"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

9/30/13

Hello. I'm Eve

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6 NIV

When I read in Genesis 3, I often get frustrated - sometimes even roll my eyes - at Adam and Eve. They're the very first people, living in a beautiful garden with everything they could possibly need, and lots of things they want. There's only one thing they're told not to do.

And they do it anyway - and we ALL lose as  result.
Graphic credit

How could they possibly feel that they wanted - that they could benefit from - the only thing their loving Father had kept from them? Why would ANYone reach for the forbidden fruit when their provision was abundantly more than they could ever use, or ever think to ask for?

But perhaps the better question is: how is what I do every day any different from what Eve did?

Because, more often than not, I allow my desire for more than my gracious and generous Heavenly Father has already provided to make my own gaze stray from His provision to that which can lead to my destruction. And I don't just look. I reach up and grab it. I shove it in my mouth. And I offer it to those who are with me.

Every time I am discontent with what I have and act on it, I am no different from the first woman. In my desire to have what the Father does not see as best for me - and especially in my effort to get it contrary to His will -  I am Eve.

Every time I decide I don't need Him - that I can function better independent from the Lord - I am choosing the serpent over the Son.
Photo credit

It's easy to point fingers at Eve. To say, "if that had been me, I would never have eaten from that tree. I would have enjoyed all the amazing blessings God had given me and ignored the serpent."

But we reach for what the Lord has warned us against every day. We envy. We covet. We steal. We lie. And the list continues.

I am Eve. So are you. Go ahead and point your finger at her - but remember, our other digits are pointed right back at ourselves. And we deserve all four.

Heavenly Father, thank You for providing more than we could ever need or want in this life - and for not snatching it all away when we reach for what we know is outside Your will. Help us to remember that we can do nothing without You, and to desire to live right in the center of Your will, rather than where we think is best for us. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Why is it so hard to be content with the blessings the Lord provides?

  
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

9/27/13

A Jumble of J Junk

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
   A to Z meme. This week's letter is "J."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.You'd think this would be an easy letter for me. It starts my name. HELLO???

But I have so many things in my head, that I don't think I could do a post and do any of them justice. So I'll give you the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of each one. How's that?
Joanne: My first name. It means "God is gracious." I was named after my great grandfather on my mother's side - Joseph. (It's a common tradition for Jews - see below LOL - to name their children after relatives who have passed away) Joseph would have been my name if I'd been a boy. My Hebrew name is Yosepha.
Judaism: The religion I was raised in. My grandfather was a cantor. My father kept kosher for his childhood and much of his young adult life. I went to Hebrew school as a child and was Bat Mitzvahed at 13. I can read (kinda - or at least COULD read) Hebrew (posted about this a couple weeks ago). Because being Jewish is more about heritage than a belief system ("they" say if your mother is Jewish, you're automatically a Jew), I am, in fact, STILL Jewish, even though I accepted Christ almost 15 years ago (has it REALLY been that long??)
Joke: Here's a favorite one in our house (answer at the bottom of the post). A man rides into town on Friday, stays three days, and leaves Sunday morning. How is this possible?
Jo: My online nickname. I'm not 100% positive, but I think it started, for the most part, at FaithWriters (though my brothers called me Jo as a kid some - which got a bit tricky when I dated a boy named Joe for several years LOL). But it has TOTALLY spread to just about everywhere I am online. And I LOVE it. To me, it is absolutely, positively a term of endearment. (Unlike my middle school nickname - JoJo. One girl called me that because it was her dog's name. Lovely, eh? But enough of that :::roll::)

JJ: Another of my dearly-loved nicknames. But there is only one special young lady who uses - who is ALLOWED to use - this one! So don't even TRY it - unless you're her ;)
JoMama: One more of my fun nicknames- especially for some of my jewely sisters (see below!) when I start getting "all maternal" on them ;). Can't help it!!
Jello: Yum. Refreshing. Fun. Don't have it nearly enough. Maybe I'll make some later today...
Jewelers: Now, this one has a story to it...Several years ago, I made it a personal goal to be sure that every FaithWriters Writing Challenge entry had at least one comment on it. So, I singlehandedly attempted to look at every piece and comment. But it got to be WAY too much for me. I needed help. So, in February of 2008, I called on a few friends to help me (If I recall, the group started out as me, Patty Wysong, Yvonne Blake, LauraLee Shaw, and Laury Hubrich,).

