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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

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This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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It’s official! Thanksgiving has come and gone; December has begun. It’s the Christmas season full of parties, delicious food, wonderful decorations, extreme hyper-busyness (as if life wasn’t already in hyperdrive), shopping, and giving to others. And that is just to name a few.

Last year I posted everyday about the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is an advent activity that we began a couple of years ago. You can read more about it here, but to summarize we have a Christmas ornament and scripture passage that we open and read. The passages start in the Old Testament and follows the lineage and story of the coming Messiah as it can be traced all the way through scripture.

I have included here what I wrote last year about day one if you are interested in reading more. This year I’ve decided that I will be using my journaling Bible and will be illustrating my faith following the Jesse Tree. Some of them will be super easy, but I know that other illustrations will be a challenge. Although I enjoy art and challenging myself to play with creativity, by no means am I Michelangelo. But that’s okay. There are no rules to illustrating my faith except that it is art worship to me.

For today’s illustration, I used this pin from Pinterest for inspiration. I wanted to capture the darkness and light being separated in creation.

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When I showed my family the illustration every single one of them commented with “but you painted over the words and can’t read (the Bible).” imageI love that! I love it because it means that the Word is important to them. When I use my Journaling Bible it is important for me personally not to cover up the words because I want to illustrate what is being said, but the words themselves are more important than the pictures and illustrations that are made. Perhaps there will be a season in my life that I don’t feel so strongly about it. All that to say, rest assured. I only painted over the introduction material and nothing else.image

If you haven’t read my previous post about today’s Jesse tree, it links creation found in Genesis 1 with the pre-existence of Christ and creation found in John 1. I also love how in Revelation, when it describes the new heaven and new earth, it says there is no need of the sun because the Lamb is the source of our light. I had all these things in mind as I was painting as if it could truly be captured. Oh, the magnitude!

 

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3 weeks before Easter I decided that I would read through the Gospel of John leading up to Easter. It is one of my favorites and is so full of deep theology and rich emotion. It was truly a wonderful thing. Not only was I reading it, but I also decided that I would use a journaling Bible that Alan got me for Christmas.

Recently I have discovered an amazing group in the cyber world who are involved in the illustrated faith movement. I call it a movement, although some may not consider it so.

Illustrated Faith is a group of people (which is primarily women, but not completely) who illustrate verses, songs, art, etc in the margins and pages of their Bibles. It is a form of art worship. Some are great at lettering, others at drawing. Some us stamps, stickers and scrapbooking skills. Really there is no right or wrong way. Some cover the words up with illustrations so they can’t be read, but others purposely avoid that. If you have a chance, check out this site.

So I thought I would share my pages I journaled from the Gospel of John.

For the first chapter, there are so many great verses I wanted to highlight that I choose 3. The word, Jesus is the light of life, and the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

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The second chapter I wanted to highlight the central theme of belief and journal some thoughts about that. What I hope is to pass this Bible down to one of my kids and it be a treasure of my faith.

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Chapter 3 I again highlighted “belief”. Jesus repeats this phrase over and over in the gospel. Belief in Him is what brings about eternal life.

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Chapter 4 is the woman at the well, so I choose to draw a coffee cup. Also highlighted a verse from Matthew about harvest.

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In chapter 6, I wanted to journal a little about the significance of Jesus’ “I Am” statement, but didn’t have much room. I used a “tip in” which is adding a photo or paper that can be folded back.

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{from a journal entry after reading the book of Ecclesiastes}

:the final conclusion to this “meaningless” adventure (of life) is this: FEAR GOD & OBEY HIS COMMANDS. Everything else means nothing. Work for pleasure (not to gain things or for status); live in the moment. Success is not measured in what you have because in the end you will lose it all….and who would know any better than Solomon?

