Wife Sarah/Sarai

3-1-16

Abraham and Sarah Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” AND Genesis 17:17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

Abraham and Sarah one of God‘s greatest love stories. Sarah sacrafices her own happiness to try to make her husband happy. Even as she tries to be selfless allowing him to procreate with Hagar, her human jealous weaknesses wraps her heart in bitterness. We are not in control, God is in control. We can not outplan, outmaneuver, or outthink God’s plans for our life.

HOW strong is our faith in God and each other? I am not surprised that the ability to apoligize is the first lesson taught when you rise into managment. No matter how much I try to hedge my bets I am always disappointing someone. I am late. I didn’t communicate effectively. I failured to see “it” through. I imagine my wrongs out weigh my rights by three hundred to one. Yet every day I try to be a good wife, a better mother, and an acceptable “amma”. I am appologizing to someone for something. I listen for God’s directions so that I do not stray from the path, but show me a shiny bauble and into the brambles I go.

Then I have the pleasure of watching Jill give Boston a bath. She coos and cajoles to keep him from crying. She talks to him with reassurance and patience. As many times as she has fallen down, she gets up and tries to have a faith-filled heart willing to try again. She is a loving mother.

Loving mothers fail. Loving mothers value relationship. Loving mothers realize each day is new day to try to get “it” right. Loving mothers sacrafice their looks, time, energy, and strength for their children. What joy Sarah felt at 90 years old to hold her son in her arms. What joy Jill feels holding Boston, her last chance for joy. God just blows my mind!Boston 1-16-16

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Wife – Jezebel

Jezebel

1 kings 19:1; 21:15

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” This sermon was about overbearing wives and the influence they have over their weak faithfilled husbands OR don’t hang out with nonbelievers. As an enpowered working woman who raised two children, put my self through a DNP, and am responsible for life and death decision daily; I had mixed feelings about this interpretation. Although the SCHOLARLY MEN may feel Jezebel was overbearing, I feel she was manipulative. Overbearing would be unpleasantly or arrogantly domineering: “his overbearing, sometimes ruthless desire to succeed” synonyms: domineering · dominating · autocratic · tyrannical. Jezebel was devious. She was not overbearing. She created a situation in which Naboth would be stoned to death so that her husband could have his way. Ahab and Jezebel were certainly a team working in concert to steal the land they desired for their own glory. “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword” (1Kings 19:1). A GOOD WIFE follows her husband’s lead. Jezebel certainly followed Ahab’s lead, not like Abagail/David (1 Samuel 25:23). Abagail went behind her husband’s back to appease David, and by this definition was a BAD WIFE. Abagail is known as the best hostess in the bible, but does this make her overbearing also? Perhaps it is simply the use of the word overbearing that is off-putting. Three times this winter the furnance broke. Norman came in my room and said “There is no heat, I’m cold”. I said, “I’ll take care of it.” Three different furnance guys had to be called on three different days before they fixed the problem correctly. Does that make me overbearing for taking care of the issue. Naboth is not without blame either. He could have said “I can’t sell you the land, but I can let you use it for your garden”. Naboth could have shared, and the land would have been used and developed for free. The relationship could have become faith strengthening for all parties. Now that is loving one another. Selfish desires do not bring about happiness is the lesson to learned from Ahab and Naboth.

But don’t you wonder if Melville selected Ahab as the name of his obsessive captain from this bible story? Maybe Jezebel was just reacting “Enough already. I will get it for you, I can’t take this obsession of yours anymore…” Has a ring of truth, you know.

Norman Anniversary

Tabitha/ Dorcas

Tabitha:

Acts 9:36-43 New International Version (NIV)

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

As baptism approaches, it makes me think of broken hearts. Jesus helped our hearts be mended. Being a seamstress is a skill that takes simple cloth and turns it into fashion. Sewing makes cloth useful to people.   Seamstresses are not strangers to transformation. There is joy in the process of doing good work that helps others. Tabitha knew this joy. As a nurse, I get to know this joy every day.

