Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.
I have learned many things in my years in childcare. After four years at a daycare and now after my first year as a preschool teacher in the Dominican Republic, I’ve probably learned the most about crowd control. Also known as classroom management. Also known as discipline. In addition to teaching me much about how to care for children well (and showing me how much I still have to learn) spending all of the time around little ones has taught me much about myself - like the fact that I have a passion for discipline. Who knew that people even had that passion? But, as I’m learning, everyone is different and everyone is good at different things - praise God! - and something I’m pretty good at is discipline. (I am currently choosing to ignore the flashes of me, frustrated and at a total loss as to how to proceed, sobbing in a preschool-sized chair from the past year.)
And one tip I would give to all those in charge of disciplining children (or animals) is that when you are asking/telling a child (or puppy) not to do something, it’s always wise to give them some options of what they could/should do. For example, “Eyden, please stop kicking the wall and come help us pick up the crayons.” Or, “Lia, please stop petting Kennyi and clap your hands as we sing the song!”
Sometimes this is a challenge, but discipline requires nothing if not creativity.
Now, the Bible says (more than once) that God disciplines those He loves and I would happily admit that God knows a lot more about discipline (and everything else) than I do. I would also happily admit that God has my back on this idea of redirection. He does it himself in Joel 2.
The small book of Joel talks about the locust plague in Judah (fun!) and the coming of the Lord. The book of Joel also talks a crap load about repentance and restoration, which are my new two favorite words. (I’m reading through the Bible in 60 days and finding that these two themes are coming up a lot. When we repent, God restores. And it’s awesome.)
Now, let me tell you, Joel is not pretty. There are cankerworms, devoured stubble, rotten seeds, barren lands, more cankerworms, and a lot of judgment. But there is also hope.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. - Joel 2:32
And this all swings back to the discipline, redirection spiel from the beginning. Because God gave His people a command. He said, “Repent because judgment is coming and it’s gonna suck.The locusts are going to run wild and everything is going to be ruined.” But then He says…
Fear not, o land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cuase to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. - Joel 2:21-23
God says, “It’s gonna be bad. But do not fear. Be glad and rejoice. After the locusts destroy everything, I’m going to send rain and fruit and figs and vines! I’m going to restore everything!”
See? All about restoration.
And instead of fearing and worrying about the future, God tells His people to rejoice and be glad for the future. Because He promised to take care of it. To provide. To restore. To send the rain that makes the flowers (and pastures and figs) grow.
And I think that now, for us, we can get all caught up in the damage of the locusts (which we deserve, because we’re sinful and too often forget to repent) that we start to fear. We think that nothing is ever going to be good again and we think that we’re never going to have “enough” money ever again and I’m never going to have a job/house/relationship/car/computer/favorite TV show I loved as much as I loved the job/house/relationship/car/computer/favorite TV show I just lost.
But look here! God has promised.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. - Joel 3:16
Judgment and discipline will come, yes, but so will hope and strength. God’s words of discipline for you today might be, “Be not afraid. Rejoice. Be glad.” He has promised to provide and He is faithful.
“Reader friend, please stop being a fearful worrier and come praise with us…”
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In the end, regardless of my job description, it is impossible for me to be anything other than what I am… and what I am is a woman in need of Jesus. I need the Jesus who turns water to wine, who hangs out with prostitutes and thieves, who doesn’t hold back when it comes to calling religious people out on their crap, and who never, ever shies away from that which is ugly and difficult and true. The Jesus who says “I am the Light”– I really, really need Him. And that neediness is simply not something that I am willing to hide– for to hide that is also, by extension, to hide the ways that He is living and working and setting me free. And when my refusal to hide both my neediness for Christ and my freedom in Christ can serve as a demonstration to others that He does not *require* that they hide those things either… well, it might not be very clean or look very pretty, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is HOLY.
There is only one more week of school. Six more wake-ups. Next Friday I will be in the United States. As the day of my departure grows nearer I am finding myself less excited and more bummed. I know that this summer in Indianapolis with my YW team is going to be awesome. I also know that this summer in San Pedro de Marcoris is going to be awesome. And since I have copious amounts of camp and campish experiences, I have been asked to be on The Palms Summer Camp Planning Team. Today we had our first brainstorming sesh and our camp is sounding so fun I almost called YouthWorks to quit. Just kidding. I love YouthWorks. And teenagers. A lot. But it does sound so fun that I am most definitely sticking around next summer to run around with kids in 100 degree weather at The Palms.
