The Thirty-One Day Writing Event
In the next 31 days, I will be exploring the theme of gathering together around our human, common need for food and drink. This theme runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It should be an interesting tour. I hope you will come read along.
I invite you also to visit my book page.
Day 31: Tenacious, She Was
““But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”
Matthew 25:10 NIV
In this parable of Jesus, there were 10 single young women who anxiously awaited the Bridegroom’s arrival. Jesus described 5 as wise and 5 as foolish. But all 10 knew without a doubt that He was coming.
With anticipation, each one held onto a lantern in order to watch through the darkness for His grand entrance to begin the wedding feast. The banquet hall had been made ready. The women watched and waited, but as night grew long their lamps were nearly burned out. Sleep overtook them.
Have you ever experienced one of those anxiety induced dreams in which you feel afraid, but you can’t run away? Or how about the one in which you have an appointment but you can’t find your way?
Day 29: A Sweet Aroma
Day 28: Missing
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!””
Luke 10:40 NIV
Much has been written about Martha and her sister Mary. I doubt I’ve thought of something that no one else has uncovered in this poignant short story. However, as I read Luke 10:38–42 with today’s eyes and heart, I see something new for myself.
In their day and culture, women did not sit at the feet of a Rabbi. Women were not personally taught by a Teacher. A woman’s proper role was in the back, preparing to serve the men of the household and guests. Mary’s posture as a student was scandalous.
And for the first time, as I read again, I think Martha was afraid. Yes, I think Martha was annoyed that she was working so hard to prepare the meal and serve their guest, but her underlying motivation, I think, was fear.
Martha wasn’t doing any more work than normal. She was probably accustomed to carrying the bulk of the workload. I think Martha was afraid that Mary’s behavior would bring scorn and retribution upon Martha’s household.
Perhaps Martha was the first born, careful to obey the rules. Maybe, just maybe, Mary was young enough to think she could get away with the impetuous dawdling of a child. We’re not told the details of the story.
However, as a firstborn myself, I can relate to Martha’s angst. Many time’s growing up with a younger brother, we were given tasks to complete, and often the younger sibling preferred to dawdle rather than work.
I don’t remember a particular set of circumstances, but I do remember the fear in the pit of my stomach when my brother refused to follow the rules. I know I not only covered his half of the work, I also know I complained to Mom that the whole of life as the oldest was completely unfair.
I wanted our Mom to make him do his fair share. Yet, to be completely honest, it was fear of getting in trouble, both for his sake and my own, that motivated my striving and my complaints.
Even as I write, I remember a similar conversation between the resurrected Jesus and Peter, the denier. Peter, newly restored and called to follow Jesus, looked and saw another disciple nearby. Read what happened next…
“Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.””
John 21:21-22 NLT
I think Jesus was offering Martha an invitation, a seat at the table. She wasn’t excluded from sitting with the Rabbi. Mary wasn’t chosen over her. Martha excluded herself because she allowed fear to hold her hostage to comparison and complaint.
It’s easier to point at someone else, complain and be jealous of their freedom, than to sit with Jesus and let Him help me examine my own heart. I think Jesus is inviting me to talk to Him about my fear, and to bring all my complaints to Him. I know Jesus wants me to be free to take my seat with Him at the table.
Striving doesn’t set a beautiful table, but relationship does…
What about you, friend? Do you need to come clean with Jesus about fear, about the true reason for your striving? His invitation is for you too.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 26: The Heart of Home
Day 25: Hey, It’s Me!
Day 24: Chaos At The Holiday Table
For those living in the United States, Thanksgiving is coming in less than a month. For our Canadian friends, Thanksgiving is a recent memory.
Are you looking forward to this year’s traditional holiday meal? Or do you feel some anxiety creeping in?
Will you host Thanksgiving this year? Or will you be a guest at a table not your own? Who will you invite? And who will come to the table?
Day 23: Laughter Is For BBQs
Day 22: Neighbor, Let’s Eat!
“and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.” But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.”
Acts of the Apostles 10:10-16 NLT
Day 21: He Heard Their Cries For Help
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.””
Nehemiah 8:9-10 ESV
A feature of our town that I love most is the mountains. They fascinate me with the varied heights of the peaks, the textures, and shadows, and best of all the variety of colors from day to day and season to season.
I’ve looked up almost every morning and evening for more than a year hoping to see big horn sheep grazing. One early morning I saw movement. Way up at the top. I could see something white and it was definitely moving. Focusing my eyes on a landmark to remember, I ran to our bedroom to grab our binoculars.
It took me a minute or so to find my landmark and then focus the binoculars to that area. There was something up there for sure. To my disappointment it was not a big horn sheep, it was a man hiking in a brilliant white t-shirt. I watched him as he zigzagged his way quickly and carefully down a path.
I could have assumed I saw an animal up there. I could have mentioned to neighbors that I saw something bright whiteomoving around on the mountain side. But seeing something that looked like something, and might have been something does not satisfy me. Nor does it help anyone else. In fact, a random generalized comment without facts can stir up fear, worry and anxiety.
I knew I could see something up there on the mountain, and I needed the binoculars to clarify the details. Zooming in, I now have an answer.
““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8 ESV
This morning I poured a late cup of coffee and sat down to read the scripture devotion for today. It was this one that Jesus gave us. These are His words from a whole series of teachings found in Matthew chapter 7. And you guessed it, they are some of my very favorites!
Jesus makes me feel normal, special, valued, heard and cared for when He says I can search out an answer. He says my questions are all purposeful and precious to Him. And I can knock at His door any time of day or night. He will answer.
The thing is that Jesus doesn’t always answer in the way we want. He often gives clues. It’s the search for Him that He’s prompting rather than just offering a plain to do list. He doesn’t give mathematical formulas so that we feel justified to work to get the right answer.
So this morning, knowing that I’ve been asking Jesus a lot of questions lately, I thought maybe I should zoom out from this very popular scripture used often to teach about prayer.
I was surprised at what I found. This scripture is bookended by a teaching on judgment and an admonition to do to others as you would have them do to you. And there was at least one of my answers. It was found in the clarifying lens of zooming out.
