There was nothing I could do to change it, but still I wrestle with the effects of it (and still do) as we share the parenting of our daughter. But the bigger question remains, am I now “marked”? Can God use me? Yes. And He has been ever since.

Interestingly enough, my study of the character of Moses brought me through this sort-of rabbit trail of grace. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Moses was not allowed in the Promised Land, I kept questioning in my head–What? That’s so not fair, especially after Moses has given his life, in obedience to God, to serve the Israelites. I was particularly incredulous after reading this passage on the character of Moses:

Duet. 34:10-12

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

 In my human understanding, I tried to reconcile this with Psalm 106:32-33

 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

 Twice in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to provide water for the people of Israel:

 Exodus 17:6

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Numbers 20:8-12

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”   Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.

It’s true, this second time they complained, Moses reacted in disobedience to God. Moses and Aaron suffered the consequences of this decision.

But, we can’t lose sight of the person that God formed Moses to be, yes, he sinned, and yes, he lost this blessing of entering the Promised Land.

However, this is what I take from Moses’ experience:

1) If our hearts are surrendered, God uses us.

2) We are responsible for our own actions, not another’s

3) Even in how we respond, there is grace. Sister, brother, I have done and said so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and revise or altogether delete the footage that played out. All of us do. That is the most amazing part of what Christ did for us on the cross. He has this magic eraser to blot out our sins.

Our lives will look differently from others who have chosen to obey God from the start, they will look perfect, even, but don’t allow that to set you up for failure, even these picture perfect families, marriages and children have struggles.

Be of good courage, God sees your heart, that’s the only thing he sees, not your FB status, your car out in the driveway, the money in your bank account and certainly not the clothes you are wearing right now. He sees you and he loves you, just as he saw and loved Moses and Aaron. Sure, Moses received only a glimpse of the Promised Land–

Duet.34:1-4

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land–from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

I don’t see this as taunting, it’s like God took him into this beautiful, expansive secret, this promise that he wanted to show to Moses to say, “Look, when I told you I AM. I AM a promise-keeper, a Provider, a Shepherd a Father who loves his children. I AM all these things and more. I love my children so much and I love you, too, thank you for caring for them, my good and faithful servant, Moses.”

Duet. 34: 10-12

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor…Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

 Let it be said for each one of us, that no matter how we’ve started out, let us finish this well.

Guest Post: She Runs: How Moms are Like Marines

When I first read Ashley’s work, I was blown away–by her maturity, her passion and yes, her good writing.  She works for HOPE International, a Christ-centered microenterprise development organization that helps men and women create jobs for themselves and others in their community. HOPE International’s network provides a variety of services and resources across 17 countries to address the pervasive employment gap faced by those living in poverty, through educational training, savings programs and microenterprise opportunities.
Ashley blogs at www.ashleypdickens.com, where she aims to make people laugh and cry at her stories while exploring the ways God is restoring us.
It’s never too early to recognize the women who hold us together, so today we’re featuring Ashley’s Mother’s Day post.
Please drop her a line!

