Tell the Easter story through SNACKS!

Snack ideas to make Easter week come alive!

 

Palm fronds: Sugar cookies cut out like palm fronds and frosted green. Allow children to wave them around as you all shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13)

 

Donkey: Marshmallows and pretzels-allow the children to be creative as they master the art of balance as they create a donkey. Remind the children that it was a young colt, a young donkey, that Jesus rode into Jerusalem into Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to fulfill the prophesy (Zechariah 9:9 & John 12:14-15).

 

Kingly Crown: With pineapple rounds, allow children to stick pretzels into it to form their own crowns. Allow the children to then poke orange, mango, kiwi and other soft fruit chunks onto the pretzel pieces to give it a royal feel. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

Communion: Gram crackers (or pita) with juice-allow the children to experience the communion with foods they are familiar with. As they break the grams and pass them around, explain that Jesus described this as His body (Luke 22:19). As each child then receives some juice (grape is best), explain that Jesus described this as His blood (Luke 22:20). These comments are to state that through Jesus Christ alone, we are granted freedom, new life and clean hands in sight of Father God.

 

Praying in the Garden: Fresh olives (pitted is best)—allow the children to eat fresh olives as you describe what happened on the Mount of Olives. Jesus prayed for the brutal death not to happen, if there was another way for humanity to be pardoned from all the naughty things we have done. There was no other way. So, surrending His own will to Father God, Jesus stated “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

 

Judas’ Betrayal: Mini M&Ms or sprinkles—explain that Judas Iscariot loved money more than Jesus. He was willing to accept money (30 pieces of silver) to turn Jesus in to the powerful Jewish council, called the Sanhedrin (Zechariah 11:12-13 & Matthew 27:9).

 

The Beatings: Licorice ropes or carrot sticks—allow the children to hit the side of the table as hard as they can with the licorice or carrot. Explain that Jesus was hit with whips, and laughed at by the very ones He had come to rescue. He was on a mission. Nothing, not even the ones He had come to save would stop Him from bringing about a rescue that each human heart desperately needed (Isaiah 53:5 & John 19:1)

 

Crown of thorns: With licorice rope and tooth picks (not to be eaten)—create a crown by securing both ends with a toothpick piece. Then, allow the children to each create their own “crown of thorns”. Point out of pokey it is—and ask them to imagine how much it must have hurt Jesus to have a real crown of thorns on His head (John 19:2).

 

The Cross: Sugar cookie with frosting—although it was a sad, sad day. We thank God for the sweet, sweet gift of Jesus taking the BIG TIME OUT for each and every one of us—a consequence and punishment too big for us. Jesus took our place and that is the sweetest gift of all (John 3:16).

 

Lots Cast: Jelly Beans (or blueberries)-allow the children to roll the jelly beans across the floor or table. Teach them that this is what the soldiers did for Jesus’ clothing—just as the prophesy had predicted (Psalm 22:18 & John 19:23-24).

 

Veil is Torn: Sugar candy that peels apart-explain that when Jesus died upon the cross and shouted “It is finished!” (John 19:30), the separation that all of humanity had experienced from God, since the Garden of Eden, was lifted! The veil within the Holy of Holies, the inner most part of the Temple, where only the High Priest could go once a year—had been ripped from top to bottom (Mark 15:37-38)! This was highly significant! There was no longer a need to go to the Temple to be declared clean by the High Priest! Now, through Jesus Christ, all of humanity was given direct access to God the Father once more through the atoning work of Jesus Christ’s death (and approaching resurrection!).

 

Empty tomb: Use a cookie cutter to take the middle out of marshmallows (or apples). The marshmallow symbolizes the tomb, whereas the portion cut out symbolizes the stone which was rolled away (Matthew 28:6-7).

 

Jesus’ Ascension: Cotton candy look like clouds and make this point beautifully! Oh, how sweet it is! Jesus blessed His disciples and encouraged them to tell all people, in every nation, that hope and forgiveness of the naughty things we do, can be grasped by all, through Jesus Christ alone. Then, as He blessed them, Jesus began to rise off of the ground and return to Father God in heaven! His disciples marveled in astonishment as they stared up into the sky—now unable to see Jesus. Then, two angels appear to them and tell them to return to Jerusalem and do the things that Jesus told them to do—share the GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST with all people—because Jesus has made a way for people of all backgrounds, all languages and all doubts to come to heaven (Matthew 28:19-20 & Acts 1:9-14).

