Active & Steadfast Faith

So many things can cause me to worry—illness, divisive politics, concerns about friends and family, goals not met. Do I live in fear or do I hold fast to God with faith?

The book of Joshua in the Old Testament lays out great examples of active faith. Today I was reading about Caleb. Caleb was one of the twelve men that Moses sent to spy out the promised land.

Caleb had faith that they could enter the land and fight for it. God would give them victory. But ten of the men were afraid of the descendants of Anak, described as giants. Fear settled on Israel like a mist. As a result 40 years would pass in the wilderness before Caleb would enter the promised land. I wonder how those years went for Caleb. Forty years is a long time to be patient. Caleb was steadfast.

Caleb was with Joshua when they entered the land and took possession (as God promised). God was with them in the battles.

When the land was being divided and given to each tribe, Caleb reminded Joshua that he had been promised land for himself and his descendants. At the age of 85 he offered to win the hill country from the Anakim—the same area of land that he had seen 45 years before. He was ready to fight the giants. Steadfast faith.

Caleb’s example speaks to me. He actively listened to God. He believed God and was ready to act. He endured 40 years of waiting patiently, steadfastly. At the right moment he was victorious at Hebron.

The good news is that when we are listening to God, willing to act, he helps us. Our faith is molded by prayer, Bible study, obedience to God’s word. We receive encouragement in community with other believers.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: ACTIVE

A Call to People of Faith for the Sake of the Children

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech to the law school at the University of Notre Dame on October 11, 2019. In that speech he said:

“For anyone who has a religious faith, by far the most important part of exercising that faith is the teaching of that religion to our children. The passing on of the faith. There is no greater gift we can give our children and no greater expression of love.”

Barr went on to explain that our schools are interfering. It is true in Illinois. Legislation has been passed mandating that people who are/were LGBTQ and who have made contributions to society must be acknowledged along with their sexual preferences. Children in elementary school, beginning with kindergarten, will be exposed to sexual terms and behavior. 

Why must young children be exposed to every kind of sexual behavior? Is there no period of innocence for children any more? This takes away parental rights to teach about sexuality at the appropriate time.

The high school district that provided my children with an excellent education is now distracted with the issue of bathrooms and locker rooms. The school board is considering a policy that will give a transgender student (biologically male) full and open access to the girl’s locker room, shower and bathrooms.

How many girls feel comfortable sharing their dressing room with a biological male? Why should they? Ten years ago this would have been shocking. Why is this happening?

The attorney general observed:

One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor.

The secular view of sexuality is now being forced on young people. This distracts from the real goal of a high school education—learning subjects and skills needed to achieve employment in our society. 

Unless we speak up, engage in events like the school board meetings, study the the candidates for public office and vote with wisdom, we will be swept away in a culture that is so damaging to the children growing up now.

The attorney general said:

They [Judeo-Christian moral standards] reflect the rules that are best for man, not in the by and by, but in the here and now. They are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.

The full text of Attorney General Barr’s speech can be read here.

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One Sunday Morning in Albuquerque: Balloons and Roosters

The Balloon Festival in New Mexico is a great family activity. I was amazed to see so many people, so many family groups, strolling together at the Balloon Festival Park. It was a state fair like scene at 6:00 am. Parents were pushing strollers and pulling wagons as they walked past venders offering coffee, donuts, burritos, turkey legs and more. Brightly colored banners and souvenirs beckoned to the crowd. 

At 6:30 am the first balloons lifted off, and the air currents carried them into mist. Clouds were scattered throughout the sky.

At 7:00 am a soloist appeared on the bandstand and sang the Star Spangle Banner. As she finished singing flames soared from the hot air burners, and the crowd cheered.

Because of mist and fog (unusual for Albuquerque) the conditions were not optimal for the giant balloons, so only a few more lifted off. 

Still a multitude of the balloons were fully inflated and the crowds grouped around the various launching sites.  The Star Wars site was hugely popular.

Do you see Darth Vader?

Colorful balloons were interspersed with character balloons.

The following day, Sunday morning, we went to a hill that gave us a view of the balloons in the air. It was a beautiful clear morning and the sky was full of colorful balloons. We watched for favorite balloons we had seen inflated the day before.

By 9:30 am most of the balloons had landed and we went to church with our son and daughter-in-law. 

The sign for the church has a rooster on it and I asked my son what it meant.

He said, “Remember Peter and the rooster crowing after Peter denied knowing Jesus? Peter failed Jesus, but Jesus called him back and forgave him. We are all broken people.”

