Posted by: pollyw | September 6, 2012

Nehemiah — Ancient professional organizer?

Stone Harbour Wall

Image by Grant Wilson

I heard a really neat sermon the other day about Nehemiah.  Nehemiah is the guy who was cupbearer to the king in Babylonia when he heard that Jerusalem’s wall was in ruins.  Here’s his intro in the Bible (Nehemiah 1 from Biblegateway.com):

1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa,2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

The story goes on to explain how heartbroken he was over this news and how he looked so sad that the Babylonian king asked him what was wrong.  Nehemiah 2:1-6:

 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

He goes on to explain all of the red tape he needed to take care of before he could even journey the hundreds of miles to Jerusalem.  When he got there, he was very methodical in his ways.  He had a plan, God’s plan, to execute and nothing was going to get in the way.

First, he surveyed the damage to the wall.  He didn’t come in and have a big committee help him parade around the wall saying, “This wall will stand again!  I, Nehemiah, will see to it!!”  No, he quietly rode around the wall at night.  He wanted to see a full picture.

After he had a good idea what the work would consist of, he then took it to the people of the city and told them what the Lord had put on his heart.  He rallied the troops, inspired them to see God’s plan, and then set about organizing them for their jobs.  He didn’t just randomly assign rock, wheelbarrow, and dirt duty to the crowd, he made sure everyone fixed the part of the wall close to their house.  They had a vested interest in the part close to their house.

When bad guys came and tried to interrupt the work, he gave the workers weapons to hold in one hand while they worked with the other.  The Lord made sure Nehemiah had the organizing and rallying skills he needed to get these people the wall that would help keep the city safe from invasion.

Long story short, 52 days later the wall was finished.  Fifty-two days!

The sermon that I was talking about in the beginning of this post, pointed out that we need all kinds of people in the church — workers, encouragers, and prayers.  It is really important to have the people who can harness the enthusiasm and work effort of all of those people in a methodical way.

It is also neat to use the book of Nehemiah in a personal way to fix those walls that are torn down in our lives and making us vulnerable to the outside world.  We can approach those seemingly overwhelming problems in a methodical way, like Nehemiah, keeping in touch with the Lord every step of the way and letting our strength come from Him.

So, take another look at the book of Nehemiah next time you are stuck with a project that seems overwhelming and hopeless.  You might just pick up an organizing tip or two.

Posted by: pollyw | July 28, 2012

For those Scary Times

This morning I was reading Psalm 27, a passage I’ve seen many times before, and would be tempted to just, “Yeah, read that before, read that before, read that before…” my way through it.  Instead, the Lord really opened my eyes to some neat things in there.  Here’s a part of the passage for reference as we talk about it. 

Psalm27:1b-3.

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
    to devour my flesh,[a]
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then will I be confident.

As I said, this is a familiar passage and it would be very easy to read it and file it under, “Do not fear, God is here” and go on  my way.   What He showed me today was how many different stages of a situation we can have faith in Him for. 

Look back at the passage and notice when it says the psalmist wasn’t afraid.  There are four different times.  In verse 2, it’s when “evil men advance”.  We’ll call this Stage 1.  Then, in the second part of verse 2, it’s when “my enemies and foes attack me”.  Stage 2.  Do you see the other two stages coming up?  An “army besiege me” and “war breaks out”.  Stage 3 and 4.  This psalmist is saying.”You know what?  I’m not afraid at any stage of the game.  When my enemies advance, attack, besiege, and even when war breaks out, I will not be afraid.  My God is there for me. “

It  just occurred to me as I am writing this, that this speaks to the situation where things seem to be getting worse, and it feels like God is not hearing our cries for help.  I mean it’s a long walk from enemies advancing against you to full out war.  And if you’ve been praying for God to help you from the beginning, yet you still find yourself  with “war breaking out against” you, that could get depressing.  This Psalm is there to give us hope.  Want to know how it ends when war is breaking out? 

Well, it’s kind of like a good hero movie.  Here are verses 5 and 6.

For in the day of trouble 
    He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle
    and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

How’s that for a good ending?  Not only does He come in and keep us safe and hide us  in His dwelling, but then He sets us high upon a rock in there so that our head is above our enemies who surround us. 

