After 20-some years of neglecting small group Bible studies while raising a busy family, I jumped in this year and joined one at our church. Studying and then discussing Galatians and James with a lively group of ladies was refreshing and inspiring! The study wrapped up last week, and it was strange having no more pages of questions to answer early this morning as I opened my Bible.
To compensate, I wrote this quirky, condensed summary of the 5-chapter Book of James. I hope it will make you smile & perhaps even inspire you to read or review this short, rich book for yourself!
If somebody wants to be a distinctive business leader, exceptional speaker or successful investor, they typically listen to a podcast or read a book by someone who stands out in the field.
Likewise, if anyone aspires to be a more humble person, they can learn that quality from others who excel at it.
Jesus is the ultimate example.
But, you couldn’t go wrong if you also examined Moses — a B.C. (before Christ) example of humility:
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any person who was on the face of the earth.
This amazing statement about Moses is an assessment of an individual who was the adopted son of a princess, a dictator-defying miracle man, and a worthy judge, who had more than one close encounter with God. Most people wandering around in his shoes sandals might be swayed by pride, popularity and self importance.
But, Moses oozed humility (plus loads of imposter syndrome) from the day God chose him to lead His people out of slavery. After begging God five times to choose someone else, he finally relented — as long as his brother could do the talking for him.
Besides being the spotlight-shunning leader of the Hebrew people, Moses was a prolific writer. The majority of Bible scholars believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, inspired by the Spirit of God. (II Tim 3:16).
In addition, Moses also wrote one installment in the Bible’s book of poems, prayers, hymns and meditations — Psalm #90.
I thought it was worth discovering what was on the heart of the humblest B.C. man. So, today I examined Psalm 90 to see what Moses decided was worth writing about. My impression is that Moses valued God as:
A passionate creator
Sovereign king of the universe
A listener and giver
It also seems that Moses had a proper perspective of the bigness of God and the smallness of people.
(Humble people don’t usually have trouble believing in their smallness.)
He also appeared to realize that God has a steadfast, never-ending love for people, who are His image-bearers. (Genesis 1:27)
So, consider reading Psalm 90 for yourself and hear the thoughts of this humble B.C. man!
Psalm 90: A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were created, before the earth was formed, you are God without beginning or end.
3 You speak, and man turns back to dust. 4 A thousand years are but as yesterday to you! They are like a single hour!5-6 We glide along the tides of time as swiftly as a racing river and vanish as quickly as a dream. We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall. 7 We die beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your wrath. 8 You spread out our sins before you—our secret sins—and see them all. 9 No wonder the years are long and heavy here beneath your wrath. All our days are filled with sighing.
10 Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often empty and filled with pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone. 11 Who can realize the terrors of your anger? Which of us can fear you as he should?
12 Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.
13 O Jehovah, come and bless us! How long will you delay? Turn away your anger from us. 14 Satisfy us in our earliest youth with your loving-kindness, giving us constant joy to the end of our lives. 15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16 Let us see your miracles again; let our children see glorious things, the kind you used to do, 17 and let the Lord our God favor us and give us success. May he give permanence to all we do. [Living Bible]
The above picture is from:
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
2023 has its own Wikipedia page, and here are some of the things included on the global calendar this year:
Luxembourg, Thailand, Turkey, Sudan, Guatemala and at least ten other countries will hold their national elections this year.
King Charles will be crowned King of England in May.
India is projected to surpass China to become the world’s most populous country.
In my small part of the globe, who knows what the year may hold? But so far in 2023, I have already sampled two new sports: pickleball and snowshoeing.
This is surprising, since I am not a person who inserts athletics into her bio. I favor reading, sewing, audiobooks, and gentle walks.
Since practically everyone in my family is playing pickleball, I wanted to try it — and it is FUN! I took a class on January 2nd, and since then, I have been thinking of ways to play inexpensively at an indoor court. During a cold Minnesota winter, indoor court time is precious, and you must share with others. It’s unusual to reserve an indoor court just for yourself and a friend – it’s pickleball courtesy to let another pair join you.
