Lessons from History: Esther, Adams & Jefferson

My days are spent in the garden, in the kitchen and with a book. I begin with Bible study—currently the book of Esther. The drama of King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther, Mordecai and Haman is colorful, frightening and humorous. But I am most struck by the steadfast calm and faith that Mordecai shows. The effect of prayer and fasting. Esther’s courage and her plan for the appeal to the King. 

The other book that I am slowly making my way through is John Adams by David McCullough. It has 656 pages. Perhaps because of the stay at home orders, that have been in place for months, I am fascinated by John Adams’ travels. 

John Adams made several trips to Europe in an effort to get support from France during the Revolutionary War. His first trip was in February of 1778. The ship he was on encountered a fierce storm and the mast of the ship broke. The trip took six weeks.

On another trip the ship sprung a leak and all hands, even passengers, were required to help pump the water out. The ship reached a port in Spain. John Adams did not want to wait for the ship to be repaired and against advice went by mule from Spain to France.

Adams traveled throughout Europe. He did not have much success in his appeals to France, but did much better with Holland. Holland was the first country to recognize the United States.

The other aspect of the book that has caught my interest is the relationship of John Adams and  Thomas Jefferson. They worked together on the Declaration of Independence and enjoyed a great friendship when both were in France.

Later that friendship was eroded by politics. Jefferson was working at cross purposes to Adam’s policies while serving as Adams’ vice president. In 1800 Jefferson and Adams were pitted against each other in the presidential election. The author shows the human flaws of both men.

Nations led by flawed human beings will always have inner conflict. I am reminded of the importance to pray for our country. We always need to pray. At this time in our country we must seek God’s help as we listen to each other.

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

The Changing Ways of Birth

I was born in Michigan, and so was my mother. My grandmother was born in Finland.

My grandmother gave birth to her children at home. My mother gave birth in the hospital during the obstetric practice of twilight sleep and delivery with forceps. I gave birth by cesarean section.

As a nurse I worked in labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care. Hoping to help women avoid unnecessary interventions, I taught Lamaze classes.

Finally after many years in the hospital I worked with a home birth practice alongside doctors and midwives. I learned new ways to assist a woman during labor and birth. I gained new perspectives, able to see the spiritual side of childbirth more clearly. Sometimes, while caring for a woman during labor, she asked me to pray for her. Sometimes I observed the husband praying.

Every birth is unique. Every baby is a gift of God. I have been blessed with seeing the birth of my grandchildren at home and in the hospital.

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

How Do We Overcome Fear?

Fear can distract us from a life of faith.

In my morning Bible study I have been reading about Nehemiah’s leadership in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, the city with a temple for God’s presence.

The Jews had enemies that did not want them to rebuild the walls. At first these enemies jeered and mocked them. When that didn’t stop the work on the wall, the enemy made a plan to attack.

But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. Nehemiah 4:7-8

Nehemiah prayed.

And we prayed to our God and set a guard of protection against them day and night. Nehemiah 4:9

Some of the people let fear take hold of them.

In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” Nehemiah 4:10

Nehemiah responded with a plan to guard every section of the wall as they rebuilt it. With prayer and dependence on God, with a strategic plan, the work continued.

As I mused on this text I thought about the way fear can be a controlling force. How is the cloud of fear surrounding the pandemic affecting me?

I can follow Nehemiah’s example of prayer. Nehemiah also had a practical plan, and then he stayed focused on the work God had called him to do.

More and more I have recognized my need for God’s wisdom. The time I spend in prayer is growing. My family has decisions to make regarding my mother’s care in the nursing home. The lockdown, the inability to visit is hard. 

We are encouraged to pray. Jesus is ready to intercede for us.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

 Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community and Heart Encouragement .

Another Day of Stay At Home

Today I woke up to another day of #StayAtHome and a blanket of snow on the ground. The snow continues to fall. Yesterday a tulip was opening to the sun. Today it is bravely standing tall in the snow.

During this period of lock down it is just my husband and I at home. Our daughters have young children and their homes are brimming with the voices of children, humming with activity. They call us every day to check on us and to remind us to stay home. We have FaceTime with the grandchildren.

We have Bible study and Sunday morning church gatherings over zoom. We are grateful to have the technology to do this.

In all of this dramatic change to daily life, remaining steadfast in faith is most important. God is good. He is allowing this pandemic; He is still at work in ways we can’t see. I have been studying the book of Ezra and just started Nehemiah. I am blessed by Nehemiah’s prayer of faith in chapter one.

It is a blessing to begin the day with Bible study and prayer. We need to share our faith with our family and friends. The children need to see us living out our faith.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and still I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You have done great things, O God, who is like you?

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. Psalm 71: 17-20  

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: ANOTHER And also linking with Heart Encouragement

We Need to Pray Now

My heart aches for our country.

This past Tuesday I went to a grocery store at 6:15 am, when the light of sunrise was spreading. It was senior shopping hours.

The store opened at 6 am and already many people were there. The tension in the store was palpable. Some people were wearing masks and a few had a bandana over their face. I had gloves but no mask. Everyone was focused on getting their groceries and getting out of the store as fast as possible.

At the delicatessen counter I wasn’t paying good attention and stepped to close to a man. He began to yell at me, claiming I was stupid. I backed away.

It is like a mist of fear has enveloped us.

My mother has dementia and is in a nursing home. We can’t visit her. We can’t explain what is going on. Her care givers are wearing masks. At first my sister was able to FaceTime when one of the caregivers had a phone available and could help. 

Now the staff is stretched thin with all the requirements they are receiving from the CDC and medicare. We can’t reach a nurse on the phone and have to trust they will call us if there is a change in her health.

All of this has been churning in my mind. We have an amazing medical system, but I wonder about the huge drive to be in control. Have we begun to believe that we can control life and death? 