During these last school days our valor (value) is gratitude. I love this value. I think that gratitude goes a long way and that as long as you are thanking God for things you have no time to whine and complain. (I don´t like whining and complaining.) So, in the spirit of gratitude today my students and I practiced saying, ¨Thank you, God!¨ in English. We also made Books of Gratitude. Each student got a half-page of paper to draw what they wanted to thank God for. Then I asked each of them what they drew or what they wanted to thank God for and wrote their responses on their pages. I got some good answers.
Answers like…. Umbrellas. Ducklings. Words. Monsters. Hearts. Airplanes. Airplanes that allow you to travel to different countries. Stars. Water. Rabbits and monkeys (same kid). Then Pre-Primario B went all Sunday School on me and almost every one of those kids said they were thankful for the Bible.
But the best two answers of the day came from the four-year olds. One precious boy with super long eyelashes said, ¨Christ… and my family.¨ Christ! A four year old boy wants to say, ¨Thank you, God, for Jesus Christ.¨ Another four year old told me, ¨I give thanks to God because I like to give thanks to God.¨ (Probably because, ¨¿Por que cosas quieres decir gracias a Dios?¨ and ¨¿Porque quieres decir gracias a Dios?¨ sound very similar. The first one means, ¨For what things do you want to say thank you to God?¨ and the second question means, ¨Why do you want to say thank you to God?¨)
What do YOU want to thank God for today?
If you need some help coming up with an answer, check out my gratefulness blog! Because one blog is just never enough!
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First of all, each of the i’s in the word “bikini” have a different sound. An English language learner’s nightmare!
Second of all, I recently read a blog post (and by recently I mean like, 20 minutes ago) about modesty and bathing suits. Now I love modesty (and my one piece bathing suit… and blogs) so I was pumped. Plus the blog post came up on Dannah Gresh’s Facebook page and good things usually come from that lady. Then I read the short article that followed two pictures of a really pretty girl in a really cute polka-dot one piece all made up with hair curled looking cute on the beach. And at first I was all, “Yeah, well, I guess.” Then, as I continued to read, I was like, “But, really?” And immediately after finishing I started really quickly typing up a comment that had stuff in it like, “Why doesn’t someone write about….?!?!” and, “Well, in my experience….” And God said, “Well, you have a blog! You write about your experience.”
So here are (some of) my thoughts about bathing suits and modesty prompted by this blog post.
I have to start off by saying that I don’t necessarily disagree with anything this sweet girl is saying. I am not calling into question her salvation status or whether or not she really wants to glorify God with her whole self. What I am doing is calling us to please, please, please think. To not just accept what we’ve always heard about why we should wear one-piece bathing suits as good enough reasons but to think about what we believe about modesty and how that affects not only what we wear but also how we view ourselves and others.
I grew up in a Baptist church. After high school I went on to attend a Baptist University. I am currently a Baptist missionary. I’ve owned and worn a lot of one piece bathing suits. If you are a gal who grew up going to church camps and church BBQs and church pool parties, then I’m sure you too have seen your fair share of one-piece bathing suits*. And done your fair share of rooting through clothes racks to try to find one that was not hideous.
For some ladies, all of this forced “modesty” meant that as soon as they were out from under their parents’ roof, they were all about the bikini baby! For some, this meant a false sense of superiority from the belief that they were “guarding their brothers’ hearts.” The aforementioned blog post took the “guarding our brothers’ hearts” approach (although those words were never used) by saying that, “Girls are walking around all the time with barely any clothes on at the beach or pool! Guys can never get a break from it, even if they’re trying to see past all the bodies to find the smiles and personalities within the girls.” Her argument was that by wearing a one-piece instead of a bikini we are aiding the guys in their tough quest to look past the bod to the girl within.