{God} has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecc. 3:11

 

Ecclesiastes 3

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Did you know that Olive trees are some of the longest living trees? There have been Olive Groves that date to over 4,000 years old. (source) When we were visiting Turkey this past summer, there were groves of olive trees everywhere (being in the Mediterranean region, this was no surprise). The day that we visited Ephesus, our guide was pointed out the tree pictured below to me. It sits at the entrance to the stadium that Paul was mostly likely taken to in Acts 19 during a riot. I wish now that I could remember who old he told me the tree was (it was in the hundreds). He explained to me that they are resurrection trees. The trees die- the bark and branches, but the roots continue to grow and live. In a sense, they can come back to life from the dead. Knowing how long they live and survive makes the following verse all that more meaningful.

 

Olive Tree, from Ephesus: Turkey

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Jesse Tree Day 9

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. Numbers 13:2, 17-25

After receiving the law, moses takes the people to the edge of Canaan. He sends out 12 spies to go into the land. They are to make observations about the people living the, what the land is like, and what kind of food grows. The 12 men are sent out as a team and travel the lans for 40 days. When they return they share about all the things they see. The different people who lives there, the wonderful large food that grows, and how strong the people and the cities seem. Some are giants.

In front of the whole assembly one of the spies interrupts.

“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Number 13:30-33

The complainers out number the two men who have a good report. Joshua and Caleb are confident that God will help them take the land. The complainers are too united.

We should have stayed in Egypt.

Why couldn’t we have just died in the desert.

What about our women and children that they will take as plunder.

We had it better off in Egypt.

Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the assembly. Joshua and Caleb rip their clothes in protest. They try to warn the people of their rebellious hearts.

The scene intensifies. Now the people have decided that they will stone these men to death. That’s what our rebellious hearts do to us. First we are fed lies.

Why can’t this happen?

Why does she always get more?

If only I….

Life was easier when……

Jesse Tree Day 9As we begin to believe the lies and confusion we start to complain, both internally and externally. The complaints grow at maddening rates. No longer are they merely discomforts, but quickly become our battle cry. No longer can we hear the reason of the other side or see the hope in the given situation.

It all ends when the presence of God enters the Tent. Ready to end it all by destroying the people, Moses pleas with the Lord.

“Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.

God forgives the people, however they must be punished. No person over the age of 20 will be allowed to enter the promise land except for Joshua and Caleb. Also the children that they seemed so concerned about will have to suffer as they wander in the desert for the remainder of 40 years.

Joshua would be the next leader after Moses died, and they would take the land that was promised. God would be with them. He would bring them to the land that He promised to them. He would be faithful. Yes there were people who were giants, but they were defeated. Yes the cities were surrounded by strong towers, but they would fall. All the people needed to do was believe.

This is one of the accounts in the Bible that I don’t feel so great after reading. It’s not because I feel badly for the people who complained so much as it’s that I see myself in their actions. It is far easier for me to find the dissatisfaction in what ever situation I am in that I feel I don’t deserve to be. Maybe I’ve just had a long day and I am being short-tempered with my family. There were other times that I flat-out had a temper tantrum about the situation I was in and was furious with God for putting me there. When I look in the mirror of passages like this and see my reflection back that I am reminded of the loving graciousness that He continues to show. My situation does not define who He is as God. It effects his character zero percent.

The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.

and he did this through his son, Jesus.

Family Devotion:

Gather a couple different pieces of fruit like grapes, orange, apple, etc. Something with segments from the citrus family is ideal, Bible and Ornament

Read the passage above together. Ask: What kind of fruit grows on an orange tree? What about bananas, what do they grow on? Would you ever see an apple grow on a pear tree? Read Galatians 5:22-23. These verses talk about the Fruit of the Spirit. A person who is a Christian will show it by living life with these qualities in how they live. They aren’t separate fruits, like apples oranges, and grapes, but all part of one fruit. More like an orange that has sections of organs to it. The people in Numbers that didn’t believe the 2 spies didn’t act like this fruit describes. Pray together thanking God for giving us the Holy Spirit that helps us.

 

 

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