Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Week Five - When Opportunity Knocks

Beside the Well

               When opportunity knocks, we are told to seize it!  That is certainly what Rebecca did.  There seemed no hesitation in her actions once she knew there were a prospective husband and a chance for adventure.
               It makes me wonder what caused her to be so ready to leave home.  When you read the rest of her story, you can start to put a few things together.  Her brother is Laban: the same Laban who later tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, and the same one who changed Jacob’s wages three times.  So maybe Rebecca wanted to escape her wily brother?
               My surmising may be correct or not, but whatever her reason, Rebecca jumped at the opportunity to leave home and was graciously received by Isaac as comfort after the loss of his mother, Sarah.
               The next time Rebecca grabbed hold of an opportunity did not come out so well.  When she realized Isaac was about to bestow the family blessing on Esau, she moved quickly to secure that blessing for her favorite son, Jacob.  She directed her son to deceive his father and even participated further by stewing the pottage that would taste exactly as Isaac remembered.  Sadly, this decision meant she never saw her son, Jacob, again.  He had to flee for his life.  And, where did he go?  To Laban—the same place she had so readily left years ago.
               Rebecca made two major life choices.  The first choice sees her casting herself upon the direction of God.  Even her father, Bethuel, and her brother, Laban, agreed that the offer of marriage came from the Lord.  There was no deceit, just an arranged marriage as was common in their culture.
               But her second choice was entirely different.  Here we see her taking things into her own hands.  God has already promised her that the older would serve the younger (Genesis25:23), but for some reason, she panics and starts scheming.
               I wonder how God would have worked that out had she not prematurely intervened.  And, I also know that God knew what she would do.  Isn’t that odd?  He knew what would happen and knew she would move to make it happen.  So, does that make her actions right?  Was she justified in helping Jacob steal the blessing from Esau?  I guess that is something we will have to ask in heaven.
               For us, though, there are plenty of Bible admonitions about waiting upon the Lord, yielding to His timing, and warnings about taking things into our own hands.  So, when opportunity knocks, we are best to look carefully to determine if it is of the Lord, or of our own making.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Week Four - Spurned

Beside the Well

Two women in the same house usually breed trouble, especially when lines get crossed and one feels they have the upper hand.  In Hagar’s case, once she realized she was carrying the baby Sarai and Abram could not conceive, pride took root in her heart and she began scorning Sarai’s barrenness. 
               There you have it—pride. Though there must have been a measure of friendship between the two before the conception of Ishmael, pride broke the relationship between Hagar and Sarai.  And, it was also pride that brought Sarai to deal harshly with her trusted Egyptian maid.
               Finally, Hagar could take it no more, so she ran away.
               Hard as this was, I think the instruction from the angel was even more difficult.  “Go back and submit yourself to Sarai.”  Oh, the humiliation!  The fear of Sarai’s response.  The vulnerability of placing yourself back under the pressure and stress of living where you are not wanted. Hagar went back, humbled herself, and gave birth, but that is not the end of her story. 
               Her new baby son, Ishmael, was not to be the true heir.  Though the Lord’s promise had encouraged her earlier, it was inevitable that once Isaac was born, she would face rejection again.  And it came.  When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking (probably laughing at two elderly people with a new baby), she cast out both the mother and her teenage son.
               As Hagar sat by the bush in the wilderness, she knew the deep cutting feeling of being spurned by Sarah.  She had been booted out, thrust away and rejected, and not only her, but her beloved son as well.
               I can only imagine her feelings of utter helplessness.  She was still only a slave, not a wife.  Her son was not going to be the heir, though he was the first-born.  She had no power or position and could do nothing more than weep in abandonment.
               Spurned is a word we rarely use any more, but it is something we still experience.  To spurn means to snub or reject.  It has the idea of thrusting something away with the foot—to boot out.  And that is what happened to Hagar—she was booted out!
            Helpless situations are soul-destroying.  When you lose a job or experience divorce, it knocks your confidence and hope.  It’s like seeing your life wiped from the board.  You must write the whole thing over again—rebuild.             
               My heart goes out to Hagar. Her story is not one of happiness, but her story doesn’t end there. God was with Hagar; the first time with promise and instruction, and the second time with comfort and provision.
               I find that even in the darkest times of life there is hope and promise.  When I feel scorned, I need not look back, but look up and look forward.  I choose to see it as a closed door.  As I sit by the bush in abandonment, I am reminded God does have a plan.  I will see things differently after the tears.
               Hagar adjusted her eyes and moved on.  So can we.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Week Three - A Spa Day

