Reeling…

Life is short and full of trouble.

That is a paraphrased Scripture, or should I say, a chopped Scripture, from one of my Biblical favorites, Job. (Job 14:1 to be exact).

Even though people are in general living longer than ever, with far more people making it to 1oo years and beyond, life still pales in comparison in terms or duration than eternity. And the minute we are born, we are born into trials, tribulation, and strife.

The very minute my baby was born, there was a multitude of people poking and prodding away. And let’s not neglect the overall experience of birth in the first place… yes, it was unpleasant for me, but honestly it had to be worse for her. She had been comfortable and cozy in the warmth of her little bubble, protected from everything, and I’m sure it was a complete jolt to her very existence to be forced out into the world. Now she has to eat, wear clothes, have diapers changed, have her skin cleaned, fingernails clipped, get shots and checkups… a total disruption. I don’t think people should discount the experience of newborns simply because they cannot verbally communicate what they are going through. With that in mind, I am able to respond tenderly to my baby’s wails. I don’t get frustrated. I know she needs something, even if it’s a cuddle as she fusses. She doesn’t know any better.

As we get older and learn–with or without difficulty–life gets even harder. The more we learn, the more we’re expected to learn, and we have to develop more sophisticated ways to store, process and receive information. That is easier for some than others. As kids we may have problems learning, deal with bullies, have fears to overcome, and then–gasp–puberty. Skin changes, sweat and body odors, hair places we never expected, breasts and menstruation for little girls, whatever it is little boys have🙂 , and further development of knowledge and skills. Crushes and dating occur. That REALLY complicates life.

Then we get to be adults. Bills, more bills and then even more. Young adulthood is especially unnerving, which is why I happily tell people I would NEVER want to be 21 again. It was a time of complete confusion, where I assumed I knew more than I actually did. The college years were a time of increasing responsibility, an attempt to find out where and how I fit in the world, and testing personal boundaries, especially as related to consumption of alcohol (and for others, experimenting with drugs) and sex. It is the only period of time I mildly wish I could go back and do all over again (mildly because I know that I learned some valuable lessons then that I am able to pass on to other youths, which makes having gone through those tough times worthwhile).

Adulthood has its highs and lows, and I of course can’t pretend to understand how it feels to be older and/or facing the end of your life. Over the past several years I have watched my uncle’s health consistently go downhill. My Dad and a few of his sisters clamored around Uncle JW to help care for him, as he was a widower and had no children. My Dad concealed his own sickness and continued to care for Uncle JW, sometimes leaving the house huffing and puffing to go tend to his oldest brother. Everyone thought Uncle JW was in poorer health than Dad. I think Dad preferred it to be that way–he didn’t want too much attention or sympathy–but I definitely think when Dad passed away  Uncle JW kept some guilt that he shouldn’t have.

Uncle JW was not the type of guy to just sit and do nothing. He enjoyed his family, so if he was going to sit anywhere, it was going to be over Gramma’s house, eating some of her delicious cooking and playing Spades. He loved traveling to Alabama to see their relatives there. He was very active in church. The last few years of his life, however, were full of trouble on top of trouble. His existence depended on dialysis multiple times a week, and particularly during this last year he was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. Basically, his life ended awhile ago, but he did not fully depart this life until Thursday, June 30th, which was also the anniversary of my marriage to my husband.

The doctor had summoned the family a few days earlier, so I had been able to go to the hospital and talk to him, hold his hand a little, show him a picture of his newest great-niece, and tell him about Job and his faith. It was then that he had asked as to the whereabouts of his own Bible–it was perched on the windowsill. His doctor, who obviously cared a great deal for him, had said that was how he found Uncle JW’s room initially–he saw the great big black Bible open on the bed. Years before, Uncle JW had purchased a pretty expensive Bible for his doctor. The doctor was visibly emotional about what was going on. It was very refreshing to see a doctor show some humanity.

But I digress. What I saw was the weight of the trouble that Uncle JW had been going through. This once great man, big in stature as I was growing up, nicknamed Big Bull, was probably no more than 120 pounds, if even that. While I was in there, some of the machines that were sustaining his life were being removed, per his request. Fluid was building up in his body faster than the dialysis could handle, and Uncle JW said he was tired.The hospital kept oxygen and morphine going to keep him comfortable. On June 30th, at 11:15 a.m., God decided that his child had had enough and took him home, ending his trouble.

Interestingly, in the presence of several of his siblings, before he lost his ability to communicate, Uncle JW had asked them if my Dad had been there. I am sure they were confused and perhaps thought that he was lapsing into delirium. But he wasn’t. Uncle JW said that Dad had come and talked to him. This made me smile. Even in death, Dad is still comforting and encouraging. I kind of wish I knew what Dad said to Uncle JW. I am pretty sure he calmed any fears Uncle JW had of the unknown. Yes, Uncle JW was a Christian man, so he had to have known he was going to be with the Lord, but let’s be honest–none of us has died before. There is always going to be a huge fear of the unknown. Whatever Dad said must have strengthened Uncle JW. Now they are up there peaceful and whole.

So now I am strengthened. There are things I want to do and they won’t get done if I don’t get up and do them. In the next month, as I continue to heal from having my baby, I AM going to finish my manuscript and submit it to some publishers, preferably those with experience in Christian fiction. In the meantime, I am going to pick up where I left off with my Bible posting. I fell off miserably there😦

RIH Uncle JW!

 

I have been blessed again.

My Father in heaven never ceases to amaze me.

On June 20th, I was again reminded of His goodness, His love and the perfection of His creation.

God has remarkably designed everything in this earth, including our bodies, a woman’s body in particular.

This third pregnancy has been grueling. Admittedly, I know of women who have had more difficult pregnancies than mine. I was lucky enough to not have to deal with hyperemesis, which is basically morning sickness on steroids. But overall it had been a miserable 40 weeks and two days. I’ve never in my life dealt with so much gastrointestinal disruption, fatigue, aches and pains, and just overall physical misery. I had been counting the days down until June 18th for several months as my life was relegated to days spent in bed doing nothing, going nowhere, too tired to do much of anything.

To my dismay, June 18th came and went, and I prepared myself for the possibility of my third induced labor on June 25th. I was not happy about that prospect. I wanted a natural labor. As crazy as it sounds, I wanted to know what it was like to have my body labor on its own without the necessity of drugs.

I had been staying with my mom for a couple of weeks while Matt was working overnight. On June 20th, I was awakened out of my already sparse sleep by contractions at around 6:28 a.m. I had been having contractions for several weeks already, so I thought little of them, but something told me to text my husband and ask him to come to Mom’s house instead of going home. I told him I was contracting pretty badly. He came over and the contractions continued.

While he attempted to get a bit of sleep, I called the midwife office, concerned that I was not timing the contractions correctly, as I had never had that happen before. Seeing as that I was overdue, they had me immediately call labor and delivery at the hospital. They gave me instructions: Drink water to make sure the contractions were not due to dehydration, and wait until they were five minutes apart for an hour.

I ate a light breakfast, took cat naps, watched some television, and when the contractions got stronger got into the jacuzzi bathtub. At 1:45 the contractions began coming every five minutes and I knew it was not a drill. We headed up to the hospital at about 2:50. I was in a pretty good amount of pain and the ride there was no help in our little hot car that maximized the impact of every single bump in our terrible Michigan roads.

Once there, I was taken to a small room where I had to leave a urine sample and change into a gown. A bunch of different nurses and…whomever (I didn’t care at that point) came in and checked me for dilation. I was approximately seven centimeters, so it was time. Even then I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. But it was.

I was taken to an actual labor and delivery room. That is where the magic happened. It was 4:05 p.m. I began contracting rapidly and through the pain barely cared as an IV was placed and blood was drawn. I remember the faces of the women attending to me but not their names. At one point, I was offered morphine, but then after being checked again was told I should not have it because my baby would not recover in time because I was so close to delivery. I declined pain meds.

