Notice: The Beauty of Music

Five Minute Friday prompt: Notice

photo (76) Start:

Their eyes connect, you can see the synchronized counting in the movement of their smiling faces as their art begins.

There are six souls up there. The bass, the guitar, the violin, the drums. And so many instruments I can’t name. Then the voice, and in the background another filling the dimly lit room, with brilliance that seeps into my soul.

My heart dances. This is joy.

I’ve noticed the beauty of unity in living color, and I’ve felt the stirring of the heart of God in me.

I’m a mother. I understand the joy that comes when my family functions in unison. I know how good and pleasant it is.

I notice that in this moment, in this crazy, chaotic, warring world, there is an overarching design that transcends our ‘now’ in this life, but can break in like the suns’ rays through the moments of God’s people doing what they are meant to do, for the reason they are created.

For the glory of God.

And it’s the glory of God that delights a soul.

Through music, through unity, I notice glory. I unite with God.

Stop.

Hop on over here  for #FMFparty

{For ‘Five Minute Friday’ you free-write for five minutes on a word prompt.} It’s been a long time, but I caught the word on Twitter this morning and immediately I knew what I wanted to write about: (and I had already edited my photo last night for my #NovemberThanksgiving2014 post!)

I HIGHLY recommend Elizabeth Hunnicutt’s new Advent album Arrival. It’s awesome! 

TheArrival

The Response Of A Freed Captive: Loyal Love For The Emancipator

Loyal Love Besides Jesus’ mother Mary, she is the most talked about, (and the most misunderstood) woman in scripture.

Just a few women were in Jesus ‘inner circle’. Among them were Mary, his mother, and the woman we studied this week: Mary Magdalene.

Her name is well known, but her reputation has been muddied by myth and broadly embellished over the years. Most think of her as an immoral woman-a former prostitute. But scripture never paints her in that light. Not at all.

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” Mark 16:9

It wouldn’t be far fetched to say the depth of Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus surpassed most because of the desperate, otherwise hopeless condition she had been freed from.

“In every case . . . demon possession is portrayed as an affliction, not a sin, per se. Lawlessness, superstition, and idolatry undoubtedly have a major role in opening a person’s heart of demonic possession, but none of the demonized individuals in the New Testament is explicitly associated with immoral behavior. They are alway portrayed as tormented people, not willful malefactors. They suffered wretched indignities at the hands of evil spirits. They were all miserable, sorrowful lonely, heartsick, forlorn, and pitiable creatures. . . victims with utterly ruined lives . . . there was nothing any mere man or woman could do for (them).” John MacArthur

It’s not hard to imagine how being delivered from such a state would create a response of fiery loyalty in the heart of the freed-one.

Mary Magdalene emanated loyal love for Jesus.

Several people had gone to the tomb to find Jesus body was not there, and then left. Shortly after, Jesus appeared first to her. At first she didn’t recognize him. But then the moment he said her name, her heart was set ablaze with wonder (John 20:16) and she grabbed hold of him as if to never let him go.(John 20:17)

In class we talked extensively about demonic activity in scripture and whether or not we see it in our world today. We anticipate seeing more people in bondage because of the blatant immorality, the rampant obsession with the occult, and minds opened to ‘whatever comes in’ from drug-use.

But even though we see the darkness increasing in our world, we can be greatly encouraged by the power of the name of Jesus. He is the Author of life. The One with all authority. The demons didn’t want to come near him, they were so bound to obey Him. And we can rejoice over what He has given those of us who are His disciples; we need not fear!

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:18-20

No, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say the depth of Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus surpassed most. It should be said of all of us who follow Him really. Because our emancipation from sin and death is nothing less than her emancipation from demonic possession: There is only One with the power to set us free. And we are free indeed! John 8:36

May our love and devotion reflect Mary’s as we reflect on the great love that has been lavished upon us by our Mighty King, Jesus who came down to rescue us.

November Thanksgiving 2014: So Far . . .

I love celebrating Thanksgiving through the entire month of November. A few years back I enjoyed honoring each of my 10 siblings over the course of the month on Facebook.

Other years I have posted thanksgiving lists.  This year, I wanted to do something different. So I decided to post a daily edited photo.

Below you will find the first 18 days of #NovemberThanksgiving2014.{You can follow me on Instagram for more Thanksgiving photos!}

November Thanksgiving 2014:day 1~ the blessing of having toddlers in your life because. Enthusiasm & Perspective.

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November Thanksgiving 2014 ~ Day 2 ~ happy joy colors a dull canvas.
image (48) November Thanksgiving day 3 ~ Thankful for the treasure of a daughter who steps into unknown places courageously, who makes the most of what she’s been given, who loves my grandbabies well, is creative and who is also a precious friend. image (50)