Before I wrote this post in conjunction with my friends at Five Minute Friday, I read Lisa Anne’s post. She was zooming into the story of Martha, and her frustration with her sister Mary. And I thought how similarly Jesus was guiding our thoughts and our eyes away from others and toward His presence.
Where is the table?
It’s here. The table appears in Matthew 8, after a full day of teaching and ministry to hurting people. Jesus taught crowds of people up on the mount. As He came down with His disciples headed for Peter’s house, they encountered person after person needing healing.
“And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.”
Matthew 8:14-15 ESV
Rest. Reclining. Nourishment shared with Peter and his family. What a lesson from Peter’s mother in law. She ministered to the Lord, serving Him.
He wants us to ask, seek, knock, and grab our binoculars and climb those hills for a better view always seeking Him. Always aiming for His presence. Knocking for an audience of one.
For in Jesus we will find all we need, want, and every answer to every question.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Have you ever felt like you needed to see for yourself?
That was me as a kid. Always curious. Always testing. Always asking questions. Always wanting to know why or why not. Never satisfied with a “because I said so” response, but I knew that answer was my cue to take my curiosity somewhere else.
I have not always been grateful to God for the way He designed me because my curiosity without accountability got me into a bunch of trouble. And my incessant need for real answers, often got me a ticket to the quiet game or a timeout in my room.
As a kid, my family lived on a cul de sac. The center of our circle was covered with thick grass, and there in the middle lived a giant ficus tree with branches low enough to provide a step ladder for all the youngsters. We, the kids occupying our street, claimed ownership of our respective branches. The higher seniority, the higher the branch and perch.
This tree was host to some of the best pretend adventures a gaggle of kids could produce on long, hot summer days spent outside. And it provided an amazing vantage point from which to spy out the neighborhood. I could see so much, for so far, from way up on my branch.
Perhaps that was part of the reason I loved the tree. It was a place to ponder. I do, now, thank God for making my brain, my reasoning capacity, and for giving me such a deep level of curiosity. It was this tenacious pursuit for truth that God used to draw me to Himself. And praise Him, He continues the pursuit of me. And you.
And, so it was for Zacchaeus.
“So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, He looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” He said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.””
Luke 19:4-5 NLT
Zacchaeus. He was not the cartoonish, felt board character that we might remember from our childhood. I highly doubt he was the Buddy Hall funny guy of New Testament Jericho.(1) From the description of Zacchaeus in Luke 19, I picture him more like a Michael Corleone mobster.(2)
Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector for the Jericho region, and as such he became very rich. He might have been a short man, but he wielded a whole lot of power over the citizens of his town.
And he knew it!
If we ponder the text, and allow Holy Spirit to teach us, we recognize that Zacchaeus was a fascinating character. Jesus must have thought so, for when Jesus spotted Zach in the tree, He told him to come down. He wanted to talk face to face.
Jesus, who called out demons, and commanded Satan away with the word of God, was not intimidated by this wealthy and powerful Chief Tax Collector. In fact, Jesus invited Himself to be a guest at Zach’s house that same afternoon. And for another thing, Jesus told him to come down quickly!
“Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.”
Luke 19:6-7 NLT
I doubt anyone, except maybe his mother, ever spoke to Zacchaeus with such authority. Possibly no one confronted his bully character for fear of the consequences. Probably, Zach had no friend who wanted simply to be a guest in his home. Most people who dared approach him were either Roman overlords, who took their share of his profits, or people who were just like him – climbing the power ladder.
It was no secret, Zach was a notoriously ruthless man. And on that day as Jesus walked with him to his house, everyone in the crowd raised eyebrows, shrugged shoulders, and vocalized their strong disapproval. But Jesus didn’t care what all the other people thought about Him or Zach. Jesus was on His way to be a guest at Zach’s table.
“Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!””
Luke 19:8 NLT
God knows exactly what He’s doing. He has the highest, most supreme, all knowing vantage point on all of His creation. God knows everything, and He knows exactly who, when and how to get an audience with a sinner.
Yet, we doubt. We question. We roll our eyes. Shrug our shoulders, and basically doubt God’s judgment. We do it all the time. Okay, maybe you don’t. But I’m guilty. And it’s because we don’t have God’s vantage point. Because we’re not God.
“Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.””
Luke 19:9-10 NLT
Jesus is good, and He knows what He’s doing. He wishes for not one of His sheep to remain lost!
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 18: Open Hands To Receive
I love to dance!
I always have. I can remember stacking records (45s, remember?) on my record player, grabbing my hairbrush, lip-synching the lyrics, and dancing like Cher, in my South Florida bedroom. There didn’t have to be a reason for dancing.
I just loved to dance!
My dear man and I don’t often have opportunities to go out dancing. We outgrew the club scene from the 80s and 90s long, long ago. Still if we attend a concert or an occasion which includes dancing you’re likely to see us boogey. Music plays through our home practically 24/7. And sometimes, we just have to dance to that one song!
I still love to dance!
Currently I’m studying through 1st and 2nd Samuel with a beautiful group of women gathered weekly for Community Bible Study. And so, it wasn’t much of a stretch to think of King David dancing with all His might before the Lord wearing only his linen ephod.
Dance is celebratory, and often this scripture is used to support free styles of worship in church. King David is often used as a beautiful illustration of how we should praise God with unfettered abandon for all the good He’s done for us.
I don’t disagree.
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.”
2 Samuel 6:14 ESV
However, there’s a much bigger story here that goes way beyond dancing in church. David was dancing because he and his countrymen did not die that day. For three months earlier, King David and all the people of Israel learned a hard lesson about the holiness of God. To gain a bit more understanding we have to go back to Moses and the Pentateuch.
Whole books have been written on the Ark of God, His presence, Sovereignty, and Holiness. So this isn’t a small topic. Let me simply encourage you to dig into the scriptures of Exodus and Deuteronomy, even Leviticus and Numbers, to learn about God’s specific commands and regulations regarding the care for and transportation of the Ark of God.
Regretting an attempt to oversimplify, let me summarize. Moses was correct when he gave his final speech to the people of Israel. The gathering was a solemn ceremony before the Lord at the Tabernacle where Joshua would be commissioned to lead Israel across the Jordan into the promised land. He knew all the people after him would forget all that God commanded and would forget to revere His Majesty and Holiness unless they regularly read God’s words to His people.