I felt the baby moving down further and further into my birth canal, and the midwife for whatever reasons had left the room. The other staff encouraged me NOT to bear down before the midwife got back into the room, but I had no choice. That baby was coming out. I knew the feeling–I had experienced it twice before. And my body was pushing her out. I felt the overwhelming need to push and did–my water broke. I gave it my best–one mighty push got her head out, and one more push expelled her little 8 pound, 0.9 ounce body. She was placed on me for skin to skin contact and I got to look and marvel at her. She was…she IS…beautiful. Just like my other two kids. Head full of hair.

I am so thankful to God that He saw fit to allow me to bring forth three babies, safe and sound with no problems. I interacted with women on my birth board who had lost their babies or had babies born with problems. I prayed for them all. And that makes me even more thankful to God that all three of my babies are okay, because I know God didn’t have to make it that way.

I’m healing okay and Junebug is thriving. I am so proud of her. I am proud of myself. I am proud of my husband. I am very proud of the family we have made together. And I am very happy that I am beginning to feel like a person and not a zombie anymore. I have been neglectful of a lot of things the past few months–I haven’t been as active with my kids, my house has not been as clean as I would have liked, I haven’t been going many places, I haven’t been on this blog, I have done absolutely no writing on my manuscript that I could have had done by now (the one about abuse in a Christian marriage). That all is about to change as I get better.

But I can say this with confidence…

All those struggles were 100% worth it. I’d do it all over again to get another Jayla.

Jayla beautiful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaaah, technology…

Gotta love it.

I have been having Internet difficulty for weeks now, and boy is it frustrating. As soon as I get my mind right and have a few minutes to myself, it goes out. And you know what? I get infuriated, like I’d never lived without it before. SMH.

The same thing goes for computer speed and having my cell phone. You would think I didn’t live for two decades before having the privilege of using those items regularly. When I first began using the Internet regularly back in 1999 as a college freshman, it tended to run rather slowly and I really had no idea what I was doing. Now, if a page doesn’t load in 1.2 seconds, I get super annoyed. And don’t let me forget my cell phone somewhere. It hardly has no apps on it but I still experience some type of withdrawal when it’s out of my presence.

As for life otherwise, I am now 23 weeks pregnant, sufficiently past the halfway point, and I am just impatiently waiting until June. I can’t wait to see this little girl. I dreamed of her looking exactly like my son when he was first born. Mind you, my son and daughter looked almost identical at birth, but my son had a head full of shiny, smooth black hair, and my daughter’s head was as bald and shiny as a brand new penny. Maybe I am assuming this little girl will have hair because of the old wives’ tale that the more heartburn you have, the more likely your baby will have hair. And this baby has been giving me heartburn, nausea, acid reflux, and every other digestive problem one can fathom. I still have days where I have ZERO energy, and most days my entire body feels arthritic (to the capacity that I can imagine what having arthritis feels like). Luckily my family has been super helpful. On my birth board the ladies were discussing whether or not they are entitled to a push present from their partners once they have given birth. If Matt gets me something, fine. If not, his presence and support during this pregnancy is push gift enough. (Well, I think I would like a cheese steak hoagie with EXTRA pepper sauce after the delivery, but that is all).

My son, who at first was not thrilled at the prospect of having another little sister, has completely come around and now appreciates his position as his Gramma’s only grandson. Interestingly enough, the baby responds to him more than anyone else. Her movements are becoming more frequent and more vigorous, and when he puts his hand or arm on my belly, she throws jabs and kicks more than she does when my husband or daughter to do the same thing. I’m just excited to get to our life as a five-some. It’s been excellent as a four-some; I can only imagine it will be better with a new little person to share it all with.

My sweet, hard-working husband, who I love more and more everyday for, if nothing else, his unyielding devotion to us and making sure that we are not only taken care of but enjoy our lives, treated us to a mid-winter break at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth several weeks ago. It wasn’t one of my favorite destinations–I thought it would be much bigger; I got angry with some of the unruly children there whose parents were letting them run free with NO supervision; and our room was cold, even after we turned the heat up to 90. Oh, and let me not forget that unlike every other waterpark we have EVER visited, we were only allowed to swim in the water on the day we arrived, or we would have to pay extra for passes for the next day. Each and every time we have gone to a waterpark before, passes for the day you check in and the next day are included.

Major plus–the breakfast. Of course my appetite is unmatched right now. I definitely appreciated the hearty omelet I ate at the restaurant inside the lodge.

Regardless, I enjoyed the trip. I was with my family, and my kids had a great time. My discomfort was not a factor. I always have a good time with them. Always. And my husband, after watching me drool over a Reese’s Cup commercial, walked through about half the lodge trying to find a vending machine that sold them, and when he couldn’t, came back with a Kit-Kat. Now THAT’S devotion.

Speaking of devotion, my heart was heavy upon learning of the passing of Maurice White, the founding member of one of the best bands EVER… Earth, Wind and Fire. After a battle with Parkinson’s disease that forced him to stop touring and performing with the band, Mr. White passed away at the age of 74. BUT, he left behind some AMAZING music. I will only post a few of my favorites before I move on…

Shining Star

That’s the Way of the World

September

Love’s Holiday

Devotion

Okay, I can go on, but I will stop there. Simply put, every song this band made was unifying, energetic, heartfelt and amazing. How I wish music today could resemble even one minute of an EWF song.

In our study of the Bible, Joshua was extremely devoted. To God first and the people of Israel and his job as a servant-leader (servant of God, leader of the people). But as we saw in Chapter Thirteen, Joshua has gotten old and certainly some of the abilities that enabled him to be such an astute warrior are beginning to diminish. When that chapter wrapped up, God was telling Joshua He would drive out the remaining enemies, and the land on the east of the Jordan was divided up among the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh, per the agreement.

Now in Chapter Fourteen it is time to divide up the land between the remaining tribe, with the exception of the Levites, who receive no inheritance. It is at this time that Caleb approaches and reminds the people of a promise made to him and given to him by God through Moses. As a reward for his faithfulness, he is promised a share of the land. Recall that only Joshua and Caleb returned with a good report when they, along with 10 other Israelites, were sent out to spy out the land. Joshua in turn gives Caleb Hebron as his inheritance. Of note is Caleb’s age–he explains that he was forty-five when he first went to explore Canaan, and he is now eighty-five. A whole FORTY YEARS has passed! That’s what I always try to remind myself when I read the Bible–the concept of time is not always clear. The Word moves from one event to the next without giving the reader a clear picture of how much time has elapsed between events. Picking up on clues such as this has allowed people to understand just how long some of these events actually took.

Now that the work has been accomplished, the land is allowed a rest from war.

Chapter Fifteen begins with a description of the boundaries that outlined the land given to the tribe of Judah. We find out that there are still some native Canaanites in the land now inhabited by Caleb, and he drives out “the three Anakites–Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, sons of Anak” (v. 14). He promises to give his daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who is able to drive out the people living in Debir, formerly called Kiriath Sepher. (Remember that Caleb is 85. He is getting a tad old to do much fighting himself, although in the previous chapter he said his strength was the same as it was forty years ago). Interestingly enough, Caleb’s own brother Othniel is the one who is victorious, and he does take his niece Aksah as his wife (BLECCH). Caleb shows his fatherly love for his daughter when she approaches him after her marriage and asks for springs of water, which he gives her.

The chapter ends with a detailed record of the clans of Judah and their accompanying towns/cities, and by informing us readers that Judah was unable to drive out the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem.

My discussion of Chapter Sixteen will be brief–it outlines the land given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph. The Ephraimites did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer. Chapter Seventeen elaborates on the arrangement of the land. The Manassites also were unable to completely drive out the Canaanites living in their land, although they do subject them to forced labor.

The descendants of Joseph are not pleased with their land. At this point, I have to wonder how the land was divided, and it is my assumption that Joshua is somehow receiving direction from the Lord as to how to allot the land. The descriptions of the boundaries consist of very specific detail. Regardless, Joseph approaches Joshua and basically says that given their numbers, they should have been given more land. Joshua gives them an option: If they can go up into the forest and remove from that land the Perizzites and Rephaites.