At that time, our goal was to be sure every entry had an encouraging comment on it, and to pick a few faves. We called ourselves the jewelers, and our faves "the Jewel Chest." That group has changed quite a bit since then - people came, others went, others came AND went ;) - and the goals have changed too - but we are STILL dear, dear friends/writers/sisters in Christ. (Love you, Peejers, DeeQ, Vonnie, La, Hally, Beffy, VernaJ, Sawa, and Sunny!)
Closest we ever got to all of us together in person - 2009 FW conference
And it didn't stop there. About two and a half years ago, Patty Wysong (the lady who shares my brain and one of the original jewelers) started up a group devotional blog called Jewels of Encouragement - what I will always consider an offshoot of the Jewelers (and I know she does too!). We knew we weren't the only encouragers out there. Over a dozen women post encouraging devotionals on the site every month (and we're certainly looking for more contributors! - drop me a note if you're interested :D), and I know it is a blessing to many.

(and now, of course, I realize I could have done an entire post on jewelers. LOL Oh well!)

So, there's my J list. Hope you enjoyed it. (Oh - and the joke? The name of the horse is Friday.)

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Read more "J" posts here, and/or add your own!  

 

9/23/13

Earned or Lost

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons; neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Sometimes, I can be incredibly arrogant. I look at this unsaved world (especially my Jewish friends and family) and wonder how they could possibly miss His message. They must be so dumb to look at these same passages of Scripture I read daily and not see Christ throughout the Old Testament. If only they were intelligent, like me!
And then I realize that I'm the stupid one.
Because my salvation has absolutely, positively nothing to do with my intelligence (or lack thereof), anything I have done, or even what I have done for Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

It is one of the most basic and fundamental beliefs that I hold - of my faith. I did absolutely, positively nothing to earn God's favor, love, and protection. It's all Him. Any other thoughts on this are simply arrogance.

And as I was pondering the verses I opened this devotional with, I realized that denial of Paul's conclusion here is also boasting.
 For if we can do nothing to earn God's love, why should we believe we can do anything to lose it?
Photo source
If we believe we can turn God's affection from us, we must believe we earned it in the first place. And that is
the ultimate in arrogance.

That I, a "pot," can bring glory to the Potter without His help. That I can BE anything besides a useless lump of clay without Him.

So, I can look at these verses in Romans with new eyes. Not only are these things unable to separate me from His love, but they can't earn it for me either.
  • death
  • life
  • angels
  • demons
  • the present
  • the future
  • any powers
  • depth
  • height
  • or anything else in creation
Only the Lord Himself can grant me His incredible, eternal love, and nothing can separate me from it. I can't lose it any more than I can earn it. What an incredible gift.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

9/22/13

Getting Credit

"I can't thank you enough."

How many times have you said, or thought, that about folks who come alongside you? For me, the answer is many many. But the good thing is - thanking someone enough is NOT my job - or yours.

I'm over at Jewels of Encouragement today, talking about just that. Stop by and see what I learned about Credited Gifts!
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

9/20/13

If I Were...

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
   A to Z meme. This week's letter is "I."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.


I had a hard time coming up with a topic for "I" (you can ask Peejers). But then, I had a vague memory of a post I did a while back that was pretty fun that might fit. So I went digging - and I was right.

But I wasn't just going to recycle the post. Oh, no...I copied all the statements, but deleted my answers - then waited a day and filled them in again. No peeking at my old post allowed. I'm curious how many will be the same...