Day 4 thankful for our little boy . . . man, who lives with integrity, humor, passion, and often grease and mismatched clothes-you know, for fun . . . And especially for his tender heart, his strength, and loving his family well.
image (49) Day 5 ~ so often The Lord reveals to me the reality of my need of Him through children. God says, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become like little children. And what He means by that is we acknowledge we need Him. When Parker reached out his arms for help to “dit down”, I saw myself in the same position when I pray for the things I need: wisdom, strength, courage, healing, provision, grace. Salvation. And in my response to Parker, I see a reflection of God in my delight to answer the call and help the little man “dit down” I’m so thankful for the reminder that when we call-He answers.
image (51) Day 6 ~ without water, I die. I stink. I am blemished and diseased. How thankful I am for the abundance of clean water we have to drink, to bathe in, to cleanse, refresh, and heal! Water – necessary for our food. And to top off my amazement of this miraculous provision ~ the joy and wonder of its beauty! Of its re-creational opportunities! Thank you Lord, for this gift of life and for your Living Word having all the same properties!
image (53) Day 7 ~ Im ever so thankful for LIGHT. To expose the beauty or the flaw, that I can know the truth. I can remove the splinter or the log from my eye and help another if they desire. I’m thankful for the safety it brings, keeping me out of the ditch, on the the right path, guiding me through the dark valley, helping me out of the deep pit. Light also warms me, and makes me dance. Jesus is the Light of the world. He is the Light of life. He is the Son that shines light to reveal, heal, guide and deliver.
image (52) Day 8 ~ When your kids are little, you wonder who might one day be their soul-mate. Then they make their choice and you gain another son or daughter. I’m so thankful for this guy. Watching him and my girl grow together, go through their share of early-marriage challenges and continue growing closer and persevering has been such a blessing. And the icing on the cake is—>>> Babies!!!
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Day 9 ~ I’m so grateful for this beauty. I love spending time with her. She is sweet, and I love our conversations. She’s wise, loves the Lord, and as I’ve gotten to know her, it’s clear that she is a perfect compliment to my boy. I love seeing them together and . . . you know! (Oh baby!)


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Day 10 ~ Thankful for anticipation for the joy that lies ahead. In every dark night, there’s a sunrise. In every longing, looking for fulfillment. In every leafless wood, though there may be a hint of dread for a long winter ahead, there still comes the heart’s dance: anticipation for wonders to come.
image (57) Day 11. Thankful for color. Color draws my attention and causes me to pause and praise. I believe color is a message from God, “I want to delight you! & I’m The all-things-beautiful-Creator!”
image (56) Day 12 ~ this decisive, risk-taking man I married, with an endless amount of determination, with a zealous drive to accomplish, has rebuilt cars, trucks and semis. He’s owned a cabinet shop and a residential construction company. He then went on to build and remodel big buildings like the Excel Energy Center and the historic Sears building. He’s overseen the raising of wind turbine farms. And during those things, we remodeled five homes, and he managed our hobby farm. He’s currently fulfilling his childhood dream of farming, as their maintenance manager {who happily gets to drive big tractors on occasion}. But in all of that, today he would tell you, the greatest investment of his life has been in us, his family. He’s supported me in all my endeavors, staying home with our two, homeschooling, owning my gift shop and currently my ministry to women, speaking, and writing. As a dad, he saw to it that Kayla knows how to change her own oil, or a tire on her car. Her joy in raising chickens-one of her favorite childhood “sports” did not come from me! She and her dad have a close relationship. And Ethan “interned” under him during high school, learning the literal nuts and bolts of vehicles, small motors, and the successful maneuvering of moving things, often testing their edge so as to know where the danger is and avoid it. They too have a close relationship. And in all of the intensity, the hard work, there is that childlike (truly goofy!) humor, the ability to transform a tense atmosphere with a shift of perspective. Yes, I am especially thankful for my D-man. image (58) Day 13 ~ the material blessings I so often take for granted. The ones that are beyond simply meeting my needs. The extravagance of convenience, comfort and beauty all around me should cause me to be a most humble soul. But I admit that isn’t the case. In taking things for granted, I become hardened to those without, I become calloused, and lack compassion for the needy. It’s only when I regularly give thanks for these things, practice self-denial, and radical giving that I can maintain a right heart about my material blessings. So I thank God today, first for His mercy for my ingratitude, and then for His lavish, abundant blessings. And I add a prayer, that He would help me honor Him by being a lavish giver ~as He is. image (59)

Day 14 ~ Generations of blessings. I’m so thankful for the gift of life and love and faith passed on from one generation to the next. The times we get to spend together gathered around a table-or three in the case of my family- celebrating God’s amazing love toward us. On Thanksgiving, for blessings of harvest on the table, nourishment and life for our bodies. On Christmas and Easter, the Bread of Heaven, Lamb of God, in a feed trough, on a cross. Nourishment and Life for our spirits, the Eternal Table. image (60) Day 15 ~ God’s mercies are new every morning. When I first (finally) understood (actually BELIEVED) this promise, which is followed by “Great is His faithfulness” it became a transformational liberator from discouragement and depression. Now I aim to not only cut off yesterday’s sins when I’ve repented, but to not carry the past hour into the one I’m living. So often I struggle too long with regret before I remember this truth that I am sooo thankful for: His mercy replenishes continually and His faithfulness never ends. Knowing God loves me like that floods my soul with gratitude. Yesterday is past-and I can leave it there. He is here now and He is there with me tomorrow. But He has left yesterday. image (61) Day 16 ~ Rest. …and on the seventh day, God rested. He sat back and enjoyed His handiwork and gives us the gift of Sabbath. A day to enjoy Him, honor Him, rejoice in His handiwork, and to remind us that He’s got this. It’s not all up to me and you, we can let go, cease striving and trust Him. Thankful for times of refreshing, renewal, recharging . . . Rest. image (62) Day 17 ~ I was thinking as I drove on the snowy roads of all the times I’ve been driving at night during white-out conditions and can barely make out the road or it’s edge. White-knuckle grip on the wheel, how grateful I am when I have someone to follow who obviously sees more clearly, has more confidence, and whose lights give me greater visibility. And that scenario depicts the gift of leaders. Whether it’s parent, teacher, coach, pastor, or employer. I thank God for people willing to give and serve and pass on wisdom, and knowledge often at great cost to themselves. image (63) Day 18 ~ Thankful (sooo thankful!!) that there are those times of pulling away from work and responsibility to *ENJOY* life together with family, friends, and precious little people!! It’s good to make time to laugh and love and play amidst our busy! image (64)