“And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.””
Deuteronomy 31:10-13 ESV
And so we fast forward to King David’s generation, in which all that Moses predicted was true. The people of Israel knew in general the greatness of God. King David loved God and revered His name. He respected the Sovereignty of God. There’s evidence of this truth all through the pages of 1 Samuel. However, he made a mistake by assuming he could just go and retrieve the Ark of God as if it was simply a misplaced article of furniture.
This is where I have to stop and pause. Because here, I recognize my own tendencies. I too know the big picture greatness of God, revere His name, and declare my allegiance to Him, while at the same time I take for granted the holiness of His presence. I can be quite flippant with the temple God has given me, my body, which God says is His dwelling place for His Holy Spirit.1
I quite easily forget that I am hostess to His presence 24/7.
This recognition that I have been dishonoring of my Holy Father, simply by refusing to remember what I already know, has caused me to quake with regret. Covered by the blood of Jesus, I live in grace. I have no intent to heap on shame, and I am in no way advocating religious regulation. I am, though, repenting of my own selfish way of thinking that my body is mine. Or acting in a way that seeks God’s forgiveness after I know I’m going to need to apologize for not seeking Him first.
King David was now in charge of all of Israel, and so he gathered 30,000 of his mighty men. Their mission was to retrieve the Ark of God and bring it home to Jerusalem. David was celebrating. This was a victory party!
Flippancy with the Holiness of God is deadly.
He had the Ark of God on a cart headed home. There was singing and dancing before the Lord until one wrong move turned the whole event to mourning.
“And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.”
2 Samuel 6:6-7 ESV
David was angry. And then he became afraid of the Lord. Instead of proceding, King David had the Ark of God moved to the home of Obed-edom. The Ark remained there for three months, and was a blessing to this man and his household. It’s pretty apparent, Obed-edom knew something about hosting the Lord’s presence that David didn’t yet understand.
I appreciate the example of David too in this situation. He recognized that something was wrong. He didn’t know what he didn’t know. I appreciate his willingness to stop, and walk away. He gave himself, even as king, a time-out to reflect, pray, and learn.
It was only after learning a difficult lesson, and mourning the loss of a friend that King David went back to retrieve the Ark of God. The rightfully appointed men carried the Ark as prescribed by God through Moses. With fear, trembling and humility, David offered sacrifices before the Lord. He rejoiced. King David danced before the Lord with all his might because no one died that day.
“And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.”
2 Samuel 6:18-19 ESV
The Lord, His Holiness and Presence, the True King of Kings was with David and all the people of Israel that day. There was reason for celebrating, dancing and feasting. But first, King David showed honor and reverence by giving God first place with burnt offerings and peace offerings.
I still love to dance, especially at church!
Celebration, dancing and feasting at the Lord’s table are all important and life giving aspects of worship. However, I am remembering afresh, what is most essential to worship. God is the honored guest, whom I hostess all day every day. God is the only focus of my praise.
He is our focus. He is our One True King.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
1 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Romans 12:1 ESV
“Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”
Revelation 19:7-8 ESV
Day 15: Quiet Table
Just as the sun begins to illuminate the western sky above the mountains. Not light yet. Just the hint of a new day dawning.
The birds begin to peep. Not an alarm. More serene. A song.
The morning song.
It’s a sabbath morning.
“Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.”
John 21:7-13 NLT
Like trying not to wake a sleeping baby, I tiptoe out of bed and look to the mountains. The first hints of gold touching the very tips, and the birds peep in agreement.
Trying not to disturb quiet, I go to make coffee. Sshhhh. The water. Coffee scoops. Steam gurgles and spits. The aroma of a new day.
A hot cup full of wake up. Just feel the warmth and breathe in the steam. Good morning, Jesus.
I’d like to sit with you. Yes, I’d like that too. We don’t have to talk just yet. Listen. The birds declare God’s glory..,
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Watch. The mountains are golden with the goodness and possibilities of a new day.
The quiet Sabbath table.
Shared in the hush of a new day dawining.
Grateful to be alive, drinking coffee, listening and watching in the quiet.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 14: His Table is a Feast Table
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love
and His wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for He satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
Long after Pharaoh employed Jacob’s son, Joseph, as second in command in Egypt, and long after both men were buried, another Pharaoh ruled over the generations of Hebrew people in the lineage of Jacob, and his twelve sons. The twelve tribes of Israel.
This Pharaoh was a harsh ruler who determined the length of the workday, the portions for meals, and the quality of life for the millions of Hebrew people under His control. The twelve tribes of Israel were oppressed, hungry and desperate. They began to cry out to God for help.
And God heard them. He answered their prayers by choosing Moses, assisted by his brother Aaron, to meet with Pharaoh in Egypt, and demand that God’s people be set free. God had a plan of rescue, and God assured Moses that His presence would always be with him. But Moses would need to trust and obey God faithfully.
God was moving in a lengthy and methodical process and in His own very specific time frame. People wanted to be free, but they didn’t like the process. Moses endured frustrations, complaining and threats, but he kept obeying God. Slowly there was progress, and after a long while the Hebrew people miraculously stepped into freedom as they crossed the Red Sea.
Mile after mile, miracle after miracle God illustrated His love and faithfulness to His people Israel. God led Moses and His people with a cloud by day and fire by night. There was great rejoicing and celebration as dreams became reality. Generations of family danced and gave thanks to God, but the celebratory mood was short lived as the reality of desert wandering set in.
““If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.””
Exodus 16:3 NLT
Thirst. Where would they find water to drink?
Hunger. How would they find food to eat?
For every dilemma, the people complained to Moses. They vented their frustration, and wailed their regrets for ever leaving Egypt – where at least they had food to eat!
Have you ever wanted out of a really bad situation, so much so, that you cried out to the Lord? And then God heard your cry and things started happening, people spoke truth, and a door of escape opened? And you knew, right? You knew it was God making that way for you where previously nothing looked possible?
And then, when you got through the door into unfamiliar territory, you got scared. Nothing around you made sense. You might be free, but you didn’t feel comfortable or secure. You didn’t know how you were going to make it until tomorrow…
How many times did you think maybe you should just go back? I mean, a u-turn was the way back to bondage, a miserable way to live, but at least you knew how it worked.
