“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.
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.
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.
The mother looks down
and tenderly smiles.
She reaches out
to stroke a stray lock
of wispy brown hair
on her newborn daughter’s head.
Her husband sighs with contentment
a megawatt smile
full of love and warmth
He touches his wife’s back
with a touch of adoration
“Faith” they both whisper
Their newborn daughter’s
is full of promise
of their spiritual hopes
and dreams for her.
She is their joy.
She is their pride.
She is their daughter.
The special bond
that they share
is a blissful moment
when it feels like
Heaven actually comes down
and touches earth.
Tired and forlorn
but still beating,
and still seeking lasting love.
Love is the hope
and seasons come and go
for the girl
but she sees a future
in the distance
brighter than her current moments
and glistening with a golden sheen
like the sun and a thousand brilliant lights.
Love is the hope
of beautiful moments.
She is not giving up
having trust in her God
and His good hand
of provision for her.
Love is the hope
of God’s faithfulness.
still to be found and embraced
and toward that distance
she will go.
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).
A new year full of promise and secret dreams.
A new year, a fresh start, and hidden deep waters.
The dazzle of potential is blinding.
The beauty of a clean slate
and causes happiness to permeate
my forlorn melancholy.
Light always shines in the darkness.
Light always is beautiful.
Light always shows the way.
My theory is thus:
I need to learn to make my own decisions
and stop over-analyzing and questioning
And I need to safeguard myself from the voices
of those who would make my decisions for me
when that is not their choice,
and they should not be allowed to do so.
It is a new year.
I am a new me.
I want to break free
and go down a new path
(yes, I read that Robert Frost poem)
even if no one will join me.
I hope to find someone on the way,
because I am not meant to always be alone,
and God knows
I would make a horrible nun
(even though Mother Teresa is one of the women
that I admire the most).
Besides, I am not Catholic,
and I think marriage is the epitome of cool.
The world may dismiss it, but I won’t.
Marriage is beautiful.
I recently heard that Starbucks has a NEW seasonal drink, the Chestnut Praline Latte. I was intrigued and eager to check it out. While uncertain if I have ever had pralines before (yeah, maybe I have led a sheltered life), but I was game to give it a try. Call me a fan of Starbucks, which would be a true understatement. So, I got a Chestnut Praline Latte on my drive back home from visiting my family for Thanksgiving.
It seemed appropriate to pair the latte with a cd from one of my favorite bands, Starfield, a Canadian praise and worship band with a slight rock edge, who is not very well known in the United States. A quick side note: I once road-tripped to support Starfield years ago when they were nominated for rock/contemporary album of the year at the Dove (GMA) Awards for Christian artists. I did a lot of music promotion “back in the day,” and I was always going to concerts and volunteering at promotional tables for Christian radio in multiple cities. I’m kind of surprised Starfield still flies under the radar today, but sometimes that can be kind of cool to me. I am definitely not one who is into things because other people are; while sometimes I can be influenced, I think it’s important to follow your own drumbeat, too. But, since I am going on a tangent, I’ll get back to my story.
So, I sipped my Chestnut Praline Latte and listened to songs like “Everything is Beautiful” (which is an AMAZING song to listen to when you are feeling down), and “Love is the Reversal”, which I can listen to on repeat and never get sick of it. I pondered deep thoughts with songs lyrics like “Yeah I believe our secret longings Tell us that we’re not at home. But grace reclaims what the world disowns” and “Yeah, nothing here’s as good as it should be ‘Cause this is the rehearsal” (song “Love is the reversal” on “Beauty in the Broken” cd by Starfield, copyright 2006). While I must say that the Chestnut Praline Latte is not one of my favorite Starbucks drink, it is worth checking out at least once. As their seasonal drinks typically go, you can only get them for a very limited time, so check it out before it’s gone. And, if you couldn’t already pick up my extremely subtle plug for the band Starfield, you may want to check them out if you are looking for a new band. Some of their older cds are harder to find in Christian bookstores, but you can find them on Spotify and see what you think. You can also check out some more info on them on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfield_(band)). I highly recommend their debut album “Starfield” (with has probably their best known song, “Filled With Your Glory”) that came out in 2004, as well as the more slight rock edged “Beauty in the Broken” from 2006.
***For those who are curious what is in Starbucks new Chestnut Praline Latte, here is that info courtesy of http://www.starbucks.com: “Espresso, steamed milk, and flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices. Topped with whipped cream and spiced praline crumbs.”