Now, Joshua has given them a solution to their problem, but they show an extraordinary lack of faith. Number one, they feel that even that additional land is not sufficient. Number two, they are afraid of the people who live there, who have “chariots fitted with iron” (v. 16). Joshua reassures them of their ability to clear the people off the land.

In Chapter Eighteen we get a glimpse of part of the division process. The entire assembly of Israel is gathered at Shiloh, where they have set up the tent of meeting. Now, Shiloh is more than just the name of one of Angelina’s and Brad’s beautiful children. Shiloh has significance in the Bible. It appears in the Old Testament almost three dozen times. It apparently is located in Palestine.

Large Map of New Testament Israel (First Century AD)

(Map borrowed from http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/shiloh.html)

I know it’s difficult to see but if you can locate Mt. Gerizim on the map, you can look beneath it and see Shiloh🙂

There is still land to be conquered, and Joshua asks the tribes what is their holdup on claiming their land? He instructs them to appoint three leaders from each tribe who will go forth into the remaining land, take a survey of it and make a written description that will be submitted to Joshua. The land is to be divided into seven parts. Joshua will take the descriptions and cast lots for the remaining seven parcels of land–in presence (and under the guidance) of God, of course. Again, Joshua reminds the Israelites that the Levites are not to receive an inheritance, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already secured their land to the east of the Jordan.

The chapter concludes with the assignment of land to the tribe of Benjamin, when the first lot cast goes to them. The clans of Benjamin are also listed here, and that takes us to chapter nineteen.

The land divisions are concluded in this chapter, in the following order:

Simeon

Zebulun

Issachar

Asher

Naphtali

Dan

Joshua

Now that the land has been divided, the first order of business in chapter twenty is to establish cities of refuge. The idea of cities of refuge was first introduced by God to Moses way back in Numbers. There were to be six cities of refuge. Individuals who unintentionally committed acts of murder could flee to those cities for protection from vengeance of family members. They could stay there until the death of the high priest that presided over their trial. After the high priest of the time died, they were allowed to return to their home. However, if the unintentional perpetrator returned to his home town before the death of the high priest, his protection was not guaranteed. Any person who wanted to kill them was free to do so.

In chapter twenty-one the Levites are given towns as according to the words of Moses. This chapter provides details and names that I will not repeat here. There are towns in each of the tribal lands. As was prescribed previously by Moses, the Levites are given forty-eight towns and pasturelands. We are reminded at the end of the chapter that everything God has promised the Israelites thus far has come to fruition (vv. 43-45):

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled”.

Now that the land has been conquered and divided, Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have fulfilled their duties to help their fellow Israelites clean up Canaan and are now allowed to go back to the eastern side of the Jordan in chapter twenty-two. Before they depart, Joshua reminds them to keep God’s commandments and the laws given them by Moses.Joshua sends them home with a blessing (v. 8):

Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites”.

When the tribes return, they build an altar by the Jordan that is described in the NIV version of the Bible as “imposing” in verse 10. Sounds like a nice gesture, right? Apparently it is inappropriate. The size was not the problem. The problem had to do with the functions of an altar. An altar is a place where people could offer sacrifices. The issue was that in Israelite society, not just anyone could offer just any old sacrifice. Remember those many redundant rules and regulations given to the Levites in Leviticus?

News somehow travels to the west Jordan tribes, and apparently before they even consulted Joshua they decided to act against Reuben, Gad and 1/2 Manasseh. They view the altar as an alignment with pagan gods, a sign of disobedience against God, and their fire is not misplaced. The Israelites send Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, over there to investigate. With him are ten of the chief men of Israel, each representing one tribe. Basically, they give Reuben and Co. the what for (vv. 16-20):

The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! And are you now turning away from the Lord?

‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”
They are definitely concerned for their brethren who appear to be turning from the Lord, as we Christians should be today–we should show judgment-free concern for our brothers and sisters who seem to be backsliding. Unfortunately, too many of us want to be the first one to spread some juicy gossip or have the scoop to think about what really might be going on with our brothers and sisters in trouble. I told the kids in Sunday school this past week about an incident that very well could have run me from the church had I let it–when I came back to church after being out for awhile, newly pregnant out of wedlock. One of the older women, who should have known better, made a very snide remark basically insinuating that since I was unmarried and pregnant I had no place in the church–or God’s kingdom.
Luckily I knew that woman had no business telling me that and I responded with an even nastier remark (one of the kids referred to it as a “clapback”, LOL). Now, I wouldn’t handle that the same way if it were to happen now. But I was ten years younger, not as strong in Christ, and definitely more fiery in the wrong ways.
That particular woman is still a member of the church but due to health reasons and because she takes care of others, not as often. She has never brought up her nasty comment and neither have I. I don’t care now, just as I didn’t then, but I did take it to heart in a certain way–that I would never say anything to another person that might keep them from coming back to God’s house. It is not my decision to decide who is worthy of being in that church and who is not. It is not even up to the pastor. It is our job as Christians to recognize that we are all imperfect, flawed beings and that church is exactly where we need to go.
But I digress.
The western Israelites have misjudged the intentions of the eastern Israelites with regard to their altar. They did not build it to align with pagan gods, as they fervently explain. Instead, they did so to show solidarity with God and their fellow Israelites. They take full responsibility for the altar, and even proclaim that if God has found them to be disobedient that they ought not be spared that day. However, they built the altar so that their future descendants would know they were God’s people. They recognize there is a boundary between themselves and the other Israelites and want to show that they do have a share in the Lord. The altar is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices. It is just a reminder, a witness. They have (at that time at least) no intentions of rebelling against God.
Their explanation is deemed acceptable by Phinehas and his ten comrades. They take their good report back to the remaining Israelites, and they all worship God together. The altar is named “A Witness Between Us–That the Lord Is Good”.

This passage reminds me of how careful we have to be when it comes to assumptions. Imagine if the western Israelites hadn’t taken the time to allow Phinehas to investigate? No doubt they were probably getting their arms ready to go take the easterners out. Things are not always what they seem, and in situations where we do not have all the facts, we have to be careful not to make hasty assumptions that may ruin someone’s life.

I know it seems to be a stretch, but several things in these past few passages have struck me in terms of how they relate to gossiping within the church. I make it a point to stay away from gossip in my church. People tend to tell me things about themselves, which is fine. I don’t repeat them. But you know what bugs me? If I am having a problem, I would think I should be able to go to one of my brothers or sisters and confide in them and get advice without having to worry about it being spread around the church, don’t you think? One of the major benefits of fellowshiping with other saints, in my humble opinion, is the opportunity to discuss our issues and learn from one another. We learn from each other how to handle worldly problems the Godly way. The advice and wisdom of older saints is especially valuable. It is a crying shame that there are some saints that we cannot trust in our churches.

As for people that gossip a lot, I find that they are the ones with the most skeletons in their closet. (Shrugs).

A long time has passed and now Joshua has grown old. Israel has been blessed with a time of peace. Here in chapter twenty-three Joshua summons all Israel to him for a farewell message. The whole thing is important, but there are some key elements. Joshua reminds the people that they have seen what it is God can do. They have beheld His love, His power and attentiveness; they know for a fact that when God makes promises, He keeps them. This portion of Joshua’s speech, in my humble opinion, is key (vv. 6-8):

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now”.

The very future of Israel depends on this. ALL THEY HAVE TO DO is be obedient to the Lord, but as we know, historically us human folk have a problem with obedience. Look no further than Adam. Or for good measure, look at us now! I can even talk about myself. Believe it or not, I am not always obedient and it’s not because I don’t know any better. I do things I know good and well I shouldn’t do and have to go to God for forgiveness. Why is that though??

This human flesh is going to be a lifelong struggle that will only be conquered when we die and, for those of us who are believers, are given our glorified bodies that will be free of the destruction and decay brought by sin. Can you even imagine that? Can you imagine not having sinful thoughts? Can you imagine not getting angry??? I can’t.

Joshua reminds the people that God has driven out powerful nations from before them, and this is followed by another warning of what will happen if the Israelites decide to go the way of idolatry (vv. 12-13):

But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you”.