When I visualize this, I imagine a picture where there is a huge army on one side of a wall, beseiging and such, but I am on the other side of that fortified wall, placed there by God.  But God’s not letting me cower in the corner of His stronghold, no, He lifts me up high upon a rock and my head is higher than those other guys.  I’m assuming I can see those enemies while I’m up out of their reach, because how else would I know my head is higher than theirs?

So, when those bad circumstances come up, or enemies, as I like to call them, we can have faith in God at all stages because we know His heart for us.  He died to save us, and save us He does.  He is there at the beginning and end stages of it all.  Even when it seems the army is closing in, He picks us up and puts us behind that wall of His.  Then He lifts us up above those circumstances and they get to see us high above them, safe and sound.  And do you notice, He hides us, He sets us up on the rock.  No rock climbing experience needed, He’s got it covered.

He’s amazing and pretty awesome in His love for us, even in the scary times. 

What about you?  Have you had this amazing experience in your life?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Posted by: pollyw | April 1, 2012

Jesus through the art of a 9 year old

Jesus through the eyes of a 9 year old

My oldest daughter wanted to guest post on this devotional site. I wanted to include her explanation of this picture in her own handwriting, but alas, the technology to include more than one picture on here eludes me. So, I will quote her directly:
“Well, I like to compare art to God…like look at this! We are like the tree. We try to reach the sky but we never can. Jesus is like the mountain. He had a perfect life. The sky is heaven and you will live eternally there if you trust Jesus.”

Posted by: pollyw | February 2, 2012

I’m just sayin’…He’s pretty awesome!

Okay, I’m just going to say it up front…this post is all about bragging on the Lord.

He did something tonight to remind me that He is here, really here, in my now, and that when I listen to His leading He can take me to where I need to be, even if I don’t know I need to be there.

Let me explain what I mean.

Tonight, I had a chance to go to the city-wide Bible study that Beth Moore is teaching on Deuteronomy.  This in itself is a blessing because before I can even get there for the amazing Bible teaching, my husband makes it a point to be home on time to take over the care of our six kiddos (yay, Jack!).

Back to the story…

Near the end of the session, I could really sense that the Lord wanted me to go up to the front after it was over and have someone pray for one of my little ones who was recently diagnosed with gluten issues.  It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us, grandparents included, and she is still suffering some mild symptoms even though we have been gluten-free with her for a few weeks now.

As I said, I could really feel this urging to find someone to pray for her.  I tried to rationalize it away because she hasn’t had a horrible time lately, and I could pray for her at home, etc.  The Lord wouldn’t let it go, and the words kept popping up in my mind with her name and that I needed to have someone pray for her symptoms to heal.  Then of course I started making my list of what the other kids needed prayer for, but it was very evident I was going up there this time for this one child.

I said, “Okay, Lord, I’m going.”

At the end of the session, I went up to the front and asked the first person I saw about prayer.  She found someone who said they would love to pray for me.

When I explained the situation about my little girl, I saw this look of understanding wash over her face.

Her family had dealt with a similar issue.

And right then and there I found out why the Lord had prodded me so much to seek out prayer for my little one tonight.  He knew that in this building full of hundreds of women, there was another mom who knew what my family is going through.  We kneeled there at the altar as she shared her family’s journey with me and what they had learned along the way.  She had advice for me of what had worked in their case and was able to give me some insight into other things I hadn’t even considered.

Then she prayed a prayer to our powerful, all healing God, who I know had to be up there smiling.

I love it when I hear Him right (“correctly” for you grammarians out there) and actually follow through on His “still, small voice”.

I love it when He gives me a chance to feel His leading.

I love it when He gives me someone who knows what I am going through and will pray for me.

And I can’t wait to update my new prayer buddy with what the Lord does to show off for my little girl!

Posted by: pollyw | December 10, 2011

What was Baby Jesus like?

As I was getting my 12 month old ready for the day today, and wrestling him into his clothes he didn’t want to put on, I was thinking about Mary and her little baby, Jesus.  I don’t usually think such theological thoughts while wrestling with my infant, but I started to wonder what Jesus was like as a baby.  Was He the best baby ever, or was He like every other baby when it came time to change clothes — suddenly being overcome with superhuman strength?  We know He was without sin, but there are basic baby things that aren’t necessarily sin, just the nature of being a person who can’t talk yet to let his needs be known.