Maybe you’ve never been there, but I have. This is the crossroad of your life. You get to choose. Trust God and go with Him into the scary unknown or go back to the familiar destructive way. It’s a kairos moment, and you get to choose.
So far, I’ve chosen at each pivotal crossroad of my life to follow God’s way. But I can testify to the fear, anxiety and trepidation I have experienced by stepping outside my comfort zone with God. I can also testify that God did the miraculous to set me free, and help me to understand that He is always with me. He’s always provided what I’ve needed (not wanted), in excess, and in just the right time.
So back to the hangry people wandering in the wilderness…
Moses took their complaints to God. They needed food and water. They all cried, and God heard. Moses was given the meal plan, and Moses explained to the people just exactly how the meals would arrive from God. As usual, some people listened, and some didn’t. Some people acted greedily and some were conservative with their harvesting.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.””
Exodus 16:4-5 NLT
But all were fed by God, and Him alone. He fed them everyday, but the Sabbath, and they were nourished for forty years until He delivered His people into the land of promise.
It was a long journey to faith in God. Including Moses, the people were not always obedient, but God faithfully provided. God set a feast table and invited all who would come, take and eat. The same can be said of me and my journey with Jesus, long and sometimes bumpy.
““Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
Revelation 3:20 NLT
Still, today, Jesus offers a banquet table. His invitation is for you and for me to come, take and eat with Him. He offers full satisfaction, not for our fleshly desires, but for His Word and His Spirit. For life, full and free. But, we have to keep saying yes to going His way.
Don’t turn back, okay?
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day13: Anticipate the Gathering
Canadian Thanksgiving is a recent memory, cars are packed, and our northern neighbors are heading back south for winter.
This is an exciting time for those of us who have held down the desert fort during the heat of summer.
It’s been quiet since May. Peaceful. Long days of enjoying just the few of us. We’ve still gathered for dinners, early morning pickleball, bike rides, and Bunco parties. Summer hikes and Sunday church. It’s been a delightful summer.
Suddenly, though, the daylight hours are getting shorter, and temperatures are cooling with the approach of fall. Every few days the notifications come in. Anticipation. They’ll see us soon.
The snowbirds are coming.
It’s time to get ready. Tables will be full. Restaurants crowded and reservations needed. So many months to catch up on. We’re so looking forward to hellos and hugs. Soon we’ll be welcoming back the ones we’ve been anticipating.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine!
Day 12: How a Picnic Inspired a Lesson on Compassion
They can be the best of friends, bunk mates, and fishing partners. But when one jumps into the front passenger seat yelling shotgun for the third time in a week, fireworks might ensue.
The oldest argues that the youngest always gets her way. While, coincidentally, the youngest makes her case that the oldest always gets all the fun! And if there happen to be more than two, well then, you’ve got the makings of a tv series. (Brady Bunch, anyone?)
Conflict between siblings is a fairly common theme in the Bible. Today I’ve been meditating on the story of Jesse’s sons and their encounter with Goliath, the giant Philistine battle champion. As I’ve read and pondered this battleground scenario from 1 Samuel 17, I’m reminded of some similarities between Jesse’s gang of eight, and Jacob’s brood of twelve wild bucks.
Realizing that each of the elder brothers were passed over by Samuel in his search for the next king was likely only the latest irritation in a long history of jealousy toward the little brother. Suffice it to say that none of the elder brothers were excited for David to optimistically be-bop into the army camp, picnic lunch in hand or not.
“And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.””
1 Samuel 17:17-18 ESV
Though siblings exist as participants in the same family, each individual is designed with unique personalities, abilities, and rank. We’re all flesh and blood image bearers of God, who see life and relationships from a variety of angles comprising the same rock. Family. As such, siblings can be some of the best homemade sandpaper in God’s hands for molding and shaping us more and into the image of His dear Son.
No matter the reader’s birth order, the text clearly indicates that Jesse told David to take some food with him and go visit his brothers at the Israelite camp near the frontlines of battle. David responsibly placed another shepherd in charge of his father’s sheep, gathered the food, and set out to do as his father asked. He was being obedient.
“David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.”
1 Samuel 17:22-23 NLT
As a young teen, David surely was intrigued by the battle, and looked forward to the day he would fight as a soldier alongside his brothers. David’s enthusiasm is on display as he quickly unloaded the food supplies at the mess hall, setting himself free to run toward the battle cries. He found the band of brothers just in time to experience the daily taunt, threat and accusations of the enemy.
Of course, I can’t know what David was thinking as he witnessed the fear of his countrymen and watched them scatter deflated once again at the taunts of a giant bully. However, I know what it’s like to be mired in a long season of seemingly impossible circumstances, continually battered by the negative inward taunts and accusations of failure that continually played on repeat in my own head. And I know how I felt when God sent family with fresh eyes and ears, who could objectively assess the situation and speak truth.
I felt like they showed up just in time to watch me fail.
I have to be honest here. While grateful on the inside that God would lovingly attend to me in crisis by sending family with dinner and a fresh word of victory over the enemy, my outward response was less than gracious. While not defending this response, there’s a reason. Emotionally beat up people can be a bit prickly when help arrives to save the day, defeat the bully, and set the defeated back on their feet all fixed and ready to go again.
Fixing isn’t helping.
Another confession, I’ve done it too. I’ve been the fixer, overly optimistic and full of spiritual fervor, attempting to bring a meal, offer an encouraging scripture, give a hug and feel good about how I had done my part to save the day. And for everyone who has been on the receiving end of that, please forgive me.
Maybe this viewpoint on David, his older brothers, and the enemy feels like a stretch. This is what happens when I read real life scripture stories, and ask Holy Spirit what He wants me to know. He inspires my questions, memories, and emotions to ponder the lessons of Scripture. Holy Spirit inspires me to come to the table, to be fed and learn.
““Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!””
Luke 18:39-41 NLT
Lastly, I’m reminded that Jesus was really great at entering into people’s lives, circumstances and emotions. Rarely, if ever, did Jesus offer a fix before asking an important question. Even though Jesus was full of faith and knew all the details beforehand, He listened. He felt their pain. Jesus was moved with compassion. And He was with them.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 11: Mirror
Day 10: A Table Under A Tree
You know a message is really important when three messengers arrive together out of nowhere in the middle of the day.