 

It is through the powerful act of love demonstrated by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that grants us access to heaven. As Jesus Christ died upon a cross and rose from the dead on the third day, all were granted freedom from the prison of our own selfishness when we believe and trust in Him (Romans 8:28). What a blessing to know that when we say “I am sorry, God.” We are forgiven—because of Jesus taking the BIG TIMEOUT for us. Ask Him into your heart and tell others that you trust in Jesus Christ to be the boss of your life (Romans 10:9-10).

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Easter Week Activities for Families and Churches, alike!

Easter week—HE IS RISEN! He is RISEN, INDEED!

Craft: Make a palm branch to wave as we remember that Jesus came into Jerusalem for the Passover during His triumphal entry. Give each child a green piece of paper with a palm frond traced on it. Depending on the age of the child, allow them to cut it out and write “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blesses is the King of Israel!” (John 13:13) on the palm—or have it printed out to glue onto the cut out. Allow the children to glue/tape the palm frond onto a popsicle stick and wave it around as you tell of the Biblical account (John 12:12-19).

 

Snack: Take communion (fast dissolving crackers and grape juice) to remind the kids of what Jesus said. “This is My body and this is My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:17-20).

 

Activity: Wash the children’s feet with wet wipes…and allow them to practice servanthood to one another by doing the same thing. Speak of how Jesus washed His twelve disciple’s feet after the Passover meal…and how this was so strange to the disciples. In their minds, a leader as strong as Jesus, should never wash feet! But, Jesus taught them that in order to lead in God’s kingdom, we must serve (John 13:2-17).

 

Craft: Color a picture of the wine cup and loaf of bread & the three crosses

 

Craft: Cut out and allow the children to glue the pieces of the empty tomb (stone, empty tomb, two angels, the soldiers, Mary and other women and Jesus) while you read this portion of the resurrection story (John 20:1-18).

 

Skit: Act out the resurrection scene…HE IS NOT HERE, HE IS RISEN! Assign parts to the children and read the Biblical account to narrate (John 20:1-18).

 

Song: “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!

            “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!

            “Jesus did what He said! Jesus rose from the dead!”

            “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!”

 

 

Craft: Allow the children to color a picture of Jesus ascending into the clouds, as He returned to His Father in heaven—just as He had said (Luke 24:50-53)! Then give the children cotton balls and glitter, to glue onto the clouds.

 

 

Snack: Special snack! Allow the kids to have cotton candy as you finish telling the Easter story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50-53)! Encourage the children to share this story of Jesus with their friends and families! This is what Jesus told His disciples to do as well! Why? Because God loved each and every person on Earth so much that He provided a way for us all to experience perfect love and acceptance through Jesus Christ (John 3:16). And when we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, we can accept Him into our hearts as the boss of our lives and we will get to spend the rest of time with Him, happy in heaven!

 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Saturated Fats of the Heart

Have you ever looked in the mirror while trying on new clothes and wondered, “Did that nasty comment make me look fat?” Or as swimsuit season is approaching, “Do these excuses make me look bloated?” Sound crazy? Allow me to explain. Excuses, grudges, nasty words and blame shifting could be described as high saturated fats of the heart. “Oh wow, can you even believe how ridiculous…” or “I wouldn’t have had to act that way, if…” or “I cannot be blamed in this because…”

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

 

Whether we realize it or not, excuses for not obeying God’s word is much like carrying extra weight. When we are unwilling to follow God’s lead, and rather, hold onto an excuse, grudge or shift the blame to justify our own actions—we gain weight, spiritually speaking.

 

Walk with me here. If we are unwilling to “pick up our cross” (Luke 9:23) and follow Christ, we will experience the same atrophy spiritually, as we do physically from not treating our body right. Our body is called the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). In the same way, the most sacred part of us would be our heart—the very essence of who we are. Thus, if we are not willing to obey God in the inner most parts of ourselves, it will show in every other part of our lives. From our spoken and written words to the friends we hang with to even include the kind of guys we are willing to date. It all comes back to obedience to the Lord.

