Telling in the New Year

December 31, 2008 at 11:11 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2Taken from an entry for New Year’s Day, 2008

Several years ago I resolved never to make New Year’s resolutions. If I am not quite mistaken, that was the first resolution I have ever faithfully kept. Don’t be horrified to think that I never have new resolves. Can you even begin to believe such a lack in me? Instead of making new resolutions every year, only to be dropped, trampled on or broken within a month, I simply make new ones every day. Some as basic as: today I will drink eight cups of water. Trust me, this one is harder than it sounds when the heat of summer and the loss of sweat are no longer driving me to it. Others are a little more serious: today I will finally unpack and clean my camera and I will plaster my seat to my seat and write at least five hundred words on Eldenwood and I will line out Bible study notes and questions from John for Amber.

As a family, we’ve been traveling through Acts, stopping off with Paul to pay special attention every time he preaches the gospel. He has no formula, but I’ve learned a lot through his presentations. To the Jews he lays out exactly how their fathers rejected the Lord time and again and then comes down to Jesus, the promised Messiah, rejected by them. To the gentiles, he begins with the God who created earth and heaven and who will judge us all then points out our unworthiness. When the sword finds tender flesh, and his listeners are cut to the quick, he offers the saving grace of Jesus. When seized, attacked and forced to render an account of his teachings and actions he resorts to sharing his own testimony. After all, a testimony is a person’s own story and who can argue with it? What a powerful tool the story of the Lord’s calling in my life can be, and I should always be ready to give an account for the hope within me.

Lord, this work of Thine, my story,
Is written to give Thee the glory.
So in telling I proclaim
The wonder of Thy matchless name.

My tongue, a scribbling scribe’s own pen,
Must write each word that Thou portend
Attesting Thy dictation here
As Thou dost tell it, year by year.

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Thou Shalt Not Touch

December 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm (Food for Thought, Purity) (, , , , , , )

food-for-thoughtChew on this one…

A man from Yemen was here in the states, working on an assembly line in a food-processing plant and sending money home for his family. When his wife back home gave birth to a baby, news spread quickly throughout the man’s assembly line. Soon his supervisor, who was a woman, came over to offer her congratulations and extended her hand for a handshake. The Yemenese man shrank away, avoiding any touch. Offended, the supervisor asked the managers to implement discipline for the man’s public disrespect. However, a mediator spoke with the man and discovered his conviction: that to even touch any woman aside from his wife was unfaithfulness to his wife.

…and tell us what you think.thess-5


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Appearance-based Assumptions

December 29, 2008 at 5:16 am (A Time to Laugh) (, , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

a-time-to-laugh

The day after Thanksgiving boasted huge sales and my parents made the early morning trek to take advantage of some of them. But the pressures of Black Friday often lead to split-second decisions, so they kept track of their receipts for future mind-changes. Sure enough, the next week found my 18-year-old brother, Josiah, and I headed into the local Stuff Mart laden with returns–a couple of crock-pots, a coffee grinder, some other items.

“We’ve got half a million returns,” I said apologetically to the greeter.

“Actually,” Josiah interposed, “Less than six.”

The greeter just flashed us an indulgent smile as she began stickering boxes. “That’s fine. Don’t worry about it. When I got married…”

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Honey Lemon Chicken

December 28, 2008 at 7:11 am (Counter Culture) (, , , , , , , )

counter-culture

Ingredients:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp finely chopped onion

1 tbsp garlic

2 tsp dried parsley flakes

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Directions:

In a bowl, combine all but chicken; mix well to make marinade.  Pour 2/3 cup marinade in large resealable plastic bag;  add chicken to bag.  Seal bag and turn to coat.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.  Save remaining marinade.

Grill chicken, uncovered over medium heat 12-15 minutes or until juice runs clear, turning once and basting occasionally with reserve marinade.

or

Bake at 350 degrees until chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender (about 20-30 minutes).

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Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Availability

December 27, 2008 at 9:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

art-of-availability

“In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) When time was ripe, God sent His Son—born of a woman. A simple virgin from Nazareth. Why? I can’t peer back in history before the visit of God’s messenger, but God reveals His sovereignty in shaping this young woman, throughout her entire life, to be His servant and to give birth to His Son–the perfect Servant and the ransom for mankind.

The Lord’s work in Mary’s heart and life is summed up in her words “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” The Lord’s slave. Devoted to Him. At His bidding. Available. God uses those who are available. As the story of Jesus unfolds, Mary’s quiet part in this perfect drama is this: quiet availability to God’s needs. Humble. Pure. A servant.

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)

Mary stood on the verge of a Jewish maiden’s ideal future when the angel appeared to her. A Jewish woman’s identity was wrapped up in her marriage—to a good man, a righteous man, a man with a trade, a man of good reputation and good family. As she listened to the angel’s declaration, the Lord revealed to her something not generally understood by the Jewish nation—that the Messiah would be the Son of God. He would not belong to her husband. When Mary bowed her head and expressed her willingness to do whatever the Lord asked, she opened herself up to heartache and loss. She could have lost her entire future. A woman pregnant outside of marriage was an adulteress and could be stoned. A righteous man could not, in good conscience, marry her. Forever she would be looked down upon, ostracized and whispered about. Still, she made herself available to God, trusting His eternal plan for her life—and that of the child she would bear. I remember the day that the realization dawned on me: Mary and I are not so different. The Lord’s call came to me as well—and I have been chosen to carry the truth of God’s Son as well! God seeks those who are available—empty of their own plans and dreams, so that He may fill them with His Spirit and overshadow them with His power!