Guess I'll check - when I'm done! (and you, of course, can check if and whenever you want)
If I Were...

If I were a month, I’d be March.
Photo Credit
If I were a day of the week, I’d be Tuesday.  
If I were a time of day, I’d be early morning.
If I were a planet, I’d be Venus.    
If I were a sea animal, I’d be a seahorse.
If I were a direction, I’d be northwest.  
If I were a piece of furniture, I'd be a recliner.
If I were a liquid, I'd be lemonade.
If I were a gemstone, I'd be aquamarine.
If I were a tree, I’d be a willow.
If I were a tool, I'd be an allen wrench.
If I were a flower, I'd be a stargazer lily (bet THAT one's the same! LOL)
If I were a kind of weather, I’d be fog.
If I were a musical instrument, I'd be a banjo.
If I were a color, I'd be purple.
If I were an emotion, I’d be contentment.
If I were a fruit, I’d be a peach.
If I were a sound, I’d be crickets chirping.
If I were an element, I’d be mercury.
Photo Credit
If I were a car, I'd be Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.
If I were a food, I’d be chocolate-covered strawberries.
If I were a place, I’d be the library.
If I were a fabric, I'd be cotton.
If I were a taste, I’d be delicious.
If I were a scent, I’d be vanilla.
If I were an animal, I’d be a kitten.
If I were an object, I'd be a pillow.
If I were a body part, I’d be a thumb.
If I were a facial expression, I’d be a smile.
If I were a pair of shoes, I’d be fuzzy slippers.

How about you?
Feel free to do this too - SO fun, and out-of-the-box. If you do it anywhere besides in the comments, please add a link here so I can go see!
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths 
Read more "I" posts here, and/or add your own! 

9/16/13

Getting Tired

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah 40:28

Photo Credit
It has been a busy month here in the Sher household. School started for my kids two week ago. I took my husband to the ER the afternoon of the first day of school (ended up not to be a big deal), and we had a funeral the afternoon of the second day. That week was also filled with afternoon soccer practices, as my son is on the school soccer team for the first time.

Last week was also filled with soccer practices and/or games four afternoons out of five, not to mention a middle school all-day field trip, our school's annual luau, and our church's Patriot Day picnic. Oh - and curriculum night, the first night of AWANA (I'm a leader), and likely other things I'm not remembering.
Do I even need to say that I'm tired? That weariness may just be my middle name?
Photo Credit
It's just a season, I know. My life will not always be this busy (in fact, soccer season is over in just four weeks! :D). And I can honestly say I don't regret a single one of the things I did during the first half of September. It was wonderful to watch my son hustling out there on the soccer field. My kids enjoying the activities at the picnic and luau. Having the opportunity to honor, remember, and learn about a well-loved school administrator's life.

But it doesn't mean I'm not tired. That I didn't nearly fell asleep in the bathtub the other morning. That I've not had days when putting together a sentence has been more than I could handle. I pity those who depend on me during times like this.

But the remarkable thing is that my God has even more things on His agenda. His plate is unimaginably fuller than mine. And he doesn't make mistakes (wish I could say that!), nor does he grow tired or weary. You can't give Him more than He can handle. And He will give you the strength to do everything He wants you to do. If we trust Him, there's nothing to worry about.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Thank You, Lord, for giving us rest (Matthew 11:28), for renewing our strength, and for never growing weary - even (or perhaps especially!) when we do.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us? 

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Are You Ready?

Come visit me today at The Internet Cafe, where I'm talking about being prepared, even when you're lazy.

Check out YOUR readiness.

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

9/13/13

Hebrew: the Language of My People

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
   A to Z meme. This week's letter is "H."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.


Many of you know that I was raised in a Jewish home. That my parents and most of my family are Jewish. You might even know that I was Bat Mitzvahed at 13 (and some of you might even know what that means ;) ). That I didn't come to Christ until I was in my 30s.
The Hebrew Alphabet

What you may not know is that part of my Jewish education included learning to read Hebrew, the language of my people.