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When I think about my mom, I think about the Marines.
It’s an unlikely pairing, given that the only uniform my mother has ever worn is a cringe-worthy little number from her high school cheerleading days. However, several years ago my husband’s dog-eared copy of It Happened on the Way to War by former Marine Rye Barcott radically altered the way I thought about motherhood. It’s a gripping read that made me forget to breathe more than once, arresting my attention with the repeated refrain, “Marines move toward the sound of guns.”
The fierce imagery of that captivated me. The defiant, almost irrational courage of unquestioningly running toward what others are running away from makes my heart beat wildly. I see that same unflinching courage in so many mothers across the globe—women who run toward danger simply because that’s where they’re needed. It’s a universal truth that transcends culture, race, and socioeconomic status—from suburbia to the Sahara, where you find a mother you will find a woman fighting fiercely for her children.
My mom isn’t a Marine. She’s a world traveler, an unapologetic risk taker, a passionate activist, and a killer chocolate-cake baker. Pint-sized and with an unflappable conviction that both zebra stripes and sequins are neutrals, she imparted the delicate art of sarcasm to me like it was a precious family heirloom and taught me that walking with Jesus is about infinitely more than being a “nice girl.” You’re far more likely to find her in a pair of feisty red heels than combat boots and fatigues—and she is the single bravest woman I’ve ever known.
(photo credit: USMC archives)
Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, Hallmark tells me to buy her a flowered card with a cotton-candy-fluff sentiment penned in careful cursive—something the Ingalls sisters might have given to Ma. The absurdity of it puzzles me—something about a generic pink card has never quite seemed right for my mom. Or, I think, a lot of moms.
My mama is a force to be reckoned with. I remember standing wide-eyed and nauseated in our kitchen as a little girl when, without warning, I began to projectile vomit all over the white-tiled floor. The whole scene looked like something from The Exorcist—minus a Catholic priest or two. Indelibly etched into my mind is the memory of my mom running toward me, her hands irrationally cupped open.
She’s been running toward me my entire life.
My mother’s unflinching bravery carried her from the comfortable little town she grew up in to a doll-sized apartment in the post-communist city of Kiev, Ukraine. She packed up three children under the age of six and as much Jiffy peanut butter as she could stuff into her carry-on and moved our lives to a place where the only thing she knew how to say was a hopeful, “Do you speak English?” In a city with no workable educational options, where those who had come before her had thrown up their hands in surrender and left, she opted to start a brand-new school for her children to attend—one that still exists today. Her bravery has carried her into crumbling refugee camps and crumbling marriages—to the places that looked irreparably dark and broken. Very hardest of all, two years ago it carried her into a dark ICU where she held her 21-year-old baby’s hand as he died of cancer.
It’s what mamas do, isn’t it? They run toward the hard, the ugly—they run toward the sound of guns. Our mothers bravely dive into dark and splintering brokenness with us and show us who Jesus is over and over again. They’re the first on the scene when our bones and hearts are shattered, when savage insecurities rear their ugly heads and our dreams feel worn out and hollowed. They hold the midnight watch beside cribs and cancer beds, speaking life over our dead places and believing on our behalves when nobody else will. Our mamas love wildly and fiercely, mirroring the God who runs toward us as they teach us to be like Him—second-chance-givers, hope-bringers, restorers.
My belief in the power of motherhood is an enormous part of why I love HOPE International so much. Through the power of the gospel and a small loan, HOPE empowers mothers around the world to keep running toward hard and holy things, to keep bravely fighting for their children, their communities, and the broken world around them. At HOPE, we have the breathtaking privilege of watching mothers trapped in poverty harness the power of a small loan and a safe place to save their money, and run toward the most broken places in their communities. Day after day, they courageously step into the hard work of building stronger families, neighborhoods, and churches, one person at a time.No fear in love.
Mamas and marines—they have more in common than I ever imagined. This Mother’s day, if a generic pink card doesn’t quite reflect the valor of your mom, consider joining me in framing this for her instead. “There is no fear in love”—moms across the globe put flesh and bone on it every day.
If you’d like to join me in giving this digital print to your mom, you can snag a free download here.

Stand firm…and Pray

God knows and he sends what we need when we need it. 
Ms. Julie, I know has been praying for me over these past few weeks since our last conversation.  I told her of the tiny green plans shooting up through my heart and she has been praying, because I know that’s what she does, so when I “ran” into her at church the other night and we spoke in our God-code, I told her that I was reading Annie Downs’ new book, “Let’s All Be Brave” and said I needed it. I said the words, “be strong and very courageous” three times, just like the God to Joshua and then she reminded me:
Stand.
Stand.
Stand.
“Yep, right there in Ephesians 6, Rachel, in the context of putting on the full armor of God.”
I smiled because this woman is God’s heart for me.  She is a mom and she understands, and she is a woman of God and desires the best for her children, too.
My heart melted a little because I make a point to pray that full armor every morning over Little A, friends and family and here we are reminded:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:13-17)
And we must not forget this:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (18)
Let getting dressed in all of this armor not be the end.  Stand firm and pray.

Want to share any ways God’s helping you to stand firm right now?

Another Conversation with Miss Julie

Ok, so we know that nothing happens outside of God’s mighty hand, so when I ran into Miss Julie the other night at church, I knew once again that this was a God-appointment.  I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, and that’s unusual, so of course she had been on my mind.  We ran into each other in the hall, right after I had finished my sign language class.
Sometimes I feel like if there was a fly on the wall during any one of our conversations that that fly would be sitting there scratching his buggy-multi-eyed head.  It’s almost like we speak in code, because we get it.  We want to see His kingdom come, we want to see His will be done and we want it, especially, in the lives of children. 
Me: I’m taking a sign language class!
M.J.: How wonderful and what a coincidence, I just asked Mr. Smith* (one of the guys who is an interpreter in the deaf section of our church) to come into our class and teach us the signs for “Jesus Loves Me.” 
She did the sign for Him.  Her head tilted and looked up to the ceiling and her hands came close together in front of her face and pointed in the same direction that her eyes were gazing.  Then she showed me the sign for weak: left hand out and palm up with the right hand, fingers down and tips resting on the palm with the fingers buckling back and forth like little weak knees.  And the tears filled my eyelids and things got quiet and we stood there, on the brink of waterworks because that is just how our interactions usually are. 
Here we are on this planet, little weak knees, trembling in the hand of an Almighty God who is simply asking us to look up to him and stay focused there. 
Yes, Jesus Loves Us.
*name changed

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)