Mary rose and went to Judah…and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)

The angel had left Mary with another piece of news—Elizabeth was also miraculously with child. Seeking encouragement and to be an encouragement, Mary rushed to her side and spent the next three months with her. Why? As Elizabeth reached her time to give birth, she must have needed help, encouragement and companionship. Mary made herself available to this godly woman, to help her and to learn from her to be a godly wife—and mother. The Lord has placed in our lives those who are doing His will, seeking His glory. “You should serve each other,” He told His disciples in His last night with them. His desire is to see us become servants, available to encourage, assist and pour out His love to those who love Him.

Joseph rose and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:24)

Even when it seemed that Mary might be abandoned, Almighty God intervened to give Mary a protector and provider. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Joseph. Immediately he rose from his bed and took Mary as his wife. What had her feelings been a short time before? About to be divorced by a man she admired—likely loved deeply. Suddenly he was at her door, calling her name to take her as his wife—early. Catching up her covering, she made herself ready. Available to follow his lead, to trust that he was following the Lord’s command, knowing that in following Joseph, she was doing the Lord’s will. When the Lord transferred Mary’s authority to her husband, He also began speaking to her husband and leaving Mary to hear from Him second-hand. Not because Mary was no longer worthy to hear from the Lord, but because the Lord had sheltered her under the authority of a righteous man. Joseph was her God-given head. Joseph stood under God’s authority and Mary trusted Him. Even Jesus spoke of being under the authority of the Father. The Lord places authorities in each of our lives and leads us through them. Our part is to be available to His leading through them—no matter how inconvenient.

Joseph had to travel…and Mary went with him. (Luke 2:4-5)

God had also placed Joseph under authority. No matter how ungodly the Roman empire was, God was in control and was using the decree of Caesar to accomplish His eternal purpose. As Joseph obeyed the decree, Mary made herself available to her husband, to travel with him, to be with him, in spite of the fact that she was about to have a child. Inconvenient is an understatement, I’m sure. With the discomfort of pregnancy–swelling, water retention, constant bladder pressure, dizziness, nausea–traveling the dusty roads from Nazareth the Bethlehem could hardly have been a pleasure trip. Yet Mary went accompanied her man, so fulfilling the words of the prophets of old in her availability to her husband who was also obeying the government.

They found the baby and His mother. (Luke 2:16; Matthew 2:11)

Alone and cold in a foreign town, the middle of the night she gave birth could not have been the time Mary would have chosen for visitors. Yet as she watched her baby, she opened her heart and arms to the smelly shepherds who had come to see God’s good news. Some time later, finally in the privacy of her own home, she was invaded by a crowd of foreign magi. Again she opened her arms and heart and shared Jesus with those seeking Him. God has called each of us to carry the truth of His Son—and to be available to share Him with anyone who seeks Him.

Take the child and His mother and go to Egypt. (Matthew 3:13)

The Lord’s commands don’t always seem convenient, but they should always be treated as urgent. Joseph took God’s commands seriously and immediately obeyed. His instant obedience produced a wild ride for his wife, Mary. But think how strenuous obedience would have become had Mary balked, complained, dawdled or refused. The quick cooperation of a woman who trusts her man to lead her in the Lord is the encouragement and blessing that can empower that man to do whatever the Lord has called him to do. First the move to Egypt and then the move back, turned Mary’s life upside down. As she learned to be a servant, she recognized Joseph’s obedience to the Lord and his desire to protect her and the baby, Jesus and cheerfully made her place by his side.

Didn’t you know I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)

When Jesus was a baby, he depended on His mother and she gave Him what she thought He needed—food, sleep, baths. As He grew she had to constantly re-learn the hard fact of service: a devoted servant is attentive to the Master’s desires, wishes and needs. A devoted servant seeks to know the Master. And she learned that Her Son came to be the greatest servant of all–to give, to love, to sacrifice and to pour out His own life for the glory of God, His Master in heaven. From the mouth of her perfect twelve-year-old came this humbling reminder, “Didn’t you know…” Jesus’ first responsibility was to be about His Father’s business. Mary had offered herself available to serve the Lord. Her Divine Son was calling her to know Him. The Lord has called us to know Him as well and to serve Him by learning Who He is and what His desires are. As godly women, He has called us to know the men in our lives, to seek to understand them and the ministry to which God has called each of them and to support them in that ministry–their service to God.

Woman, My time has not yet come. (John 2:4)

When Mary informed Jesus of the lack at the wedding in Cana, His words nearly seemed harsh. Like He was irritably saying, “Leave me alone, Mom” in the very tones that used to earn me a sound spanking. But Jesus’ words are so much different than my bad attitude. His was a straightforward reminder that He did not belong to her. Her ways were not His ways. Often we seek to tell God what to do. We try to point out to Him the way in which He can serve us. Mary took the response, digested it and commanded the servants to do what? To be available. What she was learning, she was teaching. “Do whatever He tells you to do.” Then she was silent. When our heart is available, our attitude ready to do whatever He tells us to do, God can take our water and turn into the wine of life!