I was not a talented seamstress, but I loved making fancy curtains. My friends always gushed at the pretty fabric selection, then on closer examination they would point out the lopsided seams and the missed stiches.   So when I spent 2 years doing a cross stich about mother Mary holding baby Jesus, I sewed a red material over the back so no one could see the imperfect back of the work. Then I hung it in my home on a bar so it could be lifted and the back viewed. Predictably, my friends came over and would admire the front of the work. Then they would lift the work to see the back. Instead of a mirror image of the front, they were confronted by the red material with little white hearts. I said with a smile “It’s covered by the blood of Jesus!” Most of my friends would laugh understanding the analogy. One friend became angry, “How can you do that! It’s not right!”

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mathew 19:24). I choose to focus on grace. The blood of Jesus fixes all my mistakes and errors. I try every day to be a perfect Christian, and every day I have to ask for forgiveness. The older I get, the more imperfection I have to accept.

Help us, Lord, to think of others, not only ourselves.

May we offer our help and friendship, and learn to share with others.

Help us to see that by sharing and caring we make not only others,

but also ourselves, feel so much happier. Amen.

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Wife – Gomer

A woman’s Heart: All the women of the bible- Gomer

Hosea chapters 1- 3; Hosea 2:18-19; Hosea 5:15-6:2; 1Peter 2:6

Hosea prophesied during a dark era of Israel’s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BC. During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the Canaanite gods who were the calves of Jeroboam and Baal. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin. Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria, the greatest nation of the time. The prophecy of Hosea reveals God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel by using the example of Hosea’s own marriage.

Hosea was directed by God to marry a promiscuous woman of ill-repute, and he did so. Marriage here is symbolic of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. However, Israel has been unfaithful to God by following other gods and breaking the commandments, hence Israel is symbolized by a harlot who violates the obligations of marriage to her husband.

Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back into love.

In Chapter three, at God’s command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up, because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, and renews his love for her. So also God will take Israel back into his heart.

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord (Hosea 2:18-19).  

This chapter of Hosea is part of the “Wisdom Literature” of the bible. Stories from our common lives are used to highlight and educate larger principles. In the marriage covenant, the greatest sin must be considered the sin of infidelity. Care has to be taken to prevent the hint of impropriety, because once trust is lost it very hard to recover. In each argument, we need to remember this is a person I love and be gentle with their feelings. Hosea stands by his wife, even when she fails him. Hosea stands by his wife, even when she is publicly humiliated. Gomer brings shame into Hosea’s life, and he rewards her by renewing his love and treating her with honor so that she will know the mercy of God.

In the New Testament, or “new covenant,” a new contract came into being between God and humanity. Jesus himself served as the Lamb of God, a spotless sacrifice for human sin past, present, and future. No more sacrifices are needed. Men and women cannot save themselves through good works. By accepting Christ as Savior, people become exempt from punishment for sin. The holiness of Jesus is credited to every believer.

“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:11)

When we are made new beings, we need to know that we have been made holy by accepting Jesus. We often carry the guilt with us into our new life.   Once we have confessed our sins to God and repented, we can believe God has forgiven us. We have nothing to feel guilty about past behavior. It’s time to move on. Just because we still feel guilty does not mean we are meant to bear the burdens of the past. We have to take God at his word when he says we are forgiven. We are washed clean.

Shame is deeper than guilt. Shame is based on having done something so wrong that the soul aches at the core. Shame is more piercing than condemnation from an outside arbitrator. With shame we palpably feel our own depravity in vivid self-realization. We feel the indignity and the infamy of our own behavior so deeply that the behavior becomes a soul altering secret burden that we drag with us. Shame is more pervasive than embarrassment.

We need to know when God says he loves us; he wants us to release our shame. In Scripture, “See, I am placing on Mount Zion a Cornerstone, chosen, and held in honor, and he whose faith rests on Him (Jesus) shall never have reason to feel ashamed” (1Peter 2:6). As Hosea welcomed Gomer back into his home, what shame she must have felt. Could Gomer even look Hosea in the eye? Downcast and disgraced, what strength did it take for Gomer to turn to the Lord and return to her husband?