The call to worship was appropriate for the day.

Sing to God; lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts. He ascended on high, leading a host captive in his train.

He who descended in humility is also He who ascended far above the heavens, that He might fill all things.

And He gave gifts to men, to equip the saints, for the building up of the body of Christ.

Let us therefore grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that the body may build itself up in love.

The pastor reminded us that we cannot reach up, cannot ascend by achievement to God. God, righteous and holy, is far above us. We may be in a wilderness, but God has descended to us through Jesus. Jesus came down and suffered and died on our behalf. We need only to accept the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus offers.

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The Value of a Critique

It is so nice to receive compliments and to have the good opinion of others. It is something that I desire. But what about criticism?

Recently I participated in leadership training. A coach critiqued the discussion that I led. For ten minutes I listened to the coach list things I could have approached differently or done better.

I listened quietly, but later I vented to my husband. “I think I got a B- instead of an A.” The next day I brought up the subject again.

My husband said, “Are you still on this topic?”

The criticism pointed me to ways that I could grow and improve. Why was it so hard for me to see that?

This experience reminded me of a critique that I received for a manuscript proposal. My proposal and first chapter was marked up. Only a few lines were unmarked. There were questions about the setting, my format and more. At the time it stung. I had to pause, and gradually I have seen a new approach to this project.

Listening requires active participation. When it includes hearing criticism it is difficult. Sorting through the criticism to see what is helpful is important (not all criticism is helpful).

Listen to advice and accept instruction that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20 ESV

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: LISTEN

Success, Obedience and the Word

The women in our Bible study group were amazed (and amused) by the account of men being circumcised after they crossed the Jordan River and before taking possession of the promised land. We are studying the book of Joshua.

God instructed Joshua to circumcise all the men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. Before beginning battle they were to be consecrated and reminded of the covenant God made with Abraham.

What is the relationship between obedience and success? The book of Josua gives some perspective.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night . . . Joshua 1: 7-8a

These verses remind me how important it is to know the Word of God. We are blessed to have the Bible available to us in so many ways—online, in book form, audible readings on CD. It is an encouragement to meet with other believers to study the Bible.

In our Bible study group we acknowledged that we don’t always understand God’s ways. And His interpretation of success or His timing might be different than ours. Yet God’s desire for us is good and best.

Do you find time to study the Word?

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: SUCCESS

It Was a Huge Project

This past week my husband and I visited the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. We were amazed and enlightened as we walked through each deck, observing the design of the ark to meet the needs of Noah’s family and the animals. This ark is built to the specifications in the book of Genesis.

Genesis 6:9 tells us: Noah walked with God.

Garden at the Ark Encounter

Noah was given a huge task in a corrupt and violent society.

And God saw the earth, and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Genesis 6: 12-14

God gave specific instructions for the ark—its length, breadth and height. The Bible mentions the number of decks, the animals and stores of food.

A system for propagation of moths–food for some creatures.
Animal in wooden crate

Noah was probably confronted and challenged during the years that he spent building the ark. He persevered. Noah’s life, his faith and perseverance are an inspiration for us.

As we hold fast to God, He will hold fast to us.

Sharing this post with Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is: CHALLENGE Visit Kate’s site for a writing challenge.

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Seven Gutsy Women

Our pastor has begun a series of messages from the book of Exodus and he pointed out the strong women mentioned in the first two chapters of this book.

When the Egyptian King decreed that the Hebrew midwives should kill all Hebrew male babies Shiprah and Puah did not obey the decree.

Shiprah and Puah
Pharaoh and the Midwives by James Tissot circa 1896-1902

But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. Exodus 1:17

So they were called before Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and questioned.

The midwives explained that the male babies survived,“because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Exodus 1:19

Were the midwives lying? They were circumventing the king’s command. Their answer indicated that they had experience attending Egyptian and Hebrew women. 

Women that are physically active—the Hebrew women worked hard as slaves— are in better physical condition, more likely to have a labor that progresses well—more likely to walk, squat and change position throughout labor. The Hebrew women may have given birth with the assistance of relatives that had learned basic skills from the midwives. 

And then Pharaoh made a new decree. He asked the Egyptians to be on the alert and to throw any Hebrew male babies into the Nile.

One Hebrew woman (Jochebed) realized that her three month old baby boy was becoming increasingly hard to hide. So she made a little basket sea worthy, and asked Miriam (the baby boy’s sister) to place him in the river.