My mother and brothers are those who do the will of My Father. (Matthew 12:50)

How difficult it must have been for Mary to loosen her mother’s hold and let her Son be in control of the universe. When she and her sons came seeking Him, His words seemed like rejection. “Who are my mother and my brothers? He who does the will of My Father.” But Jesus was not rejecting Mary as the one who had given birth to Him and nursed Him. He was reminding her what it was she had committed herself to do. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. Even the Lord’s mother must learn to trust Him and entrust herself to Him. She had made herself available to serve the Lord. It’s easy to imagine service as doing what I think should be done. What I think is best. What I think will bring God glory. Jesus corrected this misconception with truth: service is doing whatever the Lord asks. Doing whatever He wants. Simply put, obedience. Availability to His needs and requests.

Jesus saw His mother standing nearby. (John 19:26)

From His birth to His death, Mary was available. Even as Jesus hung from the cross, paying for the sins of the world, she stood by, watching and weeping. He saw her and He provided for her care. Did Jesus love His mother? He gave His life to redeem her, to purchase her back from sin and from slavery to the law and to make her a child of God. He bought for her, with His blood, an eternity with Him. Once upon a time, she thought He needed her. Finally she understood that she was lost without Him. As He had once been helpless in her arms, so she was helpless without His intercession. Favored of God—because of Her Son, Jesus.

Mary stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

As Mary watched Jesus grow and fulfill God’s purpose in His life, she treasured every moment in her heart, storing it up. Later she shared all she remembered with Luke, the beloved physician, who sought to write a thorough account of all that Jesus began to do and teach. She made herself available to listen, to watch, to remember, to treasure and available to share the precious life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

matthew-23-11

As I studied this woman of wisdom, I wept over her sacrifices—constantly giving up her dreams, her comfort and finally her Son. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. “Do to me whatever.” The life of a servant is availability to the Master, always near, always ready, always cheerful, always eager. Long before Gabriel visited Nazareth, God had been at work in Mary’s heart, shaping her into an empty vessel that He could fill. From the day she accepted the Lord’s call to carry the Savior of the world, Mary made herself available to the Lord, available to the authorities He had placed over her, and available to anyone who sought Jesus. Pouring herself out as a sacrifice before the Lord, she found favor. Jesus told His disciples the secret of true greatness, “He who desires to be great, must become servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11)

Read the story:  Behold, the Lord’s Handmaid

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

December 26, 2008 at 8:01 am (The Domestic Economy) (, , , , , )

domestic-economy

Folks always make fun of Abigail and Nathaniel’s Mom for her frugality.

What they don’t realize is that Marcia is a master at penny pinching–and it’s paid off. With two children in tow, her husband, Lane went back to college–and Marcia stayed home and ran a tight ship. Even with the surprise birth of a third child, Lane graduated with $1000. in the bank. Every year at Christmas, Marcia sits by, snagging wrapping remnants to reduce, reuse and recycle. She’s not just thrifty, she’s super creative and folks always compliment her package-wrapping!

Try salvaging used:

  • Bags
  • Ribbon
  • Bows
  • Paper (if it’s not torn)

The next year you can wrap your packages with gently used wrapping paper (that stuff’s super expensive), add a roll of tape to stick on bows and ribbon and even recycle the fronts of your favorite Christmas cards to dress up the fronts of presents and add “To/From” labels with a perfect message!

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A Prayer at Christmas

December 25, 2008 at 7:17 am (Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

christmas-prayer

by Abigail

The Christmas season’s come this year,
Its beauty bringing hope and cheer
To friends and family far and near,
And prayer of joy for those held dear.
Reflect our hearts upon Your love
And cause our praise to rise above.
Descend upon us like a dove.
We thank You for Your Son beloved.
Our hearts unite in one accord
To praise our everlasting Lord:
The One whom angel hosts adored-
The Incarnation-Ageless Word.
While gaiety around us cease
Come to our hearts, O Prince of Peace,
And give us tongue and grant us lease
To worship You with full release.
The Masterpiece Your hands had made
Was born in Bethlehem-a babe.
The greatest gift that one e’er gave
Was love that laid Him in the grave!
We ponder at this season’s door
On life that lasts forevermore,
Yet willingly it’s glories pour
Into the vat of mercy’s store.
What wonder, God would stoop to call
The creatures chained by Adam’s fall:
A brand-new Man to reach us all-
What greater grace could us befall?
It is too much for words to say,
For all the heavens pass away
Before the Power we sing today
Could weaken, die or fade away.
So guide our thoughts to think on You
The Light, the Life, the Way, the Truth,
The King to Whom all glory’s due;
Our blessings great, our trials few.
This gift of Christ is all we need.
And for Your loved, lost lambs we plead:
That they would find the Truth, indeed,
And in Your restful pastures feed.
Your holy love should us ignite
To shine as beacons in the night-
As stars that shared their sparkling light
To lend the seekers guide and sight.
Let not our mirth be frivolous,
But all our words be aimed to bless,
Unveiling all the loveliness
Of Christ, the Savior’s, holiness.

Copyright 2003

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Women of Wisdom: Behold, the Lord’s Handmaid

December 23, 2008 at 9:45 am (W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

the-lords-handmaid

Adapted from the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John

Once upon a time a modest little Jewish girl was born into a loving home in the  city of Nazareth in sunny Galilee. As she grew she learned to care for a home and a family and she dreamed of the day when she would marry a godly man and raise godly children. Then one day her dream seemed almost realized when she was sought in marriage by Joseph, the son of Jacob, a local builder, a man with a reputation as clear as his namesake, the son of the first Jacob who had become Israel. Though not wealthy, Joseph also traced his family line directly to King David! How her heart must have swelled with pride and pleasure as the couple exchanged their betrothal vows and prepared for happily ever after.

