Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Jar






Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-2


Now that sounds strange to our 2019 ears, doesn’t it?  Bread on water makes mush! Ewe!  But the meaning of these verses is so accurate for today’s life.

“Cast your bread upon the waters” is an allusion to the sowing of rice.  The rise was cast (thrown for sowing) into a wetland, and the cattle would trod it into the earth.  After “many days” the rice would grow and there would be a harvest. 

From that harvest we give.  We give to many – as many as we can.  We don’t hoard it for ourselves, as it will spoil.  Fresh grown rice can become rancid if not completely dried.  It can mold, and spoil.  We give what we have today because keeping it can lead to it spoiling.

But the spoiling isn’t always the rice.  When we keep what can help others, we spoil our own hearts, becoming selfish and uncaring.   

As I read this passage today, the last line struck me with the vision of a jar.  A jar holds just a certain amount.  You can’t overfill it, you can’t stretch it to fit more.  We have one other thing that we cannot stretch, our time. 

We are all allotted a certain amount of time on this earth.  Each day we pour out a little more, and a little more, and one day there will be no more time in that jar. It’s in that jar of time we can choose to show kindness and charity to others, or selfishly consider only ourselves.  But regardless of the decision made each day, time flows from the jar.

As this world become eviler every day, hoarding our good deeds, not giving a “serving to seven, and also to eight”, not only affects those we see in need, but society.  Your charity and kindness to others has a ripple effect.  Your children see it, and they give.  Your friends see it, and they feel the need to be kind to others as well.  Those who receive your kindness, also desire to share that kindness.  But when you hold back, it’s like a river running into the ocean, dammed up.  The ripples from that direction stop.

Friends, today we have time trickling out of our jars.  Pour out your kindness on others and watch the ripples flow!  For friends, there is coming a day when all branches of kindness will be dammed up, and this world will cease to have caring people.  There will be no doors held open, no “God bless you” to a sneeze, no simple smiles to the mother fretting over a wild child at the grocery, no compassion on the sick, no help for those that fall and fail.  Love one another today, because that jar is soon going to be empty, and God needs your compassion to create ripples.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Thorns and Briars



“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” – Luke 6:44

This morning as I sat looking at the blackberry blossoms outside my window I began to reminisce.  I spent many summer days growing up gathering black berries with my grandmother Ruby.  We would go deep into the fields, find the briars, and start picking.  Quite often we would pick gallon buckets full.  We would pick early while the sun was just coming up to avoid as much heat as we could but would often pick until past noon. 

We always wore long sleeves to protect us from the thorns on the briars.  Even on those hot July days with the suffocating humidity of Kentucky I was grateful for those sleeves.  I would liken a thorn prick to that of a paper cut.  It’s a tiny little thing that can hurt for days!  And the scratches can make your arms look like you’ve been in a cat fight.

I often wondered why God made thorns on those briars when He also put delicious fruit on their, knowing we’d want to eat it.  Yes, the thorns keep some animals from the berries, but deer, birds and other critters don’t mind them!  Deer will clean a blackberry bush of all its berries, no matter how deep into the bramble the berries are.  And now I realize, there is a second purpose to those thorns.

When you look at how a blackberry vine grows you see that its trunk is small.  It’s not much bigger in diameter at the root as it is several feet down the branch.  But if you’ve ever tried to pull a branch from the bramble, you find it doesn’t come out well.  It’s the thorns! They hang and capture with each pull that branch that is moving out of the briars.    With a branch that is so small, the briars help support each other.  They hang on each other.  Each branch has thorns that support other branches as it grows and entwines the entire plant.  The higher they grow with this support, the more sun they get and the more berries they produce.  Yet, even with the weight of the berries, the branches are supported.

Sometimes we are the branch, and sometimes we are the thorn.  We’re placed in the lives of those around us to lift them up as we are being lifted too.  It’s not always pleasant, and it can be somewhat confining and uncomfortable.  But, we grow in such environment. 

I think of the years of raising my now adult children when I write this.  Sometimes I’ve had to prick them and pull them back into place, and sometimes they pricked me and showed me my place!  But I’ve always allowed them to grow as high as they can grow, and they’ve allowed me to be the best Mom I know how to be.  Never confining, continuously guiding, and always supporting; that’s a mother’s job. 