“Then I [the Lord] will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”…”Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (Hosea 5:15-6:2).

Forgiveness is forever! How great is that! The first step a new Christian must take is to release the shame and allow the Holy Spirit to make them new. We need to forgive our neighbors, as we forgive ourselves. Forgiveness absolves blame, even self blame. Forgiveness pardons real and imagined hurts. Forgiveness unburdens our lives to allow us to be better people and happy Christians. Forgiveness is the first step to loving deeply. Let love in your life, forgive!

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The women of Jerusalem

A woman’s Heart: all the women of the bible- the women of Jerusalem

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ Luke 23:27-31

Part one: For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” Bad times are coming. This message doesn’t seem supportive, but rather more of a warning. Hard times are coming ahead – so much so that mothers would wish they never had their children. Jesus is using doom-and-gloom to get his point across. The women stand for humanity.  Jesus’ execution condemns the world and they share in that.  Mothers give birth to those who grow up to be victims and perpetrators.  Luke shows us that the great majority of Jews who had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion were horrified, not happy, to see him die. They were certainly not among those who had earlier called for his crucifixion in Pilate’s courtyard. Luke makes this even clearer a few verses later, after Jesus’ death: “And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts” (Luke 23:48). A physical sign of extreme grief, we join the women of Jerusalem in weeping, not only for Jesus, a man suffering, but also for ourselves. In the death of Jesus we see what we deserve, and we rightly feel appalled at how far we fall short.    

Part two: When the wood is dry, refers to religion that has no comfort or peace and to the time when Jesus is not walking the earth preaching and teaching. When the wood is green, refers to religion that is alive with mercy, grace, and peace and the time when Jesus is present on the earth able to clarify and refine his teachings. Jesus has compassion towards the women of Jerusalem – even though he’s near death. But based on scripture (and only in Luke’s account), Jesus is trying to teach us more than comfort us. He sees an opportunity, and is moved by the women of Jerusalem’s tears so much that he gathers his wits and continues to preach. He’s been whipped, beaten and forced to carry a heavy wooden cross to his ultimate, painful death. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he presses on, teaching along the way. He’s openly shows compassion to the women of Jerusalem.

Part three: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). Do not grieve Jesus’ leaving because by leaving Jesus brought the world new life. The mystery of grace astounds us. We realize that Jesus is bearing our sin so that we might be forgiven, that he is dying in our place so that we might live in his place. We deserve to die and be buried, but Jesus gives us life. So don’t weep for Him. Thank Him. For it is through the loss of His life that we gain ours. That, no matter what, our belief in Him will always, always, always bring us to Everlasting Life.

My 30 year old son was killed on 12-9-12. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief from his friends, my family, and my community. Shattered as I was by the loss of my precious son, I was amazed as people came for four hours one after another to tell me of kindness they had received at the hands of my son. Alex was a born again Christian at the age of ten and he embraced the Christian teachings as a guidepost in his life. Humbly Alex had done his best to be a good and faithful servant of the Lord, and he had not shared all the amazing stories with me. I still feel honored to have raised him. He was a good man. He left behind a wife of nine months and no children.

Two days ago, a friend of my son died from leukemia. He was a year older than my son, engaged to be married in two months, and a single father of two girls’ ages 8 years and 10 years old. I feel so sad that this friend of my son has died. He worked so hard to rebuild his life after the death of his wife in childbirth eight years ago. He is survived by his parents.

As I prepare to attend the funeral this weekend, my mind is pulled back to the funeral of my son. The outpouring of love and grief that washed around me; I floated in disbelief that my son was gone. It was a year before the numbness wore off enough so I could cry. Now eighteen months after the death, I flit between anger, profound sadness, and tears. Then, I remember to breathe and get up and go to work. The work of living fills my days, but in my nights I count the minutes until I can embrace my son again.

I wonder why God lets children die. When I get to heaven, I want an explanation why children die. I know there are no words that can express the depth of the loss of a child. When I look in my son’s friend’s mother’s eyes, I know I will recognize the pain and my heart goes out to her. I know my son met his friend at Heaven’s gate, and one day we will all have a great reunion. Still, I want an explanation why God lets children die. 