Joshua humbly announces that he knows his time is short and that he is about to “go the way of all the earth” (v. 14). He reminds them again that God has kept His promises, He has been faithful. God will continue to be faithful and keep His promises… it is up to them to keep up their share of the bargain.

“But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you” (vv. 15-16).

In chapter twenty-four, the concluding chapter of this great book of Joshua, the covenant is renewed at Shechem before Joshua dies. The entire congregation of Israel assembles at Shechem, where the elders, leaders, judges and officials present themselves before God. Joshua reminds the people of their victorious history at the hands of God. Joshua tells the people to choose whom they will serve this very day (v. 15):

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose yourselves this day who you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.

I put that last part in Italics because it is my favorite.

It is a strong statement. Consider that Joshua is about to die. He is making that declaration of behalf of a household he is about to leave behind. That to me speaks of preparation and teaching. Joshua must be confident that his household will continue to serve the Lord because he has taught them to do just that. It reminds me that as Christian parents, we have a responsibility to educate our children in terms of academics AND in the ways of the Lord. I am confident that my two current children will continue to love God even if they fall off, and my husband and I will continue our Christian education of our kids with our third baby.

This world makes it hard to serve the Lord. There are many roadblocks. Older saints often remark as to how in the past, nothing was open on Sunday, that society in general accepted that Sunday was reserved for church and family time. Now the stores are always open, the movies are open, restaurants are open, and some kids even have sports that hold practices on Sundays (my kids will not be allowed to practice on Sundays). Christians have to make a conscious, daily decision to serve the Lord in spite of.

Right now, coming off their victories and in the midst of peace the people readily agree that they will not forsake the Lord for any other gods. Yet it is safe to say that when people become complacent and satisfied, when things are going their way, it is easy to let God slip to the back burners of our overly stimulated minds. It’s interesting that people easily come to God for help when they are struggling. Look at the state people are in when they first join the church or rededicate their lives to Christ. It’s typically when they have gotten in over their heads with worldly life issues. As soon as God works it out on their behalf, they go right back to the behaviors that got them messed over in the first place. So it’s no surprise that the Israelites willingly proclaim total faith to God right now. They are coming off a spiritual high associated with their good standing.

Now that they have done so, Joshua issues them yet another warning, letting them know that God will not forgive their rebellion and sins. If they forsake God for other gods, all bets are off. The Israelites again declare their faith to God, and Joshua gives in: “….You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord” (v. 22). He then goes on to tell the people that they must throw away the foreign gods among them and completely submit their hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel. The people agree, and the covenant is reaffirmed. Joshua records the events in the Book of the Law of God, then takes a large stone and sets it up under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. The stone will serve as a witness to the people of their agreement. The people are then dismissed.

Joshua, son of Nun, a story of courage, strength, strategy and faith, dies at the age of 110 and is buried. The Bible tells us that “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel” (v. 31). This underscores the importance of true Godly leadership (unlike what we see in our clown car of American presidential candidates, unfortunately) and unwavering faith. Look at how Israel benefited from Godly leadership. The correct tone was set from the top and the benefits trickled down. It is my opinion that during this time of peace and prosperity, people were held accountable for their behavior, they were treated fairly, and they adhered to the laws of God. Because of that, life was good. I cannot imagine that in this society. Here we are coming up on yet another presidential election and boy am I nervous. I am not “blown away” by a single candidate at this point. All I know is that I am super unimpressed by the Republicans with the slight exception of Rubio. I know he bombed out on one of the debates, but I’m more interested in their plans, their track records, etc., and the others almost scare me. I know Christians in some instance tend to automatically identify with the Republican party, which in ways claims to be the morally superior party–except they are not. I do not like their blaring hypocrisy. I too am against abortion. I think our vets ought to have all the opportunities in the world. I am not for same-sex marriage. But what I have seen is the Republicans attack and cut programs that help poor people. So it’s okay to be against abortion but they don’t want to take care of the excess kids that may come as a result? And vote against bills to help vets? And this latest fiasco in terms of Obama nominating a Supreme Court replacement for the departed Scalia–it was okay for Reagan, their poster boy, to nominate a Supreme Court judge in his last year, but not the Black guy? SMH.

It is an agonizing decision to have to make, as it will affect me and my kids. What bothers me is the debates I have gotten into with some staunchly Republican acquaintances who bemoan the moochers of American society, the mythical welfare queen for example. Yet those same people have never done their research to see that social programs that make up that kind of welfare only account for eleven percent of our national budget. Where does the highest amount of American dollars go? Military expenditures, of course. A simple Google search or college course can go a long way. And how much does the welfare queen programs cost each taxpayer, about thirty bucks? I understand that there may be fraud. Find me one program, government or private, that has ZERO fraud. I’ll wait. But just because there is fraud does not mean that safety net ought not be there for people who need it. I have no problem paying an extra thirty bucks so some kid, elderly person, disabled person or veteran can eat. I don’t mind paying extra tax dollars so some family doesn’t go bankrupt if one of the primary wage earners gets ill and needs medical care. THAT, in my humble opinion, is a more Godly way of thinking than continuing to penalize the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.

Now I am off my soapbox. I had to get that off my chest.

At the conclusion of the chapter, Eleazar the priest, son of Aaron, also dies.

PRAYERFULLY my Internet access situation will be taken care of soon, but I don’t know. I am getting eaten alive by student loan payments and some things are considered luxuries at this point. In the meantime I will try to update my blog as often as I can from my mothers’ home or perhaps from our library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no time to waste…

When you’re working for the Lord. Joshua’s tenacity shows us an example of how we are to behave if given a commission from God.

But before I begin, let me say this…

Wow.

So far, 2016 has had an interesting start. A lot of stories from 2015 have carried over, of course, but I am also surprised at the rapid number of notable deaths that sprung off this new year. Alan Rickman and the husband and manager of Celine Dion, Rene Angelil, were both just announced. My condolences to the families of the deceased. They have long roads ahead of them.

In other “wow” news, the scandal in Flint, Michigan just keeps getting worse. My heart breaks for those people, and I am wondering when some governmental heads are going to roll. Latest headlines report an increase in the number of reported cases and deaths of Legionnaire’s disease in the area, although public health officials are not yet saying that the tainted Flint water is the definitive cause of the spike in the disease (coincidence?? I think not!). Then, another report came that out of nowhere a $575 million budget surplus appeared. No, it didn’t come out of nowhere. It came from ripoffs perpetuated against the people of Michigan.

Flint Water Crisis–Spike in Legionnaire’s Disease

Sad to say that I do not trust our government in our home state with anything or about anything. I am so disappointed in this place. If it weren’t for a few members of my family who I know will refuse to move from this place I would leave in a New York minute. Michigan has just gotten sloppy in terms of our direction and leadership. Rick Snyder had no business being elected governor.

Before the aches and pains of my pregnancy interfere, let me get into Chapter Eight of the book of Joshua.

In the previous chapters, we saw how the sin of one man, Achan, resulted in dire consequences for the entire nation of Israel, including the loss of a battle in the city of Ai that the Israelites should have won easily had God not turned His back on them due to the presence of forbidden idols in the Israelite camp. Now, the Israelites will return to Ai, but since the sin has been purged from the camp, God will be with them, and chapter eight begins with God reassuring Joshua as such. The whole army is to go, and the Israelites are allowed to keep the plunder and livestock from the conquest for themselves.

Joshua lays out the strategy required to capture the city–he and 5,000 men with him (there are 30,000 men altogether) will draw the Ai soldiers out and then flee to a location where a second group of Israelite soldiers will be lying in wait. Once the Ai soldiers have pursued Joshua and those with him, the remaining soldiers are to ambush the city and set it on fire. Just as planned, once Joshua and his 5,000 comrades were spied out, every last man from Ai and Bethel pursued them, leaving Ai wide open for attack. The men from Ai that were in pursuit of Israel look back and see their city ablaze. They know now they have been defeated, but there is nowhere for them to turn. The Israelites stop playing possum and turn the tables on their pursuers. The men from Ai are killed from both sides–the Israelites who attacked the city have come to help, and the soldiers from Ai are surrounded. The king is spared and brought before Joshua, who impales the king’s body on a pole and left it on display until the evening. The men and women of Ai, about twelve thousand people, are put to the sword, and the city is burned into a desolate heap of ruins. At sunset Joshua orders the body of the king removed from the pole and thrown down at the entrance of the gate. A pile of rocks is then heaped on top of it.

