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What Do You Hold In Your Hand?

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When I consider the question, I often look at what I hold physically in that moment in time. Perhaps it is the wooden spoon I am using to stir batter. Perhaps it is the iron as I press a shirt. Perhaps it is my camera, my journal, my Bible, or a favorite book.

For Moses, it was a staff that was used to demonstrate the power of God to Pharaoh. For David, it was a slingshot, which felled Goliath. In both these biblical examples, the things were commonplace to the men who used them and yet God used the commonplace to do something extraordinary.

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The more serious question I then ponder is what do I consider commonplace or ordinary, why do I view these things in that way, and what might they become when submitted to God?

Gutzon Borglum looked at a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota and envisioned his sculptor’s hands creating what we know as Mt. Rushmore. He used tools that were common to him along with a vision of what they could create even though it had never been done before. He saw something no one else did and created it so we could all see the wonder.

Theodore Roosevelt in an address at Carnegie Hall in 1912 said, “We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” He saw something, believed something that was and also was yet to come with both the potential and the responsibility to act wisely with what had been placed in our hands as a nation.

These realities give me pause. What do I hold in my hand that could become extraordinary? What do I see that others may not see and how can I give them a glimpse of it?

I can only answer that when I risk discovering what it is for me. Then, I must believe in what I see as Moses, David, Gutzon Borglum, Theodore Roosevelt, and countless others did, but I must also gain courage to act on it and discover in that process what God saw all along.

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What Agreement Did We Make?

 

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Our daily newscasts alert us to agreements or pacts that have been agreed to between countries, companies, or organizations. Many times there is a formal signing event with special pens designated for the agreement, treaty, or pact. In recent history, many pacts or deals were sealed by a handshake instead of a formal ceremony. In those days, your word was your bond and the handshake was the physical demonstration of the agreement. In each case, it represents a promise or commitment to that which has been agreed upon.

 

Children like to “pinky promise” one another. It is their version of a handshake of old perhaps. A bride and groom pledge promises to one another representing a covenant, an agreement.

 

There are also unspoken agreements that are made along the way in all of our lives. Some of these we are conscious of and have assented to on some level. Perhaps it is something that was spoken long ago and now continues to be assumed such as a husband agreeing to handle the yard work or the wife agreeing to handle the primary job of cooking.

 

Beyond these are unconscious agreements we have made and continue to make unknowingly. These are those convictions we have developed or have been raised to believe about life, the Lord, and us. Many of these developed as children or adolescents when we were malleable and believed what we learned was fact without the maturity, discernment or wisdom to know whether they were true or false. For those reasons, it gives fertile ground for the enemy to twist and distort our beliefs. Too often, they shadow us into adulthood without our awareness. If we stumble upon one of them, we assume we are the ones creating these thoughts versus the whispers of the enemy.

 

Those unconscious subtle agreements work to try to erode the truth and wreak havoc with our thought life and emotions. These then nibble away and erode our relationships, casting doubt and uncertainty where there is no reason for either one.

 

How does this work?

 

Perhaps when we were young children our parents were divorced and we did not and could not understand what happened, but we felt abandoned by the parent who moved out of our home. We wondered if it was our fault in some way, if we had obeyed more quickly, been quieter, tried harder, or been more of something we could have still been a family. In the mix of those wounded hearts, a subtle whisper can begin that we are not good enough, don’t deserve a family, will be abandoned by anyone we love.

 

These beliefs sink under the surface of our minds and hearts and yet, even in adulthood they subtly pop up above the surface. We have a hard time believing we are worthwhile, trusting we are loveable and will not be abandoned when we risk loving. Despite whatever we achieve, we cannot believe in “the possible” for ourselves and sometimes we struggle with what the Lord believes about us even after we become Christians.

 

I think that is why Paul reminds us in II Corinthians 10 to take every thought captive. It reminds us that we need to take back the truth about who we are, who we are not, and who He is. We often will ask someone else to affirm us in some way and hope that will get rid of the pesky thoughts. Sadly, those words slide off of us as if we were made of Teflon.

