Friday, February 23, 2018

Judah's Wife. A Book Review.

What happened in the years between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew? This is a story of those silent years, the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Judah's Wife by Angela Hunt is Book 2 of the Silent Years series. Although part of a series, each book stands on its own.


Judah's Wife is the story of Leah, the wife of Judas Maccabeus. The story of the Maccabees is not found in Scripture. We know about them through documented history. In Judah's Wife, Hunt has given us a compelling story set against the backdrop of history. The book is well researched, the characters are well developed, and the story is compelling. Judah's Wife brings the ancient world to life.


Leah had a hard childhood with an abusive father. She married Judah, a strong and gentle man, with hopes of finding the quiet and safety her childhood had not provided. But the Jewish people were under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes who threatened all Jews with death if they followed the law of Moses. (This is the same Antiochus Epiphanes we read about in Daniel chapter 11.) The courage of the Maccabees is told through Leah's eyes. Leah had expected a peaceful, quiet life when she married Judah, but she soon learned, as we often do, that things don't always turn out as we expect. Leah soon learns about love, but also about courage and sacrifice.


If you enjoy historical fiction, and "Biblical fiction" in particular, this is one you will want to read. It is definitely a good read.


I received a free copy of Judah's Wife from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lights in a Dark World

"so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in a dark world."
(Philippians 2:15 NASB)




We are living in an increasingly dark world. One in which we are called to be light. We lost one of our bright lights yesterday when well-known and beloved evangelist Billy Graham left this world for his heavenly home.


I grew up listening to Billy Graham and watching his crusades on television. In the early 1960s I attended my first crusade in person at Textile Hall in Greenville, SC.


In all the years of his ministry, Billy Graham had a clear, concise message.


"For God so loved the world, the He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) 


"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." (John 14:6)


Billy Graham let his light shine as he shared that message around the world.


You and I may not have been called to speak before thousands of people in public crusades. Even so, we are called to share that same message. To let our light shine. The world is a dark place in need of light. In need of THE light.


What are you doing to let your light shine for Jesus?


"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Frustrating Days. We All Have Them.

There are days when I think I should wear a sign around my neck that says "Please be patient with me. I'm really not stupid. I had a stroke."


I have had several such days this week. Days when I looked at the letter T and called it a D. Days when I looked at brown and called it blue. Days when I couldn't spell the simplest word. When I can't remember how to write the letter F without looking at my cheat sheet. And on and on it goes. This is my life after stroke. Every day isn't like that, but some days are. And some days are worse than others. It is all extremely frustrating.


Yet even as I complain about the frustrations, I feel guilty, because I do know how very fortunate I am to be a stroke survivor. I know how far I have come. I know how blessed I am.


Because of that, on these oh-so-frustrating days, I take a step back and refocus. Turn my attention away from the frustrations and toward the One who has blessed me far beyond what I deserve. When I stop focusing on ME and what I CAN'T do, and turn my focus toward HIM and what I CAN do through Him and by His grace, those ever-so-frustrating days are no longer such a big deal.


I suspect that you have your own set of frustrations to deal with. Different frustrations. Different circumstances. But they can be dealt with in the same way.


No matter what your particular frustrations are. No matter the circumstances of your life. No matter what......Jesus is still the answer. No matter what the question is. Jesus is the answer. Not only does He have the answer, He IS the answer.


How well we are able to deal with the frustrations of life is all about where we choose to put our focus.


Something to think about.


"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Learning to Rest

"Rest is a necessary part of useful action. It is not something to be overlooked, neglected, or denied." - Alistair Begg 

I came across this quote some time ago on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me. This idea of rest is one I've been pondering for a while. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have been pondering the lack of rest, or resting, or restfulness that characterizes life in 21st century America.


I spent some time resting last week while we were in Florida. In recent weeks I've done a lot of resting as I have been dealing with some health issues. I did a lot of resting in the weeks and months following my stroke. But for most of us, in the hustle and bustle of daily living, rest is something we don't do.


What does that word rest actually mean?

