Inspiring Words from Lynn Cowell

“Sometimes, even when we do the scary thing, the brave thing, it still doesn’t work out.” That excerpt from Lynn Cowell’s Proverbs 31 ministries devotion today stood out to me and hit home. She was talking about courage and bravery and learning not to quit.

In moments in my life lately, I have really been tempted to quit and give up. I have gone through significant disappointments and hard times and people hurting me and letting me down. Lynn goes on to say in her devotion, “difficult times in our lives can be the exact opportunities we need to learn not to quit. Here, we learn to be brave and to do the hard things again and again and again. In the tough places, we can learn that our God is faithful to help us; He will never leave or forsake us.” I agree, and that was a much needed word of encouragement today.

Devotional Thoughts Based on Hagar

Do you ever feel overlooked?  Do you ever feel unseen, perhaps by your boss or with a promotion, in dating, or even by your spouse?  The human heart longs for connection, understanding, and to be known.  We want to be loved and valued for who we are, not necessarily for what we do.  It can hurt emotionally to have those closest to us misunderstand us or say unkind things about us or our character.

Biblically speaking, there is a woman whose story is often overlooked in the Bible.  Many people know the stories of David against Goliath, Noah and the ark, or Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Sometimes women of the Bible and their stories can be overlooked by the church and Christianity, and that is where I want to give a special shout-out to author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.  When I worked at a Christian bookstore, her books were often on our Top 20 wall.  I have always wanted to read something by her, but I actually never have until recently.  Higgs seems to have a heart for women and stories of women in the Bible in particular and what we can learn from them.  She has authored books like Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, and Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible.  I found Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible at my local library recently, and I have been blessed by her wise insights and Biblical depth as I have been reading it.  She inspired me to write a short devotional about Hagar on my blog.

Hagar is a woman of the Bible who I speculate is likely not mentioned by many Bible pastors, priests, or teachers.  I think this is unfortunate, because Hagar is someone that many women can identify with.  She did not have the perfect life.  Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai (later named Sarah), and she was given by Sarai to Sarai’s husband Abram (later named Abraham), to become another wife to him and have a child by him because Sarai was barren.  Abram went along with this plan, and he slept with Hagar and she became pregnant.  Hagar was in what most people would consider an extremely uncomfortable situation, to put it mildly (Genesis 16: 1-4).

I will sidestep the hot coal about why Old Testament times allowed men to have more than one wife, because that is something that I honestly do not totally understand.  I think that most people today will agree that having more than one wife in a home, or more than one husband, seems to be a total recipe for major problems, jealousy, and disaster.  Sarai began to mistreat Hagar, and Abram looked the other way, even though Hagar was bearing his child and it was not right that she was mistreated, perhaps even abused.  Hagar ran away, and it was there that the angel of the Lord found her and spoke to her (Genesis 16:4-8).  The angel of the Lord spoke to her and said, “You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.”  My Bible footnote says that Ishmael means “God hears.”  Then Hagar actually gave God a name and said: “You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:11- 13).  Liz Curtis Higgs elaborates on this well with modern day applications for us when she says, “It’s reassuring to know our suffering never escapes his notice.  God sees and God hears.  Hears our muffled sobs late at night. Hears our whispered pleas in doctors’ waiting rooms…What comfort, knowing we are loved by a God who listens”(Higgs, 2007, p. 51).  

May we know that God cares for us and hears us, just like he did for Hagar long ago.  He cares what you are going through and about the hurt in your heart.

 

References:

Higgs, L.C. (2007). Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible. Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press.

Holy Bible, New International Version, (1973). International Bible Society: Zondervan.

Cubs win the World Series! A Dreamer’s Inspiration!!!

My Cubs Bear Excited about the Cubs Winning the World Series (photo credit Julie A. Smith)

With the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series last night 8-7 over the Cleveland Indians, it truly is a testimony to dreamers! It reminds me to never give up on the dreams that God has put in your heart. Some may take years to come to pass, but take heart that it likely won’t be the 108 years that is took since the Cubs last won the World Series. Hard times come to every household, but in life it is important to never lose hope or faith.

I grew up in Illinois and have lived here all my life, and my Grandpa used to be a huge Cubs fan. I always root for Illinois teams, and like many people I have come to expect the Cubs to lose. They are loveable underdogs. But it is new season of excitement and fresh life and new beginnings, and with the Cubs winning the World Series, it has taught me to not give up on your dreams no matter how long they take to come to pass.

Sometimes I just want to pull a Jonah and run away

Sometimes I just want to pull a Jonah and run away. You know that Biblical story, right? The Lord wants Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against that city, because it’s wickedness had come up before God. Jonah runs away from the Lord and the Lord’s will and heads for Tarshish instead (Jonah 1:1-3). But you can’t outrun God. Eventually, a violent storm happens and Jonah is thrown overboard by terrified sailors and ends up inside a great fish (Jonah 1:4-16). 