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Mother – Eve

Mother – Eve

Genesis 2:18-4:26; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:13.

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

 Genesis 2:21-24

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

 

Eve was the first woman on earth, the first wife, and the first mother. She was companion, helper, and co-manager of God’s creation. She is known as the “Mother of All the Living.”   Eve is the mother of humankind. Eve was Adam’s companion, his helper, the one who would complete him and share equally in his responsibility over creation. With Eve, God brought human relationship, friendship and marriage into the world.

Eve was the only woman without a mother. She had no role model. She was made by God as a reflection of his image to be a helper to Adam, but she was different from Adam.  Eve was formed not from God’s breath as Adam was formed. ‘So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh” (Gen2:21). Eve had the bone of man within her. She was flawed. Eve was tempted by Satan when he convinced her to doubt God’s goodness. She forgot all of the good things God had blessed her with in the garden, because she had the bone of man as her foundation.  She was created imperfect so that she would crave love. Women need relationship with others.

Eve became discontented, feeling sorry for herself, because she could not share in God’s knowledge of good and evil. Eve allowed Satan to subvert her trust in God. Although she shared a close relationship with God and her husband, Eve failed to consult either one of them when confronted with Satan’s suggestions. She acted impulsively, independent of God’s authority. She trusted others.  Once entangled in sin, she invited her husband to join her. Like Adam, when confronted with her sin, Eve blamed someone else (Satan), instead of taking personal responsibility for what she had done. Eve and Adam are given a perfect world, but they are also given the power of choosing, making decisions.  Because she has no experience with deceit, Eve believes the Satan and makes her choice, deciding to seek knowledge of good and evil rather than be obedient. As humans, we continually test boundaries and try new ideas. In the Genesis story, woman as ‘life-giver’ is the one who initiates this process.

Eve also teaches us that God wants us to freely choose to follow and obey him out of love. Nothing we do is hidden from God. Likewise, it does not benefit us to blame others for our own failings. We must accept personal responsibility for what we do. Eve began her life in the Garden of Eden but was later expelled. At first, Eve was called Ishah, ‘woman’. Later she became Eve, ‘life-bearer’.  Adam comes from the Hebrew Adham, meaning ‘dust of the earth’.  In ancient times, giving something a name showed your power over it. Adam showed his power by naming her ‘Eve’, but only after they disobeyed God and fell into sin.  Eve is the primordial first mother, but also a person in her own right. Her children were Cain, Abel, Seth and many more children.

So God created Eve, and completed the creation of the universe. Eve is formed from the rib of Adam. They are of the same flesh and the same bone. From the moment of creation neither man nor woman can be complete without the other. Working together, they form the basic unit of society, the family.

I am reflecting on Eve as I bear up under the challenges of my job and return home to my childless, empty nest. This year I am learning how to be a family again. A family of two: husband and wife. The first thing I did was every Saturday to bake a cake for my husband. Cakes have to be portioned and shared. The next thing I did was try a new recipe. Something the children would have never eaten: like Romanesque sauce over linguini or Chicken Masala are my first efforts. Now we are having a monthly date night: either a Broadway show, dinner and a movie, or a shopping day. We go to bible study and church together. This week we re-started “tell me a story from your day” from when we were dating. As soon as Norman comes home we sit on the bed, he tells me a story, and I tell him a story. The whole affair takes 10 minutes, we each tell a 5 minute story. I find I look forward to story time as the best part of my day. Okay, maybe the kiss good morning is the best part of the day, but that coffee by the bed is a quick second.