Likewise, our spouses, coworkers, and friends receive the same support and guidance.  It’s in lifting others up and helping them grow stronger that we are most like Christ.  His desire for us was to “love one another even as I have loved you”.   And now I reflect on the crown of thorns that sat on His head, and how meaningful that really was.

But I must also warn that you, dear friend, can become part of bramble that will not let you out as well.  Be careful who you associate with, who you work with, and who you create an everlasting “bramble” with through marriage.  You need support to fulfil your purpose in life.  Grapes won’t do well if planted in a blackberry bush.  Those pricks are counterproductive to the fruit it needs to bear.  Grapes need completely different care than blackberries.  If you entwine yourself with those who are not like you want to become, you’ll either suffer from the relationship or adapt to it.

Pick your briars well - but pick one! Make sure it’s one that will support you and carry you higher.  Make sure it doesn’t conflict with your dreams and purpose.
 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Sound of Silence



The Sound of Silence

Years ago, Paul Simon wrote a song called “The Sound of Silence”.  In fact, it was just a couple of years after I was born.  But until recently, the words didn’t come alive to me.  This song seems prophetic in many ways to our society. 

Now that I see it that way I cannot hear it enough.  It’s as if God has opened this song up to me, unlocking it some how for me to understand.  I’m going to share what I hear in it, in hopes that we all get the same message from it.  Because after hearing the words through what God has revealed, I cannot be silent.

Hello darkness, my old friend
Darkness, absence of light, Christ being the “light of the world”

I've come to talk with you again
            Speaking to the darkness, the evil of the world.
Because a vision softly creeping
Softly creeping, quietly sneaking in

Left its seeds while I was sleeping
            We sleep with our eyes wide open, ignoring what goes on around us
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Then we awake one day to see the world around us as it is
Still remains
And just as this won’t shake from my head when I hear the song, it remains.

Within the sound of silence
And I stayed silent about it for weeks now.  I stayed silent. Muzzled by fear of what? Being told I was ridiculous, out of my head, a “crazy Christian”.

In restless dreams I walked alone
The vision began by being alone, walking in the night, the evil of darkness

Narrow streets of cobblestone
Streets that were old, had been paths for many others who remained silent

'Neath the halo of a street lamp
A street lamp that seemed to provide some light, if only in one place.

I turned my collar to the cold and damp
No one wants to see the sin and evil, we turn up our collars to not feel it.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
Stabbed – you can’t get away from the pain.  Neon light.  Commerce, business, the things we strive for without even knowing why.
That split the night
Wide open we are now, not asleep.

And touched the sound of silence
Yet no one was heard.  Not a word.

And in the naked light I saw
            Naked light, revealing all we don’t want to see.
Ten thousand people, maybe more
Humanity, all in one place

People talking without speaking
Expressions on the faces as we look at each other with every look except love.
Words from t-shirt slogans, tattoos, and even facebook posts that we judge by.

People hearing without listening
            We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and dismiss the rest.
People writing songs that voices never share
We never share what is on our hearts, our songs, because…
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence


"Fools" said I, "You do not know
God finally speaks, and calls us all fools
Silence like a cancer grows
The more one of us is silent, the harder it is for any to not be silent
Hear my words that I might teach you
We don’t want to hear him that we’d be wiser.  We’re content to be silent and not truly live lives that can matter.
Take my arms that I might reach you"
With all He has, He tries to reach us with outstretched arms.

But my words like silent raindrops fell
His words are given daily, written for all to have and all to know.  He’s open to communication through prayer, but…
And echoed in the wells of silence
It goes unheard because Christians like myself are “wells of silence” where those drops of rain fall, and lay silent.
And the people bowed and prayed
We all pray to someone or something.  But often our prayers to God are not about what matters to Him but about what matters to us.  We fail to even speak of His will, and ask for that change in our lives that cause us to truly LIVE.

To the neon god they made
We pray about the things that are neon, not real light, but artificial.  Not God, but worshipped as if they were real.

