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.

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