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

 

If we are willing to be obedient to the calling of God on our lives, even when it is inconvenient, or even down right annoying, we are honoring God—and keeping in good spiritual health (Acts 17:28)!

 

When we encounter stressful and unexpected circumstances, rather than grabbing a less than healthy snack option or calling a friend to vent, may we be women whom are willing to take our issues to the Lord and lay bare the ugliness of the circumstance before Him (Psalm 37:4-5, Psalm 62:8, Proverbs 3:5 & 1 Peter 5:7). May we be a generation of Christ followers who are willing to pray things out with the Lord on long walks or runs, even before we turn to others for advise. As we are more exposed to the world that the Lord created, we will be reminded that He works all things out in His creation for good (Job 12:10). Thus, we can be assured, simply by observing the natural world, that He will in fact do the same thing in our own stories; no matter how complicated the details may be (Romans 8:28).

 

Sometimes we all just need to hit “pause” on the world for a little while and regain our focus on what really matters. When I am stressed, I need to get alone with the Lord and hash things out. Through long drives or mountainside journaling sessions, I feel free to lay all things bare before the Lord; the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes I am balling in anguish. Other times I am screaming in frustration. And sometimes still, I am worshipping and laughing so loud, I think creation itself may be joining along in celebration!

 

The point is, regardless of how you do it, make time to get honest before the Lord—just the two of you. When you do, you will experience a great weight lifted off of your shoulders as you give your circumstances to the Lord through honest communication (Psalm 68:19 & Isaiah 46:4). It is in those private moments with the Lord, that we can then realign our will to His. In doing this, we can lay our excuses down and shatter the blame shifting that may be holding us back from experiencing the spiritual fitness that God has for us. By letting go of the excuses that have been used to justify our behaviors and thought patterns, we are then able to experience life in abundance (Jon 3:17).

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)

 

Jesus Christ promises us that He did not just want us to experience life—but to experience it in abundance (John 10:10)! So, when we find ourselves and others we love focusing on excuses or grumbling, let us check ourselves in love. Why? Simply put, our focus should not merely be on the physical world and outward beauty; but on keeping our whole body (e.g. body, mind and spirit) in good health (Deuteronomy 6:5). How do we do this? By keeping close to God through prayer, reading God’s Word and plugging into a Bible study where real life can be shared with other like minded followers of Jesus Christ. With Christian sisters at your side, you all can cheer one another on to memorize encouraging scriptures to recall in hard times (Psalm 23:4, Jeremiah 29:11-13, Jeremiah 33:3, Philippians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 1 John 4:9 & Revelation 12:11), work out together, go on missions projects together that bless the hearts of others and just share life together in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Summer is just around the corner and we all begin to look in the mirror to see if we need to shed a few pounds. In the same way, may we consider if we also need to loose a few excuses, drop a few grudges, and detox our hearts and spirits from blame shifting and nasty words. In its place, may we then pick up a little extra compassion, tenderness and responsiveness of heart! Let’s enjoy this approaching summer with a newfound spiritual fitness that is found in Jesus Christ alone (Psalm 27:14, Psalm 33:20, Psalm 62:1, Psalm 62:5 & Psalm 130:5)!

 

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

Ascending Love; An Easter Story

“He was right.” Thomas recalled to himself. Still staring up into the sky, with the remaining ten disciples. Thomas continued, “I will forever sing Your praises, Jesus. Thank you.” Jesus of Nazareth had ascended into heaven after conquering death on a cross, just as the prophecies said of the Messiah (Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:12, Daniel 7:13-14, John 14:1-4, John 16:16, John 16:25-28).

 

51While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:51-52 (NASB)

 

As the eleven disciples walked on the road back to Jerusalem from Bethany, following the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Luke 24:50), Thomas recalled the Passover within this whirlwind of supernatural events that had been the past three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry. For this year’s Passover, Jesus had rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt, which fulfilled the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). This year had marked their fourth Passover with Jesus. But, as they had entered Jerusalem this year, they were met with a large crowd of people waving palm branches and shouting praises.