The problem with this kind of logic is two-fold (or three- or seven-fold). First of all, I find it very hard to believe (and please correct me if I’m wrong, fellas!) that covering up our stomachs and love handles really makes that much of a difference. I understand that bikinis are often more revealing than one-pieces, but for a guy who struggles with lust I think it’s the tanned cleavage and barely covered butt that get his juices going, which are often just as exposed in a one-piece. (At least if you’ve got cleavage like mine, which is hard to contain in any bathing suit situation.)
Secondly, and please here me hear because this is what really stands out to me, modesty needs to move past our focus on the opposite sex. Ultimately, whether I am wearing a bikini because I want guys to notice my body or I am covering up because I want guys to notice my not-body (my smile? my personality? my singing voice?), I am making my decisions about what to wear based on guys. We don’t want to be noticed by him because of our bodies or our bikinis, but it seems like we really wouldn’t mind being noticed because of our choice to wear a one-piece. We can use the excuse that guys are sexual beings and we just have to keep them from self-destruction and backsliding and porn by covering up! But from what I’ve seen and heard and experienced, men who set their hearts on things above will be able to say no to self-destruction and backsliding and porn because of who Jesus is and not because of what you wear. And from what I’ve seen and heard and experienced, males do not have a monopoly on the sex thing. Humans are sexual beings.
Frankly, when a boy is running around the beach with no shirt on I am thinking about how nice his abs/back/chest look and what it might be like to be held by those arms. And knowing about his smile/personality/singing voice/Christ-like character only make those struggles more difficult. Because we as humans are body and spirit, cleavage and Harry Potter knowledge, abs and the ability to take things apart and put them back together again correctly. So I don’t think that focusing on the “inner beauty” detracts from the “outer beauty” but rather enhances it. If my guy knows that I’m super hilarious and a decent speller, then he’ll probably appreciate me in a bathing suit even more than he did before knowing those things about me. Maybe? Maybe not?
When I think that my bathing suit decision should be made based solely on how what my decision will affect a guy I missed the point. And I’m so glad I’m learning this because it’s so freeing. When I make my decisions about what I do or do not put onto my body I am thinking about God. (What? That’s weird.) I am thinking about women of valor. (Of course you are, everyone relevant on the Christian internet these days is thinking about women of valor.) I am thinking about my future husband. (Well that’s not new, you’re always thinking about your future husband.) I am thinking about me. (Again, not new….) And it is with these things in mind that I decide to put on that one-piece or that tank top or that dress or whatever. (It is also with my actual body in mind that I make clothing decisions, but dressing the body you have versus the body you want is a whole different discussion, and one best reserved for people like Stacy and Clinton.)
I just think you should know that in the blog post that got me all worked up today, the author says, “I think we can all agree that as girls, exercise is important to us. We want to stay healthy and are often working on getting fit. We work out and stay away from carbs or sweets. We use all of our willpower to not eat the chocolate cake on the counter!” And that’s really where she lost me. I can’t relate to any of that. This doesn´t really add to a conversation about modesty except to remind us that we shouldn´t assume every woman in the world thinks about things the way we do.
Recently (as in, maybe a week ago) I was laying in my bed (not having a computer anymore means a lot of just laying around and thinking time - I think it’s productive… sometimes) thinking about how God gave us all different types of bodies and how we use them to do all different kinds of things. And I started thanking God for all that He has given us in our bodies. I prayed things like, “Thank you, God, for people who use their bodies to run around and play sports, enjoying themselves and enjoying time with others.” I prayed things like, “Thanks, God, for men and women who use their bodies to defend their countries. For men and women who spend time exercising and taking care of their bodies so that they can take care of other people well.” I also prayed, “Thank you, God, for people who use their bodies to bake and cook and bless people with awesome food.” I prayed, “Thanks, God, for my body. Thank you for legs that work and arms that hug and help and care for. Thank you for eyes that see and a mouth that can almost speak two languages. Thank you for blessing me with this body and for helping me see new ways to use it for your kingdom work.”
I prayed for a really long time prayers like that and as I was praying I was lifting up specific men and women and also men and women as a whole. And I was praying that women, specifically, would start to see their bodies as a gift. The thing is, my body is for my future husband to enjoy one day (too far?) but for right now my body is to teach and to clean the litter box and to do my laundry and to walk to the grocery store. And at the beach I use my body to enjoy God’s creation (seriously, I love the beach) and to swim and rest and run to the ice cream man in a cheetah print one-piece bathing suit that is probably too low-cut but was cheap and kind of flattering. So to still hear this stale (not necessarily invalid but stale and shallow) argument about guarding guys’ hearts I just really believe we’re missing the point. We are still focusing on only one aspect of who we are. We’re still counting ourselves (as women) as nothing more than “chocolate cake” for a man to fight the temptation to “break down and eat the cake.”