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Daughter in law – Ruth

Daughter in Law – RUTH

Old testament: Book of Ruth

Summary:   A famine in Bethlehem-Judah causes Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and his two sons travel to Moab. Elimelech dies. Leaving Naomi with her two sons. Mahlon marries Ruth and Chilion marries Oprah, both Moabite women. Ten years pass when both Mahlon and Chilion die. Naomi wants to return to her homeland and begs her daughter-in-laws to return to their people. However, Ruth leaves her own land of Moab to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. Destitute, Ruth gleans the fields for leftover grains to feed her mother-in-law and herself. She draws the attention of Boaz, a distant cousin of Elimelech, who asks her to glean in his fields only so that he may protect her and have his harvesters leave some stalks for Ruth to collect. Naomi recognizes the favor Boaz has shown Ruth and instructs Ruth to evoke an old custom of lying at Boaz’s feet to show favor and obedience. Boaz is so touched he marries Ruth and she bares Obed the grandfather of the house of David and ancestor of Jesus.

Ruth’s story encompasses the changing seasons in the life of a woman obedient to God. Ruth journeys from joy to sadness to joy. Her life arc moves from maiden to barren widow to honored wife, mother, and ancestor of Jesus. The wise choices she makes to serve God even when the path is rugged carries her through her troubles. Ruth moves from sorrow to joy, from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to honor, and from isolation to the mother of nations.

The Moabites were descended from Moab, a son of Lot (Genesis 19:30–38). The Moabite language differed only dialectally from Hebrew, and Moabite religion and culture resembled the Israelites. Nevertheless, Moabites were excluded from the Jewish community (Deuteronomy 23:3–6), where the name Moab became a typical designation for the enemies of God (Isaiah 25:10). Moab had become a tributary of Assyria by the late 8th century bc and was conquered by the Babylonians in 582 bc, upon which the Moabites disappeared from history. Had Ruth returned to her people, she would have disappeared from history.

And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth’s story shows a woman who travels not only to a distant land, but makes wise choices to serve God. God is a God of purpose. Although we do not know the purpose of our suffering, God can turn suffering into growth. The path to change is often hard. Our emotions can divert our path as blurt out negative statements and worry ourselves in to frantic nervous wasteful behaviors. In the book of Ruth we see three women. Oprah returns to her people destitute. Naomi and Ruth are cared for under the embrace of God and restored to joy filled and fruitful lives.

We, women, need to remember that life has many seasons. Bitterness is to be avoided. Bitterness is sneaky. Negative statements, critical appraisals, and disappointments can easily slide into rancor and hatred. Minor offenses that are hung onto can fester into huge wounds. Pain can become a powerful force shaping our attitudes and our behaviors. Naomi and her husband went to Moab to provide for themselves, instead of waiting for the Lord to provide for them. They gave up their lands in Bethlehem. Naomi felt bitter after her husband and two sons had died, now destitute with no lands. “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (Ruth 1:13). We need to be faithful so that trouble can turn into triumph.   We need to ask for healing no matter what we face. We need to let God! The removal of the men in Naomi’s life took her back to the place where God could be her King and where God could use her for His glory. Naomi became nurse to Obed, Ruth and Boaz’s son.

We find in the book of Ruth an excellent example of faith, piety, patience, humility, industry, and loving-kindness, in the common events of life. God’s providence takes of our smallest concerns, encouraging us to fully trust. We may view this book as beautiful, because of the natural representation of human life and as a part of the plan of redemption. This book opens with a famine, and closes with a great feast. This book begins with a funeral, and ends with a wedding.   Just as winter is followed by the renewal of spring, so is sorrow followed by joy. Just as the earth is restored in spring, so will our spirit be transformed through prayer.

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The Lovers in Song of Songs

The Lovers in Song of Songs (Solomon)

The Song of Songs means “The best song”, and the book is a dramatic poem of two lovers who yearn for each other and celebrate sensual love between a man and a woman. The Lover is the husband whom many believe to be Solomon himself and his beloved is his wife. The covenant of marriage is more than a contract of fidelity; it is a God’s permission to take pleasure in marriage.

Although scholars interpret the Song of Songs as an allegory of God’s love for his people (or Christ’s love for His Church), this simply story is given to us to see the beauty of marital love. From the NIV Solomon 1:12-16:

She

12 While the king was at his table,     my perfume spread its fragrance. 13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh     resting between my breasts. 14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms     from the vineyards of En Gedi.