Did He wake Mary up in the middle of the night with moans of pain when He was teething, like my guy is doing?  Was Mary frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes due to the lack of sleep?  Honestly, this path of thinking seemed a little irreverent during such a holy season, when we are surrounded with images of a happy baby in a manger.  You never see a nativity scene with the baby’s mouth wide open, shrieking because He is hungry, wet, or being poked by the hay in the manger.  And Mary always looks so relaxed in the artist renderings I’ve seen.  She’s not looking at him with the quizzical look a mom uses when she’s trying to narrow down the possible causes of a baby’s cries.

Well, needless to say, none of us were there the night He was born, but we do have the Bible.  Here is what it says about that night.  It might sound a bit familiar, but read it with new eyes and the feeling that the people involved were real people, with hopes and fears, just like us.  (Luke 2:16-20) (Biblegateway.com)

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

We may not know every little detail about Jesus as the only perfect baby, but God let us know the important things.  He wrote it down in His Word.  “Amazement”, “pondering”, “glorifying and praising God”.  These are the things this little baby stirred up when He was born to this earth and it’s what He still stirs up today thousands of years later. 

Let’s take our cue from the text to help us make this Christmas season one we can share with others.  Like the shepherds, we can spread the word concerning what we have been told about Him and what we have seen and glorify and praise God, so that others can be amazed when they hear what we say.  We can be like Mary and ponder these things, and think about them in the dailiness of the season. 

This is one important birthday…let’s get the word out!

Posted by: pollyw | November 12, 2011

Coffee Shop Talk

 Today in my “One Year New Testament for Busy Moms” Bible, the reading was on Hebrews.  Chapter 11 to be exact.  This is a part of Scripture I have heard quite a few sermons on.  In those sermons, they almost always call this chapter, “The Hall of Faith” because it recounts so many of the Bible stories we know and tells us how those people showed faith.  Not a blind faith, mind you, but faith in God and His promises.

This chapter shows one of the things I love about reading the Bible.  It links you back to stories in another part of the Bible.  I really like it when I’m reading along, and I can see the Old Testament weaving in with the New Testament.

To me, this chapter reads like I’ve just run into an old friend at a coffee shop and we’re sitting down to discuss the good old days and remembering all of the friends we had in common.

“Hey, remember those guys down the street, Cain and Abel?  What was that whole thing about?”

“Well, Abel brought a sacrifice to God in faith, Cain apparently was just going through the motions and didn’t like it when he was corrected.”

 “Oh, yeah, and Enoch, wow, did he ever walk with God, like literally, right into Heaven – didn’t even die”

“How about Noah?  Did he believe God or what?  Can you imagine what a ribbing he took from everyone in town when he kept building that huge boat?  Turns out his faith was in the right place.”

“Talking about faith, how about Abraham and Sarah?!  Remember when they suddenly left town? Word was that they said God told them to leave and make a home in a whole different country.  Man, that would be hard.” 

“Oh, and they never even lived long enough to see all of the promises God told them about.  God told Abraham he would have tons of descendants and how many kids did he get to see?  One.  He lived with faith, though, and he did end up with a humongous family tree on down the line.”

 “Yeah, where did all those kids end up eventually? Egypt, was it?”

“That’s old news, God got them out of there!”

 “Oh yeah, now I remember.”

Looking at this whole chapter in that light, it’s easy to see what all of these people had in common…faith.  God told them something, and they believed it.  They believed it no matter how many other people told them not to believe it.  They had faith.  Not a blind, look before you leap kind of faith, but the kind of faith that comes when you can trust someone with your life. 

And with this faith comes action.  They could have just quietly had faith in their own minds without ever doing anything about it.  But, by obeying God in their faith, that’s where you see the difference between their stories and others.

It makes me want to take stock of what I am having faith in these days. 

  • Are my actions following my faith in God, or my faith in me? 
  • Am I seeking out His promises in my life, or am I looking out at the rest of the world and trying to rely on its promises? 
  • Am I putting all of my faith in someone here on earth or am I believing God to sustain me and help me get through the day?

Sounds like I need to do some thinking, and talk to the Lord.  I might even need to make a cup of  tea.

How about you, what are you putting your faith in these days?  I’d love to hear back from you in the comments.

Posted by: pollyw | September 19, 2011

Some rain sure would cool things off

We have had a drought in our part of the country lately.  And when I say drought, I mean drought.  As in lawns dying, dirt cracking, no end in sight kind of drought.  It’s funny how this kind of thing can sneak up on you.  At first it’s just hot for a bunch of days in a row, that turns into weeks, and suddenly, one day you think, “Hey it hasn’t rained in a while.”