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
Graffiti often spells names of those that want to be heard, want to be known.  They spell out a need to be loved.  They spell out slogans and phrases that we use to try to be socially accepted.  They spell out loneliness.  They spell out a lack of hope due to a lack of faith.

And whispered in the sounds of silence
…and still we remain silent.



God bless you all, be with you all, and show you His unfailing love.
Love One Another.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Word of Mouth - Make God Famous



"Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”" - Joshua 2:8-13


The above passage is from Rahab, the Harlot who took in the two Israelite spies when they were investigating the land of Jericho. It has always intrigued me that the enemy was at Rahab's door, and she knew it, and yet she let them in her house, and even hid them to protect them.


But if you read what she has to say about God, the God of the spies, it is explained. Rahab feared these men and all of the Israelite army because she had come to know their God, which is Our God.


But in these times there was no Fox News, or CNN. There were no newspaper or online media. God became famous because His ways were talked about. His people made Him famous among a people they did not know. They got the news from Sihon and Og being destroyed, the Red Sea parting, The people had become 'fainthearted', worried because of their God.


Compare this to today. How many people actually are 'fainthearted' at hearing what our God has done? How many ask us to remember them when our God's wrath comes? People no longer respect God and His will because they no longer understand who God is; His power, His wisdom, or His love.


Fox News and CNN won't be talking about the wonderful things God has done for you, the battles He has fought, the blessings He has brought, the promises He has fulfilled. It's up to you to make God famous, and still today, word of mouth is the way to do it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Walking in Faith

“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”; So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.“ – Luke 17:12-14

Picture with me the scene in the above passage.  Ten men ignored and isolated due to a disease with no cure.  Everyone that encountered them kept their distance for fear of becoming like them.
Except Jesus. 
When they cried out to Him, He answered.  But his answer wasn’t “I’ve heard your cry and you are healed” or “Your faith has made you well, go in peace.” In this passage there’s a lesson for those of us who have wavering faith, whose prayers are more of a list of wishes than prayers of faith.
What Jesus said is “Go”, and they were going before they were healed.  The passage says they were healed as they went. 
Logically, they would have said, “This is crazy! Here we are lepers and we’re going to the priests?  They’ll not come near us!  They’ll throw us out!”  Or, “Look at us, my skin is oozing still.  When will this oozing end Jesus?  You know I cannot go there looking like this.” 
But they had to walk in faith that their healing would come before they reached the priests.  And, it did!
God’s actions are not always completed in microwave seconds.  But our prayers are instantly heard and attended.  While not all are a “Yes”, and some are in fact a resounding “No” for your own good.  But those that fall into a third category of “Wait” require us to walk in faith.  Praying without ceasing in this season of waiting is not to bend God’s actions, for He already has your answer.  He knows the end from the beginning.  Instead, your prayers are evidence of faith, or evidence of fear and trembling.  When you have faith, there is no fear and trembling, but peace resides as you wait.
There’s nothing wrong with praying where you have no faith, with fear and trembling.  David prayed with fear and trembling in Psalms 55, the woman with the issue of blood approached Jesus with fear and trembling in Mark 5.  This is how your faith grows!  Philippians 2:12 says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.  You faith walk must be built with things that test your faith, and cause you to fear.  How else will you see the faithfulness of God?  How else would you grow to know His heart?
In the waiting moments, walk in faith.  If the answer is no, you’ve still gained a greater relationship with Christ.  If the answer is yes, you’ve gained a testimony to help others walk in faith.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Be Yourself!


“Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” - Daniel 6:20

To read this verse, you'd never think it came from the mouth of a man who was willing to kill Daniel for not bowing to him and worshipping him. King Nebuchadnezzar called God "the living God", and said "whom you serve continually". The Bible tells of it, but with just this one verse, it's obvious Daniel had shown his relationship with God to the King. And because Daniel did this, in spite of the threats and roaring lions, the King knew the living God.

I've come to realize something in the past 10 years or so. The more I voice my relationship with Christ, the more I make it an open topic, and the more I find that there are Christians all around me. They are silent about their relationships because no one has opened the door to the freedom to speak. Some of my best relationships started with simply voicing that I cannot separate the Christ in me from who I am. For me, it would be like trying to drop my accent, or to masquerade as someone else. I am who I am, and being in Christ defines me.