Hebrew without vowels (photo source)
Perhaps I should clarify a bit. When I say I learned to read Hebrew, I don't mean it the same way you might have learned Spanish or French or German, for instance, in school. While I did learn, on a limited basis, the meaning of some Hebrew words, the main goal of reading Hebrew was being able to look at the "weird" letters and be able to pronounce them correctly. And I could do that fairly well (stress on could, as opposed to can).

I'm sure many of you have seen Hebrew - and some of you may even know how to read it. But did you know THESE facts?
  • Hebrew is written backward - from right to left (actually, as my hubby will remind you, it's actually ENGLISH that is backward, as the Hebrew alphabet predates ours by a good margin).
  • The traditional Hebrew alphabet (as written, for instance, in the Torah - the first five books of the Old Testament) has no vowels. They were added later for clarity in some texts, and are generally indicated by dots and small lines below the "regular" letters.
  • There are five different Hebrew letters that are written differently if they are the final letter of a word (called "sophit."). They're on the chart above - check them out :)
  • Hebrew has twenty-two letters (plus those five "final letter" forms mentioned above).
  • There are two letters pairs (the Bet/Vet and Shin/Sin) where the location, or existence, of a dot with the letter determines how it is pronounced. - check the chart above to see what I mean.
    Hebrew with vowels (photo source)
I'm sure you know at least a few words  in Hebrew - Abba (Father/Daddy), Amen (so be it - or something like that), and maybe even Shalom (peace). But how about I teach you a few more?

Ima (EE-maw) - Mother
Shecket (SHECK-et) - Be quiet
Bevakashah (be-VA-ka-shaw) - Please

Forgive me for using the English alphabet - figuring you wouldn't be able to read the Hebrew anyway (and not sure I could either anymore LOL).

Did you learn anything new?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
 Read more "H" posts here, and/or add your own!



 

9/9/13

Daniel's Power and Influence

"Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:16 NIV

I can't deny it, as much as I wish I could. I love having the upper hand - feeling in control of my life, my situation, my struggles. Being in charge is...um...well... very comfortable to me.
In other words? If someone offered to me what Belshazzar tempted Daniel with in the verse above, I'd be all over it. The third most important person in the kingdom? Gold jewelry? Purple clothing (purple IS, after all, one of my favorite colors)? I'm there even (blush) make up an interpretation for that writing on the wall. (Don't tell ME you didn't wonder why one of the magicians didn't pull an interpretation out of thin air!)

But Daniel didn't want the power or the prestige. But he interpreted the wall writing anywy.
Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation." Daniel 5: 17 NKJV
Then he gave Belshazzar what he'd asked for - but not what he wanted. The ruler, it seemed, had not learned his lesson from his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, who had become proud and been sent to live like cattle until he repented (see Daniel 4). This man had was using the Lord's holy things for his pagan banquet, and drinking from them as he and his guests worshipped idols.

Belshazzar's days were numbered as ruler of the Chaldeans. Daniel filled the pompous ruler in on his destiny. And Belshazzar, despite the news being unfavorable (and that's an understatement - check it out in Daniel 5:18-28), made good on his promise.

Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. Daniel 5:29 NKJV
And the funny thing? Even if Daniel had wanted to take advantage of his new position, he'd have had precious little time to do so. For "that very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom...." (Daniel 5:30-31) Talk about king for a day.

This was the highest political office Daniel ever held: the most military power he ever had - in man's estimation. But, of course, it isn't what he's known for. I'd venture to say that even if he had been third in command for decades rather than hours, his most memorable and long-lasting contribution would have nothing to do with Belshazzar, and everything to do with God.


How about you?
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?  
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics Courtesy of Christiansunite 

The View Under the Bridge

Watching a river or creek roll by from a bridge aboce it is lovely and relaxing - to me, anyway. But sometimes, to really appreciate it, you need a different perspective.