Well, while our lawn was getting crispier, another drought was hitting us.  Our church that we had been going to for 13 years wasn’t able to meet because our pastor had suddenly resigned. 

This is the church that my husband and I first started to attend right after we got married.  It’s the church where we worked with the youth group, went to Mexico on mission trips, announced the birth of each of our  six babies, and dedicated each of them (except the latest one). 

It’s the church that has provided three weeks worth of meals for us after the birth of each one of our kiddos and has carried us in prayer and action through many scary episodes in our family. 

It’s the church where our kids saw DD and Pops each Sunday and got a big hug only a grandparent can give.  And a place where I was proud to bring my Mom and Dad, sisters, brother-in-law and nephews when they would come visit. 

In short, this was a church full of some of my best friends and supporters, where we would come together and worship the Lord each week.  A church full of people pointing our family to Jesus on a regular basis.  It was our church home. 

Mid-summer, our pastor resigned.  Within two weeks, we didn’t  meet as a church anymore because we didn’t have a pastor.  We haven’t officially closed, but my family and I still needed a place to worship on Sundays.  We started “church dating” again.  Not fun.

Well, as they say, long story short…last Sunday, a bunch of us from the old church ended up visiting the same church. 

As I sat there, looking around at this small reminder of our church home,  I couldn’t hold it in.  I hadn’t realized what a drought it had been for us to be separated from our church family for so long.   Being with this small group reminded me of all the people we haven’t been able to see each Sunday.   This moment felt like fresh rain on parched ground.  I seriously couldn’t stop crying.  It didn’t matter to me what anyone thought as tears were running down my cheeks, my God knew I needed a break in the drought.  And He provided the rain.

Posted by: pollyw | September 8, 2011

Fly by the Seat of My Pants Airline Frequent Flyer

Right now, I am in the middle of a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of season.  We have six kiddos running around here in many different phases of development. 

There is the budding Lego engineer in his Lego universe staging many battles of good against evil daily.  (From what I understand, the good guys are winning). 

We have the entrepreneur who is running three businesses from her room and has a sign on her door to prove it.  The sign says that you can leave your stuffed animals at the door for a doctor’s appointment,  you can get advice from her, or you can schedule a spa appointment.  An all-in-one shopping experience, I like it!

There is the young scholar who is now making it her mission to complete more than her required daily reading…she clocked in 75 minutes yesterday, much more than the 20 minutes assigned by her teacher.  She comes from a long line of readers!

We have the preschooler in the superhero stage, flying around the house, finding siblings to save.  It is always wonderful to have someone around ready to rescue you!

Let’s not forget the 3-year-old, who has a constant state of wonder about the rest of the world, yet is ready to hold her ground on any issue.  Innocence and independence all wrapped up in such a cute little wrapper!

And the newest little one in our house, shaking off the newborn-ness, and starting his own tooth collection right there in his mouth.  It’s sad to see some of the baby in him disappear, but so amazing to see the little boy in him beginning to show.

Why am I sharing the blog equivalent of our family movies with you?  Well, to be honest, that’s where I’m at these days, surrounded by these wonderful little people, and I’m not able to sit down for an uninterrupted hour of quiet time reading my Bible like I did in my pre-kiddo days.  In fact, at this point in my life, if I were to sit down for an hour to read, I know without a doubt I would be asleep within fifteen minutes (probably less).

What is amazing, though, is that God doesn’t write me off just because my life is like that right now.  No, He uses what is around to let me know He is here.  He uses these young lives around here to ask me questions that remind me of Him and what He has taught me.  When my husband steps in to take care of the children so I can get a break, I can see the Lord loving me through him, and telling me to “lie down in those green pastures” the Bible talks about.  And, when the days get rough, and the sleep short, I can feel Him tugging at my heart to just give it all to Him and “rest between His shoulders”  (see Deuteronomy 33:12 below)

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him,
   for He shields him all day long,
   and the one the LORD loves rests between His shoulders.”

I love that verse.  Let’s take it to heart this week as we deal with all of the activity in our lives. 

Because, guess what?  You are loved by the Lord. 

You are His beloved. 

You. 

Be-loved this week.

Feel it. 

Live it. 

You can’t earn it, you already have it. 

It is yours because He gave it to you, through no act of your own. 

Let’s rest in Him.