Fast forward and Jonah eventually obeys the Lord and goes to Nineveh and speaks the Lord’s message, but he is dismayed and angry when the people repent for their wickedness and God shows them compassion and love. One thing that amazes me is that not only did the Ninevites believe God, but they declared a fast and ALL the people put on sackcloth in repentance and even the king called urgently on the Lord and said for the people to give up their evil ways and their violence (Jonah 3). I wonder about that happening today. It is hard to imagine a whole city unified, let alone 100% of a city’s people fasting and repenting.  Our modern day mantra seems to be “anything goes,” but I am not a fan of that mantra or relativism which compromises moral and religious integrity.

My life lately has been really hard with intense disappointments, work stress, a potential Goliath situation in my life, and frustrating car problems with my car that is barely two years old and has approximately 13,000 miles on it. I’d like to run away and escape to a new city or state or a new church. But I was led by God spiritually to move to my city when I was at a crossroads in my life, and I have no doubt God wanted me here. While it is not exactly a Jonah type “running away and being thrown overboard a ship into a whale” situation (thank goodness), I can relate to Jonah when he wants to run away from where he is supposed to be. Perhaps you can relate to the desire to run away?  Life’s storms are crazy, but I take heart in God’s love for me even when my faith is small like a mustard seed.  As the Scripture says (believe in Psalms), sorrow comes for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Book of the Bible- Jonah

A Joshua Man Needs a Rahab Girl (Devotional and personal thoughts)

A prayer that I prayed to God about eight years ago was my desire for a Joshua man.  Joshua of Biblical times was incredibly brave.  He was amazing.  He was full of faith in God and was not intimidated by circumstances.  And Joshua was one of only two spies sent into Canaan who thought the Israelites could do it, aka beat the Giants.  “Our God is bigger” could be his and Caleb’s battle cry.  And even Moses, who God used to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, did not even make it to the Promised Land.  Moses displeased God when he struck a rock twice with his staff when God had commanded him to just speak to the rock (Numbers 20: 9-12).  But Joshua had the privilege to lead the Israelite people into the Promised Land after Moses died.  He obeyed God.  Wow!  What a powerful picture of a Godly man!  Joshua has long been one of the Godly men I admire most in the Bible.

You know what God spoke to my spirit when I prayed for a Joshua man?  God said, “A Joshua man is hard to find.”  Yes, I agree with that.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are many great, Godly guys out there today.  But Joshua is a higher standard than that, and his faith seems like the gold standard to me. Joshua’s faith moves me and that is what I am looking for relationally and romantically.  Sometimes I am tempted to compromise or it seems Joshua men don’t exist today who are still single (or who like me and ask me out), but I know that is not true.  I still hope to find my Joshua man, or better yet, to have him find me.

Recently I began thinking, “What does a Joshua man want?” Immediately I thought of Esther in the Bible.  She was beautiful and pure and brave.  She caught the eye of the King when hundreds of other women were competing with her to become Queen.  Her famous and familiar line, “And if I perish, I perish” will always be engraved in my mind as the upmost example of courage and bravery. But recently when I was thinking of Esther, I felt inferior.  She was so beautiful.  I struggle to relate.  I believe beauty ultimately comes from within, like Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  However I must admit that recently when I found some white hairs amidst my brown hair, I was mortified and most assuredly less than thrilled.  In my thirties, not only have several white hairs appeared, but my metabolism has been a significant challenge to me and it has slowed down.  Weight in my younger years was easily manageable and I stayed thin, but now weight can stubbornly refuse to budge in my hope to attain my desired goal weight.  This can hurt my self-esteem and cause discouragement.  I joined a gym last October, and while it has been baby steps, I have finally managed to lose around 9 pounds.  It has been a hard fought battle, but victory is sweet.  Along with weight challenges, I was also recently diagnosed with rosacea, which is a red face condition that can start in your thirties and can even cause puss filled pimples.  Yep, it can make me feel less than attractive.  At times it has caused my nose to even have red spots on the end, making me feel like Rudolph.  None of these things (white hairs, weight gain, and rosacea) help with seeing myself as desirable, especially in a look-obsessed world.  I’m slowly working on making amends with the aging process, but I definitely don’t want to let my self-esteem be wrapped up in my looks or what the number on the scale says today.

The main thing that I think about with Esther is her bravery.  I admired her because I wanted to be her.  Sometimes I feel like a timid little mouse, and many people don’t know that I was extremely shy as a child.  I was an avid reader and pretty quiet.  Even in high school, when I had a class and I was graded on verbal participation points, I had to force myself to raise my hand and talk.  I think I raised my hand to speak just twice, actually.  But I could nail it on a test when I was writing.  So, at the end of our grading period, I got 0 for participation points.  I was so shy and unassertive, I didn’t want to argue about the few times that I spoke in what was quite a long stretch of time.  I long to be brave, and I have seen growth exponentially in my shyness, but God is still working on me with courage and bravery.