And you know someone knows you really well when they happen by your home, unannounced, at a time they know you will be there.
This is what happened to Abraham and Sarah one day when they were quite elderly, and possibly feeling forgotten. Had God really forsaken them? Or had they disqualified themselves by not waiting on God? And then, out of the blue, these men arrived…
““My Lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet.”
Genesis 18:3-4 NLT
If you don’t live in a desert, this passage might not resonate as clearly as it does for those of us who do. Below are a couple of important tidbits my dear man and I learned upon moving to the desert:
- Look for trees – park under them and walk or rest under them when you have opportunity.
- Take water with you everywhere you go.
Shade and water are critical for survival in the desert, especially during the summer. The lower desert humidity makes room for higher temperatures, and a greater need for water to keep your body hydrated. And trees create the best shade. Sitting or walking in a shaded area will protect your skin from the sun, but there’s an added benefit. Temperatures under shade trees can be as much as 10 degrees cooler.
Another interesting feature of desert living is siesta time. Particularly during the hottest season of the year, desert dwellers go out early in the morning or late in the evening to run errands, exercise, and socialize. It’s not usual to see people just hanging around outside or taking a walk during the heat of the day.
“When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.”
Genesis 18:8 NLT
With a fresh perspective, this story of Abraham and his three visitors comes to life with texture, experience, and color. Contextually, all of this makes sense, except the visitors out walking in the middle of the day.
These were no ordinary men, and they didn’t just wander by Abraham’s tent. I believe the one Abraham addressed as LORD (YHWH) was the pre-incarnate Christ in the flesh, and the other two were angels (messengers).1 They arrived at Abraham’s tent with a very important message. One with a date stamp. And what a beautiful message!
Even as Abraham delivered the meal and served these men in the shade, under the tree, they asked, “Where is Sarah, your wife?” I love this question because at least twice previously Abraham misrepresented his wife, Sarah, as his sister in an attempt to save his own skin. And another time he took Sarah’s servant, Hagar, into his embrace as a substitute for providing a son of promise.
The messengers clarified God’s promise here as a covenant made with Abraham and his wife, Sarah. God never needed their help to fulfill His promise. God wanted their allegiance, obedience and patience. And Sarah was listening. She was eavesdropping, and I would have done the same.
“The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.”
Genesis 18:10 ESV
And there’s the amazing message! They were once again assured of God’s promise. It was for Abraham and Sarah, his wife, specifically, and the promise would be fulfilled within a year. The Lord confirmed His word as he asked,
“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’
Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.””
Genesis 18:13-14 ESV
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Please, dear reader, don’t think I am throwing stones at either Abraham or Sarah. Exactly the opposite. Reading their story is like God holding up a mirror to my face. I see myself in their story.
How many times have I tried to help God? How many situations have I tried to manipulate to fit my perception of God’s timing? And unfortunately, how many times have I just outright doubted His faithfulness and goodness? And yet, I am learning, just as Sarah learned that God has kept every promise. He alone is faithful and good!
Remember, if you’re in the desert, find the shade trees and take water with you everywhere. Also, remember that Jesus promised always to be with us and never leave us. And lastly, remember that sometimes when we entertain strangers, we entertain angels unaware.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Footnotes: 1 – I’m not attempting to argue apologetics or theological doctrine. I read several articles and commentaries on these passages in Genesis 18. I’m simply stating what I believe I’m reading in the Bible text. Read and learn for yourself. Know what you believe. Here are a couple of links I found helpful.
Day 9: It’s Why I Write
Dear writer friends,
It’s a great word to ponder today.
I write my thoughts, my feelings and questions. I write because my head is so full that it feels like there’s no room to think. I write it all out to get it out of my head and untangled from my heart.
Why do you write?
It is said of comedians that they are funny because being funny and laughing inappropriately is their coping mechanism for all the dysfunction they’ve experienced in life. Underneath the funny is a lot of pain.
I think writers are similar in that we write to make sense of a crazy, messed up world through which we are simply passing through. We are, in my opinion, deep thinkers and even deeper feelers. We see things as they are, but have an imagination that sees beyond to how things should be.
“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?””
Mark 4:38 NIV
For faith writers, we’re also writing to find Jesus as our sanity and peace and comfort in the chaos. We’re looking for Him, through our writing, peacefully asleep in the storm tossed boat and wondering if He’s aware that we’re all but lost. And we write it out until we finally hear Him say, “Peace, be still, and it is finished.”
Is writing a form of therapy for you?
Like David, we write our hearts to God and in the process we find Him at our writing table. He holds out the bread and the cup. Jesus takes our furiously writing hands, which mirror our racing hearts, in His calm hands, and He whispers, “Take. Eat. Drink. And do this in remembrance of Me.”
What keeps you writing?
Loss is normal in this broken world. My solace, and my sanity, is that my name is carved upon His hands. I will not be a known writer on earth. It doesn’t matter. I write so He can help me sort and throw out thoughts and feelings that are not of Him.
But then. When I finally get home with Jesus, I know that I will be completely known, accepted, and loved. I think He will say, “Well done, sweet girl. I’m proud of you.”
Waiting for me there is an abundance of everything I’ve ever needed, and it will never be taken away. For loss is unknown in heaven.
“Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Matthew 6:20-21 NLT
Eyes on Jesus and Shine… and keep writing your story,
Day 8: Sometimes The Table Comes To You
““Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.””
1 Kings 17:3-4 NLT
Day 7: Look For The Man Carrying The Water Pitcher
“The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is also called Passover, was approaching. The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction.”
Luke 22:1-2 NLT
Jesus selected two men, Peter and John, to be in charge of preparing the Passover meal, and He gave them very detailed directions. Jesus told them to go into Jerusalem, look for the man carrying a pitcher of water, and follow him into the house. Tell the owner of the house that The Teacher wants to know the location of the guest room because He wants to celebrate the Passover meal there with His disciples.
“Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.” “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him.”