I’m joining in at #TheLoft again this week.
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{I had to step back from hosting with my schedule requiring me to drop something, and since there were four other fabulous hosts, its where the Lord led me to cut back. They’ve been so gracious! I hope you continue to pop in and visit up there.}

When It Comes to Serving, Is Your Heart Striving or Still?

We get Two-in-One in this weeks’ chapter on Twelve Extraordinary Women.

It’s one story that most of us are familiar with. A classic.

Mary and Martha: Working And Worshiping

Martha is busy in the kitchen making a meal to serve Jesus, while her sister Mary is sitting at His feet, listening to Him.

And Martha, it seems is progressively irritated at her sister, and eventually sets down her knife (I’m so hoping she set it down first!), walks into the other room and rebukes Jesus for not telling Mary to help her.

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” Luke 10:40

Have you ever been working hard while someone was watching you with not an ounce of remorse or sense of obligation to help you? Or in the other room enjoying something you’d like to be doing yourself?

Me too.

It’s not hard to put myself in Martha’s position. John MacArthur sizes up the situation this way, “Martha was resentful of Mary’s devotion.”

For the first time, I do not agree with his assessment of the situation. And I’m guessing because, well, he’s a man. I think that Martha was resentful of Mary’s FREEDOM to not feel OBLIGATED to serve with her.

IMG_3586 {It’s sad to me that Martha didn’t have a Keurig . . .}

As I looked more intently at this story, I wonder if Martha typically got an ego-charge out of serving, and Mary enjoyed being served by her (presumably older) sister. And perhaps this is why Mary was so at rest not helping Martha. Maybe.

But this day, as things were going down, Martha wanted to be where “the real action” was and she was not. (I think she felt like she was being left out—not—that I’ve ever felt that way or anything. ;) )

And so really, what Martha was doing was a noble thing; to make dinner for her honored guest. But it was Martha’s focus (on herself) and her ‘self-pitying, martyr-mentality thoughts’ (unbelief) that made her the object of Jesus’ gentle rebuke in answer to her emotional one. “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:40-42)

Not the sitting and listening vs whipping up a meal, but the heart of earning vs the heart of trust.

Martha could have said to Jesus, “Lord, I so love making food and want you to eat well, would you come into the kitchen and talk so that I can be a part of you and you can be a part of me?”

Perhaps then Mary would have taken up a knife, and cut the veggies or a spoon and stirred the soup while they all conversed together.

“The moment our works become more important to us than our worship, we have turned the true spiritual priorities on their heads . . . We must never think more highly of our works for Christ than we do of His works on our behalf.” John MacArthur

It was Martha’s heart that was ‘worried and upset’ and it overflowed from her lips.

What a great reminder as we approach the Christmas season with all of it’s extra tasks. We can find joy in our Christmas tasks if we remember why we are doing them, and Who we are doing them for.

We are under no obligation, but free to choose to say ‘no’. No to the task or no to the wrong attitude. :)

The Crux of Christmas Kathy Schwanke The Christmas cards can be skipped for this year. There is likely no one who will suffer from not receiving a lavish hand-made gift in our exchanges. The cookies that don’t get baked-well, less calories, right? And the decorating? For me, that would be the last one to cut out, but maybe for you, you can minimize the load by letting go of higher expectations to have a more peace-filled Christmas.

So when you have a day when you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand and that you are unseen and alone, remember this encouragement: Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

We can serve and be extremely busy with a still heart. It just takes a little self heart-exam from time to time. May you know His peace this Christmas season!

My daughter Kayla (just happened to) publish a post about Mary and Martha today too. She has free printable verses over there if you want to go read her words and check out  The Creative Jayne blog.

What She Heard At The Well She Had To Run And Tell

That one woman.

The one who had had more husbands than fingers on her left hand. The one who went to the well in the heat of the day when she knew no one else would be there. To avoid the women who gathered in the cool of the morning. Because of her shame. Perhaps because of reviling by the women.

We find her story in John, chapter 4.

So Jesus ‘had to’ go through Samaria. John 4:4NIV Woman-at-the-Well-Part-2
Samaria was a place that the Jews avoided, because Samaritans were half-breeds, and ‘unclean’. The way around Samaria was long, but any self-respecting Jew would take the the long way.

He sat down by the well. The disciples left to go get something to eat.

The woman came and Jesus engages her in conversation. A shocking move on His part, because not only did Jews avoid Samaritans, but men avoided talking to women. She had two strikes agains her, but not so with Jesus.