In the midst of the daily routine of baking flatbread and washing clothes and weaving linens and dreaming of marriage, Mary received a remarkable visit. “Good morning, God’s favored one. Yahweh is with you!” The brightness, the splendor, the purity and holiness radiating from the face and clothes of the strange man sent tiny shivers down her spine, but it was his greeting which Mary found most troubling. Brow knit, head bowed, she turned the strange words over and over in her mind. “Favored one. Yahweh is with you.” Her mind darted toward the temple in Jerusalem where Yahweh was said to dwell—unapproachably. How could He be with her? “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with Almighty God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you will name Him Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High; and God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom will have no end.” The angel’s voice was like a waterfall, pouring over Mary’s mind and soul and heart. She desperately tried to take it all in. Was he promising that she would be mother of the Messiah? The long-awaited Savior of Israel? But what did he mean “the Son of the Most High?” Would Joseph be the father? Was this a promise for later…or now?

“How is this possible?” Mary whispered, her hands trembling. “I am a virgin.”

The angel’s next words would remain in her heart forever, treasured and turned over and pondered upon. “The Holy Spirit will come on you and God’s power will cover you. This is why the holy offspring will be called God’s Son.”

Did the full impact of the message sink into Mary’s heart?  The Messiah would be divine. Born of a virgin. No human father. God’s own Son. She would hold God in her arms. Nurse God at her breast. Teach God to speak? Kiss God on the forehead? A shiver passed through her body as the angel continued. “In fact, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant in her old age—she who was barren is in her sixth month! Nothing is impossible for Yahweh!”

Overwhelmed by inexplicable emotions, Mary knew one thing with certainty—whatever God did was good. Whatever He planned would be accomplished. Whatever He wanted, she wanted. With her whole heart. She was at his disposal. “Behold, I am the Lord’s maidservant. Do to me whatever you have said.”

Then he was gone.

Then came the uncertainty, the doubt and the fear. What would this mean? Virgins didn’t conceive. To become pregnant during betrothal was adultery—and punishable by death. Her life had looked so simple and beautiful—an ideal marriage to a godly man. God had called her to something more. Might the call of God destroy her dreams? The angel had told her something else—Elizabeth was also expecting miraculously. The first opportunity found Mary accompanying a caravan to Judah.

God’s confirmation greeted her in the form of her aging cousin, renewed like Sarah of old, her face wreathed in smiles. “Blessed among women are you! And blessed is the fruit of your womb! How has it happened that the mother of my master has come to me? When I heard your voice the baby within me leaped for joy! Blessed are you for believing the word of the Lord!”

Tears sprang to Mary’s eyes as she felt the Holy Spirit burning hotly inside her heart. She couldn’t hold back the joy that poured over her spirit. “My soul exalts the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. He has regarded the humble state of His bond slave…the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name!” The words rushed from her lips like the flow of a pure fountain, washing her trembling spirit in life and light.

The next three months were times of continual wonder, being with Elizabeth, sheltered from the uncertain future, watching the miracle inside her body develop. When Elizabeth finally delivered a son and his father regained his voice to deliver a stirring prophecy, Mary’s heart clung to every word. Full of God’s unfolding plan, she turned her steps homeward, knowing she must soon share her news. How would it be received?

In the moment between Mary’s explanation and Joseph’s response, the scenes of the last three months flashed before her eyes: all the wonder, the excitement, the joy. But in the face of her betrothed she read only pain and heartbreak. Virgins don’t conceive. Only adulteresses do. For Joseph to marry a pregnant woman would mar his reputation forever—as if he accepted the bastard child as his own.  Worse yet, his own repugnance to impurity could not allow him near a fornicator.  As he turned and walked away from her, Mary’s girlhood dreams came crashing down like the walls of Jericho. Who would ever marry a woman who had given birth to a child while claiming to be a “virgin”?

In the middle of the night, Joseph heard from the Lord. His immediate response was immediate obedience—he rose from his bed and took Mary as his wife. Like a thief in the night. But he kept her pure, so that the holy child would truly be born of a virgin. Now perhaps Mary could have her happily ever after?

But the Lord was on the move again, fulfilling prophesies through the ungodly Caesar. A decree required Joseph to travel to his heritage town of Bethlehem. Willingly, Mary packed up and went with him, about to give birth. And while they waited, unable to find housing, the labor pains came on and she gave birth and wrapped her baby and laid Him in the only thing available—a manger. What must her thoughts have been as she held the newborn Son of God to her and whispered the name the angel had given her “Jesus?” Or the name Isaiah had prophesied for the virgin’s Son: “Immanuel”—God with us. Soon her tranquility was invaded by a group of noisy, smelly shepherds, eagerly seeking the Messiah. Opening her heart and arms, Mary shared with them the gift God had given her, pondering all that had been told her and storing it in her heart.

Life hardly ended with a serene crèche scene. A week later Mary, likely still cramping and bleeding, traveled with Joseph to Jerusalem to present Jesus at the temple, offering the best they could—two turtle doves or two young pigeons to redeem Him back. There they were greeted by prophetic confirmation: the elderly Anna who praised God for the redemption of Israel and the aged Simeon, who took the infant from her arms and promised her more pain, “A sword will pierce even your own soul.” Any thoughts of happily ever after must have fled Mary’s mind at these words.