Joshua then builds an altar atop Mt. Ebal according to the commands God had given Moses–using no cut stones or iron tools. The people provide offerings and sacrifices. In the presence of the entire congregation of people, Joshua writes the entire Law of Moses and reads it before them, every single word. Half of the people stood on Mt. Gerizim, the other half on Mt. Ebal (fulfilling Scripture of Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12). Joshua must have had a really loud voice, or those mountains had to be very close together🙂

The covenant has now been renewed, and that takes us to Chapter Nine. Word of the Israelite’s victory against Ai has traveled, and the kings of other nearby nations–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–unite in battle against Israel. However, the Gibeonites/Hivites have decided upon a different tactic–lying to save their butts. A group of Hivites approach Israel with a very well thought-out deception. They wore worn-out clothing, empty wineskins, and the bread they had was moldy. They pretended to be sojourners in the land, not a part of the nation the Israelites were preparing to invade and destroy (vv.6-13):

“We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”
We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”
They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.'”

Well played, Hivites.

The next Scripture tells of an error Joshua and the Israelites made that could have prevented this deception–they sampled what the people had brought them but never asked the Lord about them.

I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Joshua has made a peace treaty with these people (recall that they are supposed to be wiped out) and he cannot take back his word (people took these oaths seriously back then). Three days later they learn that the people they have made the treaty with, believing that they were not neighbors, do in fact live nearby. Joshua and Co. attack the other cities, but per their oath, have to let the Gibeonites be. The Israelites are displeased and grumble against the leaders, and the leaders have to explain that because of their treaty with the Hivites, they had to spare them. They have no choice but to let them leave, but the Gibeonites will be woodcutters and water carriers for the service of the altar.

Joshua then gives the Gibeonites the what for, and they answer very honestly. They were afraid of what they knew the Israelites were capable of. Joshua places the curse on them that they will be woodcutters and water carriers, and life goes on.

A truly remarkable event takes place in Chapter Ten. Gibeonite blunder over, now it is time to move forward. Having heard of their victories and that Gibeon has allied with Israel, five kings come together to defeat Gibeon–the kings of Jerusalem (Adoni-Zedek), Hebron (Hoham), Jarmuth (Piram), Lachish (Japhia) and Eglon (Debir). They move in for the attack and Gibeon sends word to Joshua. God assures Joshua that he will be victorious in this battle (I see that Joshua remembered to consult God this time), and Joshua and his men march forward to battle. The Lord caused confusion amongst the enemy, allowing Israel to completely defeat them. As the men fled from Israel, God hailed down large hailstones, so many that more men died from the stones than the sword. Here is the passage of Scripture that describes the remarkable event I alluded to earlier (vv. 12-14):

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”
Of course I wanted to know what this “Book of Jashar” was. It is mentioned again in II Samuel, and is probably a book consisting of numerous songs and poems detailing the victories and war heroes in Hebrew history.
As we move on, we read that the five Amorite kings are cowering in a cave in Makkedah. When Joshua hears that they are in hiding in the cave, he orders some of his men to shut up its entrance with large rocks and guards. However, a few men have managed to escape the battle, and Joshua encourages his troops to continue their pursuit of any survivors. He tells them not to let the people reach their cities, but a few of them do.
Joshua and camp return to the city Makkedah, where Joshua has the five kings brought before him. He summons the commanders of the army to come forward and put their feet on the necks of the kings, telling them that “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight” (v. 25). The kings are killed and their bodies exposed on five poles until evening. At sunset the bodies are taken down from the poles and thrown into the cave in which they had been hiding. Large rocks were again placed at the cave’s entrance. The Bible says that those rocks are there to this day.
Joshua’s conquests continue. Makkedah is destroyed, Libnah, then Lachish. Horam, king of Gezer, came to the aide of Lachish and was also destroyed in the process. Next on the agenda are Eglon, Hebron and Debir. In each situation, the king of that city and the people in it are destroyed. Joshua, per God’s instruction, left no survivors. I like this line here:
“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel” (v. 42).
We can do all things with God, and nothing outside of God. We can be as victorious as Joshua if we are obedient and if we simply include God in our lives! If we have a decision to be made, no matter big or small, it serves us best to have a little chat about it with God first.
Chapter Eleven is an account of Joshua’s victories against the Northern kings. Several kings get together against Israel, but God assures Joshua that the victory is theirs. I’m sure you can guess that since God was with Israel, they defeated many kings and conquered much land:
“So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (vv. 16-20).
Joshua also destroys the Anakites in the hill country. He takes the entire land and gives it to the Israelites per their tribal divisions. Then the land is given rest from war. Chapter Twelve provides a listing, a historical record if you will, of Israel’s victories.
Although the record in Chapter Twelve is definitely a notable one, we learn in Chapter Thirteen that there is still land to be conquered, and Joshua is growing older (vv. 2-5):
“This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath”.
God informs Joshua that He Himself will drive out the Sidonians, and that their land is to be divided upon the nine remaining tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh (leaving out, of course, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the other half-tribe of Manasseh that decide to settle along the east of the Jordan, and of course the Levites, who were given no inheritance). Chapter thirteen then discusses how the land east of the Jordan is to be divided among the three tribes and tells us that the Israelites failed to drive out all the inhabitants of Geshur and Makaah, whose descendants continued to live among the Israelites. Here we also find out the fate of Balaam, who we first encountered in the book of Numbers, a practitioner of divinity. He is put to the sword.
And now I am starving. BAAAH! I have no access to what I am craving right now–the same thing I craved daily with both of my other kids–a Whopper with cheese and extra tomato. So I’ll have to make do. My husband is getting a kick out of my hunger pangs, but I tell you it is no joke. I get hungry within nanoseconds, and it’s not a regular hunger, it’s a “I haven’t eaten in weeks” hunger. SMH. And it’s actually quite irritating, especially, because like I just said, I always crave late at night when I can’t get what I want.
Ahh, the joys of bringing forth new life. I cannot wait for the 22nd, when I will find out whether this is a boy or a girl, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing a cute new face in June!

Jericho and Achan–Examples of Obedience and Disobedience

Gotta love it. As soon as I resolved to get up earlier than my three-year-old daughter to do some studying and make a post, she decides to get up earlier too. SMH.

I do have a moment while she eats her breakfast and watches a morning cartoon, so I’ll get right into it.

First, let me get a rant off my chest. A video came to my attention that made me a combination of sick to my stomach and angry. Watch below.

Televangelists claim they cannot talk to God while flying coach

Basically these guys are defending their private planes by using the excuse that other people in regular airlines would be too distracting. And I am probably putting that nicely.

Well sirs, that is a flaw with your thinking, and perhaps you need to read your Bibles a bit more. I am confident that I can talk to God in the middle of an earthquake. And you supposedly being men of God should be able to do the same. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t so IMPORTANT and actually got on a regular airline, who knows who you might meet and be able to minister to?

 Joshua Chapter Three. Recall that in chapter two, Joshua spent two spies into the land, where they were hidden from the king by Rahab the prostitute, widely hailed as the first Gentile convert. The men returned to Joshua with a positive report of how the people in the land had heard of their God and were fearful. Now it is time for movement. The people move and camp by the Jordan for three days as final preparations are made. Here we see that without a doubt, the Lord is guiding the people, as the officers move within the camp and give the following instructions to the people:

When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it” (vv.3-4).

I also found it interesting that the people, with the exception of the Levitical priests of course, are always to keep a distance from the ark. It reminds me to be thankful that the distance that is to be kept between us sinners and our holy God has been broken by our Mediator Jesus Christ. Upon completion of His sacrificial death, the curtain was torn to the temple, letting us know that we can have access to God through Jesus because of His death. We don’t need a priest to intercede for us or to pray for us. In the name of Jesus we can go straight to the source of all things and ask for help, guidance, strength, or just give thanks. Isn’t that a blessing???