 

12On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15“FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (John 12:12-15 NASB)

 

All were dressed in their best as they had come for both the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began immediately following. A gentle spring breeze carried the strong aroma of the pure nard perfume into the desert air, that Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with just the day previous in the town of Bethany (John 12:3). It was truly an entry of triumph. The arrest and death warrant from the powerful Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, was still active for Jesus (John 11:53 & John 11:57); but no one in that moment could think of anything but shouting for joy! The same people whom Thomas had see at the tomb of Lazarus just days before, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, were now shouting of these very things as Jesus continued into the city! At this, even more people ran to meet Him (John 12:17-18).

 

23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23 NASB)

 

Then, Jesus did something no one was expecting. He prayed to the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify Your name!” At that moment, Thomas, along with the other eleven disciples and all others around Jesus were startled as a voice was heard thundering from heaven! “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again!” (John 12:28 HCSB). With eyes wide, loud gasps and murmuring were heard all around. This was now the third time a voice had thundered from heaven to affirm the work and ministry of Jesus. The first was at His baptism (Matthew 3:17), the second was at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and now the third time was here at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover (John 12:28).

 

30Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” (John 12:30 NASB)

 

The disciples further recalled that Jesus had insisted on washing all of His twelve disciple’s feet after the Passover meal (John 13:4-5). They also remembered the significance of Judas Iscariot being handed the bread dipped in wine, which announced him as the one to betray Jesus. Jesus had told Judas Iscariot to do what he was planning, and Judas ate the bread and left the room (Psalm 41:9). At the time, the other eleven could not comprehend the meaning, but in retrospect, all had become crystal clear (John 13:26-27). The eleven remaining disciples spoke of experiencing a foot washing, one of the most base and servant oriented tasks, from their powerful and prestigious leader, Jesus Christ. It was revolutionary to their thinking of leadership. Jesus also prophesied that Simon Peter would deny even knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed the following morning, and they recalled the agonizing moments before the sun would rise when this indeed happened (Luke 22:54-62 & John 13:38).

 

They then spoke of the time that followed the Passover dinner where the eleven of them traveled with Jesus, in the dark of night, across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39 & John 18:1). It was there that Jesus had asked them to pray and keep watch. It was there that Jesus prayed for this cup of suffering to pass, if it was the Father’s will. But surrendering His own will to the Father’s in order to glorify the Father, He accepted His brutal task (Luke 22:42). It was there that Judas Iscariot, for a little money, betrayed Jesus (Luke 22:5 & Luke 22:48). It was there, within the olive grove, that Jesus was arrested by the chief priests, officers of the temple guard and elders whom had heard Him preach in the temple courts day in and day out (Luke 22:52-53).

 

The eleven then recalled the lunacy that surrounded Jesus’ time before the high priest of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas (John 18:13-14), Pilot, Herod and then again back to Pilot (Luke 23:1-25). The whole process was absolutely depraved and steeped in evil (John 18:28-40). The divine substitute for our sins, Jesus Christ, did not speak out to defend His own cause (Isaiah 53:7). A murderer and known criminal, Barabas had been released to the people, as was a Passover tradition to release one prisoner, to ensure that Jesus would indeed be crucified (Luke 23:25).

 

The physical and mental violence that the body and mind of Jesus endured was so extreme that He was unable to carry His own cross to His execution (Luke 23:26). Yet, as Jesus finally hung upon the cross, in the place of the Skull (called Golgotha in Aramaic, John 19:17), amidst the vehement insults and demonic laughter mixed with wailing and mourning of the crowd, it was forgiveness and determined love that He continued to extend to all (Psalm 34:20, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 42:1 & Zechariah 12:10).

 

“34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18 & Luke 23:34 HCSB)

 

An insulting sign written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, created by Pilot read “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). Although insults were hurled at Jesus until the final moment, it was His love and divine ability to extend pardon that allowed Jesus to pay the penalty for each of our sins—that we have all committed (Jeremiah 33:8, Romans 3:23 & Romans 5:12).

 

“But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)

 

After Jesus had given up His spirit, the sky grew black for three hours and the veil in the Holy of Holies within the Temple, was ripped from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split! People no longer needed to go to the Temple to be declared clean before a high priest, but now each heart could go directly to God through Jesus Christ (Isaiah 6:6-7, Matthew 27:51, Luke 23:45 & Hebrews 4:14-16 & Hebrews 6:20)!