Before I took the class, my husband gave me a quick tutorial session, and we volleyed with two other pickleballers.
We played for 1.5 hours.
Since my body wasn’t used to this (I haven’t used tennis muscles since the 20th century), I left the court with a pulled hamstring.
It didn’t seem right to injure myself in a sport that seems designed for and enjoyed by so many senior citizens. But the muscle is healing, and I will keep trying to find ways to play with other beginners like me.
Early in January 2023, a foot of snow landed on us here in Minnesota. This made driving difficult, my teenage boys busy, and our tractor a necessity for blowing snow off our long rural driveway.
This beautiful, white, deep snowy landscape was the perfect backdrop to try a snowshoeing class, hosted by the local park system. My two youngest boys and I were glad for a balmy 29 degree day yesterday, as we strapped on our rented snowshoes and followed the leader up the woodsy hill.
Snowshoes have a sharp-toothed metal piece that allows your foot to grip slippery surfaces, and the snowshoe’s width spreads out your weight, so you don’t sink down into deep snow.
Besides learning about how to navigate trails using these simple contraptions, we also learned that you shouldn’t eat blue snow. When you see this, it means that rabbits or deer have eaten buckthorn, which turns their urine a lovely shade of blue.
New Year Thoughts
What will 2023 hold for each one of us?
New life seasons?
Overcoming? Letting Go?
Some of these don’t seem to arrive without stretching, sweat, or struggle.
Verses I am studying from the book of James remind me that we all go through trials, but trials are not the end of the story. If we let God do His work in us, trials can refine and improve us (but nobody said it was easy.)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1:2-4 MSG
May 2023 be your best year yet.
The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. ~Gilbert K. Chesterton
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better person. ~Benjamin Franklin
Life is short. Stay awake for it. ~ Caribou Coffee
We just experienced our family’s first wedding, which was splendid – and surreal! I never quite imagined myself in the role of “mother of the groom”. It was always someone else dressing up and being walked down the aisle to sit in that seat. But this time it was my husband and I playing in the drama, hearing our son and his bride sing a duet and take their vows, and viewing the mystery of God molding a new family entity.
Although getting everyone packed off on a plane across the country was an intense task, I think it caused us to give our undivided attention to the event, live in-the-moment and purposefully mingle with new friends and family members. Brothers and sisters in Jesus inspired us with their generous hospitality. They let us invade their homes, eat their food and drive their company van for the weekend. Love was seen everywhere, and not just at the altar.
We are still chewing on the reality that it’s over, and giving glory to God for His inscrutable, glorious, ongoing plan!
Maybe you are wondering how we are rolling with our Newbery Book Reading Challenge. We are going strong! We all read Holes,and now can’t stop repeating phrases and referring to it in everyday life. I also enjoyed The View from Saturday, The Midwife’s Apprentice, A Single Shard and Adam of the Road. (I seem to have a thing for literature in a medieval setting. I could read the Crispin series over and over again, too.) Other recent family favorites on the Newbery list include: When You Reach Me, Miracles on Maple Hill, Riflesfor Watie,and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (My daughter gave me an enthusiastic summary of that last one as we drove into town, and I felt like I had just watched the movie! She loved it.)
Some Favorite Children’s Books
I have been negligent about blog writing and also for the Storyworth stories I am supposed to be creating. This week’s Storyworth question was: “What is one of your favorite children’s books?” Alas, I cannot choose just one, so here’s a full list of them. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Be sure to comment with your favorites, too!
Pickle Chiffon Pie
by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s the story of three very different princes seeking to win the favor of the king and the hand of the princess. They go off into the forest to see who can bring back the most wonderful thing and marry the princess. The book made pickle chiffon pie look like the most delicious thing in the world. My sister Sara gave me a copy of the book when I was forty-something!