Joseph found work in Bethlehem and built a house. As a devoted mother, Mary poured herself into her baby, meeting His needs, nursing Him, holding Him, wiping his little bottom, bathing His little body. Never had she realized how truly raising a baby was serving God. She was just beginning to feel at home when a large caravan arrived outside the door. Camels grumbled and snorted, horses pawed the ground and a group of elegantly dressed men with long grey beards and turbans invaded her little paradise. Again she opened her heart and watched, bewildered as they poured out gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. Then, almost as quickly as they had come, they were gone. Mary was shaken awake in the middle of a sound sleep by her husband. “Get up, quickly!” he urged. “We have to leave and get Jesus away from here.” Just like that, her serene life was shattered and she found herself a fugitive in Egypt, living off the gifts of the wise men. Before she could make herself at home there, the Lord had called them back home to Nazareth.

Once upon a time a quiet little Jewish girl had dreamed of a quiet life with beautiful, dark-eyed children and a gentle, godly husband. Then the Lord had called her to the most blessed role and her life turned upside down. She nearly lost her betrothed. Rumors and insults still straggled across the lips of neighbors for years afterwards. She had to give up her home and give birth in a far away place, cold and alone at night. She’d fled her homeland to save her child. Now she was home again. Finally, perhaps she would find her happily ever after.

As the child grew in grace and more brothers and sisters were added to the family, Mary began to learn more of this Son of God, born to her. The Passover feast found Him missing and her heart raced as she and Joseph searched for three days before finding Him in the temple. Struggling between pride at the report she heard of His wisdom and relief at finding Him she scolded, “Why did you do this to us? We’ve been searching everywhere for you!” His answer must have sent her mind spinning. “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I must be doing my Father’s business?” For the rest of His life, His Father’s business would be His priority. He would stay out all night, sleeping under the stars, trekking across the countryside healing, teaching and gathering disciples. Mary knew His divine mission was from God, but she didn’t understand that the sword that pierced her heart would come so soon. She didn’t know that she would watch her Son slowly proving His independence of her and her advice only to prove her dependence on Him. Yet she had to trust Him, to trust that her Son knew the best. Each time He reminded her that He knew best, it must have sent a sword through her heart. Hadn’t she nursed Him? Hadn’t she wiped away His tears? Hadn’t she poured her heart and life into Him? She admired His compassion, His wisdom and His love. But how could she let go of the tiny baby she had held in her arms so many years before and worship the Man He had grown to be—God’s Son, in Whom He was well-pleased.

One terrible night, at the height of His popularity, He was betrayed by a friend and led as a sheep to the slaughter to the hill called Golgotha. His mother stood at the foot of His cross, weeping because she could not hold Him and comfort Him and wipe the blood and sweat from His face. She stood, ready to do for Him whatever she could, helpless to do anything for Him. Once God had promised she would bear a Son who would save His people from their sins. The Messiah. There He hung, naked and shredded, gasping for breath. His eyes met hers. “Woman,” he whispered, “Behold your Son.” And his eyes fixed on her nephew. “Behold, your mother.”

In that moment, Mary knew that He was no longer hers. That He never had belonged to her. In that moment the sword pierced her heart with a searing agony. Where was the happy ending of which she had dreamed? Then darkness overwhelmed everything and He passed.

After years of devotedly seeking to serve God, Mary lost her holy Son.

Such a moment couldn’t bear repeating had God not known best, had Jesus not been in control, had not the Spirit been moving. Mary had sacrificed her dreams and hopes for her Son unaware that He would sacrifice His life for her. Just as Jesus had laid down His life, He had power to take it up again. Three days later He rose, no longer Mary’s Son, but now fully her Master. Her God. In His death and resurrection, He saved her from the power of sin and death. Through Him, she obtained the new birth that made her a child of God. Through her Son’s perfect plan, Mary obtained her happily ever after—for eternity.

wow

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Subscribing to Pearls and Diamonds

December 22, 2008 at 7:58 am (Announcements) (, , , )

We’ve had a little bit of confusion lately as to how to subscribe to our blog.

Ladies, you have several options:

Click Here to subscribe by e-mail.

Click Here to subscribe in your favorite reader.

Leave a comment on this post and we will manually subscribe you.

or

Send us an e-mail at pearlsanddiamondsblog[at]gmail[dot]com and we’ll add you to the list!

Blessings!

lauren-and-abigail-sig1

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Egg-nog Quick Bread

December 21, 2008 at 7:47 am (Counter Culture) (, , , , )

counter-culture

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup eggnog

1/2 cup melted butter

2 tsp rum extract

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom ONLY of loaf plans. In a large bowl, cream eggs and sugar. Beat in liquids. Slowly add dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Pour into greased pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Hint:

For a poor womans egg-nog, blend 2 cups of milk, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, rum flavoring and nutmeg.