Posted by: pollyw | July 31, 2011

You look so good in white…

My husband and I were hanging out on the couch after the kids were all tucked away for the night. You know  the cliché saying that you can have a ton of channels, but nothing good is on t.v. Well, it was one of those nights with no good shows.  Somehow, my husband found out that we had a whole set of music channels that we never even knew we had hiding out in the 400’s on the t.v.

We found the 80’s music channel and sang away to the songs from our junior high and high school years. We were having a great time, the kind where you bond over the fact that you were both alive during the same era and can compare notes about what different songs meant to you in your high school years.

We quickly found out, as we were singing at top volume, that many times, we didn’t actually know the exact words to the songs. He had always made fun of me in the past for singing, “You look so good in white…” to a country song when the words were actually, “You look so good in love…” (I thought it was nice of the guy in the song to comment on how good she looked in her outfit.)

As the night wore on, we had some hilarious moments as “Boys of Summer” was sung as “Poison Summer” (must have been a bad summer). And the list could go on.  Needless to say we had a great time laughing with and at each other.

I bring all this up because many times, people think they know what the Bible says and say it at top volume without ever checking to see if it is really Scripture. For example, as a mom of 6, I often hear people quote, “Well, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I would always nod and say, “Yes” in a knowing way.

Then one day, I wanted to find the Scripture that said that so I could write about it, and guess what? I couldn’t find it. I found the quote about how He provides a way of escape when we are tempted, but not a direct quote saying He won’t give us circumstances we can’t handle.  You know why?  Because it’s not there.  In fact, many times, when those “too hard for us” circumstances come up, we are supposed to lean on Him, not hope that we can handle them alone.

Another one people say a lot is, “God helps those who help themselves”.  Scripture chapter and verse?  None.  That’s because God says

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5 (NIV) (courtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Okay, so what’s the action point with this devotional?  Let’s all be Bereans when we hear someone quote from the Bible.  They are the people in Acts 17:11 who listened with eagerness to the message the apostle Paul gave, but also constantly checked it with Scripture.

These days it is even easier to check the Scriptures, what with the internet Bible sites and all.  Don’t just take someone’s word for it, or you may be quoting something at the top of your lungs that isn’t really truth.  Or even worse, you might be living something that isn’t truth.  That would be a bummer.

Posted by: pollyw | May 21, 2011

The lost shall be found — literally

It seems as though I start every post lately by saying, “Well, I haven’t written in a long time and here’s why…”

I realized the other day, though, that it is okay to not be consistently writing when there is a new baby in the house.

My Bible reading times are much shorter lately, but my talking to the Lord is much longer (as in all day — “Please, Lord, I need your strength right now, I’m working on very little sleep”)

I’m catching the Lord’s lessons on the fly lately.  One of them happened the other day.  I was walking to the elementary school to see one of our kiddos at field day.  I was pushing the double stroller, filled to the brim with stuff and kids, as usual.  I went to the field day, then walked to the preschool to pick up our preschooler and headed home.  Fed both of them lunch, got them down for naps, and as I was just about to collapse on the couch, there was a knocking at the door.  I was thinking it was a salesman and waved through the window that I couldn’t answer the door.

Turned out, it was an appointment that the Lord had set up for me.  You see, on my way to the field day that morning at around 9:30 AM or so, my purse had fallen out of the double stroller.  I hadn’t even realized it.  This nice man standing at my door found it on the sidewalk of his very busy street at around 10:00 AM.  He had been trying to return it since that time.  It was now 1:00 PM.

Instantly, I knew the Lord had been protecting me all day and I hadn’t even realized it.  I am convinced that He covered up that purse with His hands for that 30 minutes until this man came along.  This man was hand-picked by the Lord to find my purse because he was obviously an honest guy who would work hard to track me down.  (He even saw my asthma inhaler in there and kept stopping by the house to make sure to get the medicine back to me as soon as possible.)

I think the Lord just wanted me to feel His protection in a very real way that day, not just know it in my head.  Well, it worked!

I pass by that house every time I am walking the kids to school and it reminds me of the Lord’s provision for me, even when I don’t know that I need it (as in a purse that is missing but not missed yet).  As a bonus, the Lord has brought these really nice people into my life, and I say a prayer for them when we go by their house.

The Lord is amazing and I love it when He gives me a glimpse of His love for me in my everyday life.

His verses of protection are my favorite when I read the Bible and this reminds me of so many of them.  Does a verse come to mind when you read this story?  Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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