And this was no happenstance connection. Or location.

The well was located on the parcel of land that Jacob deeded to his son Joseph, and the location where Joseph’s bones were buried. “The well was deep and the reservoir below is spring-fed, so it’s water was always fresh, pure and cold. It is the only well and the finest water in the vicinity.” ~J.M.

He asks her to give him a drink. She is shocked and wonders at his request, “Who, ME? Really?”

Jesus answers her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Do you see the way Jesus is leading her mind? It seems He is causing her to think, to acquire a desire to know something more, to seek an answer.

Not only is this Jewish man talking to her, a Samaritan woman, but his answers are puzzling, and compelling.

I imagine her thoughts, “What in the world IS living water? Who is this speaking to me? Will His God and my God be the same God?”

So she asks him, “How would you get this water? You have no rope or bucket and the well is deep. Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Her words reveal that she holds in her heart a knowledge of history, and an awareness of Jacob’s lineage in God’s family. She has pondered some things . . . Even though Samaritans are considered outcasts, she is exhibiting what John MacArthur describes as ‘embryonic faith’.

I love that term!

As we have been unpacking the lives of the extraordinary women of scripture, this seed of faith can be seen in every woman. There was HOPE and BELIEF that God is good despite the opposing forces that would draw barriers to their own blessings from God.

Seeking: SeeKing: Seeking THE King.

This is the foundation of extra-ordinary.

[Tweet “A glimmer of faith in God transforms ordinary. A ray of hope in God transforms loss, longing, need, pain, sin -all of it- into something beautiful.”]

Jesus begins to draw a picture for the woman contrasting earthly water (continual need) and spiritual water (perpetual replenishment). He tells her that drinking living water that only He can give, will bubble up and overflow. “A spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

She’s thirsty now and asks for the water He is offering.

Then he says, “Go, call your husband and come back.” and she admits she has no husband, to which he replies, “You are right…the fact is you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18

Notice Jesus doesn’t rebuke or shame her, but honors her honesty. Do you think the shock-factor is growing in this woman’s heart at the Mercy seated before her?!!!

Not only does He look at her in a frame that no other person has ever seen her, but He knows her in the depths of her and has approached her, engaged her, and accepted her as she is.

She sees He is of God and her next question to Him not only turns the conversation off of herself, but onto worship of God. In essence asking who is correct in their worship of God-her people who worshipped on ‘this mountain’ or the Jews who worshipped in Jerusalem.

This reveals a desire for Truth already within her heart.

Jesus answers her revealing a whole new way to worship God.

He says, “Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. He tells her the Father is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. He is revealing in the moment the new covenant that is on the horizon. And inviting her to be adopted by The Father.

John 4:25 reveals the ‘embryonic seed’ that is within the Samaritan woman’s heart when she says, “I know that Messiah is coming, and when he comes he will explain everything to us.”

And here is the moment that Jesus has been waiting for. The one that he has been leading up to. The moment he ‘had to’ come to the well for:  He tells her “I am the Messiah.”

This is the FIRST time He reveals himself.

And “JUST THEN” the disciples returned. John 4:27 reveals that they were stunned at the scene; they were speechless.

How I’d love to have seen their faces!!!

Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did, could this be the Christ?”

She told Jesus that she believed Messiah would ‘explain everything to us’ and then she runs to the towns people (and it appears as if they too were ‘schooled’ on Messiah and looking for his arrival!) and she tells them this man told her everything she ever did.

When they heard him, they believed in Him. Romans 10:17

So . . .  This unnamed woman was the first ever evangelist. In a world where women were not deemed credible witnesses, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to her first and her witness-it was credible!

Meeting the Messiah causes a reaction. I started out much more reserved and cautious in displaying joy than the Woman at the Well. It’s taken me time to become vocal about my faith in Jesus. But I know many who have told everyone about Jesus after meeting Him.

How did you react? Did you run and tell someone or did you react in another way?

When One Woman’s Life Is Summarized In Four Sentences And Impacts Generations

All we know about Anna is told in one paragraph in Luke 2. Her entire life summarized in four sentences (three verses of scripture), and those few words are bearing on my life today.

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at the very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

That is literally Anna’s history in a scripture-nutshell. We might breeze through the short story of her life in a read-through of the Christmas story. Likely for more reasons than it just being three verses. We may pass by quickly because her life sounds a bit boring. Especially to those of us in affluent cultures.

First of all, she is “very old” and we tend to think (a worldly way of thinking, not a faith-filled way) that we lose value with age. Even though we know the scriptures tell us we go from glory to glory and are being inwardly renewed day-by-day, there is a general sense in our culture that as our bodies go downhill, so does our value.

Also, Anna is a widow. And we exult in romance.

And then there is the fact that she never left the temple and spent her life praying and fasting.

Does not sound like a life of adventure to us who aspire to create, express ourselves, make a difference, travel, and share our exciting photos on Instagram! Really? She NEVER left the temple? Just hung out kneeling before an altar? . . .

But as we dig into her story and learn of the context of  life in the temple, we realize that Anna was uniquely chosen out of the rebellious tribe of Asher (part of the apostate Northern Tribe of Israel) perhaps through her family line being of a remnant of believing faithful ones, or through whom she married, to “be there” among the few humble, believing, seeking ones to see the fulfillment of the long-awaited prophecy.