 

Oh, but the best was yet to come! The Lover and Creator of the human heart was not done. Freedom from eternal bondage was still yet to be shared with those He loved. The tomb was discovered to be empty on the third day, by Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women. They then saw two men at the empty tomb, dressed in glowing apparel that asked, “why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been resurrected (Luke 24:4-8)!” They ran to get the eleven disciples. While Mary Magdalene wept violently, thinking someone had stolen the body, Jesus appeared to her outside of the empty tomb (Luke 24:6 & John 20:11-18). Jesus then appeared to His disciples (Luke 24: 44-49, John 20:19-23 & John 20:24-29).

 

In His truest form, Jesus gently comes into our stories and meets us in our places of grief and doubt, then whispers assurance to our hearts that victory over all forms of suffering is found only in the mighty name of Jesus Christ (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 48:6 & 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). As we celebrate this Easter season, may our attention be brought to victory that is ours if we accept the ultimate act of devotion, through Jesus Christ’s example of ascending love (2 Corinthians 5:17).

*This article is featured on Wonderfully Made’s Official Blog Site. Click on the title in teal below to view.

https://wonderfullymade.org/ascending-love-an-easter-story/

Big Fish, Talking Donkey and Foreign Opportunities

There are two characters within the Bible that have been standing out to me at present; Jonah and Balaam. Both were prophets who were very much aware of what God was instructing them to do. Yet, both chose to fully ignore what God had told them to do. In fact, while reading both of their accounts, one may find themselves asking if someone could really be that dense…that hard of hearing to God’s specific instructions. Well, I am not proud to admit it, but I too am one of the hard heads who God has had to show grace towards—time and time again—to reveal His greater grace within my story. Perhaps you too can relate to these accounts of God’s grace. Let’s jump into each of their accounts and then share the parallels I have witnessed within my own story.

 

Jonah, was a prophet of God who had been directed by God to go to the wicked town of Nineveh and tell the people to stop doing horrible things and repent to God. Yet, believing that those of Nineveh would be shown grace from God, Jonah chose to completely disregard what God had instructed him to do—and actually hopped on a ship headed for the exact opposite direction (Tarshish) in hopes of escaping God’s call (Jonah 1:1-3). Jonah thought that he knew the best way that things should play out in the lives of others. Ever been there? I know I have!

 

Now, take the false prophet of Balaam. He was made famous by his talking donkey. Unfortunately, my life reflects much of his story over the past eighteen months of living in the Middle East. God had very plainly told me to stay home with my kids, but I was just convinced that He must have not had all the needed information to make the decision that I definitely saw as best—working outside of the home with our kids in nursery school. So, as I was approached by a Christian church to be their Sunday school coordinator, I was won over by their flattery. I continued to insist that I was going to be a homeschooling, stay-at-home mama during our time here. They said that was great, but continued to flatter me with what a great job I do with the children each week. They invited me to interview. Once they stated that I could do it from home, when the kids were napping, I agreed to apply. I prayed about it and felt a peace. I indeed interviewed and got the position.

 

What was initially ten hours a week quickly turned into thirty, as I am a workaholic. In order to maintain the days for my children, I worked from our home office at night—I was going to do this—this was an amazing opportunity! Yet, this was not what God had told me to do. And as a result, it was affecting my husband and I. I was always too busy for him. I brushed it off and continued to tell myself that he would be fine. Well, five weeks in, I resigned from the position. I was not a fit.

 

Now that I was home again, with no added income to speak of, a stress and undeniable pressure in my chest began to overwhelm me each day. Here in the Middle East, it is most common to hire a live-in nanny to tend to your children. Thus, it was not easy to plan play dates around our neighborhood—nor even plan weekly events. We had purchased a homeschool curriculum to use during our time here. I thought we would give that a go. But, with a newly walking toddler and a spunky two and a half year old, it became clear—quickly—that this was not going to work either. So, my husband and I agreed that our daughter would enjoy being in a structured nursery class with the majority of the other expatriate children within this country—at $1,000 USD a month. Sound far-fetched for a nursery school? Well, this reflected most all of the prices within the country. Thus, as most things are not well advertised here, it is easy to begin to feel trapped or even alone within the walls of your home. So, we bit the bullet and agreed for our daughter to join nursery.