The Barn Door
I'm over at the Midwest blog The Barn Door today, talking about a favorite place my daughter and I found right in our own back yard (practically, anyway) - come learn about, and see, our troll's-eye view.


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

9/6/13

Goals Begone! Well...

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
  A to Z meme. This week's letter is "G."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Photo Credit
I like having  a plan - for my day, my week, my month, my year. If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that setting goals is something I do fairly regularly. For example, I've been posting monthly goals and reporting my progress on them almost without fail since October of 2008. (and I started this blog in June of that year).

Yep - that's FIVE years.
But that's not it. I've also been setting annual goals here since the beginning of 2009. (here's a link to my first one way back then) And I belong to two different accountability yahoo groups where I post weekly goals - one for several years, and the other for about one year. AND, more often than not, I send an email to a VERY dear friend with my daily goals.
She knows EVERYTHING I do, and plan to do. :)

And, finally, I'm beginning to wonder if it's getting a bit obsessive (especially since, for the last several month, maybe longer, I haven't been so good at meeting those goals).

Don't get me wrong. Goals are good to have. For someone with my personality especially, knowing where you wanna be later is key to actually arriving there some time near when you want. But if you are too rigid in your goal-setting or goal-focusing, you can ignore God's voice in your moments. And that is NEVER a good idea.

So, I'm going to slacken off a bit on my goal-setting. And I'm starting with the easiest (for me, anyway) - the monthly ones. Before this post goes live, I will have deleted my goals list on my sidebar, and I won't be doing a goals/progress post monthly as I have been for four years - at least until further notice. Not sure I'm ready to give up the weekly goals (and the daily email has saved me MANY a time from forgetting what I have to do on a particular day), but the monthly thing is a start.

So, I guess we'll see how this goes.

Do you set goals for yourself regularly?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
 Read more "G" posts here, and/or add your own!

 

9/2/13

What Happens When You Assume

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8 NIV

I learned something a couple weeks ago about perceptions, expectations, and reality that, it seems has much wider implications than I ever would have expected.

You see, my family (me, the hubby, and my two kids) was on vacation in central Oregon with part of my "other family" (my parents, my 6'3" little brother, and my 36-year-old baby brother and his wife and kids). It was a lovely time, but I got an interesting lesson about how lakes in Oregon and lakes in Michigan are different - or at least the experience of visiting them.
View out the window when driving to Redmond, Oregon
My baby brother Artie and his wife Chrissi and their kids live in the Portland, Oregon area, so our vacation locale wasn't as foreign to them as it was to us. They live about a three-hour drive from the resort where we stayed - and they decided that we should all go to Crater Lake. I'd heard of it, but had never been. Sounded like a lovely outing.

So, we piled into a couple cars and took the two-hour-plus drive there.  And my brother's family, and my family were each thinking of two completely different experiences.

You see, I didn't exactly consider that Crater Lake (like several lakes in Oregon, apparently) was...well...in a crater. And getting to the "lake part" wasn't exactly a flip-flop run, followed by a spash. No - it was a hike. One best done with good shoes.

But my kids were in sandals. Cuz when you go to the lake in Michigan, you swim. You might walk across a couple rocks, but you don't hike a mile down a trail to get to the water - and a mile back up again.
See the lake WAY down there? We hiked to it :)
So, my brother's family was prepared. Mine? Not as much.

We assumed a lake trip in Oregon would be the same as a lake trip in Michigan. And my brother's family did the same. And you know what they say about those who ASSUME, right? (I hope so, cuz I'm sure not gonna tell ya here on this family-friendly, Christian blog :P )
One of MANY rest stops
We often do the same in our spiritual lives. We assume what worked in one situation will work in another. That God will answer prayer number 427 the same way he answered prayer number four. And often, we're wrong.

And we miss the blessing. Or we struggle needlessly.

Seek Him in EVERY situation - even the ones where you think you know the answer. And don't make assumptions from the future based on the past.
Cuz...well...you know what happens when you ASS.U.ME.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us? 
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

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