The temple was a buzzing place with lots of people and activity. And in a world dominated and served by men, God had made a way for Anna, a humble widow, to be serving there despite the cultural and religious restrictions.

I see women today seeking to ‘fight’ for women’s rights in the church. Seemingly from a place of bitterness in the biblical call to ‘submit’ to those in authority over us (a protective and illustrative gift of God to women), they seek to change the Christian cultural atmosphere by ‘taking stands’ or ‘speaking out’ and belittling traditional beliefs. They see the power to get where they want to go as being ‘out there’ in the hands of men, rather than in the hands of God.

And that is nothing more than human-ism whose tag-line is “good without God”. (google it)

What I see in the lives of the women honored by God is their yielded hearts, and a quiet trust in Him being the mover of the mountains that men might (mindfully or not) set up blocking the path where God wants them to serve.

And though admittedly, I love to be honored by people, I’d ultimately rather be honored by God than men. How about  you? We can all do what Anna did. Trust, pray, and wait on God’s timing.

Scripture says God prepares in advance the good works He creates for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 And we know that nothing stands in God’s way when He has a plan. Nothing, that is, except our unbelief and our reliance on men instead of God. Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:27

Anna is honored by God as one wise and blessed woman in scripture.

All throughout the Bible, God highly esteems women in a way I find to be sweetly subtle. As I have been leading studies on women in scripture through several books over the past three years, the astonishing love of God and His heart to honor women has invaded my soul and fires me up! I sense His passion!

God’s heart for women is tender and protective, and His impact on the world through His humble daughters sweetly resounds throughout history into our day. He honors the humble by making the humble powerful. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5  Does that fire you up too?

When we humbly trust God to open the doors He wants us to walk through, He honors our faith, and it becomes clear to the world that He is God and man is not.

This is a message that needs to be heard. You know, for world peace. :) Peace on earth and good will toward men will only come through the humble hearts of men and women who trust God and say “yes” with their lives. 

Since Anna was given the title of ‘prophetess’, we briefly touched on the women in scripture who were given that title and see that they were named so, not as an office of prophet per-se, but as one who loves God and speaks His word from an overflowing heart.  Image-1 (5)

In reading of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Nodiah, and Isaiah’s wife, it is clear that they were placed by God in their positions for ‘such a time as then’. No man had gotten in the way of God’s plan. :)

God keeps bringing me back to these verses over and over, and I’ve been encouraging women with them, because sisters, I think He would love that we ALL desire to be prophetesses!        1 Corinthians 14:1-3 says this:

 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. . . . But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (v 1 and 3)

Why would He withhold a gift that brings forth His word which has the power to transform the very atmosphere in which we find ourselves in?

“Anna’s amazing faith stemmed from the fact that she believed all the promises that filled the Old Testament. She took the Word of God seriously. She knew in her heart that the Messiah was coming, and without any doubt whatsoever her first and foremost prayer was that it would happen soon.” ~John MacArthur

What do you believe about the Word of God? What do you know in your heart? What is your first and foremost prayer?

Let Anna’s life encourage you. You don’t need to stop your current job and go live in a church unless you have been called by God to do that. But you do need to trust that God has you where He wants you and to be faithful wherever you find yourself.

In case you are new here, I have been teaching through the book “Twelve Extraordinary Women” by John MacArthur and posting once a week per chapter. Anna is the 7th chapter “The Faithful Witness”. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.

And I also want to leave you with this video by Sharon Jaynes, author of “What God Really Thinks About Women” which I referred to above as one I’ve learned much from. It is one of my favorite books and perhaps you will invest in it too.

Fill up on the Word of God and you will spill out blessings.

May our lips serve up a healthy helping of life to the world around us!

Mary: Her Name Means Bitter. But When God Comes, All The Bitter Is Transformed To Beauty

free to fly; kathy schwanke, “Of all the extraordinary women inScripture, one stands out above all others as the most blessed, most highly favored by Gd and most universally admired by women.” ~John MacArthur

And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” ~Luke 1:27-28

To be the one chosen. To be the one to give birth to the long-awaited, highly anticipated Savior of the World. Is this the desire of every female heart, to participate in this glorious birthing of spiritual, eternal life?

John MacArthur shows us that the anticipation of “WHO would be the mother of the coming Messiah” was something that permeated the hearts of faithful women in the Old Testament.

I’d never thought of that specific ‘anticipation’ as being a part of the longing for sons in the hearts of women.

Of course someone in history would become the mother of the babe promised back in the beginning. The promise woven into the curse.

Even in pronouncing a curse, in His cursing of the serpent, before addressing Eve and then Adam, we find God displaying His lavish mercy to humanity with the promise of a man who would crush the serpent’s head. One would be born of a woman to destroy the dominance of the evil one.  Bruise. His. Head. Amen. (Genesis 3:15; Colossians 2:15)

The God of Mercy and Hope, Who always goes before us. The God of restoration makes a way for deliverance before ever a curse is pronounced.

And those who cling to the hope of His mercy, keep their faces set toward Him. So it makes sense that the longing to be a mother would include the question, “Might it be through me that Messiah comes?”