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Wherever I Am…

December 20, 2008 at 6:24 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , )

flowers-of-thought-2Itchy feet and the restless urge have overtaken me again. I must be getting too settled in. Rain or mist has been the pervading weather for the last several days, leaving me sunless and cabin-locked, for the most part. This evening found me turning circles in the living room. It isn’t quite long enough for cartwheels, unfortunately. I started into Job this morning, but my mind feels completely saturated, like a sponge so soggy it can’t absorb any more. Asked what the Lord is teaching me, my mouth hangs open like a door with a loose hinge, and I can’t squeeze even one drop of refreshing water from my mind. Where do I even begin? I’ve been soaking it up, enjoying the time of solitude up here on the mountain, learning of the Lord. Now I’m ready to bound down into the valley again, desperate to seek and save His lost lambs. “My people perish for lack of knowledge” He says. “There’s a famine for hearing the word of the Lord.” “Beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” My spirit wanders around inside me. I catch myself daydreaming witnessing opportunities, replaying conversations, rethinking what I should have said. I want to go out, to seek, to serve, to give myself a sacrifice.

I’ve got to start at home.

Lord, I’m here where Thou hast placed me
Restlessness and doubt still chase me.
Am I needed here at home?
For Lord, the urge to roam has grown.

And I can justify desires
By claiming Thou hast lit the fires.
But Thou hast bid me be content
Where’er it is that Thou hast sent.

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Six Things God has Taught Me

December 19, 2008 at 12:01 pm (Announcements, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

6-thingsSome time ago we were tagged by Olivia to share six things God has taught us in the past year…forgive us for the delay in posting! We normally don’t do tags, but since this one included both of us and aptly fit into the purpose of our blog, we were delighted to participate! After all, the Lord’s been teaching us much!

From Lauren:

I’ve been married now for a year and three months! It’s been so wonderful to see God’s kindness to us in our marriage! Yahweh has been teaching me so SO much in the past year–most of it being quite practical, a lot of learning from experience. I hope that what God has been teaching me will be of some encouragement to you ladies!

1. I’m not as submissive as I’d like to think! I had plenty of time to practice submission while under my parents’ authority. Sure, I wasn’t perfect, but I thought I’d gotten pretty good at it. Then I entered into married life and began to realize that submitting to my husband (the most wonderful man I know, by the way) was not as easy as I had imagined. Sure, I’d ask his opinion on things, and I’d let him make the big decisions, offering my thoughts and support. But when it came down to little day-to-day things I began to realize that I didn’t want him to infringe on “my time”. So I’ve grown to realize that submission isn’t easy-even when you have an easy-going, not-very-demanding man. God has taught me that I have a lot to learn in this area, and that if I’m not submitting even the little things to my husband’s authority, I’m not being submissive to my God either! I wrote “She who has ears…” earlier this year when God really broke through to me with this lesson!

2. God gave me a glimpse of His compassion. I grew up in the clean suburbs of north Texas. My grandparents are exceptionally healthy. But since I’ve been married and living in Tulsa, in the city, God has brought me face to face with the poverty of the homeless and the despair of an ailing widow. Nathaniel and I have had opportunities to help these folks like we’ve never known before. It has stretched us out of our comfort zones, but it has been so good to begin to understand the compassion of our God and to show it to those in need!

3. I need to renew my mind daily in God’s word. Sometimes a song will pop into my head that I haven’t heard since before I came to know the Lord, the lyrics bombarding me with attitudes and words that I’ve since abandoned. Other times my own heart fills my mind with evil thoughts, bad attitudes. This has served to remind me that I desperately need to renew my mind, as it says in Romans 12-and to do it daily. It’s not about Bible study for the sake of Bible study, as though checking it off my list makes me more spiritual. Rather, my heart is deceitful and my mind wanders, and only by God’s grace and by being drenched in His word can I truly honor Him in my thoughts, words, and deeds. I desperately need God’s word!

4. Prayer and worship should be the heartbeat of my walk with Christ. It seems that of all the spiritual disciplines I can think of, the ones that I tend to neglect the most are prayer and private worship of my Creator-and God has been convicting me about this. Just as I need God’s word to renew my mind, I need to humble myself and pray to God-about everything! And the thing that has perhaps hit me the hardest lately, is that I should take time to praise my Savior each day-not because I feel like it-that doesn’t matter-but because He is WORTHY to be praised. If I fail to praise Him, I have declined to give Him what He is due, I have failed to do what ought to naturally flow from a heart that has been made new and is dependent upon its Creator, Sustainer, and Savior!

5. Now that I’m married, I must still be careful to keep Jesus as the love of my life. Being married to an amazing man is an amazing blessing. But I have to be careful to remember that he is not my groom forever-Jesus is. It’s been helpful for me to recognize the things I admire about Nathaniel, and the way that he loves me as his wife, and then think of how my Jesus loves His bride, the church, the same way (only exponentially greater!). This has helped me to turn praise for my husband (which I give him) into greater praise for my God and Savior as well!

6. If you miss who Jesus is, you miss everything. God sent Jehovah’s Witnesses to my door in late May, and one of them kept coming back to talk with me, bringing another lady with her each time, all the way until early August! I didn’t know much about what they believed-I knew they rejected the deity of Christ, but I though that maybe if they knew that salvation was by grace through faith, some of them might truly be saved, only needing to learn more about Jesus to then believe that He’s God the Son. So for a couple of months I got to ask questions, read their materials, and search the Scriptures (as did the Bereans in Acts 17:11). It was a wonderful challenge and I came to see more clearly from Scripture why we worship Jesus and call upon Him in prayer (the JW’s don’t do either). Well, did they understand salvation by grace? No. In fact, on every point of doctrine their teachings twisted God’s word-from creation and the fall all the way into Revelation, these ladies trusted the publications put out by their organization which twisted God’s truth into lie after lie. When talking with Nathaniel’s family about what I was discussing and sharing with the JW’s, his dad pointed me to John 8:24, where Jesus said to the Jews: “…you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” Truly, if we don’t believe that Jesus is who He and the apostles said He is, we will not know God’s salvation. We will still be in our sins-because, in effect, we’ve rejected Christ and have only accepted a cheap imitation. And we will likely believe a whole bunch of lies if we accept lies about the Person of Jesus Christ. This was shocking to me as I saw it played out in the lives of these ladies-very religious, very “holy”, very devout in trying to make sure they can enter paradise, but oh so lost, still bearing their own sins, believing in a Jesus that cannot save because they have rejected who He really is.