Rest:  (noun) the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep; refreshing ease or inactivity; relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs; mental or spiritual calm, tranquility.
(verb) to refresh oneself, as by sleeping or relaxing; to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion; to be at ease; to be quiet or still. (definitions taken from Dictionary.com)

Would anyone dispute that people are very busy these days? Over-worked. Over-tired. Stressed. In need of some rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, people don't seem to know how to rest any more. And somehow we have come to equate being busy with being productive. Which is not necessarily the case. As a culture, we're always on the go. Always busy. Always in a hurry. Always have too much to do. And if we aren't busy and in a hurry and on the go, we seem to think there's a problem. That something is wrong with us or wrong in our lives because we aren't busy enough. We complain about being too busy and we complain when we aren't busy. When we don't have every minute of every day filled with some activity, we complain that we are bored. And somehow we have convinced ourselves that if we take time to rest, there is something wrong with us. That we must be deficient in some way if we admit a need for rest and relaxation. That we must be terribly lazy if we choose some down-time.

None of that is actually true. But we have convinced ourselves that it is. And so the result is that we don't rest. We don't allow ourselves time to rest. Maybe we don't even know how to rest.

But our bodies were designed to need rest. And not getting enough rest has consequences. Among these consequences, according to webmd.com, are illness, including serious illnesses like heart disease and stroke; forgetfulness; depression; weight gain; aging skin; and a host of other things. So it would seem that this might be something we should pay more attention to!

We need to learn how to rest. I'm not just talking about getting a certain number of hours sleep each night, although that is certainly important. I'm talking about resting. Relaxing. Building some leisure into our schedules. Being intentional about resting and relaxing. Taking some time to do nothing. To take a nap. Or read a book. Or daydream. Time to rest.

 Beyond that, we need rest in more than just a physical sense. We need to learn to rest spiritually as well.

"Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him."  (Psalm 37:7 NASB)

The word that is translated rest in this verse means to be silent, to be still, to stand still. It depicts the state of being motionless. It indicates the absence of emotional distress and the ability to be quiet and relax.

That kind of rest comes from knowing who God is, by having confidence in His character, by not only believing in God, but by believing God. By trusting Him. It comes from a settled assurance that God is who He says He is, that He has done everything He says He has done, and that He will do everything He says He will do.

Rest. We need it. Both physically and spiritually. But it doesn't always come naturally to us. We have to be intentional about resting. 

We have to learn how to rest. The first step is to be still. 

"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  (Psalm 46:10 ESV. emphasis mine)

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Little Word that Packs a Big Punch

If.  It's such a little word.

That little word is often part of very important phrases.  Quite often the "if" is followed by a "then".

Perhaps at some point you gave or received a graduation card with that word on it.  "If" is the title of a Rudyard Kipling poem which often adorns graduation cards.

It begins this way:

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
Eventually the poem ends with an implied then:
 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
 
If you can accomplish all the things the poem talks about, if you can achieve the kind of character qualities named in the poem, then you will have achieved maturity and success.

Parents often use that word when dealing with their children.  If you do this or if you don't do that, certain consequences can be expected.  For example, "if you do that again, then I'm going to ________."

There are numbers of if/then statements in Scripture.  Perhaps one of the best known is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

That verse is often quoted as we bemoan the state of our country.  As we think about things like declining church attendance or a shift in cultural values.

And we think.......if only those unbelievers would change their ways.  If only we could experience another Great Awakening.  If only all those people would go to church.  If only all those pagans would get saved.

Certainly it would be wonderful to experience a great spiritual reawakening in this country.  It would be wonderful to see more and more people coming to belief in Christ. 

But look closely at that verse.  It is not a verse about what pagan, unbelieving people should do.

If whoMy people.
 
Whose people?  God's people.
 
And if God's people do what?
  • Humble themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek God's face
  • Turn from their wicked ways
 
Then what will happen?
 
"Then will I [God] hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land."
 
If.
 
Such a little word.  But it packs such a powerful punch.
 
Do we want our world to change?  Do we want to see revival in our land? 
 
We know what we need to do.  God has spelled it out for us here very clearly. 
 
What are we waiting for?
 