We've been slowly and quietly silenced by popular opinion, the fear of being offensive, and sensitivity training. Friends, I'm here to tell you that you should NEVER hide who you are in Christ.

Jesus speaks about this in Luke 9:25-26, saying "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels."

Ashamed. That's not what I want to hear at his coming.

Friends, we're hear for one reason: To make God famous. We are lighthouses in the darkness for those that look for peace and forgiveness. But if you're light is overshadowed by a fear of shining, they'll never find you.

Go ahead! Be yourself! It's better to offend those in this temporary life, than to offend the One who you will live with eternally. Let the lions roar! They can't harm you.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Recipe for Contentment




“… for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” – Philippians 4:11

We often read this verse from Paul and consider Paul as having risen to a state of contentment we all hope to achieve.  Who doesn’t want to be content when we’re sick or healthy, wanting or fulfilled, insufficient or overflowing? 

But this verse could have been reworded to say, “God’s taken me through struggles to teach me to be content in whatever state I’m in”.  I dare saw myself and many others would not be so quick to wish for what Paul had if it were worded that way.

None of us want the struggles that God brings to our lives, or that our own behavior brings.  But in all things, in all ways, God is molding us into who He needs us to be.  His children are never forsaken. 

Sometimes the place you are in is so dark that you cannot see the shadow of His hand.  In those times, your faith grows as your heart yearns for Him to draw you closer.  And as He does show up in actions, in His word, in the words of others, our heart feels His love. 

Paul gave advice before expressing his contentment in this verse.  He said:
1.       Stand fast, don’t be moved (Verse 1).
2.       Unite yourself with others (Verse 2).
3.       Help others who are working His will (Verse 3).
4.       “Rejoice Always”, find the good in everything (Verse 4).
5.       Be gentle to everyone (Verse 5).
6.       Don’t be anxious, but pray about everything, and be thankful (Verse 6).

Following these six verse of advice, Paul expresses the outcome of this recipe of behavior.

“ and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Verse 7)

Is that not where contentment comes from?  Is it not from peace in our hearts and minds?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

LIfe is a Story - N. D. Wilson



I just wanted to share this passage from a book I'm "listening" to.  As anyone who knows me will attest, I do not like to read.  Words on pages are not something I do well with.  But spoken words, they resonate.  This book by N.D. Wilson has me in chapter 6 on the first day!  It's called "Death by Living".  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


LIFE IS A STORY!

Christianity is no good at all as an idea.
Stop thinking that assertive propositioning is the same thing as faith.  It’s a start, but it can also be a costume. Flesh it out. What is Christianity incarnate?

Merry Christmas! Join the wise men and find out.  Follow the shepherds, be blind by the road, or hungry in a crowd, or terrified in a boat, or lame at a pool, or dangling through the ceiling, or a whore with too much perfume, or a thief in a tree – or on a tree.  Or an adulteress facing execution, or a liar, or a sodomite, or a hypocrite, or all the above.  Be guilty.  Betray and despise all that is good and free and beautiful.  Walk past that slacked soldier with the sour sponge on a stick.  Stand with Mary at the foot of the cross.  And you will see that the cross is not an idea.

This world is all incarnation – words made flesh. Words.  God has seen, and God has said. His imagination is bone shaking and soul shivering, and He has never groped for words to capture and be those things. He imagined galaxies and clogged drains and sharks and harmonies and running and villains and foes and fungus and that heavy marriage of air and water whereby we can skip rocks, that can quench, freeze, and baptize.

He imagined and felt the ache of a mothers love and the immortal yearning caused by the passing of time and the speed of a falcon and the fear of a hare and minor chords and the smell of carpet glue.  And none of these were any good as ideas because they became words, sounds mouthed by the infinite, rhythms verbally fleshed out and shaped by the divine.  They were spoken, which is just another way of saying, life is a story. 
If you think it, live it.
If you don’t live it you don’t really think it.
You are not what you think or what you think you think.
You are not what you say you are.
You are what you do.