 

It is only when we hear from our Creator the truth that we can receive the positive affirmations of others and own the truth. The truth is that He loved us before, before we knew Him, before we tried to obey Him, and He will never abandon us. His love was NEVER based on whether or not we were good enough or deserved it. NONE of us were or did. It was based on who He was, is, and always will be.

 

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psa. 139:14 ESV

 

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Extraordinary Snapshots from Ordinary

 

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Thanks to cell phones and other mobile devices most all of us are capturing special moments, snapshots, to record events. I use them as well, but prefer my digital camera and my great lens to capture something that tells a story all by itself.

 

I cannot recall when I got my first camera and began snapping photos. I am certain it goes photography-quoteback to the days of being a Brownie or Girl Scout, but when I worked as a “stringer” for a local newspaper, I began to look through the camera lens differently. I knew I could snap a picture, but could I take a photo that told (or helped tell) a story? It was then that I started to look through my camera lens differently and that quest has remained to the present.

 

Our photos on whatever device we use catch moments in time because those moments are special to us and because we want to remember. I am not sure as I look at some of these in my own albums if they really help me recall or give me only a glimpse that cannot really fully bring back the memory.

 

The truth is that I have discovered the most extraordinary “snapshots” take place on seemingly very ordinary days and most of them were never shot through the lens of a camera. These “snapshots” are recalled vividly and were often captured by the lens in my mind and heart when there was no camera in my hand. These seem to be recorded indelibly and are not one or two dimensional, but truly full of meaning and emotion.

 

One of those “snapshots” is of my dad when I was a child as I watched him walk through a 599c713719cfa4422b1086909fbdfa07field on the farm where I grew up. I can see him clearly walk along with his straw hat and fiddle seeder. I have captured his pace and speed as well and when that “photo” comes to mind, it never fails to warm my heart because it gives me a special glimpse of him. Even if a camera had been in my hand, it could not have captured what I see through the lens within me.

 

There was also another picture of my dad slowly walking through the house gently patting my newborn son’s back when he was struggling with colic. My dad would be barely moving his feet and yet it seemed to soothe our son in ways I could not. It was a dear picture to me since my son and I were then living with my parents while my husband was overseas on active duty. My dad never appeared to tire of doing this for an hour at a time to soothe his precious grandson. How could a camera lens capture the emotion connected with this?

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Another such “snapshot” causes relief and joy to bubble up within me as no photograph can. It is one of my 24-year-old U.S. Marine Captain walking off a plane at 6AM on an Easter Sunday morning after being separated by a war half a world away for 14 months. I see his familiar walk, his deep tan, and how thin he is, but the lens within captures something beyond that and even 48 years later brings a similar set of feelings to my heart.

 

Our memories tend to be recorded almost like a kaleidoscope and sorted randomly, sometimes inaccurately. I think that is why we use our cameras so often.

 

I now routinely carry some sort of camera with me most every day, but as I go through a typical day when there is no special event to capture I now pause to glimpse through the lens within. In those moments, I see things differently, better, and perhaps more clearly. Those are the very best “snapshots” and they are mine alone.

 

 

 

Without Warning

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J.B. Collins is the top national security correspondent for the New York Times with a topnotch reputation for getting the facts others miss, but the challenge in this new release from Tyndale House is how to convince the President of the United States.

 

The Middle East is in chaos. The Israeli prime minister is dead and Amman, Jordan is in ruins as ISIS continues to escalate their attacks across the world. President Taylor knows that and has seen their tactics up close and personal when he came under attack and nearly lost his life when he was abducted in the Middle East. Even so, he continues to tell the American people ISIS is being defeated.

 

J.B. was the one who interviewed the head of ISIS while that man was in prison. He knows his voice, his face, his plans to destroy not only the Middle East, but also the United States in attacks worse than those of 9/11. J.B. fears the worst is ahead based on his firsthand knowledge from his interview and the certainty there are jihadist cells already plotting the attacks within the United States and that chemical weapons are likely to be used.

 

As J.B. waits to meet with President Taylor before he speaks to a joint session of Congress and honors J.B. for his work, he feels an urgency to persuade the President the worst is coming and he must act swiftly and decisively to protect the people of the United States. He is confounded by the unwillingness of the President to acknowledge the truth and tell the American people the truth as well.

