b-blog

Wrestling with God

Most of us have a mental image of the ideal believer—shiny-faced, unquestioning, always good and cheerful and obedient. So what about those who struggle and grumble, doubt and disobey?

Sometimes God blesses them and makes nations out of them.

Jacob was no model of godly behavior. He lied and cheated and deceived. Talking to his father, Isaac, he referred to “the Lord your God.” Fleeing from his furious, betrayed brother Esau, Jacob made a brazen bargain with God: “’If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God’” (Genesis 28: 20-21). Twenty years later, Jacob returned home, laden with wives and children and flocks, and on the way, he physically wrestled with the Lord. And God told him, “’Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome’” (Genesis 32: 28). Only then did Jacob acknowledge the Lord as his God and build an altar to Him.

The name Israel means “he struggles with God.” The Lord chose this God-wrestler to be the father of a nation and to bless all the nations through his descendant Jesus.

Perhaps we should alter our mental image of the ideal believer to include those who struggle with God, ask the hard questions, take doubts to Him—and overcome.

How about you? Wrestled with God lately?

Announcing a New Column

Good news for all of you who are involved in women’s ministries or who are authors. My friend Laura Wrede has started a new women’s ministry column in the Examiner, a national on-line newspaper. Please read her letter below:

My name is Laura Wrede and I have been writing for Examiner.com as a Travel writer for some time and was recently assigned the “National Women’s Ministry” column due to my education and experience (but most of all, I believe…God’s directing).

I feel I have been allowed the unique opportunity to take advantage of writing for a secular publication (with over 7 million readers and climbing) and offering a place where woman, who follow my column, can share their Christian worldview (this gives them a larger voice than a personal blog might).

I am creating a “guest spot” for authors and writers where I will highlight their work, ministry, and thoughts on what is relevant to today’s Christian Woman. If they have a personal website or blog, I would include a linkback in the source section.

In general this column is for all women who want to share their comments and be part of a larger online community where not everyone is Christian (a good testimony opportunity).

The way that examiner works is by popularity. The more people who look at the articles, subscribe and comment, the more popular that column is. The more popular…the more often it is found on the home page- page one where all see it, not just Christians searching for Christ focused reading. What an amazing witness opportunity!

Right now, the most read (popular) columns on examiner.com in the “Religion category” under “Lifestyles” are the Atheist columnist and the Humanist columnist!

I want to change that! And I need women like you to show the world that God is still alive and well and flourishing in the US. As Christians, we tend to stick to Christian publications, but miss the opportunity to give voice to our faith among the world!

From you and others, I am looking for the following:

1. Subscribe and follow the articles and Twitter them. Invite all your social contacts, friends, family, church members, etc. to do the same.
2. Comment on the content so that others can benefit from your point of view.
3. Suggest relevant topics concerning Women’s ministry and Women’s issues that you would like to see in print (emailed to me)
4. Suggest authors that deserve to have the spotlight on them for their work. The authors do not necessarily have to be well known, nationally published authors. In fact, we prefer to showcase little known, yet promising authors. If you feel that describes you, please do not be shy, tell me about you! (emailed to me)
5. Suggest a story of someone you know that would be an inspiration to other women in their faith (emailed to me).
6. Put a link to the column on your blog with a little blurb and invite others to subscribe.

I can only reach out to others, tell them about the opportunity, write what I beleive God wants me to share in the articles, and answer emails. I cannot do this alone, but together we can do it.

Does this sound like something you would be interested in? If so just pass on the instructions and link to others…spread the word and email me if you have any thing to share. Here is a link to one of my articles to check out.

http://www.examiner.com/x-35833-Womens-Ministry-Examiner~y2010m1d13-Women-who-feel-trapped-by-circumstances-in-life

Thank you so much for your interest and help in spreading the word. I look forward to hearing from you.

God Bless you,
Laura Wrede
National Women’s Ministry Writer, Examiner.com
http://us.mc828.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=L.wrede@verizon.net

The Faces of Haiti

The whole world is devastated by the news from Haiti. We can’t fathom the suffering and loss of life piled on top of the difficulties this impoverished nation already endures.

I wanted to show you the faces of Haiti – before the quake – so we know who we’re praying for. Each year my husband, Dave, goes to Haiti with a group of men from our church to help with construction at a village school which also feeds hundreds of orphans every day. He’s grown to love these people deeply.



These people are more than dust-covered faceless victims – they are God’s beloved children. Look at these faces. Pray for these people and countless more like them. And pray for God to perform a mighty work in this country.

Little Dark Lies

“White lies are harmless as long as you use good judgment.”
“You may tell a white lie to avoid discussion. But that only breeds mistrust and distance.”

These quotes from two marriage and family experts appeared in the article “’Fess up or Fib?” by Jessica Yadegaran in the Contra Costa Times on January 6, 2010. Which expert is right?

Lying is so easy. If I lie about my mistakes, I avoid the consequences. One little white lie about a friend’s new outfit and I make her happy. Conceal a purchase from my husband and he won’t lecture me about my spending habits. A well-told lie can make life feel smooth.