And I think ever since Mary birthed the Messiah, the hunger within the soul of the woman of faith is to bear spiritual children. Yes, we too, who have turned from our own way upon seeing the glory of our redemption through seeing Jesus, we have answered the call, “Come follow me.” We who have surrendered our lives to His Lordship, we too desire deep within to have eternal significance, to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. 1 Timothy 2:15

And similar to Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, we are chosen by God, blessed and favored women, because we carry the Messiah in our hearts (John 15:5), and His word spills out through our lives, through our lips. Luke 6:45 NLT

The message of the gospel that has power to redeem and deliver from the curse. Romans 1:16 We carry that message (carry HIM) in our souls like a mother carries a baby in her womb. We attend to Him, we live our lives around Him. We make decisions based on how best to nurture Him and His life-giving message.

{What about Mary?}

She was from a lowly town. Nazareth was a forlorn community in a poor district of Galilee. Before Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was likely unnoticed. Common. And she may have experienced a life of bitter hardship.

It is said that women were betrothed during that time in history as young as 13 years old. It is guessed that Mary was between 14 and 16 years old when she met the angel that day. She was already betrothed to Joseph.

And her ‘in the moment decision’ to believe and receive the blessing from God to carry Jesus put her entire life in the hands of God. Her reputation, her future with Joseph, her livelihood. All of herself and her future, entrusted to the Loving Hand of God in a moment of “Yes” . . . “Let it be unto me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

“Her betrothal to Joseph was a legal engagement known as kiddushin, which in that culture typically lasted a full year. Kiddushin was a legally as binding as marriage itself. . . . One of the main points of kiddushin was to demonstrate the fidelity of both partners.” ~John MacArthur

We see God’s hand in all things concerning Mary, as he sends an angel to Joseph also, to assure him that God is in this, that Mary has not been unfaithful, and that he is to be the father of Jesus. So Joseph, who had it in mind to divorce her quietly, instead remained and they went on to marry and have other children after Jesus was born. Matthew 12:46

God connects Mary to her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist who is already filled with the Spirit of God and leaps in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Mary and Jesus, and this wonderful prophetic poem is spoken over Mary by Elizabeth that no doubt firmed up Mary’s soul on the days that she might think, “Is this all really real??” 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” ~Luke 1:41-45

And then the faith in Mary’s heart spills from her lips in her famous song of praise to God:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” ~Luke 1:47-55

Many things stand out in my study of Mary, but I’m left with these highlights: The beauty of her humility, her trust in God, her “yes” to God, and then how clearly and carefully God provides everything she needed to carry out the mission He gave her.

I also believe that our life on earth as the betrothed Bride of Christ is as kiddushin. Because I know my faithfulness is being tested on a regular basis. And His faithfulness is being proven. And we look forward to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Revelation 19:9

For those of us who desire to have fruitful lives with eternal rewards, this is blessed encouragement indeed.

Linking up at The Loft today  THe_Loft_Link_Up-small

Hannah~A Portrait of Feminine Grace

As I read this week’s chapter, and read of Hannah’s stellar character, I remembered how many times in the past I’ve contrasted my imperfections and failings with the perceived perfection of women in the Bible . . .  and felt an unshakable cloud of condemnation hover over me. It felt like this: {me<Hannah} Less. Than.

Since my Sunday School class consists of several women who have been divorced and remarried, some with children not walking with the Lord, and we have shared the heartache together, I wanted to start off the class with the truth from Romans 8:1

So the devil couldn’t heap condemnation on them.

No matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done or failed to do, if you trust Jesus to forgive and cleanse you, you have a clean slate. Daily. :)

Read: Lamentations 3:22-23 Every. Single. Morning. Yesterday is OVER, today is a brand new day!

The consequences of our sin are not washed away necessarily, (Though, in His lavish love He may do that!) But God will bring good from anything you are suffering as a result of your sins and failures or those done to you. Not only that, but He will REDEEM them!

photo (75) Jesus is our Blessed Redeemer!!!

So, if the devil accuses you, or seeks to compare you to others and hurl accusing arrows at your heart, stand firm in the grace of Christ. Do not be moved from you position as a chosen, forgiven, blood-bought child of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

You. Are. His. Beloved. ~Rest in it!~

Don’t forget that all your sins are cast into the bottom of the sea, blotted from the record, removed far from you because of the blood of Jesus.

Okay, now that that is settled, lets talk about Hannah.

A woman whose husband, Elkanah has another wife. Named Peninnah. My friend calls her Penny, and since that is much easier, I will too.

If you’ve been reading here, you know that having babies, especially sons was “all that” for women in Old Testament times. A woman’s worth seemed to rest on her ability to produce a son. Especially since it was men who provided for women then. I’m guessing there were very {very, very, very} few high-profile careers then for women.

Women were as dependent on men for provision as children are dependent on parents today. So having a son not only gave women a sense of value, but also ensured security for her future.

Penny had “sons and daughters with Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:4) But Hannah’s “womb was closed” (1 Samuel 1:5)

So, just imagine it. Your husband having another woman. And the other woman seemed to be blessed by God. And it seems you. are. not.

If you read 1 Samuel 1:6 you will see Penny’s Puffed-up Pride Provoking Humble Hannah. Making fun of her barrenness, and making a sorrowful Hannah even more miserable.