And we really think that choosing a one-piece over a bikini is going to solve this problem?
Stop viewing yourself as chocolate cake! You are not responsible for how a man sees you. You are not responsible for how a man sees you or for what he thinks about you.
Stop viewing yourself as being a blessing to the male gender just because you wore a one-piece or choose a dress with straps over a strapless one. Be a blessing by actually being a blessing. Be a blessing by praying for each other and challenging each other. Be a blessing to guys by asking them about what God is teaching them, by letting them hold the door open for you, by telling them how great they are at what they love to do.
Stop viewing each other as chocolate cake, too. Stop judging her for wearing a bikini or short shorts or a low cut shirt. Check your eye for the plank, and then get to know her for who she is. Otherwise you’re just as bad as those lustful, sexual boys who can’t get past your bathing suit to your winning personality.
I have to say it again - You are not responsible for how a man sees you or for what he thinks about you. Your judge, your standard, your mirror, your guy-to-impress should be Jesus. Not your dad, not your pastor, not your boyfriend, not your gal pal, but Jesus. When you hold yourself to His standard you realize just how far off you’ve been. You realize just how filthy those one-piece clad righteous acts really are. And you realize the only place you can find grace and restoration and hope is in Him. And ultimately He cares a lot more about your heart than your bathing suit. He really does.
*I would like to take this opportunity to say that not all church pool parties are created equally.** For example, a good ol’ fashioned United Baptist Church pool party meant boys and girls were never to be in the swimming pool at the same time. It also meant t-shirts for everyone (boys, embrace the farmers’ tan). It also meant that one-piece bathing suits were to be worn but never seen (as in, keep those t-shirts and shorts on even while soaking wet, ladies!). On the flipside, a Trinity Presbyterian Church pool party meant we were going to the lake and tankinis will do. Sure, hope on that jet ski with that shirtless guy you’ve been crushing on for years!
**I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am not endorsing one type of church pool party over another. This is not the part of the post where I am asking you to think. Just chuckle and move on.
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The title of this blog is HappyGirl and I usually am just that - a happy girl. But today, for this moment, I am a sad girl. Because today was my last sala de tarea of the year. (Sala de tarea is our after school program.) For the past five months, for an hour and a half each day, five days a week, I have tutored Ambiorix and Edison and today was our last time together. Now, the really sad part is that I didn’t know that today was our last time together because we still have a full week of school next week, so when I got to school and Edison said he didn’t want to come with me because Ms Rachel was having a party for the end of sala de tarea, I was really bummed. Partly because I wanted our last time together to be really fun and memorable. Instead, our last time together was me and Ambiorix playing bingo while Edison enjoyed Ms Rachel’s party.
Saying good-bye to the back of Ambiorix and Edison’s heads as they rushed out of the classroom and ran down the hall (and quickly got chastised by Noemi - the boss lady of sala de tarea) started me thinking about how far we’ve come this year. Last week and this week Ambiorix didn’t need my help at all on any of his math homework. That is awesome. He remembers what “average” means and can tell you all about “mean, median, mode, and range.” Edison can read the word “egg”! And about five hundred other words that he used to read funnily wrong.
As my first year as a real big-shot teacher is winding down, I find myself wanting to take a break, to not only look forward to the future (a second summer with YouthWorks, a new program to be in charge of next school year, getting involved with the Womens Ministry, improving my Spanish) but to take some time to look back at this school year. When I take the time to look back I see a ton of grace. First year teachers need a lot of grace. But I think we all need a lot of grace all of the time. Ambiorix and Edison needed a lot of grace as they waded through fourth and fifth grade material in their second language. I needed a lot of grace as I shouted things at them, knowing in my head and in my heart that shouting things doesn’t make them easier to understand, but not having enough grace of my own to slow down and re-word.