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
by William Steig. I discovered this when I was taking a Children’s Literature class in college. I loved the author’s humor, the delightful illustrations and the engaging story.
The Sheep of the Lal Bagh
by David Mark / illustrated by Lionel Kalish. Sara gave me a copy of this one too – and I had almost forgotten about this dear book! I think the original was given to me by my childhood friend, Beth McCarty. This story, based in India, is about a beloved sheep that used to mow the grass in beautiful patterns, until the town decided to get a new lawn mower.
The Beatrix Potter Treasury
I never especially liked Beatrix Potter books when I was young. Fast forward to the year after we got married, had no children of our own yet, and we were housesitting & babysitting the children of some friends. One of the little boys had just received the Beatrix Potter Treasury and wanted it read to him over and over. So, I did – and I found myself enamored with the perfect illustrations, quirky animal personalities and superbly funny stories.
Retold by Marcia Brown. This timeless tale is about three hungry soldiers who approach a town and are turned away at every door. They teach the stingy townspeople how to make stone soup, so they will never be hungry again, and they leave as heroes.
Tikki Tikki Tembo
Retold by Arlene Mosel. I can still remember: “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” It’s the made-up legend of why Chinese people have short names.
Caps for Sale
By Esphyr Slobodkina. A true classic that’s as memorable as the monkeys are mischievous.
The Story of Ferdinand
By Munro Leaf. All mild-mannered Ferdinand wanted to do was sit in the shade of the trees and smell the flowers, but a bee sting changed his life.
The Five Chinese Brothers
By Claire Bishop. This is kind of a horrific story for children, involving death, torture, and suffocation, but it does have a happy ending after all. Clever and suspenseful.
Curious George Takes a Job
By H.A. Rey. I especially like the part where George paints the lady’s room to look like a jungle.
The Jesus Storybook Bible
By Sally Lloyd-Jones. We discovered this a few years ago in audio and print versions. It includes excerpts of Bible accounts, revised for children. Keep a box of tissues handy while reading; these stories of faith are poignant and beautifully told.
My first baby’s birth did not go as planned. In fact, it went as opposite as we ever could have imagined.
We had planned for a full-term, natural birth with a midwife attending. We hoped it would be the first of a number of children that God would give us.
Instead, I landed an emergency classical c-section attended by a gaggle of doctors, and gave birth to a 2-pound preterm baby who was struggling to breathe. Just before the birth, someone came in to prepare me for the fact that he could be blind and have many other health issues.
After the c-section several doctors sternly told me:
“You can never have a natural birth. Your scar would most likely rupture, endangering your life and the baby’s.”
“And by the way…you should only have three c-sections at most. Any more could compromise your health and endanger the baby’s life.”
Tears. Dead dreams. Fears and sorrows.
A cleaning lady entered my hospital room while I was recovering from the c-section and subsequent infection. She stopped sweeping, looked at me and said:
“I would never let them cut me open.”
More tears, coupled with doses of indignation plus hormones.
The doctors sent me home with a thick pack of official papers that described my scar and the classical c-section. These papers earnestly affirmed that I could never-ever-no-never have anything but a c-section. Home birth was definitely out of the question.
After three months of daily visits to the hospital, my preemie baby boy finally arrived home. While enjoying my new baby, I still was preoccupied with my perceived “damaged and scarred” state. I remember actually looking at and envying other pregnant moms while thinking, “SHE will probably have a natural birth, but I never will.” Then, a good friend suddenly encouraged me with the fact that:
“Scar tissue is actually stronger than the original tissue.”
Was that true? I wondered if other moms had safe, natural births after a c-section. I started reading and researching about the heresy possibility that the doctors might have been wrong?