Christianity is no good as an idea.

-         -  N.D. Wilson “Death by Living: Life is Meant to be Spent”


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Perseverance



“For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” – Nehemiah 6:9
There’s a beautiful story in Nehemiah about perseverance, continuing in a work despite all difficulty.  Yet, if we read it too quickly, we just might miss it because the story itself is as entertaining as any screen production! 
The scene begins with Nehemiah, the Prophet.  He has been in captivity for years and is serving as King Artaxerxes cup bearer.  Being cupbearer was not a title anyone would choose.  His duty was to taste everything the King ate so that if it was poisoned, he would die instead of the king. Obviously in a world of national enemies, the King knew not to get too fond of Nehemiah.
But Nehemiah had heard that the Jews that had escaped captivity were trying to live in Judah because the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and even burned.  They were without food, being attacked and having their food stolen, having to place their own children into slavery to survive!  Without a wall to protect them they were in constant fear of their enemies. As is the case even in modern days, Jews were hated.
Nehemiah’s heart was grieved for them, which I happen to believe this was part of God’s encouraging him to act.  So, he prayed first, and acted second (there’s a whole lot to be said about that!).  He went before King Artaxerxes and asked that he be sent to rebuild back the wall, and that the King would use his power to have the neighboring lands provide building supplies.
While supplies were sent out of reverence to the King, many of the governors surrounding Jerusalem were not happy about the rebuilding of the wall.  Two such were Tobiah and Sanballat.  They knew this would better the wellbeing of the children of Israel and cut off their stealing of the supplies from the Jews.
Nehemiah begins to rebuild the wall with the volunteers he could get from the Jews and is continually mocked with statements like “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” (Nehemiah 4:3). But Nehemiah persevered!  Sometimes you have to turn a deaf ear to the naysayers and just pursue God’s plan.
Tobiah and Sanballat could not stand the thought of them completing the wall, and fortifying Jerusalem as a city once again.  So, they sent a message to Nehemiah trying to trick him to leave the city and come to them.  Obviously, their intent was to lure him away and kill him.  Note, it’s often the leader the enemy will go after as this is the fastest way to stop the work. 
But Nehemiah was given wisdom to understand what was behind their plan.  He sent them a message saying “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3) and continued to work.
Five times they tried to lure him away from his work – FIVE.  But the final time they sent a messenger to him with a note in hand telling him that it had been reported to the nations that the Jews planned to rebel, and that Nehemiah had hired prophets to say that “There is a king in Judah!” which would bring a breach of trust between him and King Artaxerxes. 
Nehemiah sends back yet another message in the same hands saying “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”
Ok, now things are getting serious! He’s called his enemies out! He’s called them liars.  If you’ve ever been in a conflict you know this is an escalation point!
Nehemiah’s team wants to have him stay in the temple, a holy place that would be less likely to be invaded to harm him.  Yet, Nehemiah sees the work at hand, and knows it must be done.  He continues to lead despite adversity and even a death threat.  He understands that their threats were meant to slow their work, or even stop it.  Nehemiah perseveres!
In 52 days an entire wall was rebuilt around Jerusalem.  It was 2 ½ miles long, 39 feet tall, and 8.2 feet thick!  There were 34 watchtowers, and seven main gates. No bull dozers, no cranes, no massive transports of large concrete blocks.  It was built by hand by men who pursued a plan with a leader that was continually leading, continually pursuing the goal.
That wall was built in 52 days, and to date it has been attached 52 times. It was destroyed once after Nehemiah built it, and in 1535 was rebuilt by Sultan Suleiman I, and it took four years.  Being completed in 1541, it still stands today.
Had Nehemiah not persevered, what would have become of the Jews?  An entire race could have been destroyed.  But Nehemiah, praying first, knew God was on His side.  Acting second, He knew God would strengthen Him and not see Him fail.  And in the end, Nehemiah rejected praise for His work and pointed all the glory to God.  Ah, that’s when you know you’ve really done a great job – when you can see that God’s hand was with you and you succeeded.  It’s a double whammy – you did good work, and you pleased God.
Friends, don’t give up on what you’ve been called to do.  Leaders, do not abandon your post!  PERSEVERE!
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.  And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” – Nehemiah 6:15-16

Monday, August 27, 2018

Praising God in Disappointment



 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. “– Genesis 29:31

When you read the story of Rachel and Leah, you really feel like Leah got a bad deal.  How horrible was her father, Laban, that he tricked Jacob into marrying her instead of her younger sister that he loved.  It’s hard to imagine how she must have felt, knowing that she was being given to a man that did not love her.