My nivel incial students continue to need a lot of grace as they continue to learn what words like, “silencio,” and “sin hablar,” mean. I continue to need a lot of grace as I take the easy way out, knowing it’ll be “good enough” instead of striving for what really is best for my students. I needed a lot of grace as I stumbled through Spanish, got frustrated, and gave up on conversations. I needed a lot of grace as I chose TV or sleeping over time with Jesus. I needed a lot of grace as I grumbled my way back to church on Sunday evening. And I continue to need grace.
But the best darn part of it is, even when I look back on all of the grace that we needed here at The Palms this year, there was not one time when grace didn’t show up. God’s grace was sufficient for all of the first-year teacher, first-year in the country pride and blunders. God’s grace was sufficient for three-year-olds just being stinky little three-year-olds with smiles sweet enough to melt even this tired, sweaty teacher’s heart. I look back on this year and see all of the times when God showed up with a heaping spoon full of grace and just shoved it into my mouth (which was already open because I was yelling at the kids to “sit down sin hablar!”).
Looking back on this first year at The Palms I am relieved it’s over. That in August when school starts again I will know so much more than I did last August. I’ll know my co-workers and the majority of my students. I’ll know much more about culture and Spanish and teaching Dominican kids. I’ll know much more about what’s expected of me and what I need to be rested and healthy. And even though there will be so many more things to learn next year (and in the summer in between) the biggest lesson I learned this year is that God’s grace is ever present and always sufficient.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. - John 1:16
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. - Acts 20:24
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 5:20-21
Don’t tell me if you’re right. Don’t tell me I’m wrong. Do sit with me and wrestle through our stories together because then I see a taste of the Church as it’s meant to be: broken but living out something beautiful in our strengths.
This morning, as I was smack dab in the middle of my morning routine, I thought I’d talk a bit more about myself on this blog (you know, because I never talk about myself) and let you in on my morning routine. I love observing other people’s daily routines - just the simple things they do each day that can be so drastically different from how I do things. You know, to celebrate diversity and all. Plus I’m always looking to get a laugh and I think my morning routine is ridiculous.
My alarm goes off and then I continue to hit snooze at five minute intervals for about half an hour. Once I can’t fight the urge to pee anymore (or it’s my last chance for a snooze before the alarm turns off) I get up and spend about 2 minutes in the bathroom you know, uh, using the bathroom and brushing my teeth.
I go back to my bedroom from the bathroom, stretch, and start my daily devotion. I spend five to ten minutes reading over a passage or devotion page or whatever. (This part varies, but right now our small group is doing Reba Bowman’s Hosea study so I am doing that in the mornings.)
Once I’ve read, I spend at least ten minutes just laying on my bed “reflecting.” Often this reflection time is accompanied by some sweet tunes, like Mumford and Sons or HeartSong or Nick Jonas. This morning, however, I reflected without music because the cat chewed the cord to my speakers and it just didn’t feel like a headphones morning. And my computer is broken (Oh, did you know here? My computer’s broken!). Sometimes I actually am reflecting on what I have read or what God has laid on my heart. Sometimes I really am praying. More often than not, however, I am thinking about such serious matters as these:
What Arrested Development catchphrase should I put at my Facebook status when the new episodes are finally released?
Just how dusty can my fan get before it stops working? (Which has happened. Twice.)
What day is it today?
What do I have to do today?
David and Saul (a la 1 Samuel) have a relationship very simliar to that of Valjean and Javert.
I’m definitely not thinking about my future husband or wondering who he is or wondering when we’re going to meet or planning our wedding or designing our future house or anything like that.
Sometimes I am writing blog posts in my head (like this gem) that never actually get written down/typed up (aren’t you lucky this one made it to the keyboard?).
Here’s an aside - isn’t it funny that you write things down but you type things up? English is crazy.
This morning (in addition to thinking about what a great idea it would be to type up my morning routine and share it with the internet) I was thinking about how many more blog posts I would write if my brain were hooked up to a computer like Stephen Hawking. I have conversations with myself all the time in my head. I think a lot of good things (and a lot of ridiculous things) throughout the day. I bet if my brain were hooked up to a computer and I could type just by thinking I would’ve written at least four novels by now and I’d be blog-famous like The Very Worst Missionary and Jon Acuff.