But lying becomes a habit. We feel more comfortable making mistakes, knowing we can talk our way out of them. Underlying issues grow in magnitude as necessary conflict is put off. Then we’re caught in a bald-faced lie, and trust is shattered. And trust shattered is not easily glued back together.

Truth is hard. But truth is right. Truth means owning up to our mistakes. Truth means finding a creative way to compliment a friend even if we don’t care for her fashion sense. Truth means opening up to those we love, exposing ourselves to the pain of conflict—and to growth.

Let’s look to the only Expert who matters. God never condones lying, even little white lies. Rather, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12: 22). The story of Jacob and Rebekah deceiving Isaac for his blessing shows the disastrous results of lying—anger, threatened murder, and a family fractured.

As in most things, God calls us to the difficult road. Truth requires humility, creativity, and hard work. But it’s always worth it.

My Favorite Books of 2009

Nothing says New Year’s Eve like a list! Here are my favorite reads from 2009 in alphabetical order. It was hard enough to pick only ten, much less rank them. This is why I don’t do book reviews.

1. Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner
A lovely story of a woman jilted at the altar, who opens a secondhand wedding dress boutique. Susan Meissner writes beautifully, and the story has both humor and depth.

2. The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry
All I can say is, “Wow!” This debut novel is about a troubled marriage shaken up by a horrible accident. I was pulled in by realistic characters, original writing, and plenty of unexpected twists.

3. The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz
On the Kentucky frontier, a girl comes to age in a dangerous land. In her debut novel, Laura Frantz sets the right balance between a beautifully crafted story with interesting characters and plenty of fascinating historical detail.

4. Home Another Way by Christa Parrish
A young woman comes home to a small mountain town to claim her inheritance and comes to grips with her past. This heroine may be the prickliest I ever met, but Christa Parrish is such a gifted writer, you care about this heroine deeply.

5. Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana by Melanie Dobson
A young Quaker woman helps runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad, and tries to keep her distance from an attractive, outspoken abolitionist who could threaten her work. Melanie Dobson drew me in with a compelling heroine living in secrecy. Her writing conveys historical detail that enhances and never distracts from the story.

6. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
The first wife of King David has always fascinated me, so I loved seeing her come to life in Jill Eileen Smith’s gifted hands. Full of detail about life in biblical times and a good read about a conflicted woman.

7. The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill
A teenage girl is trying to get to California to go to college, but her colorful mother waylays her plans at every turn. With her blend of quirky characters and laugh-outloud humor, Patti Hill is one of my favorite authors. See if you don’t both hate and love the mother – and feel for the daughter.

8. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
A young widow begins to hear her dead husband’s voice – is she losing her mind or is there some deep secret she’s hiding from herself? Bonnie Grove’s debut novel is a well-written page-turner.

9. The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
I hesitate to pick up novels set during World War II because I often find historical inaccuracy. However, this novel was both well-researched and delightfully written. This is a poignant story of a little boy who loses his mother and the crotchety grandfather forced to take him in.

10. Yesterday’s Embers by Deborah Raney
A whirlwind romance leads to a troubled blended home, and Deborah Raney portrays both parts of the story with realism and talent. Deborah Raney is another of my favorite authors with her heartfelt stories in beautiful prose.

And for 2010? I can’t wait!

Musings on Faith

I have faith that chocolate will make me feel better. I have faith that my friends will be there for me. I have faith that when I press the power button my computer will hum to life and I can get my work done.

However, this is not true faith because all these good things can fail—and I know it. Some dark moods are unmoved by even the darkest of chocolate. Friends can be busy, out of town, or distracted by their own troubles. Computers can crash.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). True faith leads us to the omnipresent God for comfort to break any mood. True faith leads us to the omniscient God for advice, because His wisdom never fails. True faith leads us to the omnipotent God for power to complete any job He gives us.

But “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26), not because deeds lead to faith but because deeds prove the depth of our faith. Do I really trust God to provide for me financially if I’m unwilling to tithe? Do I really believe God will give me the power to do any task He gives me if I’m only willing to serve where I know I can do so in my own strength? Do I really have faith if I refuse to sacrifice time to read my Bible, pray, and worship Him?

As we look forward to a new year and a new decade, let’s put our faith in the only One who never fails. And let our faith be shown true by our actions.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate – the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn’t fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we’ll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn’t happen this year. I don’t think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it’s a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I’ve made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn’t. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn’t care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn’t care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn’t even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.

Now that’s worth celebrating!

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Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn’t want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at BecauseISaidSo.com, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can’t have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year’s Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it’s just so…pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don’t usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now’s the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we’re all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we’re anything but happy? If life isn’t what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn’t begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it’s because I’m pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what’s really important and let go of the other things. And I’ve adopted my aunt’s favorite saying: “However it turns out, that’s how we like it.” Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I’m still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I’d accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, “thank you even for this,” since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I’ve been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I’m finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I’d be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it’s a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it’s okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let’s lean on Him this season-He’s right here beside us!

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Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year’s Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

Magnificat
by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain. What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary’s prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman’s heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!

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Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota , as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia , the child of missionary teachers. Since her family’s move to the U.S. , Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France , China , Peru , and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year’s Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info