But you know who I was just thinking about today who I can relate to?  Rahab.  Yes, I know, Rahab was prostitute, Even now, it seems that is how  she is always labelled.  But I want to point out that Rahab showed remarkable and exemplary bravery after leading a life where she messed up infinitely more than she got it right.  Her story is told in Joshua 2:1-24.  She definitely was not a pure woman.  And a prostitute would not be at the top of most people’s list for who should be in the lineage of Jesus.  But you know what?  She was redeemed when she made a bold choice to hide and save the lives of two Israelite spies who were hiding from Amorite pursuers. This was outstanding because Rahab was herself an Amorite, and she risked her own safety by harboring the two spies and committing treason against her own people.  This would have been punishable by death if she was caught.  Paul even gives Rahab a commendation for her faith in Hebrews 11:31, and she is the only woman besides Sarah who is listed as an example of faith in Hebrews 11 ( https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Rahab).  In BibleGateway.com, a keyword search for Rahab comes up with some thought-provoking things in the topical index, such as “hospitality>>instances of>>Rahab to the spies”, “hospitality>>rewarded>>Rahab’s”, “kindness>>instances of>>Rahab to the spies”, and “mercy>>instances of>>Joshua to Rahab” (https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=Rahab&qs_version=NIV).

God chose Rahab to be an ancestor in the lineage of Jesus.  I can definitely relate to her.  Sometimes I mess up 80 times and get it right one time.  (Ok, I am being slightly melodramatic).  But God sees the one time I get it right.  And he sees my heart.  And he sees me as His daughter, and He views every time I get it right as a job well done.  Sometimes I beat myself up for my failures when God has already said, “You are forgiven” and “Jesus already paid the price.”  God wants me to move forward, but often I am too busy looking at my mistakes, lack of courage, or my faults.  Looking back keeps me from moving forward toward the Promised Land God has for me.  I’m guessing I am not the only one. What about your Promised Land?  What is keeping you from it?  Today as I was pondering what type of woman a Joshua man needs, I thought about how if I want a Joshua man, then I want to be the type of woman that he wants who is an ideal, beautiful counterpart for him.  I can relate to Rahab.  She made a lot of mistakes, but she got it right in the end with a beautiful story of courage and redemption and God’s love.  Please know that God loves you in spite of your faults, failures, and sin, and when you are tempted to throw stones at yourself due to your failures and times you mess up, know God wants you to put down the stones and He offers you His love, grace, and redemption in Jesus.

My Article was Published in “Empowered” (an online Magazine)!!!

Original Sunset Photography by Julie A. Smith
I submitted an article in September to the Christian online magazine, “Empowered.”  It was accepted!!!  My friend Melissa writes for them, and she recommended me.  It is a blessing, especially since I have wanted to be published in a Christian women’s magazine, but the ones that I have found don’t take unsolicited writing.  I have my blog, but it is incredibly exciting to get published on a wider scale.  I would love to have more opportunities for my writing to be published in the future.  As rain falls beautifully ending a drought, I earnestly hope that my writing both on my blog and my personal poetry will be reinvigorated and inspired again, ending a dry spell for me with both my motivation and inspiration that has been lacking.  It was extremely encouraging to have my article published, and I have received promising feedback from the small number of family and friends that I have told thus far.  It was so affirming to see my article referenced on the cover of “Empowered” with the caption “Finding your path.”  It was also empowering (yes, I am doing a play on words with the magazine title) for me as a writer to type up my credentials and biography and submit a professional picture (actually taken at a previous staff expo for my current job that has nothing to do with writing).  While there was a slight editing mistake in the article (i.e. I never actually bought a Siberian husky  when I was younger, because the dog sold at the pet shop before I could buy it), I am so thrilled with the article overall.  However. I have to fight my inner critic and own self doubts when reading my own work or thinking that I should have edited more before submission, even though I spent hours on the article.  I sincerely hope you have a moment to check out my article.  It is in the October/November/December issue of “Empowered” on the topic of careers that was published mid-end last month.  My article is on page 23-24 and is entitled, “Finding Your Path When your Career Path is Different than you Dreamed.”

Inspiring Thoughts on Confidence by Joyce Meyer

I read an inspiring daily devotional from Joyce Meyer today about confidence.  Here is an excerpt that particularly stood out to me and was helpful:

What is confidence? I believe confidence is all about being positive concerning what you can do and not worrying over what you can’t do. Confident people do not concentrate on their weaknesses; they develop and maximize their strengths.

Let’s say you are not a “numbers” kind of person. On a scale of 1 to 10, you might be a 3. You could obsess about your inability to “do the math.” You could buy Math for Dummies and take a class at the community college. But your math obsession could eat up time that could be devoted to stuff you’re an 8 or a 10 at—like teaching God’s Word, creative writing, or rallying support for charity. In other words, you might rob time and effort from the 10s in your life just to bring a lowly 3 up to a mediocre 5. When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see where you need to invest your efforts.  (Quote by Joyce Meyer from her online daily devotional 4/2/14, http://www.joycemeyer.org/Articles/Devotional.aspx)