And of course once I started thinking about Stephen Hawking all I wanted to do was watch The Big Bang Theory.
After ten or fifteen minutes of laying around, I spend about two minutes getting dressed and doing my hair. Then it takes between two and fifteen minutes to pack up my bag depending on how many trips between the front door and the bookshelf I have to make. It takes me about two minutes to walk across the street to the school and bam! That’s it. My morning routine.
What would you accomplish if your brain were hooked up to a computer?
Reba Bowman is the boss lady of Dare for More Ministries. She speaks all around the country to women about who God made them to be. And sometimes she comes to the Dominican Republic to speak to women here. And sometimes she brings really awesome groups of ladies to do work and be a blessing. And sometimes she writes Bible studies on Hosea.
Return to Me: The Unconditional Love Story of Hosea is Reba’s bible study that we recently started here in our small group. There’s a DVD with it! And last Monday while watching the DVD for week 3 with Jenn and Rachel, I learned something new.
First of all, if you don’t know the story of Hosea, get our your bible and read Hosea 1-3. And imagine yourself as Gomer because that’s who you are - a shameful sinner who just can’t help but go back to the sinful ways and places that God has rescued you from. And imagine Jesus as Hosea because that’s who He is - a man in love with His bride and willing to do whatever it takes to have her home with Him, even if it means searching through the brothels and human trafficking rings to find her and buy her back at whatever price it costs.
After you’re done reading Hosea 1-3 and imagining you as Gomer and Hosea as God you’ll probably have some praying and crying to do, which is great and a totally natural response. I first heard the story of Hosea my junior year of college and I’m still wrecked by it. God of the universe came down into filth, came down to where He didn’t belong, came down to the whorehouse, and bought me back. Technically, I’m already His because He created me. Just like technically, Gomer is already Hosea’s because they’ve been married and so lawfully she is his. But even more technically, love trumps all. And Jesus wants to be, not our owner, but our husband, our lover, our friend, our beloved, our Savior.
But the reason why I’m writing today is because of one verse in Hosea 2. Hosea 2:15 says, “And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.”
Another important thing to know about the book of Hosea is that not only is Gomer representative of you and me, but Gomer also represents Israel, God’s chosen people. So that’s what God/Hosea is saying when He says “as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” He’s talking about the time when His people praised Him and followed Him commands and remembered all that He had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt to be His people.
Okay, so in Hosea 2:15 God tells Israel that He is going to make a door of hope for them in the Valley of Achor. Which is meaningless unless you know what/where the Valley of Achor is. And you can find that in Joshua 7:26. Joshua 7:10-26 is all about this guy named Achan, who had gotten greedy and stolen some silver, some gold, and a cloak from the spoils of Jericho. (You know, after the walls came a’tumbling down.) The problem with Achan taking those things is that God, through Joshua, had told the Israelites in Joshua 6:18-19, “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any ofthe devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”
So the gold and silver that Achan took were supposed to be for the Lord. And it’s not a good idea to steal from the Lord. In fact, because of Achan’s sin, Israel lost what should’ve been an easy battle at Ai and 36 men died. So that is why in Joshua 7:24-25 we see Joshua taking Achan and his entire family to the Valley of Achor to be stoned.
“And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters…. and all that he had. And they brought him up to the Valley of Achor… And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.” - Joshua 7:24-25
The Valley of Achor is not a happy place. Not a lot of happy memories there. In fact “Achor” means “trouble” according to my handy little ESV bible. So why would God choose this place to make into a door of hope for Israel/Gomer? Well, because of who Gomer was and the nature of her sin (prostitution, adultery) she deserved to be stoned. Hosea could’ve rightly and justly taken his case to wherever you took your case in those days and the people would’ve said, “Take this adulteress and her children to the Valley of Achor and stone them with stones.”
God could rightly and justly look down at the sinful people that He created and say, “Take those selfish, perverted, dirty, lying, sinful people to the Valley of Achor and just stone them all with stones. Take them out to Sheol. Take them to Gahenna. Let them die.” Because that’s what we deserve, just like that’s what Gomer deserved. Remember who Gomer represents in the story? Me. You. God’s people.