From Abigail:

Interestingly, I just passed the one year anniversary of our move to Arkansas…and the Lord has taught me SO MUCH since then. Some of it I’ve shared with you all, some of it remains buried in the pages of my journal, some of it is schedule for future posts. Selecting only six things will be difficult–He teaches me something new every day! These have been a few of the liberating truths that have hit home to me this year.

1. “No” is not a punishment. It’s often been my habit to pray for a desire I have to be realized, while also praying that the Lord would give me a clear “no” if that desire were not a part of His will.  But like a slinking puppy, I forget that “no” stems from the Lord’s love–His desire for His glory and my joy in glorifying Him–and I feel guilty, ashamed or regretful over having ever desired something to which He had to say “no.” When the Lord gives me a “no” to something I’ve desired, it’s not necessarily because that desire was evil or because I have done evil. Quite simply, it’s because He has something else for me to do. Instead of recoiling or whining, I should cheerfully accept His redirection and stretch out to grow and serve in another way.

2. Emotions are not the enemy. Friends used to ask me if I even had emotions.  Growing up I honestly thought self-control meant ridding myself of all display of emotion–grief, anxiety, embarrassment, anger and even joy.  While being able to mask my emotions has proven a wonderful gift in many of the circumstances I’ve found myself in, trying to suppress them left me devoid of the fulness and joy of the Lord.  God created me with emotions so that I might worship and enjoy Him. There is an appropriate time for every emotion. But worship means bringing my emotions under control of the Spirit so that I may experience fulness of joy and pleasure in the presence of Almighty God.

3. Offending someone is not always a bad thing. I hate to think of hurting someone’s feelings or making someone angry at me.  But being a peacemaker doesn’t mean covering over issues to create an illusion of peace, but exalting the Prince of Peace.  Jesus often offended the Pharisees. God calls me to be at peace with all men, as much as it depends on me. He also calls me to speak the truth in love. I must share the truth in love and leave the Lord to the working whether it will be scandalous or bring a healing breaking. Great grace have the people of God, and nothing will offend them.

4. Love never fails. We live in a battle zone.  The enemy is invisible, not made of flesh and blood, but of intense evil and hatred. Jesus conquered sin and death by power of His love.  Only by His love can we hope to win this war–and by His love the outcome is sure.  Sometimes I feel so weary, so exhausted in trying to learn to love like Jesus and I think I need a break–especially in the privacy of home, where I’m surrounded by people who “know I love them.”  Christ’s love is not the selfish love that demands a paid vacation.  It never goes on vacation. It never takes a break. It always sacrifices itself for the good of others and takes infinite pleasure in watching, unrequitted. Pride cannot coexist with love. I am loved, not because I deserve it, but because Jesus loves infinitely. I love others, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus deserves it infinitely.

5. I am not responsible for results. I am quick to lose sight of God’s work and God’s power and become discouraged when the world doesn’t follow the plan I’ve mapped out.  When people don’t react the way I think they should.  When those I love don’t make the decisions I am certain would be best for them.  When situations run completely out of my control.  Blaming myself, I sink down in depression, certain I have failed and that God is mortally disappointed in me.  What a lie from Satan and perfectly exposing my own pride and self-worth.  I am responsible only for my obedience. To try to take responsibility for results–good or bad–is to usurp God. Jesus has commanded me to control myself, to follow Him and to love. I am not responsible for bringing revival. I am not responsible for the lost being saved. I am not responsible for another’s reaction to me or to Jesus. I am responsible to do whatever He says. In my obedience, He is glorified.

6. God is never angry at me. When I can’t create the results I dream of, or when I’ve drifted in my busyness or discouragement from the depths of relationship with the Lord, I crawl home pleading for quick punishment, viewing God as a despot whose anger must be satisfied before I can be restored to favor.  But God’s wrath WAS satisfied.  It was completely spent on Jesus, my precious Savior.  Being justified by faith, I have peace with God. I could not earn His pleasure, I do not keep His pleasure. I am satisfied with Jesus, because through His intermediacy, God was satisfied with me. And always will be. Praise Jesus!

We’d love to know what things the Lord is teaching you! If you’ve learned something this year, consider yourself tagged!

Blessings,

lauren-and-abigail-sig

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Hide and Seek

December 18, 2008 at 5:59 am (Food for Thought) (, , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this one…

“We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him [God], we need no longer seek Him.”

~A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5


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Teeth and Eternity

December 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm (Vignettes) (, , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

teeth-and-eternityHer name was Ellen. She was about fifty-five years old.  I will never forget the Saturday morning, over a year ago, that she arrived at the dental clinic to have teeth pulled and met a man she already loved.