We decide who can live as abortion continues. We do want to save lives by preventing the spread of the virus, by making ventilators available. But what about the spiritual care of the elderly and dying? I am deeply saddened by the number of people that die alone.

I don’t know the answer to my questions. We need God’s help. Our country needs to repent and turn to God, acknowledging that we are not enough, that being in control is an illusion.

Tomorrow (4/4) the Gospel Coalition is planning a day of prayer. This is a wonderful opportunity to join with others in prayer. Here is the link to the prayer guide and evening event.

The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Zechariah 8:21

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

A Time for Steadfast Faith

Currently I am studying the book of Ezra with women of my church. We looked at the reason that God allowed Israel’s captivity in Babylon. One reason was their failure to give the land its Sabbath rest. I read about the Sabbath rest that God commanded his people. I have been chewing on this. What would it look like today?

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath rest to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard . . . . The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you . . . Leviticus 25: 1-4, 6

God commanded an amazing pause in their activity. Was it for more time in relationship to Him and their family?

The pandemic is leading to cancellations in events, conferences and sports. It is a time to pause.

Less time for busyness and distraction.

More time for family meals. More time for Bible study and reflection. More time to be aware of the needs of our neighbor. More time to pray for nurses, doctors and health care providers. More time to pray for revival.

A time for steadfast faith.

UPDATE 3/17/2020: For families with children home from school it can be a challenge to find materials to keep children busy. My daughter is using Louie Giglio’s book, How Great is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God and Science, for devotions and to launch some study of science.

This also is a good time for children to help with household activities–cooking, baking, cleaning and laundry.

This post is shared with Kate’s Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: LESS I am also joining the link-up with Anita’s Inspire Me Monday.

What Do We Tell the Children?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my grandchildren. I was happy to join the family for dinner. As we were eating dinner the second grader said, “We might be having world war three.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“A boy in my class said that.”

The granddaughter who is in middle school said, “My teacher spent two class hours talking about what is happening.”

We had a discussion of the current news. The grandchildren listened attentively–they were concerned.

I am very glad to be studying Paul’s letters to Timothy at this time. I explained that  Paul had sound advice and encouragement for Timothy during a very difficult time.

As I mentioned Paul’s letter to Timothy, the words came to me. “God is sovereign. He knows what is happening. We can pray for our leaders that they will do what is right.” 

As I thought about our conversation I am reminded of the importance of time studying the Bible. We can direct our children and grandchildren to be grounded in the Word, sharing scripture with them. We can encourage them to participate in prayer for our country, our President, his cabinet and congress.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2: 1-4 

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

Prayer: the Antidote to Fear

There are times and circumstances that overwhelm with fear. Remember the Bible account of the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee?

A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath, the sea became as smooth as glass. Mark 4:37-39 MSG

When a woman is in labor and gets close to giving birth she may experience a rush of hormones that cause the strong contractions of transition. Some women feel completely out of control. The waves of contraction rush over her. This is the point at which women, whom I have attended in labor, ask for prayer. Sometimes it is a husband or a friend that prays. Sometimes I have prayed.

Throughout life we encounter situations where the stress of a situation may overwhelm us. God provides a place to bring our fears and concerns. We can pray. It is calming to pray with another believer. Jesus said: 

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them  by my father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them. Matthew 18: 19-20

When I meet with women for Bible study on Wednesday mornings we end our meetings with group prayer. Together we bring our concerns to the Lord. We are refreshed and ready to meet the challenges ahead.

Do you have a friend that you can pray with?

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. The prompt today is: RUSH

Also linking with Inspire Me Monday, Heart Encouragement and Welcome Heart

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

Sharing this post with Faith on Fire , Inspire Me Monday and Heart Encouragement

An Honest Prayer

They arrive in the middle of the summer . . .

For the past several years the leaves on my cherry tree and raspberry bushes have been devoured by beetles. Only the veins of the leaf remain after Japanese beetles have had their feast.

So I have been devising strategies to rid my yard of these pests. I tried the pheromone traps that brought more beetles to my yard. Then I did walking tours to tip them off the leaves into a bowl of soapy water. I have shaken branches and jumped when one of the beetles fell down my shirt.

This year I sprayed my tree with neem oil and continued the walking tours with my bowl of soapy water. It is working.

In the midst of my annoyance I have to admit that I have a bit of wonder over the Japanese beetle. They have a metallic green/brown color that catches the light.

Japanese Beetle

Sometime they fall in my bowl of water when I tip a leaf—other times they get their wings out in an instant and fly off. The female beetles emit a pheromone that attracts the male beetles. So a few females on the leaves of a plant soon becomes a party.

The beetles have wiry legs (I have felt them on my hand). The female beetle is able to dig down into the earth to deposit her eggs and then climb out. Over a summer she may deposit as many as 60 eggs. The eggs develop into grubs and in one year—sometimes two—they will be an adult beetle. They are unique insects.

Yesterday, while I was with the grandchildren I showed them how to tip the beetles off a raspberry bush into soapy water. The boys were fascinated, the girls said that beetles were gross. We captured 20 beetles.

A little while later I was sitting with the children while they had bedtime snacks. The two year old pointed to the top of my head. I was in the middle of a sentence when my granddaughter said, “Grandma there is a beetle in your hair.” She giggled when I picked it out of my hair and put it into our bowl of soapy water.

Later that I night I was praying with my grandson. I thanked God for the blessings of the day and the interesting beetles. And then these words slipped out of my mouth, “but God I don’t know why you made them.”

After praying we talked a little more about the beetles. Some things in our world are puzzling. The beetles do so much damage to plants. My grandson said, “Maybe they do something good that we don’t know about.” 

Kate’s prompt for the Five Minute Friday community of writers is: MIDDLE