He

15 How beautiful you are, my darling!     Oh, how beautiful!     Your eyes are doves.

She

16 How handsome you are, my beloved!     Oh, how charming!     And our bed is verdant.

Verdant means green or lack experience or sophistication. The Song of Songs is an expression of marital love that begins with desiring love, pursuing love, expressing love, tasting love, and ultimately, learning to drink deeply the passions of love. The song encourages a husband and wife to hold back nothing so that tenderness can evolve into passion. . “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth…For your love is better than wine” (Solomon 1:1-2). As the drama unfolds, we see that the desire is not just a man for a woman, but also a woman for a man. God wants our love to be shared. Our differences as men and women are given to us to be a complement and strength. Our differences are not weakness; God gave us differences so that we can build on each other’s frailties to become all the blessings that God has in store for us. The Song of Songs teaches married people the lesson of intimacy which is to celebrate the beauty of the love relationship with their mate. Loving each other begins with loving God together. When my husband and I were dating, we began each meal with grace. The most intense love I feel for my husband are those moments he leads the prayer, I feel my heart swell as I hear him pour out his heart to the Lord. As a nurse, it has been my honor to meet many couples who have been married 50, 60, and 75 years. Every one of these long enduring love stories has begun with sharing the love of the Lord.

Little known fact about me is that I am three times divorced before God gave me my husband Norman. As a damaged woman, I had given up on ever feeling love. God had a different path for me to follow. I was attending church for seven years and my son stood up in church after a prayer service and said “Church, my mother needs a man. I’m going to college next year and I do not want my mother to be alone”. After church a man came over to me and said “Come to my house next Saturday, I have a man for you”. The only reason I went was to not disappoint my son, as his smile was so large and his mood so joyful. After a bible study, through which I chatted aimlessly and nervously, I stood to leave. The man said “Write you phone number down” and he handed the scrap of paper to Norman. Norman simply said “Yep, I’ll call you”. Nine months later, Norman took my parents, his mother, and myself to the Nutcracker Ballet. As we entered a Texas style steak house, Norman stopped my father at the door and asked for my hand. Then as the steak was finished, Norman got down on one knee and said “Ann, you are my missing rib. I want to marriage you”. God gave me a chance to know love. I am forever grateful.

“Like a lily among the thorns, so are you, my love among daughters (Solomon 2: 2). Forget the Valentine roses I hope my husband gives me a single lily.

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Mother – Jochebed

Mother –  Jochebed

Exod 2:1-4; 2:8-10; 6:20; Num 26:59

SUMMARY: Amram, a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.  When she saw that her second son was a fine child, she hid him for three months because the pharaoh ordered all infants be slaughtered.  When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket (an ark) for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.  His sister, Miriam, stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter found the ark, asked Miriam to call a nurse, and said to Jochebed, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the Jochebed took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.”

Mothers recognize when their children are meant for a good and Godly purpose. It takes a certain amount of selflessness to be a mother. Mary, mother of Jesus, and Jochebed, mother of Moses, both recognized the wonderful qualities and value of their sons. Both women faced the obstacle that the boys of their generation were being slaughtered (King Herod for Jesus, and Pharaoh for Moses). While the world was trying to destroy their child, these women did not give up. They trusted God’s mercy and even though their plans were filled with danger, they courageously pushed forward. Their faith, ultimately, changed the world.

Most mothers face obstacles raising their children. Whether you are a single parent or a working mother, you are daily facing challenges. Balancing your time, energy, and efforts can become formidable trials, and often we sacrifice our own self care and interests to meet the needs of our children. Seeking perfection in parenting is the first obstacle. You need to realize that humans are flawed and mistakes teach us lessons. When God gave us free will, he also committed to love us even when we fail. Remember resilience is the outcome of failure and makes us stronger. When we try, try again; we get better and better. All you need to be an effective parent is love. A loving viewpoint of each trial, spurs us onto try harder and preserve.  Failure should not make you ashamed. Failure should stimulate you to try again. The Lord loves people that do not give up. However, as parents we have certain tools at our disposal.