Digging for Answers
There was no internet available to me in 1992, so I just went to the library and looked up birth stories. I also talked and wrote to people that had healthy VBACs. I found a lot of evidence that it would be possible for me to have a natural birth after all. But a doctor wouldn’t be able to help; it would have to be a home birth and it would have to be a midwife willing to take me on, BIG UGLY SCAR and all.
In February of 1993, I became pregnant and after calling a long list of midwives, I finally found midwives Jan and Jeanne. They didn’t seem to mind about my scar, my history and all the doctor warnings. So I threw away all of those official papers and knew I had only one more thing to acquire before I was ready.
One Missing Thing
I had godly cheerleader-type friends in my life who encouraged me. They reminded me that God can take care of me and my baby whether I am at home or at the hospital. My husband (who has limited respect for doctors) told me I’d be way better off having a home birth, with no doctors interfering with the natural birth process, trying to give me things I don’t need! :0
I assembled my home birth supplies and the only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH. I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father. The passage I found most encouraging was this, which became my life verses:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Rest of the Story
God’s will for each of us is played out differently, but this is my story. It’s the story of a scar, dead dreams, and a harvest of faith bigger than I could have imagined. I don’t give myself credit for the faith, though. Any faith I have comes from Him, because even faith is a gift.
After that first home birth, I had nine more home births. Most of these involved an attending midwife or two, and none involved pain meds (but if they were available I probably would have said yes!) The last home birth brought complications, but God was sovereign in that one too, and it had nothing to do with the scar as predicted.
Speaking of scars, if you too have a scar (physical or emotional or both), please consider my story. Our loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can make a “scar story” build our faith and even work out better than the original plan. He can take dead dreams and breathe life into them.
any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.
Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.
Someday, you will look back and see
the big picture
and the footprints of God
who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.
Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.
You got this.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – from 1 Corinthians 13
This spring, some berserk birds are inhabiting our rural property. Their quirky obsessions are both driving me nuts and teaching me things about life, business and family.
Birds rise early.
The sky is still gray and dusky when the wild birds start chattering. I cannot imagine what is going on in their minds, but kudos for their predictably cheerful morning attitude. Although scientists don’t have a complete understanding of why birds make so much noise (how could they?) there are occasional clues. We know that Mama Robin’s chastising screech means that she is livid when we get too close to her nest, which she built in a highly trafficked position next to the front door.
Birds get to work.
One spring morning, I clipped the jeans, shirts and hoodies to the clothesline. Later that day, I noticed the beginnings of a nest being built in the hood of the hoodie. Birds do not mess around. They do not procrastinate and they let nothing stand in their way. They do not always choose the wisest places to work, but when they act, it is swift and confident.
Birds are relentless.
That irritating redwing blackbird swoops down and scolds us when we circle the pond on our regular walks around the property. Feverishly protecting his nesting territory, he continues his officious circuit until we are completely out of sight.
Then, there are the barn swallows. We left our garage door open last week, and now they consider it fair game for new construction. Every time we open the garage door, we are in danger of a swooping bird, although their timing seems to be impeccable — they have never made impact with the slamming door.
Birds sing often.
Our resident Baltimore Oriole is a lovely vocalist, and he sings a memorable tune. While weeding the garden, I repeated his singsong pattern several times to myself. Why not sing? Reports confirm that there are scientific reasons to start singing:
Singing releases endorphins, a hormone that is associated with feelings of pleasure.
The hormone oxytocin is also released while singing; this body chemical enhances feelings of bonding and trust.
While singing, individuals sustain lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Studies repeatedly find that singing relieves anxiety.
Heart rates sync up during group singing.
Since most diurnal birds cannot see in the dark, birds sleep when the daylight fades. I can tell when things are winding down, because the singing and chatter becomes sporadic, slow and calming. Once to bed, birds don’t wake up until morning.
Birds do take naps, so I will take that as a confirmation of what I was hoping:
short power naps increase the chances that we may rise early to sing cheerfully, work confidently, and protect our loved ones vigorously.
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.