Illustrators of the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach us by Charles Foster

Jochebed instructed the Miriam to watch him.

Pharaoh’s daughter saw the unusual floating basket and asked her maid to bring it to her. The Princess realized that the baby was a Hebrew boy whom her father had ordered to be drowned. She ignored her father’s decree.

When Miriam saw the Princess holding her baby brother she offered to get a nurse from the Hebrew women to breastfeed the child. She offered to bring the baby’s mother, and Pharaoh’s daughter agreed.

The five women (midwives, Jochabed, Miriam, King’s daughter) were disobeying the King’s order. They were defending life! Despite the possibility that harm might come to themselves, they nurtured the baby boy who would one day be a leader of Israel.

Women have been entrusted by God with the gift of bearing and nurturing life. These five women offer examples of faith and courage as they persevered, defending the life of a baby. They were gutsy women.

World Magazine recently published the story of a missionary woman who stopped the practicing of killing twin babies in a Nigerian tribe. In her mission to save lives she adopted children. She lived in the 19th century, and her name was Mary Slessor.

In our own time nine men, Supreme Court Justices, decided that a woman has the right to abort (kill) her unborn baby based on a right to privacy. Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973. The law opened the opportunity for boyfriends and family members to urge a confused and panicked woman to end an unplanned pregnancy with abortion.

Exactly one year after the Roe v. Wade decision 20,000 people showed up in Washington D.C. for a March for Life. Nellie Gray, another gutsy woman, organized this first March for Life that took place on January 22, 1974. The protest of Roe v. Wade has taken place every January since then. Icy cold weather, snow and wind, have not deterred thousands of men, women and teens from participating in the March for Life.

The moms in California fighting for the health of their children are also gutsy women. Who are the strong women that you know?

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The Blessing of Family

The Bible often mentions the importance of family. The second chapter of Genesis refers to the beginning of a family. Therefore a man shall leaves father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 ESV

Frequently throughout scripture the genealogy of a family is recorded. The first chapter of Matthew records the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to King David to Joseph. 

Birth of Jesus

Jesus, Son of God incarnate, was born into a human family.

Currently my husband and I are reading a chapter from the book of Joshua each morning. As Israel entered the promised land each tribe was allotted a specific portion of land. That struck me as interesting. The people were still considered according to their family of origin. They had ties to their heritage over many generations.

I have thought about my family. I am grateful to know about my ancestors in Finland. My husband would like to trace his heritage in Holland. It is helpful to understand the links we have to the past, but our focus is on the present.

As a family we have experienced illness and the loss of a son, but my testimony is that our family has been blessed by God’s grace and intervention in our lives.

This past weekend our children and grandchildren traveled home to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The nine grandchildren, age 18 months to 16 years, give us great joy. We delight in seeing our children as parents, aunts and uncles.

We are blessed to belong to another family, the followers of Jesus (the Church).

It is Friday and the Five Minute Friday community is writing with the prompt: TESTIMONY

Extending Hospitality at Home and With the Church

During WWII children were being evacuated from France and Paris. I just finished reading Until We Find Home, a historical novel by Cathy Gohlke. It is a story of unexpected hospitality.

When Claire arrives at her aunt’s home in Windemere England with five French Jewish children she completely surprises her aunt who has become somewhat of a recluse.

Everyone is challenged in making this household work. England is rationing food and petrol. Three more children, this time from Germany, arrive. The household has cultural differences that all must learn to accept.

It is good to look back at difficult times in history and learn from them. The book has lots of meaning for my daughter (she recommended it to me). She and her husband are involved in foster care. They have adopted children from foster care.

Our situation is different from WWII. But we have needs for hospitality and self sacrifice. The church has a great opportunity to grow in hospitality by participating in or supporting foster care. There is a great need for foster care families in the United States.

Today the Five Minute Friday community is writing about: HOSPITALITY

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Rhythm of Life

The mint in my backyard has flowered; tiny white flowers make a wreath around the stem. I pause to wonder at the delicate loveliness.

The phlox are a bright spot of color. I can see them from my kitchen window.

The elderberries are getting ripe. I will make elderberry juice/syrup from them. 

The flowers are blooming. The vegetables and fruit are ripening. It is the bounty of summer. And then autumn will come. Again.

The rhythm of the seasons provides order to our lives and points to God’s faithfulness. After the great flood God made a promise to Noah.

While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

God is sovereign over the earth and we can trust his promise.

The prompt for the Five Minute Friday writing community is: AGAIN

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