"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)


originally posted February 9, 2015
 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What I Have Learned While Playing Words With Friends

You may be familiar with Words With Friends, the online game similar to Scrabble. It not, check it out. It's a really fun game!


I have been playing, and enjoying, Words With Friends for a number of years. Following my stroke, I (obviously!) didn't play for a few months, but eventually I began to play again. It was one of those things I decided to try just to see if I could do it, and I continued playing even when it was really challenging for me because it was "good for me".


Even now, some days are more enjoyable than others. Some days I struggle to make words. Some days, I look at the words in front of me and think "I've got nothin'". (Yes, I know that is bad grammar. But you get the point.) Some days, making even the simplest word from the 7 letters in front of me seems an almost insurmountable task. Many thanks to the friends who continue to play with me. You know you are almost always going to win, don't you?


One of my biggest challenges in this game, and even in normal conversation, is that what my brain thinks it sees is not always what I am actually looking at. It's part of the aphasia as the result of my stroke. Very simply described, aphasia is the inability to comprehend or formulate language based on damage to a specific area of the brain. It's like no longer being able to read or speak in a language you once knew.


At this point in my recovery, most days the aphasia is not a huge issue. But then, there are the other days. The days when I look at cat and see six. When I look at a word like hourglass and read it as headquarters, and don't have any idea that what I saw was not correct. My sweet husband has adjusted very well to conversations that don't make sense. My Words With Friends friends may sometimes be wondering where that word came from! The answer would usually be, I have not idea! It isn't what I thought I was spelling!


What is the point of this rambling on about a game? The point is that I have learned something from this experience. The lesson is this: things are not always what they seem.


The words I speak or read or write are not always what I thought they were.


And that's true in all areas of life. What you see on the internet is not always what you thought it was. What you heard from the politicians or pundits is not always true. Everything that "somebody said" is not true just because they said it.


In this crazy world we are living in, it's important to remember that things are not always what they seem. In politics. In schools. In the mall. Even in the Church.


We live in a world that has lost its moral compass. We live in a world that is looking everywhere for truth except to the Truth.


Don't be deceived. Be sure that you know the Truth.


"and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32 NASB)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Remembering

We have been coming to Florida in January or February for nearly as long as I can remember. Al attends a conference at this time every year. Most often the conference is held in Orlando. Occasionally, as it was last year, the conference is in Tampa.


Particularly in the years when we lived in cold-weather climates, I was happy to come to Florida and escape the snow and freezing temperatures. Even when we lived here in Florida, it was nice to have a break from the normal routines of life.


As I am sitting here this morning, enjoying some Florida sunshine, I've been remembering previous trips. The people we spent time with. The places we saw. The good food we shared with friends. And I have been particularly remembering last year's trip.


You see, last year when we came to Florida for the conference, it was my first trip away from home after my stroke. I confess that I was a nervous wreck. And with good cause. We were staying in a very large high-rise hotel. There were about 8 elevators. I couldn't even always remember what floor we were on, much less remember my room number! As a result, I rarely left the room (which was, by the way, a very nice room!). When we left the room, I always needed someone on my right side since I had not yet adjusted well to my loss of vision on that side. The crowds frazzled me. I felt completely lost and out of my comfort zone.


What a difference a year makes! As I have said before, when the therapists told me I would continue to improve, I didn't really believe them. But they were right. I have improved dramatically in this last year. I still don't like crowds, but I'm better about that than I was a year ago. I've only gotten lost once on this trip. I can remember my room number. (Most of the time!) Even so, I'm still more comfortable being here in my own space, in my very nice hotel room, than out amongst the crowd. I have ventured out this morning to sit by the pool and enjoy the sun, but there's nobody else here, so I'm comfortable.


It's good to take time to remember. To think back over how far I have come in this last year. It's good for you to remember, too. You may not have had a stroke. But I'm certain you have had challenges to overcome. Frustrations. Disappointments.


Remembering is a good thing. A gift from God. The reminder that, no matter what comes our way, God is in control. That He will bring us through it. We don't remember so that we can dwell on what happened but so that we can be reminded of who God is and of how He is working all these things together for our good and for His glory.


Remember that today!


"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28 NASB)