Seven years Jacob had worked for Rachel.  Seven long years.  But his love for her was so strong that verse 20 of this chapter says that “they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” Rachel loved Jacob as well, and Leah knew it.

But the custom of the day was that the older sister must marry first.  Aren’t traditions just the worst thing? They are rules made up by people in a different age and time, that are handed down without any thought to how crazy they are.  So he tricked Jacob into marrying Leah.  It was only the next morning (the morning after the honey moon) that Jacob opened his eyes and saw it was Leah.  Only God knows what he must have said to Leah in his great surprise. 

Angry at the way Laban his father-in-law had tricked him, Laban agreed to give him Rachel also if he would work another 7 years for her.  So immediately Rachel became his wife also, the wife he loved and cherished.  And Leah would have fallen into the background – except for one thing.  Leah could have children and God had closed Rachel’s womb.

The story of how she named her children from Jacob tells it all. 

The first was Reuben, “because the Lord has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.”  Lots of women fall into this trap even in this age.  Feeling they’re losing the love of a husband they have a child, only to find out that a child doesn’t bring them together.  How sad that even a small baby would not bring her love, but she still craved the love of Jacob.

The second was also a son, Simeon, “because the Lord hear that I am not loved, and he gave me this one too.”  Still unloved, still craving love in her life from someone who could not give it, she had another son.  But even two young boys were not enough to fill the void in her heart.

The third child was named Levi, and she said “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”  Stop a second and think about the situation going on in the background here.  Jacob is still living with Rachel, loving Rachel, but making love to Leah and having children by her.  While in today’s world having two wives is nothing less than adultery, at this time the laws had not been given.  Yet the heartbreak Leah had to feel each night Jacob returned to Rachel is very real.  He was the one she could not have because he simply did not love her.

The fourth and last child was named Judah.  Yes, Judah as in the tribe of Judah that God would later send His Son Jesus to be born from.  When Leah had Judah, she did something she’d never done before.  Instead of looking at what she wanted, she looked up in praise to God.  She named him Judah, and said “This time I will praise the Lord.” 

Four children later, Leah realized something.  Somewhere between the birth of Levi and Judah, she realized that the love she could not have from Jacob was harming her.  She found the love of God in the gifts He had given her.  It wasn’t just the children, but the ability to have those children when Rachel could not.  She had a purpose, one that was blueprinted into even the birth of Christ being in her lineage. 

Friends, we’re all Leah at one time or another.  We want the love of someone who is unable to love us back in the way God wants us to be loved.  Think not for a second that God was not in control of this situation.  While He gives us free will, and that led Laban to be the cause of this horrible blow to Leah’s life, He could have changed Jacob’s heart.  He changed the hearts of many in the Bible.  But as he spoke to Paul, “my grace is sufficient”, He also gives us grace and mercy.  Grace is strength, favor, blessings to heal the wounds.  In that grace, He gifted Leah with four sons. 

The number four in the Bible indicates completeness.  In having Judah, Leah finally found a way to feel complete.  She came to peace with herself and with God.

Sometimes the love we crave, the one we want, or the things we think will make us happy are not given to us for very good reasons.  It hurts! It crushes our hearts and breaks our spirit.  And when that happens, we need to be as Leah, and look to God in praise.  That’s right – PRAISE.  He sees the future as history, and His will for us is always good.  Trusting God that He is in control of all things, and He is, is powerful medication for those wounds.  He does not forsake us when our prayers are answered with “No.”.  Instead, He sooths the broken heart.  Psalms 147:3 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”.  Pray out your pain to Him when you’re disappointed.  He is ready and willing to bind your wounds.