Luke 22:8-9 NLT
Jesus continued giving instructions in detail. If I were receiving these directions, I would need a note pad. Maybe that’s why Jesus chose Peter and John specifically. In fact, everything about this passage is so precise that it feels like a spy movie description of a covert operation.
Did Jesus set this up with the homeowner in advance? Did he ask the man with a water jar to escort Peter and John to the house? Or was it a supernatural knowing? I don’t know for sure, but I think probably Father God had given Jesus detailed instructions for preparing this Passover meal, and Jesus was delegating according to the will of His Father.
“He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.””
Luke 22:10-12 NLT
It’s a fascinating scenario surrounding this very important feast table. In these short few paragraphs we are presented with a murder plot, and the significant characters; the power-hungry religious leaders, a corrupt government, an innocent man, his companions, and a traitor.
To top it off, this drama is set during the highly religious Passover Feast days in the center of Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews would have made the pilgrimage for the festivities. And superseding all of these man-made schemes is God’s rescue plan of salvation for all people through the sacrificial death of God’s innocent Son.
Jesus surely had a few things on His mind and heart. He was experiencing probably the most crucial, hectic and chaotic week of His life. But He didn’t cut corners.
“They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.”
Luke 22:13 NLT
Have you ever been in such a tense and exhausting season of life that you thought it might be a good idea to skip some of your celebrations and traditions? Me. I can raise my hand for that one. This past Christmas we kept our decorating simple. But we didn’t skip the celebration.
No Christmas tree because well, it was all just too much. We displayed our favorite nativities and put lights on our palm trees. It was enough, and it left us room for the true joy of Jesus, our One and Only Savior.
I’m not recommending that anyone skip Christmas. I know from personal experience that some of the most precious celebrations have happened during some highly challenging and stressful seasons.
Yet, there are times when it’s okay to cut back, and as Jesus did in this passage. Delegate duties. It’s okay to have the celebration somewhere other than your own house, and allow others to help. Jesus offers us a beautiful picture here of community working together to celebrate the heart of the feast without losing our minds, health, relationships, or our faith.
“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.””
Matthew 26:20-21 NIV
This was most likely one of the more memorable gatherings for the disciples. I feel sure they remembered this special time with Jesus and His important directions long after He returned to our Father in Heaven. He gave them first communion, an ordinance that continues despite the ebb and flow of time and religious fervor. Come to the table, He invited each, even His betrayer, because this fellowship sealed with communion could not be skipped.
As we begin to prepare for holidays, traveling, and family gatherings around many tables may we begin now to focus on the true meaning of our celebration. May we be willing to slow down, and possibly let some things go. Lord Jesus, let us focus our hearts and minds on You, and then our people.
For Your Glory…
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 6: An Attempt To Delight
One of my favorite invitations to come to the table is found in Psalm 23. Much has been said about this beloved Psalm of the shepherd-hearted King David. It’s a favorite psalm for funerals and well known around the world. And personally, two of my favorite books were inspired by the loyal and loving words of the lamb to the Shepherd.
The reasons I delight in the description of this particular table are three-fold. Prepared. Provided. Protected.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5 ESV
Prepared. It is the Shepherd who is prepared for the journey. Whether walking through a fertile field or a barren desert on the way home, the Shepherd knows how, where and when to find all that is needed for the sheep to thrive, and not just survive.
The idea that Jesus, my Shepherd prepares a table for me and invites me to dine with Him floods my being with feelings of being accepted, valued, and loved. Through these words my greatest craving of being cherished finds it’s fulfillment.
Provided. My cup overflows. As I mature in age, and hopefully in faith, I recognize that so many years of my life have been molded and shadowed by the idea of having just enough. It’s a bit of a minimalist, poverty mentality rather than a grace-filled abundance perspective of God, His character and His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
I’m not advocating a ‘name it and claim it’ kind of Christian entitlement view of God. But I am realizing how my minimalist view (primarily shaped by generations coming out of the Great Depression) of life before Heaven has limited my view of God, and His goodness.
He is vast. He’s overflowing!
My dear man and I are uncomfortably choosing to embrace the truth that God has lavished His goodness on us despite our foibles, our weaknesses, and our failures. Our cups truly overflow, so why not drink from the saucer!
Protected. And then there’s the truth, which our Shepherd doesn’t try to hide from us. The truth is that until we reach Heaven or until Christ returns to create a new heaven and a new earth, we will live, eat, work and serve with our enemy, Satan, in the periphery.
I value that God wants us to have the big picture as much as He wants us to have the details. God tells us not to live afraid, but He also informs us about the enemy of our souls. He’s given us in His word everything we need to live an abundant life of faith in service to Him. God gave His Son for our salvation. And when our Resurrected Christ needed to return to our Father in Heaven, God sent His Holy Spirit to live in us, guide us, and comfort our hearts.
And our Shepherd reminds us that there is a prowling lion seeking to edge his way to the table. If he can’t get me to hold out a chair for him at the table, the enemy will try to distract me, calling me away from Christ’s table. We learn our lesson from Eve. Don’t be lured away to a side food-tasting table sponsored by the serpent himself.
The truth of His table is that the best most secure place we can ever be is in Christ with our eyes fixed on Him. Jesus, our good Shepherd prepares a table for us set right in front of our enemy, but he’s not invited. Your cup at Christ’s table overflows. Good Shepherd will keep the enemy at bay, but we all get to choose where we sit.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 5: Beauty Is As Beauty Does
“Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect.”
Esther 2:3-4 NLT
Day 4: Take A Raincheck?
What does it cost to make room for God?
Maybe you already know your answer. However, this is the question I have pondered long into the afternoon. It’s not where I began my day though. As I awoke and came into the reality of a new day, I realized I had been writing my story while I slept.
I was so sure of my dreamy story that I shared it with my dear man, and asked if he could sit with me and listen to make sure I was remembering a certain costly scenario with some semblance of accuracy. I would not divulge real names, but he gave me the nod that I was remembering correctly. And then he asked what scripture I was thinking to use as a reference to tie up the ends.
At that point, I opened my Bible toward the back, hoping to land in the gospels. I was looking for the Last Supper. However, as I looked down the page, I read these words as the headline followed by the strong words of Jesus Himself:
The Cost of Being a Disciple
“A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:25-29 NLT
It’s a hard message, but for me a familiar passage and a truth I’ve wrestled in front of Jesus more than once. The key words here are by comparison. Still it’s a hard truth.