BUT! Unlike the story of Achan in Joshua, this story does not end with death. This story ends with life and hope. God is saying to Gomer, to Israel, to me, to you, you know that place that represents the awful consequences of your sin? It’s right there that I want to introduce hope, a door of hope, for you to pass through right into My arms. In the Valley of Achor, the place where you should be dying, is where I offer you hope.
In all of the lies that you’ve told, God offers hope. In the abuse you’ve suffered in the past, God offers hope. In the addiction you’re overcoming, God offers hope. In all of the lies that you’ve believed, God offers hope. In the hopelessness that comes from failure, God offers hope. In the perversion and adultery, God offers hope. In the midst of a whole lot of unsatisfying stuff, God offers hope.
God wants to turn your place of punishment and pain and shame and guilt into a door of hope. Just like He did for Gomer. Just like He did for Israel. Just like He’s doing for me.
Our God is a God of hope. A God of new beginnings, of taking things designed to hurt and using them to heal.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ an no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” - Hosea 2:14-17
Allow God to offer you a door of hope. Walk through the door. Answer Him when He calls. Acknowledge all He has done and praise Him for it. Walk in His ways. Call Him “Husband.” Allow Him to remove all of the “Baals” - all of the idols and lies and crap that you have allowed to rule in your life - and remember those things no more.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” - Hosea 2:19-20
Here´s the thing about me saying that I´m not going to drink pop for a week to see if it helps with this whole tired-ness thing I´ve been rocking: it´s Tuesday afternoon and I want a coke. And really technically there´s no good reason why I shouldn´t have one. So I got a coke. And I´ll never know if a week without pop would make me less tired.
Here´s the thing about being careless: I took a nap with my laptop on my bed and when I woke up my laptop fell of my (unusually high) bed and split open. So now I don´t have a computer. Which explains my lack of updates. (Maybe? Maybe nobody noticed since I manage to be online every day despite my laptop-less state.)
Here´s the thing about being a missionary who doesn´t actually make much money at all: I still have to buy my plane ticket home to the States and I also still have to buy my plane ticket from Michigan to Minneapolis so I can do this whole YouthWorks thing all over again (woohoo!!) and then I´ll have to buy a plane ticket back to this great (sticky and humid yet still wonderful) country. And now we can throw on top of all of that purchasing a new computer! And here´s the thing about a lot of large purchases: I don´t really have the money to make them. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will provide (maybe I know a little too deeply because I have yet to contact churches about supporting me next school year in order to meet my goal of an additional $300 a month) but I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the majority of you reading this right now have enough money in your bank account to make all of the purchases you need to make in the next three months and then some. So I´m asking you to PRAY and to think about whether or not God maybe blessed you with money in your bank account and a functioning laptop (and perhaps the ability to search the internet for cheap plane tickets? bueller? anyone?) so that YOU can BLESS others. Like me. Or other others. And just in case you forgot there is a handy-dandy PayPal button right on my page! How convenient! Even if you don´t want to give me money because you think I don´t deserve a new laptop if I´m going to do silly things like take a nap with it, honestly pray about how you can be using the resources and talents God has blessed you with to further His kingdom. It´s really cool when you pray that pray and God answers and you obey. I´m telling you. Great feelings. God feelings.
Here´s the thing about school: one month from yesterday is the last day of my first year of being a real teacher! I´ve almost done it! Woohoo! And all praise and glory go to God because without Him I would´ve lost my mind (and my job) months ago. God is so good.
Here´s the thing about ESL students: Ambiorix, Edison, and I like to sing good ol´ fashioned hymns while we work on their homework. Since Ambiorix and Edison and learning these hymns in their second language, we get nice remixes like, ¨The Lord giveth and blessed be the rock…¨ At first I corrected them, but then I realized that not only does the Lord liveth but He also giveth and we can sing about both.
Here´s the thing about Taco Bell: I miss it.
Here´s the thing about the YW Indy 2013 staff team: we rock and are so pumped for summer to start! If you would like to pray for us that would be awesome - that we could all finish our school year´s well and for His glory and that we could come together with one focus and one mind - His glory! Also, we´d like to have a stinking awesome summer representing Jesus and YouthWorks well in Indianapolis and hanging out with really great teenagers that He loves so much. We start June 24!
Gross, Daniela! I´m gonna barf! …. You better eat it all.
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