Have you been there? Not only seemingly lacking something (baby, looks, talent, plans, job, friends, etc) but being made fun of because you are shorted in the very thing you long for? {THEN this story is for you!!!}

Hannah is a portrait of grace for many reasons. One being that she didn’t retaliate or “fight Penny” on her terms. Instead she seeks God for the desires of her heart. She waits upon the Lord. That is extraordinary, isn’t it?

“Not only was she the quintessential godly mother and wife, but in a spiritually cold generation she exemplified patience, prayerfulness, faith, meekness, submission, spiritual devotion and motherly love.” ~John MacArthur

Scripture does not give us any more of what I like to call “the backstory” of Hannah wrestling through her feelings and struggling to maintain faith, and I would guess that there, indeed, were days of struggle . . . There were likely days she wanted to hurl a potato at her rival {I’m only guessing, mind you, but she was after all, human!~and we all know how humans and perfection go together!}

Elkanah favored Hannah. He gave her twice as much as he gave Penny, and didn’t understand how Hannah could continue to be downcast from being without child. But I think that the destiny God had planned for Hannah to conceive one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament kept her in the place of longing, for eventually she cries out to the Lord in the temple, promising God that if He grants her this desire, then she will give the child to the Lord.

And Eli witnesses her praying silently with her lips moving. And after accusing her of being drunk (because that was likely going on in the place of worship on a regular basis at the time under the corrupt leadership), is set straight by Hannah humbly sharing the reason she was there pleading with the Lord for a child, and the priest of God blesses her.

Shortly after, then, she becomes pregnant with Samuel. And after a few years of nurturing him, true to her word, Hannah takes Samuel to Jerusalem and offers him to God. And leaves him. With Eli.

The priest who had failed to restrain his sons (1 Samuel 3:13) and whose sons had desecrated the temple they were supposed to serve with their abominable behavior.

It was so bad, that God took their lives and the life of Eli. (1 Samuel 2:29-30; 1 Samuel 3:13; 1 Samuel 4:11)

Yes, Hannah left her only son with Eli. By faith.

We have the vantage point of seeing how God kept Samuel loyal to Himself and how God used him. No doubt, partly due to his mother’s ongoing influence. Hannah surely saw him regularly as they continued their practice of going to worship at the temple. (1 Samuel 2:19)

Hannah is a reminder that mothers are the makers of men and architects of the next generation. ~John MacArthur

The highlights we are privileged to glean from Hannah’s life are:

  • Her patient endurance of the waiting for the fulfillment of the deep longing of her heart and endurance of the bullying of ‘the other women’.
  • She looked to God for the fulfillment of her heart’s desire, not man, and prayed fervently to God.
  • She had a mind fixed on Heaven and things of eternity.
  • She loved her husband through all of the pain.
  • She was a true worshiper of God, exemplified in her response to God when He had given her the desire of her heart. (Please read her beautiful expression of worship in 1 Samuel 2:1-10)

In the lives of all the women we are studying, it is their faith in God and their relationship with Him that places them in the “extraordinary” category. They are all ordinary women, but believing and waiting on God and responding to Him with humility in their lives’ adverse circumstances lifted them from ordinary to extraordinary.

Do you have something in your life you’d desperately like to change? Let Hannah’s story encourage you to pray with faith and wait to see How God will bless and deliver you!

Peace Depends on Proper Perspective

After a week of cloudy, humid and generally miserable end-of summer weather,  I opened the windows, and wiped off the glass table on the deck to sit outside. The sun was shining and a gentle breeze was blowing the trees surrounding the deck. One of my favorite gifts in the summer is seeing sunlight dancing on the water.

God knows it makes my heart dance, and has blessed me with this precious love-gift. I live in a home with a lake view. (Every day I marvel at the extravagant goodness of God!)

photo (9) I sit down and smile as I write in my journal; “Lord, You kiss me today with this view, the sunshine and breeze! Thank you!”

It’s felt recently as if the world is rumbling and ready to blow. Headlines are depressing. There is palpable tension in conversation. And I see it in the comments underneath the posts on controversial topics: an undercurrent of anger and unrest. Fear, I think what I see is fear.

Sometimes it seeks my soul. Words seem to holler at me personally.
“You are not doing enough!”
“You are not doing it right!”
“You must do this thing!”

And I’m pretty sure it’s the devil using the internet to holler at me.

Besides the world’s unrest, every day I see women doing amazing feats fit only for Wonder Woman. {Or for those called and equipped by God-but I forget that the Spirit empowers them.}

I am posting at Deeper Waters today, you can read the rest of this post by clicking here . . .

Who Is Your Hero? ~Ode to a Hard-Working Farm-Mama~ {Who Happens To Be Mine}

It’s 10:18pm. I’m watching the local (MN) news. I see two Wisconsin-born newscaster-girls who had never experienced dairy farming, they had  heard of something called, “agri-tourism” (I heard it first tonight myself!) and so they took a trip to a farm. They rented a place on a dairy farm to experience Dairy Farm life.

At the top of the story, I heard them say “It’s a vacation.”

I know they couldn’t hear me, but I said, “WHAT??” right out loud to the TV.