Every year, Dr. Don opens up his dental clinic for a “Free Day” as a way of saying thank you to Jesus. Following in the way of the Master, he reaches out to the “sick” on a physical level in order to meet their spiritual needs. While each patient waits to be worked on, a believer is able to come into the room and share the gospel with them.

That Saturday I was privileged to be a gospel sharer.

She was very nearly missed. The morning was almost over, and after having to wait outside for hours, and barely getting in to be worked on, she was waiting quietly in a dental chair. I’d been told everyone in the rooms on that side of the building had already been talked with, but one of the guys came to find me, whispering, “There’s a lady in here who doesn’t have a goodie bag. Do you want to talk to her?”

Meagan and I had no trouble striking up a conversation with her. She was having all the teeth on one side pulled. She considered herself a Baptist. To her, Jesus was her best friend. “He got me here today,” she said, smiling shyly. “I pray to Him all the time.”

I began to probe for divinity. “Why do you pray to Him? Normally, you know, we pray to someone who is divine—a God.”

Confusion clouded her eyes. “I don’t know.”

Did she consider herself a good person? “I try to be.” Can we take a look at some of God’s laws to see if that’s true? “Okay.” Her mild blue eyes were riveted on me as I elicited from her confessions that she was a lying, thieving blasphemer, fallen short of God’s glory.

“If he judges you, will you be innocent or guilty?”

Without hesitation, she answered, “Guilty.” Her concern etched deeply into the lines across her forehead and around her eyes. When I offered hope, her heart reached eagerly for it.

I began to tell her about Jesus—the God who became a man, who became our intercessor with an angry and Holy God. I shared how He came to earth, born of a virgin, born under the Law so that He might redeem those under the Law. How in that hour on the cross, an innocent substitute, He cried out, forsaken by God, bearing the sins of the whole world. I explained how God heard His plea on our behalf and raised Him. “This is why we pray to Jesus,” I finished. Her eyes never left my face. I asked if she knew how to become right with God through Jesus.

“Tell me.”
“Repent, put your faith is Jesus’ ability to save you and tell Him you want to follow Him. Do you want to do that?”

No doubt. No hesitation. “Yes.”

My heart dropped out the bottom and I blinked. I’d gotten this far before, even had willing listeners, but when I’d asked that question I’d always heard an excuse. “Later” or “I’ll be okay” or “Let me think about it.”

I swallowed, trying to digest a three-letter word. “You do?”  What in the world was I supposed to do next?

“Yes.” She answered again.

What followed was the most beautiful prayer I have heard: stripped of pretense or poetry, she poured out her plea for salvation from the penalty and the power of sin, sang her praise to her Merciful Mediator and owned Him as her Lord. Before she finished, I was on my knees at her side, holding her hand and crying with her, praising the Lord for her salvation. When I stood up, the light of Jesus shone from her eyes.

“Hug me,” she begged.

“I will!”

I handed her the “goodie bag” we’d prepared—the one my friend had noticed she didn’t have yet. I showed her the Bible and found the gospel of John, marked it for her and gave her a highlighter. She held it open, ready to dive in to discover this Savior who had brought her to a dental clinic in Russellville, so that He could save her soul.

“Do you want me to stay and read with you?” I asked.

“No!” was her quick reply. “There’s other people out there! Go tell them!”

Actually, she was the last patient that day to hear the gospel. After the group of gospel sharers finished praying in the waiting room, they asked to be introduced to their new sister.

When we came back into the room, we found her bent over her Bible, blue highlighter in hand and evidence of its use on the pages. She smiled up at me, “It’s good so far.”

In that moment, Ellen was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.

The book of Psalms says that God “will beautify the afflicted with salvation.”

As we left the clinic that day, we were all awed by the work of the Lord.  Realize, my friends, that Meagan’s and my part in this drama was very little. The Lord had prepared Ellen’s heart for His good news. We were like the farmer who sowed seed and went to bed and the seed sprouted and grew, but he knew not the way. The Lord is preparing the fields—they are ripe for harvest.  Since I’ve moved to the Bible belt, I’ve become increasingly aware of the emptiness of religion.  I can hardly believe how many “churched” people that I’ve been able to talk with have never even heard the gospel.  Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His fields—beseech Him to send you.

I’ve found the Way of the Master to be a great aid in random evangelism.  They have tracts that can be left for others to find, as some of my shy friends have done, or tracts that simply open up the way for a conversation.  Or you can make your own!  When I visited Lauren for my 18th birthday we created a “survey” and made our own tracts with an outline of the gospel.  The angel announced to the shepherds that the good news is for everyone–and the shepherds went home praising God and telling everyone they met of the Savior God had sent.  Good news is for sharing!

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Jesus’ Girl

December 16, 2008 at 9:57 am (Poetry) (, , , , , )

jesus-girl

by Abigail

I coat on make-up, string on pearls,
“World,” I cry, “I’m Jesus’ girl!”

They raise their eyebrows, “What’s the fuss?
“Girl,” they say, “You’re just like us.”

They seize the gold ring in my snout
In pain, I follow them about.

“God,” I plead to understand
“I tried to show them all Your plan!”

I stand before the King of Grace.
He holds a mirror before my face.

Filthy rags are all my best.
His truth can stand alone undressed.

In seeking to appeal to man
I’d obscured His eternal plan.

I’d failed. It is little wonder.
I stole the King of Heaven’s thunder.

Copyright 2006

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