The parenting tool box contains certain resources you can learn to draw from to face everyday challenges. You have significant tools at your disposal: communication, modeling, discipline, family traditions, creative problem solving, and faith. When your child looses his or her way, makes a mistake, or chooses the wrong path; take a deep breath and be calm.

Communication is the first tool at you disposal. Listen to your self as you speak to your child. Do your words lift his/her spirit or do they punish? When my daughter spilled her first glass of milk across the table, I will never forget the look of fear that sprang into her eyes. I quickly thought the way I react here will teach her to trust me or fear me. I smiled and said “Whoops, go get a towel from the kitchen and we will clean it up.” Then, I poured her a new glass, not quite as full so that she could handle the glass better. Who made the error? My daughter for spilling the glass of milk; or me for overfilling the glass of milk? Years later when my daughter was drinking alcohol to excess and I feared she would become or was an alcoholic; I sat down with her. I said “I love you. I want you to enjoy your life. I am afraid the amount of alcohol you are drinking is too much. I think that you may be using alcohol to help you deal with problems in your life. I am praying for you to find your way. I want to know is this the life you imagine for yourself?” Then, I listened until she stopped talking. “Would you consider getting outside help to lend us, you and I, a hand in sorting this out?” The first five times, I was not heard. However, one morning when the hangover was bearing down and the vomit was still on the bathroom floor; I tried again. My daughter accepted counseling, learned alternate coping mechanisms, graduated college, and became a black belt in Dos Pares. She now teaches young women self defense. She is a remarkable woman. Today, she tells me the one thing that got through the fog of alcoholism, was that her mother loved her right or wrong.   Today at the age of 33 years old, she tells me sometimes she hears my voice in her head guiding her path. Communication is not giving orders and solving problems for your child. As a mother you can not remove every obstacle. Communication consists of awareness, persistence, listening, loving message, allowing choice, and faith in the person.

Modeling the behaviors you want to instill into your child is essential. Praying as a family, attending church, pulling over to the side of the road to let a tailgater pass, acting kindly when the checkout clerk incorrectly charges your purchase, and shoveling the elderly neighbor’s driveway are samples of modeling. Our children watch us constantly. Every day I begin with a cup of coffee (served by my husband) and a prayer, “Dear God, help me be the person that will make my children proud.”

Discipline has evolved over my parenting. I changed from spanking, to time outs, to grounding, to requiring written essays, to prayer and perseverance. My favorite disciplinary method was write down what you did and what I should do about it. I have a two inch binder of these wrongs of my two children. Believe me, the punishments were more creative than I could ever devise. This also provided me with the opportunity to be merciful. When my daughter and her friend skipped school and were caught at the mall, they wrote that they would clean the whole house and miss a party at school. I said “If you clean the kitchen, you can go to the party”. They were so happy they could still go to the party they laughed and had a great time cleaning the kitchen. They never skipped school again. An important component of discipline is to hold your child’s friends to the same standards as your child.   Another time, when my daughter’s friend punched her in the nose for something she said about a boyfriend, I grounded her out of our home for 2 weeks or until she apologized. My daughter’s friend was angry and she didn’t apologize for 6 days. Discipline is a standard of behavior that is expected, and helping children to learn to self rule their behavior fosters success.

Family traditions add to the rich benefit of being part of a family. Traditions link us to the past, and create a family identity. As a nurse, I often had to work on holidays or birthdays, so I often moved the days to my convenience. As my children aged they opposed the moving of holidays, wanting to share the day with the rest of the world. Our traditions changed as we lost grandparents, but the idea of keeping a ritual connected to the celebration was continued. When my children chose retail as their careers, work often interfered with their availability but elements of the tradition remain. This year I drove out to visit my daughter in October, so in a three day marathon we celebrated Christmas, then Halloween, and then my birthday. We moved Christmas and amazingly my daughter’s neighbors were thrilled to celebrate early with us complete with a tree, gifts, dinner, and Christmas Caroling.