My eyes wandered up this page in the book of Luke in order to zoom out and seek context. Where was Jesus as He made these statements, and what was happening around Him?
And there it was, the table, and a dinner party to which Jesus had been invited. He was people watching.
It was the behavior He witnessed that caused Jesus to speak up. It was His love and care for His people that moved Him to offer some sage advice. For you see, all the invited guests were jostling for the premium seats. I can just imagine the irony of the situation. A large banquet table, the host at the head of the table and Jesus (King above all kings) seated at the foot of the table. Can you see them rushing for seats to try to be as close to the host as possible? And then Jesus spoke:
““When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.”
Luke 14:8-10 NLT
And then a man seated near Jesus at the table made an interesting statement, one that I can imagine speaking without forethought:
“Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!””
Luke 14:15 NLT
It seems the man was being a bit presumptuous. I think the man really did not know to Whom he was speaking. Sometimes I don’t think before I make presumptuous declarations before God about my status in His Kingdom or what I’m going to do when and where. And so in the unique way of Jesus, He made His point with a story. The parable of the great feast:
“Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses…
Luke 14:16-18 NLT
And here Jesus exposed the cost of not making room for God. Here He described the cost of prioritizing earthly things and even our most precious people over God.
My thoughts wandered to a time I received a phone call from my dermatologist’s office. I had an appointment with my PA the previous day. When I answered my phone I was surprised to hear her voice. Her words were calm and firm. She told me that the seemingly normal mole she removed from my arm turned out to be stage 0 melanoma.
She was no nonsense. I could come in tomorrow or the next day, but I needed to let her know because she was clearing her schedule for surgery. I gave myself a day to make sure my calendar was clear, and to tell my immediate family. And then I did as she insisted. I went in for surgery to gain clear margins. That was 2009.
She may have saved my life. I so appreciated her direct and clear communication, “We have a problem, and here’s how we’re going to fix it.” Even more so, I appreciated that she made my life a priority when she was ready to clear her calendar with a day’s notice.
This is probably my favorite thing about Jesus. He’s clear. Direct. No nonsense. Caring. Inviting. And quite serious about the cost of not receiving His invitation.
I hope you’ll go read the whole of Luke 14 for yourself. And if you haven’t received His Kingly invitation, I urge you. Stop making excuses. Count the cost, and RSVP today.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 3: You Can Feed Them
Come To The Table.
And what if there’s no table?
Wherever people are gathered outside all day, a picnic is bound to break out.
“Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.”
Mark 6:34 NLT
We all have a mom, sister, or bestie who never leaves home for a whole day without packing sandwiches, granola bars, and fruit. Just in case.
And boy, aren’t we grateful when we get way out there, and the trip is taking longer than anticipated, and the back roads offer few choices for nourishment?
And that’s what happened one day as Jesus stood on a hillside speaking to at least 5,000 men, and wives plus children. So many people gathered for a whole day and no food trucks anywhere. They had to be hungry and thirsty.
“Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.””
Mark 6:35-36 NLT
Yet this crowd had been captivated by Jesus. His presence. His teaching. His passion. His love. Had it seemed to them like a moment until dusk was coming and dinner was nowhere to be found?
I wonder a lot, and I have so many questions as my imagination takes flight inspired by the brief description in the gospel of Mark.
I can’t read this story without thinking of a good friend who has reminded me often that my two fish and five loaves in the hands of Jesus is enough. Her words were walking sticks for an uphill climb as we prepared to move cross country.
As we prepared to put our house on the market, we were excited about the timing. Everything was up. Housing prices. Real estate sales. Savings. Investments. Stock market.
Up. Up. Up.
And we sold. Sold. Sold. At all time high market values for the housing market in our area.
But then. The economy began to take hit after hit. The stock market was taking a downturn. Our investments were taking a drastic haircut. And housing prices in our destination continued to rise weekly.
“But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
Mark 6:37-38 NLT
But it was too late to back out. We were already committed. So, I did the next most logical thing. I called my friend and cried. I whimpered through my fears that we just didn’t have enough to make this giant leap.
And then she said the next most logical thing, a much needed admonition: “It wouldn’t really be a giant leap of faith if you could bank roll it by yourselves, would it?”
And once again she reminded me that the two fish and five loaves we hand over to Jesus would be more than enough to feed us and many others. She was right. There’s no leap of faith without trust in the One who is asking you to jump.
“How much bread do you have?” He asked. “Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.””Mark 6:38
Hey, fellas, you twelve will find no judgment here. I totally get your angst in the moment. Jesus was asking you to do something magnificent, and you wanted to do it well. Your imagination and trust just hadn’t been stretched quite that far yet. But you listened to Jesus, and you did what He asked. You gathered what you could find – two fish and five loaves, and you placed them all in the hands of Miracle Maker, Jesus.
With Him, you fulfilled His request of you. People were nourished physically and spiritually. And you got to participate. You learned. You stretched, and we’re all the better for having your example centuries later.
We did it, my dear man and I. We put all we had in God’s faithful and loving hands. We had no income for a year, but we settled west. We bought a house. And somehow, Jesus keeps multiplying the little we put in His hands. We live in awe as we allow ourselves to imagine bigger and stretch farther. And we keep inviting others to the table, feeding them with His story of our little and His great.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Day 2: New Girl in Town
Having heard the good news that God was providing for His people in Bethlehem, the two women, Ruth and Naomi, arrived safely in Bethlehem in late spring, just in time for the barley harvest.1 Ruth, the Moabitess, she was the new girl in town. Her only friend was her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Have you ever been the new girl in town? What emotions pop to the forefront when I ask about the lunchroom on your first day at a new school or workplace? I feel the awkwardness in my gut. Do you?
Ruth was a foreigner in the land of Bethlehem. Her people in Moab were a pagan people, hostile to the lineage and God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There were horrific events, pain and suffering which sullied the history of these two people groups. And yet here were two women grafted together as a family through marriage and tragedy.
Ruth made a choice. She chose loyalty to her mother-in-law, and she chose a new life of faith in the One True God.