Joshua instructs the people to consecrate themselves (consecrate is that five-dollar word that refers to making oneself (or a place) holy or sacred) as the Lord will do amazing things before them. I like the Lord’s following words to Joshua. He tells Joshua that as He did with Moses, He will begin to exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people so they will have definitive proof that that God is truly with Joshua as He was with Moses. Why do I like those words? Well, last night we began another Moody Bible Institute class, this time on the Book of James. We got into a brief discussion on faith without works, and brought up how unfortunately a lot of Christians engage in empty works–works that are not done for God, but done for rewards from men–money, power, prestige. I made the observation that oftentimes people who are quickest to try to give themselves a title instead of allowing God to put them where He wants them to be do the worst job.

People need not exalt themselves. If we are simply obedient to God HE WILL EXALT YOU! And not only that, I made a point to explain to my Sunday School kids that when God exalts you, no man can knock you down. Now if God allows you a certain status or position and you abuse it, He can remove you from it, and He might use other people in the process. But the point is exactly that–if you are a man or woman of God and He puts you somewhere, and if you are continuously praying and abiding in the Lord throughout it all, God won’t let you be felled by the selfish desires of other people. However, if you are one of those people who do things for show and reward and are allowed a certain position, the same people that put you up on that pedestal will be quick to pull the rug from up under you if you start doing something they don’t like. Rely on God’s exaltation instead of your own or that of others. People are just too fickle.

But I digress. Joshua is told the tell the priests to go and stand in the Jordan River once the people have reached the water’s edge. Joshua relays this message to the people, letting them know that once the priests that are carrying the ark of the Lord go and stand in the water the flow of the water will cease, quite the feat since the water is at flood stage. The people are also instructed to choose twelve men, one from each tribe (the Bible doesn’t indicate why at this point, but we’ll find out in a minute).

The people move as instructed. The priests go forth, and as soon as their feet touched the edge of the water, the water from upstream ceased to flow and instead gathered in a heap some distance away.The water flowing into the Dead Sea, here called the Sea of Arabah, which the Jordan River feeds into, stopped also, allowing the people of Israel to cross on dry ground.

That brings us to Chapter Four. Now that the people have crossed the Jordan, the 12 men that were chosen previously are to each pick up a stone from the Jordan and carry it to where they will camp for the evening. These stones will serve as a sign for future generations, reminding them of how God cut off the waters of the Jordan to enable them to cross. The stones are to serve as an everlasting memorial among the Israelites. The priests carrying the ark remain in place in the middle of the Jordan until Joshua has done everything with the stones that the Lord has instructed. Then the people finish crossing over, consisting of about forty thousand men ready to fight, including men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The people’s trust in Joshua as their leader has been cemented by this. The Bible states that That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses” (v. 14). The priests are then commanded to come out of the Jordan. As soon as their feet are completely on dry land, the waters begin to flow again, right back at flood stage as they had been.

On the tenth day of the first month the people camp at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. There, Joshua sets up the twelve stones the men had retrieved from the Jordan River. Once again, Joshua explains the significance of the stones to the people–that they will serve as a reminder of what God did for them at the Jordan: Drying up the water just as He did with the Red Sea, so that all the peoples of the world would know of the power of their God (and so that THEY would never forget it).

In the beginning of Chapter Five we see that the people in the land the Israelites are preparing to invade have heard of the miracle performed at the Jordan River, and they are rightfully afraid. Joshua is instructed to prepare flint knives in order to circumcise the Israelites again. Reason being is that the previously circumcised Israelites had died in the wilderness, but the people who had been born in the wilderness upon leaving Egypt were not. There was still a covenant to maintain and circumcision was a part of that covenant. The circumcision occurs, and the men are given time to heal before they move forward. As a response to their obedience, God says to Joshua in verse 9 “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you”.

On the fourteenth day of the month the Israelites celebrate the Passover, eating the food of the land–unleavened bread and roasted grain. This is also the last time they will eat manna, which stops cHAof Canaan.

The people approach Jericho and encounter a man standing in front of them with a sword in hand. Interestingly enough, it is quite obvious that the fearless Israelite leader, Joshua, was the first to come in contact with this man. True leaders are supposed to be at the forefront of their flock. The Bible says in verse 13 that Joshua approached this man and boldly asked him to identify his allegiance: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” Undoubtedly Joshua was fully prepared to defend his people against this man if necessary. As it turns out this man is actually an angel of the Lord who identifies himself as such in the following verse: “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

I like that statement because it shows the true intention of the good angels that have remained loyal to God. It isn’t their job to show partiality. Angels are God’s messengers who are to do what He says and what He says only.

Now here is my thing–is this angel just a regular angel, or are we talking Jesus here? The reason I believe this is Jesus is because Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence. Had this man been simply another angel, the angel would have instructed Joshua NOT to show him any reverence or worship, as they have in other Scriptures where people attempted to worship them. Joshua inquires of Jesus what message He has for him, and is instructed to remove his sandals, as he is now standing on holy ground. Joshua does so, and that leads us into Chapter Six.

Jericho is a city of extreme importance here. If the Israelites are able to take down this heavily-fortified city, they will gain an immediate stronghold on the rest of the area. A strategy has to be in place–it cannot be done haphazardly. Who else better to go to for a strategy than God? After assuring Joshua that He has already delivered Jericho into his hands, God tells Joshua what to do:

March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in” (vv. 3-5).

There goes that number seven again–the lucky number of completion.

Isn’t that something? In other circumstances, the walls surrounding Jericho, which may have been uncovered by archaeologists to have been eleven feet tall and fourteen feet wide with a thirty-five foot, thirty-five degree angled slope at the top, then joined together by more stone walls, would have seemed impossible to break through. And then God gives these instructions that make no sense in our modern minds. Think of how we would break into such a city today. A wrecking ball comes to my mind, not marching around the walls silently and hollering on the seventh day.

Yet, the people are obedient. They show their faith by following these instructions and are rewarded with a victory. We see another mention of Rahab, as Joshua instructs the army to spare her and her family. She and her family are taken outside of the city and into a place to camp. The Bible states that she “lives among the Israelites to this day” (v. 25). The Israelites devote the entire city of Jericho to the Lord, and destroy with the sword every living thing in it, all of the people and the animals. The entire city is burned, but the articles of silver, gold, bronze and iron are put into the treasury of the Lord. These were the instructions they had been given prior to the battle. Again, the Israelites have to be set apart from the rest of the world, and this includes the inhabitants of Jericho. They are instructed not to keep any of the land’s devoted things that may cause them to fall.

Joshua pronounces an oath that anyone who attempted to rebuild the city of Jericho would be cursed, which includes the death of their sons. (This curse actually happens just as Joshua says in 1st Kings). Joshua’s fame grows after this important victory.

In Chapter Seven we see another incredulous moment. Let me ask you this–have you already forgotten the miracle of God allowing the waters of the Jordan to stand still for the Israelites to cross? I haven’t, but apparently some Israelites did. At the beginning of this chapter we find that not all Israelites had been obedient in terms of not keeping any of the devoted things from Jericho. Achan, son of Karmi, son of Zumi, kept some and for reasons unbeknownst to me thought he would get away with it (?????). The Lord’s anger burns against Israel because of this one man’s sin.

Achan’s sin causes the Israelites to lose a battle that they easily could have won. Joshua, obviously oblivious to Achan’s sin, sends men from Jericho to Ai to go and spy out the region. When the men return, they report that Israel will not need to send its full army. The number of people there are few. The men decide that only about two or three thousand Israelites need to go. However, because God has left them, as He will not dwell among idols, the Israelites are routed by the men of Ai, resulting in thirty-six deaths. They chase the Israelites out of the city.

Immediately Joshua tears his clothes in mourning. He goes to the Lord with his questions:

Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” (vv. 7-10).

Notice that while Joshua has questions for God, he does not seem disrespectful or irreverent, or accusatory. But he needs answers, and he gets them. God informs him of the sin that has taken place in the Israelite camp. God tells Joshua He will not be among them unless the devoted items in the camp are destroyed.