Creative problem solving needs to come from your child. When my daughter couldn’t tie her shoes, I bought her slip-on shoes. She would not wear them. So I took the laces out of her shoes, replacing them with rubber bands. She demanded the laces back. I wanted to prevent the frustration she was experiencing. Then, after 2 weeks she jumped on my bed and said “Look at my feet!” There were perfectly tied shoes on her feet and a big smile on her face. As I hugged her and told her how proud I was of her success, I realized I almost missed the blessing. Hardships and challenge lead to blessings. Don’t miss the blessing.

Faith can be challenged by hard-hitting obstacles. Resilient children are able to overcome challenges and live with confidence in their abilities to bounce back from trauma and tragedy. Belief that God is at the helm as their boat splashes through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and rebellion; helps them to steer toward acceptance, support, comfort, and relief.   Prayer ameliorates the stress of facing fears. Knowing a good and loving God helped Jochebed place her child in the ark, her faith allowed her to care for Moses for seven years. She shared her traditions and communicated her love to her child. Her faith gave Moses an education worthy of a Pharaoh, when she turned him over to the pharaoh’s sister.   Moses resilience gave him the ability to lead the Hebrews to the Promised Land. Jochebed put God first and trusted that God would lead her son. Her selflessness created a resilient child with the strength of character to overcome life’s hard-hitting obstacles.

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Mother in Law-Peter’s mother

Mother in Law      Peter’s wife’s mother

Matt 8:14; Mark1:30,31; Luke 4:38,39

Summary: In the New Testament, Jesus healed three women. Peter’s wife’s mother was in bed sick with fever. Jesus touched her hand, healed her, and she got up and waited on him.

Peter was the first disciple called to Jesus’ side (Mark 1:16-20) and the first who confessed that Jesus was the Messiah (Mark 8:29). Peter saw the miracles of Jesus, even the touch of Jesus that healed his mother-in-law. Peter should be a true believer as a witness to numerous miracles and benefactor of many sermons. Peter’s denials of Jesus are more noteworthy because of the proximity of Peter to Jesus. After the denials, Peter’s weeping as sign of repentance, contrition, or prayer are not specifically defined. We can assume that Peter knew he failed his friend.

When Jesus meets with Peter after the resurrection, we realize Peter may have known he failed his God. Peter needed to understand it is not through his own efforts that he would become a Christian; free will allows us to choose to believe in Jesus. However, without the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can not walk the faith path.

Peter’s mother-in-law after she was healed got up and served Jesus; she had received the touch of God. Peter’s denials remind us how incredibly weak we all are without the Holy Spirit. Basking in the glow of Jesus’ power and protection, Peter has deluded himself into thinking that he had courage. Peter believed that his strength came from within himself and his own love of Jesus. What happened to Peter happens to us all the time. We silently swear our little proud oaths to never do this or that. We comfort ourselves with resolutions that we will never fall in such-and-such a way only to have the memories of our presumptions biting at us in our moments of shame.

Peter’s torments came immediately with the tears that revealed his humiliation was total and thorough. His failure is now prominently displayed in all four Gospels, and it took a resurrected Jesus to restore his confidence. Peter’s understanding of his fragility made him the rock upon which Jesus could build his church. Only through Jesus are we filled with strength to endure and sustain our mission to achieve good.

Peter’s lesson is our lesson. Humility should be our constant companion and we should listen closely to our Lord. Outside of faith in Jesus we will all fail too. Like Peter we will topple over from the slightest breeze. When Jesus was arrested the hand of God’s grace was removed and Peter’s faith was too frail to stand. The protections afforded him fled, and he was left to fend off the devil’s forces with whatever faith he possessed. To his humiliation, Peter saw the shallowness of his faith. He saw that the true strength needed to stand was not in him alone. Peter saw that true strength lies in the humility that comes from a mature faith in Jesus Christ, and not in empty boasting behind closed doors. As we make out New Years Resolutions, we should offer our prayers to the Lord Jesus and ask to be made a Good Servant of God rather than a Master of our own fate. Happy New Year!

 

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