And then I added, “Farming is a lot of things, but being a vacation is not one of them!”  I wondered if I might private message them this important news flash . . .

I know it is no vacation because it was my life. I had my first job at age 5. And nearly every single day for the rest of my growing up years, I hung out with holsteins or hay . . . working.

At the end of the news story, Julie and Bel agreed with me. Farming is no walk in the park. {I guess it works to talk to the TV!}

I am going to highlight just one of my heroes tonight.

My mom.

For most of her married life, her title was “wife of a dairy farmer, mother to 5, 6, 7, 8 . . . and eventually . . . a dozen children”.  And, as things go,  children get married and beget their own children.

Now Momoftwelve is grandmother to 35-or-so grands (I’ve lost count!), and great-grandma to four and two on the way. (Three of them are from my offspring.—Yes, I am a granny!)

Mama’s life changed drastically in June. My Daddy-lost his life due to a car accident. I can’t believe it’s been four months already . . . And she still has all these people to love and try not to worry about on her own. Without a man to consult with, to console her with his support.

Mama is a woman of faith who loves God’s word and pursues Him in prayer. And the Lord is sustaining her in her time of sorrow. But it’s hard. They were married over 51 years.

I don’t think there was anything more important to me growing up (until I had a boyfriend ~ ) as pleasing my daddy. It is quite likely that I spent more time with him than with my mom. Being firstborn, I was his “right-hand-man” from an early age-since there were NO men in our family until child #6! My sisters followed suit in being worker-girls . . . {And he did hire young men, often cousins in the summer time to help}

Six Leroux kids

My daily life consisted of afternoon chores, like feeding and cleaning up after the black and whites. And then back out to the barn after supper, milking the 45-or-so holsteins.

In the summer -it was way more fun and smelled SO much better:  much time was spent cutting, raking, baling and stacking hay. (You might notice that I’m an HSP)

{But it’s not like we got out of milking-cow tails hitting our eyeballs swinging at flies, hooves stepping on our less-covered feet, and sweat spilling behind knees squatting in the heat of a 90 degree day in a barn full of hot animals . . .

And as hard as I worked, as much as I “gave up” or didn’t do in after-school activities or hanging with friends, my mom gave up more and worked harder than anyone I know -besides Dad.

She planted and maintained a huge garden, canned tons (I remember a count of 100+ quarts) of beans. Often also peaches, pears, beats, etc. And we cut and froze unending bags of sweetcorn. The countertops were often full of quart jars as we  awaited their seal-ensuring “pop”!

And one of my favorites: the line-up of dozens of fragrant loaves of bread, fresh from the oven, reflecting light from their brushed-with-butter shine.

I wont forget the dance costumes every spring, embellished by her hands.

Mom took us to dance lessons, and the neighbors too! And every spring she sewed sequins on our costumes, and spray-painted our tap shoes. dancing girls 2 Dancing girls in curls

She also baled hay many summers, plowing fields in spring, and milking cows every day -even when she was 9 months pregnant!

Every Sunday, us all piling (literally) in the back of the station wagon, we would go to church. With polished, matching shoes! And we even still had all our hair! (Though as the photo suggests, we may have been quite sober…) ;)

sober church goers

Sometimes hairs curled! And Mama’s up in a fancy french twist.

I enjoyed watching her with hair.

My hair, my sisters’ hair, and also setting both of my grandmas’ hair -all pinned up in curlers every week, and the cool salon-style hair dryer-bent over their heads in our kitchen. And then, she’d comb them out pretty. I remember their smiles. Their ‘thank-you’s. Three girls

Besides putting the pink-foam curlers up in our hair, she would often polish our shoes, and sew pretty dresses.

Not every weekend, but just imagine yourself readying more than two or three children every Sunday!

Mom’s heart, motivated by love for her God, and her family, also lived in service to friends.

During one season, there were many nights that she would be called to take “Aunt Audrey” to detox. Audrey wasn’t really our aunt, but we called her that because before mom married dad, she babysat Audrey’s children.

And the morning after the call, we’d hear stories of what that family endured from Audrey’s alcoholism. And we witnessed my mom sowing love into the lives of Audrey’s children over the years. One of them, closest to my age connected with me during the loss of my dad, and expressed her love for my mom. Her thankfulness for her presence in their lives during those difficult years.

Yes, my mom is one of my heroes. She exemplifies a heart with proper priorities. Because of her faith in God and her love for His word, she loves her family well, and reaches out to others who need to know the love of God through His people.

My Mama Now . . .  and then:

mama2 mama Mom and Dad

This week’s topic at #TheLoft is “HEROES” . . . . Who are your heroes? Let us know by linking up your blog at the bottom of this post!

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

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Hi Lofters! We have two winners from last week’s giveaway! Sheila, who left a comment on Leah’s blog; and Trina, who sent in her comment via email. Please email Arabah Joy at arabahjoy(at)gmail.(com) with your mailing address so she can get the books out to you. Thank you!

About #TheLoft

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This Week’s Topic: “Heroes” (Do you have a hero? Did you have one when you were growing up? Do you think it’s important to have others we look up to? Why or why not? We look forward to reading about your heroes!)

Next Week’s Topic: “Potluck” (It’s that time again! Link up a favorite post you’ve shared on your blog and surprise us!)

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