I have to wonder what was so absolutely marvelous about this particular item that made Achan think he HAD to have it, at the expense of violating the covenant? Admittedly, I’ll bet he did not think that taking one little item would cause the loss of a battle and thirty-six deaths, but that is the problem with sin. We don’t know who it will affect or how. We might think we’re doing something that will only bring harm to ourselves, but cannot conceive of how our sins might cause others to stumble and fall.

Instructions are given to Joshua as to how the camp can right the wrong. The people are to consecrate themselves in preparation for the next day. Each tribe, each clan, each family, and then each man within the family will present himself to the Lord. God will do the choosing. How, I am not sure. In the morning, things go as God has decreed. The tribe of Judah is chosen (I am curious as to how God signaled which tribe, clan, family, person, etc.); then the Zerahite clans, the family of Zimri, and finally, Achan. Joshua exhorts Achan to admit to his son, and he does:

Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (vv. 20-21).

It would be money, wouldn’t it? The source of most of the evils committed by man. But isn’t this how people respond to sin sometimes–try to cover it up, as if God doesn’t already know? Why do people do that, when they could simply ask for forgiveness and right any wrongs? We as Christians shouldn’t have to wait until we are “outed” or our sins come to light. We already know that while we are not to downright disobey God’s decrees, we are also not expected to be perfect. We already know that when we do wrong, we can go to God and ask not only for His forgiveness but that He remove from us the propensity toward wrongdoing. While it may be easy to judge Achan, people do things like this every single day.

Joshua sends messengers to Achan’s tent where they uncover the items in the exact location he gave. Achan and ALL of his possessions–including the silver, robe, gold bar, his children, and even his animals, to the Valley of Achor, where Joshua, probably grieved by all of this, asks Achan why he had brought such trouble upon Israel???? Good question. Joshua then says “The Lord will bring trouble on you today” (v. 25).

Collectively, Israel stones Achan and everything and everyone that belonged to him, then burned them. Rocks are piled upon them which the Bible states remain there to this day, probably to serve as a reminder to the Israelites as to Achan’s sin and the devastation it caused. The Lord’s anger is now quenched.

It was unfortunate that the sin of one man caused the Lord to unleash His anger upon the entire nation, but the covenant God made with them was a collective one that required collective obedience. And while there are no degrees to sin, meaning one sin is not weighted more than other, this particular sin has such widespread ramifications. Achan unfortunately had to be an example to the others. They had to remain “set apart”. If one person was allowed to keep devoted items, more people would think it okay as well, and before you knew it idol worship would run rampant within the community. Achan had also withheld from God what was rightfully His. Recall that the bronze, silver, gold, and iron items were supposed to be stored in the Lord’s treasury.

Admittedly, I don’t understand why Achan’s children had to die too. Perhaps they were complicit in the crime by hiding the items. The Bible does not say, but that is my humble opinion.

More later!!

Always resolve to do better

If I am not mistaken, this is my first post of 2016.

The entire holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and including Christmas and New Year’s, was a complete struggle. My mother, sister and I, along with our husbands and children, went into the holiday season downtrodden, knowing it would be by far the most difficult holiday season we would ever be forced to weather together. We were right. Even as I attempted to happily toast in this new year with a glass of sparkling red grape juice in the company of several family members, my heart still broke as I remembered that Dad would not be here with us physically for any portion of this year or any subsequent years.

And that still bothers me.

I am still plodding my way through this whole grief process the best I can. I will admit I have times when I question God (recall a long time ago I wrote a post about how Christians can respectfully communicate with God, even in our frustration, anger and sadness). What I truly want people to understand is that although I am extremely sad about the loss of one of my best friends and strongest allies, that does not mean my faith has been shaken. I know where Dad is; I am just confused as to why God took him so soon. Dad was only fifty-eight, and up until the very moment I found out he was dead I just assumed he would live to be 80 or so years old. I honestly believed that with all the people praying for Dad that he would come through his ailments. Obviously that wasn’t the case, and yes, I have asked God why.

Admittedly, since under no circumstances will Dad come back here, no answer that I receive will suffice. I will not get what I really want–more time with Dad. So in the meantime I have to rewrite my life, which I originally thought included him up until my children graduated high school, attended their proms, etc. And it’s not easy.

Every now and then, whether it is just my imagination or not, I hear his voice. He is trying to remind me that I still have to do what God expects of me in my lifetime, just as he did. I am trying.

There is another hindrance in my life, albeit a positive hindrance. This pregnancy has been KICKING MY BEHIND. This baby RULES me. There is no rhyme or reason to ANYTHING. There is nothing that consistently works with my digestive system. Everything I eat seems to bother me. Not only that, but my food doesn’t come out either way (I know, TMI, but it’s my reality). I am exhausted and my body hurts. I can never get comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep. I have to take a Vitamin D supplement because out of the clear blue, my blood work came back showing that it was super-low. When I try to go places and do things, I get tired or nauseous quickly and have to retire. It is, quite frankly, the most annoying process ever and I can’t wait until June. In the meantime, I will find out whether this baby is a boy or girl later this month.

Despite my complaints about not being the old me, I am super excited about this baby. I just wish I felt better. I commend the women who find every aspect of pregnancy to be a miraculous, magical journey. While it is indeed miraculous and magical to be able to carry babies, that does not mean everything about it FEELS miraculous or magical. Sometimes I am aghast when I look down at my protruding belly, wondering how in the world will I EVER get rid of this disgusting flap of skin after I deliver this kid. I get angry in the morning when the alarm goes off, because nine times out of ten I have only slept for two or three hours, and then have to struggle just to get my fat body into an erect sitting position. I hate that whenever I feel a sneeze coming on I have to pray that I don’t pee myself. And I absolutely DETEST that I always crave things I can’t have–every morning without fail, around 2 a.m. or so, I NEED a Whopper from Burger King with cheese and extra tomato, or, out of nowhere, Manicotti with Italian sausage and cheese, or something else that is generally unavailable. I found myself in tears on the morning of New Year’s because I needed a burger and nowhere was open. Luckily, I was at my parent’s house, and Mom is sweet enough to keep a fully-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I was able to thaw out some hamburger meat and fry up a burger with all the fixins–cheese, heavy tomato, mayo, HEAVY PICKLE, ketchup and mustard. At 1:30 in the morning.

Speaking of new babies=new beginnings, I left off, a very long time ago I must say, as the Israelites were preparing to enter Canaan, the land God had promised Abraham so very long ago in Genesis. Moses has died, and Joshua son of Nun is his anointed successor. A brave, Godly warrior, Joshua is just the man for the job, one of only two men who initially explored the land and returned with an optimistic report, in stark contrast to the other ten men who freaked over the number of people in the land and their size.

Right at the onset of Joshua Chapter One, we see God getting back into the business of establishing his people. Remember, He has a promise to fulfill, and as we know, our God does not break promises. As I mentioned to my kids in Sunday School, if we make a covenant to God, rest assured He will keep His end of the bargain. It is up to us to make sure the vow is not broken, because undoubtedly God won’t be the one to mess up.

But I digress. The nation has grieved for Moses and now it is time to move forward. The people must prepare to cross the Jordan River and enter their new homeland. God assures Joshua that just as He was with Moses, He will be with him, and that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5). God then exhorts Joshua to be courageous. (We have already seen what weak leaders can do to a nation–again we can look back to when Joshua and Caleb were the only two who showed courage after exploring the land. The other ten men were able to negatively influence the rest of the nation. This is what poor leadership can do–turn people aside from the ways of the Lord).

Speaking of poor leadership… I have to do this. I am super embarrassed about my state.

Four Days After Declaring Emergency, Michigan Governor Delivers Water

When Money Matters More Than Lives–The Poisonous Cost of Austerity in Flint, Michigan

If you have not heard of this awful story, I encourage you to catch up on it. Briefly–Flint, Michigan has been hit hard over the years. Every negative factor in Michigan seems to have hit this area harder–unemployment, foreclosures, loss of jobs, problems with schools, everything. Our illustrious governor, for whom I did NOT vote, has strong-armed the state into the use of emergency managers that report directly to the governor. Mind you, Michiganders firmly rejected the idea of emergency managers when given the opportunity to have a voice, but like Rick Snyder has done on multiple occasions, he found a way to push his will through anyway, and with appropriations making it virtually impossible to have the law overturned.