 

Simply put, she thrived. So much so in fact, that her teacher pulled me aside on one of the first days and stated that our daughter already knew all of the material and was bored. Yet, I told the teacher that I had no other option seeing as she was too young to join the official school system until four years of age. Yet, I had disregarded what the Lord had told me months previously—stay home and homeschool. In doing so, we would have saved money every month and I would have been honoring God. But, I chose to rebel in my spirit for the sake of fitting in with those around me—sound a bit like Balaam seeking the praise and approval of others? Perhaps you too have had Balaam moments when you look back on your own story. I know I do.

 

In much the same way, Balaam also rebelled in his spirit towards what the Lord had told him to do. Not only did he disregard that God said not to go with the men of King Balak of the Moabites to curse the Israelites, but he also beat his donkey three times as it refused to continue on the journey. Now, why in the world would a donkey refuse to walk along a trail, you may be asking yourself. The donkey was able to see the Angel of the Lord standing in front of it at three separate instances. And the very thing that made the prophet Balaam burn with anger, turned out to be a blessing from God that spared his very life. As the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth to speak, it asked Balaam why he had beaten it three times. Balaam then answers the donkey and stated that he would have killed it if he had had a sword for not obeying him. Yet, as he finishes saying these piercing words, Balaam’s eyes are also opened to see the Angel of the Lord—standing before him with a drawn sword. Balaam falls flat on his face before the angel. He stated that if it was not for the donkey turning away three times, he would have killed Balaam and spared the donkey. Oh what a twist of perspective!

 

Within my own story, the amount of housework was also daunting to me. We were here in the Middle East with the U.S. Embassy and the home reflected it; large and spacious living areas, multiple bedrooms, multiple bathrooms and both a front and backyard (not a given here in the Middle East). The need to “keep up” is crushing in a culture filled with drivers, nannies, maids and the like. I began to feel that there must be something wrong with me to be cleaning my own home—and watching my own children. Thus, as the literal “dust storms” would blow through our part of town, a fine dust, much like all-purpose flour would blow under the door and in through the bathroom fans to coat the entire two-story home with grey dust. It did not matter how often you cleaned, your home was always to look dirty of one was not willing to hire live-in help.

 

So, we tried that route for a while. Our maid from Sri Lanka quickly became a sincere friend. She worked for us for six months before stating that she would be looking for full-time work in a few months. She wanted to be our live-in help—and we were entertaining the offer. All the while, I had begun to be courted by the U.S. Embassy to be their Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for the upcoming year. It seemed perfect!

 

I had quickly learned that I was not cut out for the solitary, repetitive and daunting tasks that came with being a stay at home mother and homeschool teacher. So, surely, I concluded once more, God must have meant something different for me and my children. Surely adventure and daily excursions were in our bundle of daily blessings, right? Who wants to do the “boring” or “hard” stuff anyway? I know I sure struggle with that one. Yet, once I was five weeks into the hustle and bustle of the prestigious U.S. Embassy position within the wealthy country of Qatar, I realized that my heart really wanted to be home—not speaking with high ranking political officials. I wanted to be home with my children. God provided a way out for me—once I was willing to tell God that He was right and that I was only wasting precious time that He had given me with my children—as a gift. The very thing I was running from became the very place I now knew I needed to return to.

 

In the same way, Jonah….After stating that the ship’s crew should throw him into the violently raging sea, a giant fish swallowed Jonah where he stayed for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Once he repented and praised God for saving his life through the intervention of the large fish, God ordered Jonah to be spit onto the shore (Jonah 2:10). Now, God asked Jonah a second time to head to Nineveh and tell the people to turn from their evil ways and instead follow God. He did (Jonah 3:1-3). And as a result, the people of Nineveh were shown grace and forgiveness from God (Jonah 3:10).