 

For as much as J.B. fears, what he doesn’t know is that things are worse than he anticipates and despite all the warnings the President has received, he still insists on a different narrative, a false one. That narrative will leave the United States vulnerable and Middle East allies at a loss. Time has run out.

 

This gripping novel sounds like it has been pulled from present day headlines and will immediately catch you up in this powerful story written by Joel Rosenberg, New York Times best selling author. The intrigue will keep the pages turning with no certainty of how it will all end until the final few pages.

 

I would love to tell you more about the story line, J.B.’s character, how his brother, Matt, fits into J.B.’s final chapter, but I don’t want to spoil the story. You will want to check this all out for yourself.

 

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.

 

 

 

The Long Game

 

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Today I come to the end of this series on Nehemiah. I hope those of you who have taken this journey with me have been encouraged and blessed by not only a review of the stories, but hopefully a new insight here or there. I confess this has always been one of my favorite Old Testament books. As I finished reading it recently, I couldn’t resist this journey I have written about. One of the study resources I used made specific note about Nehemiah’s godly leadership, evidences of that and how it was broadened by experience. As I was reading and studying, those points were ones I especially wanted to share.

 

I think that in an era where it can be hard to identify faithful godly leadership in so many arenas, Nehemiah has much to teach us. Today I want to look at one final characteristic:

 

A godly leader keeps leading

 

To gain a sense of that point, let me turn us to look at the story as we near the end of it.

 

The book of Nehemiah actually is at the end of Old Testament history even though Esther appears last canonically. So, in truth, Nehemiah is actually the last piece of Old Testament history we have. That gets my attention.

 

Throughout the story we have watched Nehemiah’s heart and actions respond to God in obedience. His leadership has been steady throughout. When we reach chapter 13, we see the Law is still being read, that same truth the exiles had committed to follow after hearing it read the first time and repenting. They were hearing clearly the people of God were to be separate from the people of other nations. Specifically, they were reminded the Ammonites and the Moabites were never to be living in their midst.

 

Once again, however, they were failing to be faithful. Tobiah was mixed up with the chief priest and had even allowed Tobiah to lodge in the temple. The chief priest’s grandson had also married Sanballat’s daughter. He had entered into a variety of alliances and ideas with the enemies of the people of God and instead of modeling what the Law taught, he was doing the exact opposite.

 

How did this happen? Read the text to see what you may discover, but one thing will be 2123034889-clead1clear: Nehemiah was out of town when all this was taking place and now has returned. As governor of the city, he once again demonstrates his courage by throwing out the chief priest who had not followed the Law and defiled the temple. He also threw out everyone who belonged to him or was connected to him in any way.

 

Nehemiah was acutely aware that God’s house was never to be profaned so he was clear he had to go about doing a thorough house cleaning. He discovers a lot. He learns the Levites had not been receiving their portions as the chief priest was caught up with the enemies of the people of God. As a result they had fled into the area surrounding the city because the people were not providing for them as outlined by the Law. Nehemiah called the magistrates of the city to account for not administering the city as had been directed and outlined. He took note of how the Sabbath had been profaned as well and grieved and acted to restore that day as God had outlined to Moses.

 

It was clear in the absence of Nehemiah’s godly leadership, everyone else went astray from his or her commitment. He needed to constantly remind the people of their promises. The people were caught up in the same kinds of sins evident throughout all their history prior to the story of Nehemiah. His work of leading never ended. He was a shepherd to the people and they sorely needed one.

 

We have been blessed to have had the Living Word, Jesus, show us the way and shepherd us. He came to provide the ultimate sacrifice because He loved us and knew that we too would be unable to keep our promises and walk in pure obedience. His death and resurrection would give us the path to relationship with Him forever. He wanted His to be assured of His everlasting love through His grace and mercy.

 

Even so, Nehemiah demonstrated godly leadership before the Word came in the flesh and in this series we saw the evidence of it in Nehemiah’s life.

 

  • A godly leader prays
  • A godly leader acts
  • A godly leader faces opposition
  • A godly leader cares
  • A godly leader turns people to God’s word
  • A godly leader confesses sin
  • A godly leader leads people in specific commitments
  • A godly leader keeps leading

 

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