So what do you do to assimilate when you’re the new girl in town?
You look for something to do. You look for purpose by setting up a new home or you volunteer at an organization or you look for a new job. Maybe you start school or take a community class. Perhaps you look for a new church. All of these steps as a new girl in town hold an underlying hope of finding a friend. Everyone needs a friend.
Ruth asked Naomi’s permission to go to work. They needed food. They needed provision. And so, Naomi granted her permission to go into the harvest fields to glean grain left behind by the harvesters.2 And don’t you know this is where God provided a new friend for Ruth?Boaz.
I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in the Sovereignty of God. So the fact that Ruth just so happened to end up gleaning in the field belonging to Boaz, a near kinsman of Naomi’s late husband, Elimelech, just makes me smile. And don’t you know Boaz noticed Ruth right away. He asked his foreman about her. He wanted to know her name and to whom she belonged. The best part is that Ruth’s humble and loyal reputation preceded her. Her character, and not her heritage, is what she was known for in Bethlehem.
There’s a lesson in itself.
And because of what Boaz recognized as beautiful and valuable in Ruth, he befriended her. He asked her not to wander off into other fields and to stay close behind the women harvesting in his fields. Because he was a man of dignity and respect, he told the young men not to harass Ruth. He was protective and honoring.3
Boaz invited Ruth to the table. This is what is done for a new friend. Newcomers are invited to our table to share our food. We welcome them into community and introduce them to others who are friends. This is what has been done for us, my dear man and I, as newcomers in a new land.
In case you tend to think it was a coincidence, all those happenings in Ruth chapter 2; I have my own story. As my dear man and I adjusted to our new surroundings in a new state, we immediately made church our center of socialization. We had not much that was normal or familiar, and so we delighted in a well grounded, gospel focused faith community that grounded us each week.
One Sunday during worship a couple came in and sat down just to my right. It was too late to make introductions, so we sat near and listened to the sermon. At the end, I reached out and introduced myself to the lady next to me.
I said we were new in town, but we were excited to be closing on our new home later in the week. She asked where, and I gave the name of the town. She said that they too live in that town. “What neighborhood?” I mentioned the neighborhood. She chuckled for they too live in that neighborhood. “What street?” She laughed because they too live on that same street. And as it turns out, we met a neighbor at church who lives two doors down.
Coincidence? No, God is Sovereign. And these new friends welcomed us. They invited us to their table and introduced us to friends. We’ve since enjoyed pickleball, thrifting, and Bible study together. But most of all I have learned how to embrace the newcomer.
We’ll soon be inviting new friends to our table just as Boaz did for Ruth, and my friend did for us.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Study through the book of Ruth with my 31 day devotional, 31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth: Questioning my way through a famine season.
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Day 1: Make Space
I’ve been pondering, often lately, the idea of making space. It seems creating space in our calendars, leaving some margin in our day, has been a theme that pervades many conversations in my circle of friends and family. We seem to recognize, possibly one of the better lessons of COVID 2020, that we all need to slow down, look up from time to time, and make room for interruptions. This is a very good thing, and so making space has been an idea I’ve been pondering.
We’ve made much space, my dear man and I, in our lives for various reasons. Some of the changes are by our own design, and some of them were not our ideas at all. Behind all of this change, is the Grand Designer, God. Well before the world slowed to a complete shutdown, my dear man and I were already learning to embrace a slower pace of life. A long-term illness will do that for you. So, during 2020-21, we kind of felt like everyone decided to join us at our pace. It was kind of nice for a while. I actually felt like our pace of life gained understanding as a result of that unprecedented time in our history.
In 2022, we embarked on a major cross-country move from the Southeastern to the Southwestern United States. It was a call of God that we couldn’t really, and still can’t find words to explain to anyone. We just know that He called and we answered. It’s been an amazing adventure, during which tables have been an integral part. I can’t really explain this either, except to offer a couple of significant God encounters that have marked my prayer life, and embellished my reading of God’s Word. These encounters have also created a passion in me and my dear man to gather with others around a table, in fellowship, and gratitude to God.
One. As we met with family and friends back in Georgia where we lived 34 years of married life, we gathered around tables for dinner, for dessert and coffee, and for sharing God’s call on our lives to move to California. I just want to insert here that you really can’t understand another person’s encounter with God. It can be explained to you, and described in detail, but unless you were part of the conversation, you really can’t understand. Think of the 3 disciples who watched Jesus become transfigured in glory, and then imagine their efforts to explain to the other 9 what they just witnessed. The other 9 are never going to understand. And it’s okay.
This is what I, in particular, grappled with as we prepared to go. I knew I would go. I wanted to obey God. There was nothing that would stop me from following Jesus on this crazy move, but I also wanted my people to understand. I wanted their blessings. I wanted them to get it, and to know I wasn’t abandoning them. As I wrestled this out in prayer one day, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper into my heart, “I want you to make space.” Instantly, I understood. And the idea that He would give me words with a purpose helped me to take the next steps forward. For you see, our sons were getting married, and creating their own families. God was letting me know that to love them well meant to create some space.
Creating space helps young plants grow, dig deep roots, and produce good fruit.
Two. One Sunday in worship my mind was filled with a living-color vision of an enormous table. It was undoubtedly an abundant banquet setting, and yet the table was thick, solid roughly hewn wood planks, and at the head of this table, seated in glory, was Jesus. I could see my dear man and I sitting at the other end of the table simply enjoying our meal and His company. And then the vision expanded as one by one people I know and love walked up to the table, pulled out a chair, and took their place at the table. The scene was so full of love, celebration, laughter, and hope that I was completely undone, and wept in agreement with this beautiful scene the Holy Spirit allowed me to enjoy. I was so grateful for this precious gift of a visual. But it wasn’t a one-and-done. This table at which Jesus sits and to which He extends a gracious invitation has filled my dreams, worship moments, and prayer times for quite a long time now. My prayers and worship will never be the same.
Come to the Table. We will make space for you.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
• • •
- 1: Ruth1:22
- 2: Ruth 2:2
- 3: Ruth 2:8-9
- 4: Ruth 2:14
- https://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/ruth/ The meaning of the name Ruth is friend or friendly.