Beside the Well

               Do you enjoy a trip to the spa?  That massage feels so good on weary muscles, doesn’t it?  And, having a facial and your nails done lifts your spirits.  I've enjoyed many trips to spas in the Philippines, China, England, and the USA.  Each one holds a special flavor and leaves me feeling refreshed.
               As I read the story of Sarai and Abraham wandering around in the deserts of the Middle East, I was impressed with the fact that twice the Lord parked Sarai in the best spas of the day, first in the court of Pharaoh, and then, in the harem of Abimelech. 
               According to history, the Egyptians used water vapors and mud wraps from the Dead Sea.  Cleopatra indulged in a variety of beauty treatments including hot and cold baths, massages, and a variety of oil treatments. You can believe Sarai enjoyed many of the same while she was away from her nomadic life.
               When I think about her situation, I see the gracious, loving hand of the Lord helping her cope.  After leaving the comforts of Ur, which was a huge and well-accomplished city, to live as a nomad, I’m sure she needed some tender loving care once in a while.
               I’ve seen the Lord do the same for me.  It’s like He puts his arms around me and says, “I know it’s hard right now, but I want you to know I haven’t forgotten where you are.  Let me lavish you with a bit of special treatment.”  He takes me to luxurious places to stay, gives opportunities I could have never dreamed, and allows me to visit places of outstanding beauty.
               My desert journey is nothing like Sarai’s, but my Lord is equally as gracious to a travel-weary daughter.  These times of oasis are refreshing and invigorating.  Like love tokens from the Lord, they help me to carry on.
               Dear one, you can be sure the Lord knows exactly where you are and what you are experiencing today.  He will not leave you to struggle alone and waste away in the desert.  Keep moving forward, that spa might be just around the corner!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Week Two - Three Nameless Wives

Beside the Well

               It is an odd feeling when you notice that without someone else beside you, no one knows who you are.  I come across this all the time.  I can go to a shop and come in and come out with others recognizing I was ever there, but let my husband go with me and all of a sudden people start talking and taking notice.
               Sometimes I like my anonymity; I’m happy not be noticed; it makes me free to get in and out of places and not waste time chatting.  But other times it hurts my heart to think I am only known as Tom’s wife. 
               The Bible mentions three men of significance, Noah, Lot, and Job.  Each was married, but though their wives played a part in the Bible story, for some reason, the Lord decided to leave them anonymous.
               Even with their anonymity, these women left an example and imprint on history.  Noah’s wife was able to keep her reaction and thoughts about the epic boat journey to herself.  Lot’s wife was salted with love of the world, and Job’s wife opened her mouth in disgust for every generation that followed to read.
               The example of these women teaches me that even if I think no one notices me, my reactions and choices affect those around me.  For example, the cashier might not recognize me without my husband, but if I respond to her with kindness and gratitude, she will remember.  If I am harsh or curt, she will not forget, and the next time I am in with my husband, she will put two and two together.  Her thoughts might be, “How can such a nice man have such a hateful wife?”  That’s not how I want to be thought of, do you?
               I think it’s a matter of pride that makes me grimace when I feel slighted.  And, I’d have to admit it is also stubbornness.  I can be too stubborn to make an effort to speak to people if I’m in a hurry or too thoughtless to think that a smile or a kind word could make a dreary day brighter for someone else.  I need to be more considerate.  Not so I am noticed, but that I notice others. 
               If I am going to remain anonymously as Tom’s wife, then I want to be remembered as a wife who spread light and love as she went along.  And when they see us together, they will think, “What a lovely couple.  What was her name?”

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Week One - The Adventure

     Our Christmas was spent in Valencia, Spain with our youngest son and his family who have moved there as missionaries.  What fun seeing their new culture and spending time with his girls.  Grandparenting is always an adventure.  The New Year found us in Atlanta with our oldest son and his fiance.  More grandparenting is on the agenda here as well!  In a couple of weeks we will head to Virginia to visit our oldest daughter and her little girl, Lucy.  Oh, and our son-in-law, too!  Then we will head toward the middle of America to see the remainder of the family.  Gotta love missionary life!
     Truly, it is a blessing to be allowed to serve the Lord and to watch Him at work.  As I look at these next six months I am reminded that my times are in His very capable hands.  I might not know what all is going to happen, but He does.  I can rest in that. 
    Resting in the Lord is so vital for a healthy and happy spiritual life.  The opposite is anxiety and fear.  I don't like to live there.  It is much more exciting to live with hopeful expectation and faith making every day an adventure with the Lord.  It is going to be fun to share with you all of the things God has planned for us as we discover them!
    Can I ask you to keep a few things in prayer?  Safe travels....good doors for ministry and reporting to churches...meeting of financial needs as we travel...and for us to be used of God to encourage others.
    I'm excited about 2019.  Trust you are as well.  Let's be asking the Lord to carry us all through safely as we recognize His hand in all things.
   For some fun....listen to the reading of my two children's books on Storytime with Mr. Whiskers on YouTube!  Messy Hair Game and Grandpa's Gift are the story names.  And make sure to get yourself a copy - or a copy for a little girl or two!
   See you next week - Gail