 

As our time here in the heart of the Middle East comes to a close, a new chapter will yet again unfold before our family. As Christians, I encourage each of you to listen up to what the Lord is telling you. Make sure that it matches up with scripture and hold fast to the words spoken. For me, I am thankful that I have learned the valuable lessons of waiting on the Lord now—rather than many years from now—so that I can now impart them to our children. The days of a follower of Jesus Christ will not always be filled with thrilling adventures that span the globe or result in a racing heart. But, each day will be filled with the needed ingredients to bring us one day closer to becoming the women God has called each of us to be. And to be honest with you ladies, that is the greatest adventure of all.

In all of travels in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, I can assure you that God will speak to you – no matter what your circumstances nor global coordinates of the heart! Why? Because, just like these men recorded in the Bible, the God of the Bible, is a God of second chances (Romans 5:6 & Romans 5:8). My life is testimony to this very thing! 

May you allow your soul to meet the amazing and awe inspiring Creator of the universe, by opening up the lines of communication in your heart today. You don’t have to speak a certain language nor hold a certain level of qualification to approach the throne of grace of Jesus Christ. Come to Him today, just as you are, and allow Him to speak truth to your heart that will prove purpose and edify meaning within each interaction within each of your days. You are alive and drawing sweet breath for a reason this very day; don’t allow another second to pass without thanking the One who created you and is preparing you for greatness. May you be encouraged to the Lord Jesus Christ your yesterdays, today and future; greatness awaits!

Christ is the answer.

The Allure of Forbidden Fruit

 

Oh, just one more time…who will notice? No one is looking. Just one more lie…who will know? I know this isn’t the way God wanted for me, but this is much better than what He had in store for my life. Besides, God must not have had all the facts before He made His rules. It’s not that big of a deal anyway, right?

 

Have you ever thought these things, ladies? I know I have. And unfortunately, I can speak from experience that better does not wait on the other side of disobedience. Whether big or small, disobedience is offensive to the Lord—like left overs that you find months later in the back of your frig…it reaks and must be dealt with.

 

During my undergrad, I went through dating relationship after dating relationship, convinced that I was going to prove something by making a mess of a man’s heart. I had so much hatred pent up in my heart as a result of my parent’s divorce—and I was not about to let someone get near to me again to cause similar destruction. Yet, I still wanted the attention and affection. I did not believe that I was of great value. I did not hold fast to the scriptures that state how precious life is to God (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 5:6-7 and 1 John 4:9). I was convinced that I could trust God, but not men. This was a major area that the Lord had to heal within my own heart before I would meet my husband a few years later.

 

I began to wonder if God had forgotten me. If God really had a plan and purpose for my life, where was He in the midst of my struggle? I knew the answer—He was walking beside me, encouraging me to let go of my own hatred and rebellion and return to the Lord. Yet, my calloused heart was not ready to give up the heat of my anger and rage. I had begun to take pleasure in attention from lustful eyes and starving myself from the food my body craved. I was a shell of who I once was. And as I looked into the mirror, I realized that I no longer knew the face staring back at me. What had I become?

 

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 4:5-6 (NIV)

 

As I was willing to confess my sinful and rebellious lifestyle to the Lord, it was as if something broke inside my heart. The desire and ability to follow the Lord had returned to my heart once more—and a passionate desire to follow close to the will of the Lord resulted. In that time, God taught me many things about myself and others. I learned how to accept love from a man in a pure way and not feel obligated to do something in return for his affection or attention. Perhaps you too can relate.

 

Maybe you have always felt like an outcast, but are now receiving attention that you have desired all of your life. What do you do with this new found attention or attractive men sending texts, messages or gifts? May I encourage you, ground yourself in what the Lord says about you before entering into a physical relationship with a man. If you do not know who you are in Jesus Christ, you will be easily persuaded to rebellion and wind up acting on emotions that will lead you into trouble or worse (James 1:13-15). Tell the Lord about each situation and/or individual you are feeling tempted to act shady with. God will always provide a way out from our temptations and struggles (James 1:5). God is faithful and you are declared as eternally beautiful and precious before the God of all creation through the finished work of Jesus Christ. You are not stuck in your situation, girlfriend. Allow Him to cleanse you and give you the victory over wrong choices that is found in Jesus Christ alone. You are worth it. Walk in truth.

 

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

1 Corinthians 15:57 (HCSB)