I have yet to see how these emergency managers have done a decent job. They do more of a “hostile takeover” than a job–taking over entire cities and school districts. I am confused as to how they get away with such dictatorial behavior, and how they continue to collect large paychecks and face NO negative ramifications if they screw up, like normal people do.

Snyder, a businessman who had no idea being elected to GOVERN a state, appointed two emergency managers to Flint. The first decided Flint could no longer afford to buy water from its Detroit source, and thought, for reasons unknown, that it would be better to save money by drawing water from the super-polluted Flint River, where toxic waste and other substances detrimental to human (and animal) health have been dumped for years.

I am no scientist, but from what I understand, the water was supposed to have been treated before it was run through Flint’s pipes and into people’s homes, and it was not. The untreated water from the Flint River leached lead from the city’s old pipes and brought said water right into the homes of unknowing residents who bathed, brushed their teeth, fixed formula for their children, and drank contaminated water.

When reports started coming in that something was wrong with the water nothing was done. Now a smoking gun shows that Snyder was fully aware of the problem back in July, yet nothing was done. And as you can see in the article above, even after declaring a state of emergency (an understatement considering the fact that people NEED fresh water, and up until very recently the people of Flint still did not have consistently safe water), nothing was done in response to the people’s immediate need. Charitable individuals and organizations brought in water, not the government.

Meanwhile, we will have to unfortunately wait and see what is in store for the future of the hundreds of children who have tested positive for lead poisoning, which is irreversible. It is an absolutely disgusting and scary story. Read up on it if you can. I don’t know how any of the people involved can possibly sleep at night. For me, this story hit entirely too close to home. At the very least I should feel secure that when my son or daughter gets water from our tap that it won’t cause them brain damage!

I apologize for the rant. Back to Joshua.

Again, Joshua is exhorted to be strong and courageous. Another mark of a good leader? He is to obey God’s law, to always keep the Book of Law on his lips, to meditate on it, even. In that way, Joshua (and any leader) can be prosperous and successful.

Even if we are not leading an entire nation of people, those of us who are blessed enough to attain positions of leadership have to be careful to go forth in GODLY leadership. Just like every other aspect of our Christian lifestyle, how else will we know what God expects of us as Christian leaders if we do not read, study and meditate upon the words in the Instruction Manual? I know many people who can quote Scripture after Scripture, but it is more important that we APPLY God’s Word to our lives than simply being able to regurgitate it.

At my church, I printed out several different Bible reading plans so that interested members of the congregation could choose one and read the Bible in a year. I encouraged my Sunday School students to do this also, reminding them that the hour we spent in Sunday School was not enough time for them to fully grasp the truths of the Word. Despite their youth, I have encouraged them to use one of the plans as well, as I firmly believe that each of us who claims to be Christian ought to get through the Bible AT LEAST once in our lives. And even if we have read the entire thing, we have to continue to read and study. Only then can we really understand God and apply what we know to be His plans and will for us. The Instruction Manual, as I fondly call it, teaches us how to be Godly leaders, Godly parents, Godly spouses, etc.

In verse 9 God asks Joshua a rhetorical question that I like: “Have I not commanded you?” Basically, God is saying that if He gives us a commission, then surely He will be with us through it. So there is no need to be afraid or timid. If we have truly been called by God to do something, He is going to have our back, front, and both sides throughout it all.

In turn Joshua commands the officers of the nation to instruct their respective tribes to prepare themselves, for in three days they will cross the Jordan and enter the land God has given them. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who have decided to settle on the east side of Jordan River, are reminded that they are still expected to go help their fellow Israelites clear the land across the Jordan. Those tribes agree to this. In this sense, I thought of us as Christians today, and how when we get to a level of comfort and peace in our lives, and satisfaction, we should never turn a blind eye to the plight of the brethren. So although those tribes had their land and could have settled comfortably and watched as their fellow Israelites engaged the Canaanites in battle, God expected them to present a strong, united front. We as Christians today ought to support each other as well. Nothing bothers me more than when people get famous, when they have “arrived”, and turn their backs on the people from whence they came. And think of how Christians get so divided when it comes to denominations. There is no denomination that is more “saved” than another, nor more “sanctified” or “holy” than another. ANYONE WHO HAS FULLY ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOR, AND BELIEVES IN HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION, IS SAVED, SANCTIFIED AND HOLY! Imagine how better off America would be if EVERYONE who believed on JESUS came together!

Chapter Two includes one of my favorite stories of early Joshua. One of my favorite themes of the Bible is how God can and will use ordinary, sinful people to do extraordinary things. The story of Rahab the prostitute is one such example.

Joshua sent two spies to look over the land, concentrating on the heavily fortified Jericho. The spies end up being housed by a woman named Rahab. Wouldn’t you have loved to know more about her background or what happened to her after this encounter?? I know I would have. Either way it goes, Rahab must have had some measure of faith, because she hid the two spies when the king found out the two men were in the land. Apparently, Rahab’s house was in a prime location, somehow built right into the city wall (v. 15). Rahab was a smart woman and had an explanation ready when the king’s messengers, upon finding out about the two spies, demanded that she hand over the two men: “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them” (vv. 4-5). The men were hidden securely on her flat roof under stalks of flax.

On her word, the messengers leave in hot and fresh pursuit of the spies, after which the gate to the city is closed. Rahab then tends to the spies on the roof and confesses her faith by referring to God as “the Lord”. Remind you that Rahab is an Amorite woman enmeshed in an ungodly nation, so this is extremely important. She explains that she fully understands God’s plan–that He has given the land to the Israelites, and that it is causing fear among the people of the land, who have heard of God’s past miracles on behalf of the Israelites–the Red Sea and the destruction of the kings Sihon and Og. Rahab asks that she and her family be spared. The men agree, so long as she does not tell what they are doing. Rahab then lets the men down from a window with a rope and instructs them to hide in the hills for three days, lest their pursuers find them.

The men swear an oath to Rahab and instruct her to place a scarlet cord in her window, identifying her home to other Israelites as untouchable. Some believe that there is significance to the color of the cord/rope, that it is scarlet as in red like the blood of Jesus that saves and delivers. It was the presence of that scarlet cord that saved Rahab and her family and delivered them from destruction by the Israelites.

The men return to Joshua with a good report–the Canaanites are rightfully afraid of their God.

And now my daughter is sleepy and demanding my attention. I’ll be back, hopefully sooner than later. Joshua is a really good book.

Trying to find my way back…

To being me again.

I have not been on this blog in a long time. It has not been because I haven’t been praying or studying my Word. It is more because I have not been living my life as I should.

I hate to admit when I am at a weak point, but there is no denying that is where I am. Such that I am struggling to enjoy my life. My mind, especially as the holiday approaches, has become consumed with grief for my deceased Dad. All of these firsts–the first Thanksgiving, my first birthday without him telling me Happy Birthday, and now this first Christmas–without my Dad are even more difficult than I ever could have imagined.

I have been trying to remind myself that just as my Dad did, I should be enjoying all of the days God has allowed me, living them to the fullest, and miserably, I have not been. I have been going through the motions, basically just doing what is expected of me because I have to (I mean, I have to fix lunches, iron clothes, etc.). But the joy I had in doing those things before is not present, and I am actively trying to figure out how to get it back.

I am trying to keep in mind that as a Christian this is an especially joyous time of year, because although we do not know definitively that Christ was born on December 25th, we do know that He WAS born, that He died and rose again and secured our salvation, and that this December 25th is when we celebrate His undisputed birth. I am trying not to pass my attitude on to my kids, so I put on a smile when I can as they share their excitement for Christmas parties, gifts, church, putting up the tree, etc.

But my heart is not into it.

I know full well I am not myself. What I don’t know is how to get her back. But I’m trying. I am praying, and I am trying.

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