Devotion of the Week | Pearls of Promise | Page 96

The Basket and the River by Jacqueline Hooks

Jackie Hooks Jacqueline Hooks is our guest blogger today. This is what she says about herself and her ministry:  “I am an everyday ordinary gal who started following Jesus less than a decade ago, and has fallen madly in love with the Carpenter King who saved my life and my marriage.  My husband and I are raising “four holy moly messes” (Jake 10, Jude 9, Grace 7 and Joshua 1).  I am technically a stay at home mom, but I rarely find myself at home, and the soap opera and bon bon life hasn’t found its way into my living room just yet.  I do occasionally allow for a small celebration when all the laundry is clean AND folded at the SAME TIME on the SAME  DAY…and that is typically twice a decade.

In 2012, God called me to begin Pruning Hooks Ministry.  Pruning Hooks is a grass roots group of “Everyday ordinary women serving Jesus allowing their everyday ordinary lives to become extraordinary”. It is a ministry founded on the principal that Jesus wants your daily life, and following Him is a lifestyle of loving and serving and walking with Jesus…no event needed…just a Savior and our hands and feet.   Jesus has called us to serve lunch and breakfast five days a week to Generation One Academy, provide monthly meals to residents of medical housing, love on teen moms in our area, help and encourage single moms and meet the needs of anyone God places in our path. Pruning Hooks gathers each month to listen to an ordinary woman share her Jesus Story which always encourages and reminds us how our amazing God works inside the every day. Because He wants our everyday …plain and simple.

And I write.  Writing has been the tool Jesus gave me from the very beginning of my life to navigate every treacherous road I have walked.  There are boxes of poetry notebooks and short stories stashed somewhere in my mom’s attic to prove it.  My hope is that my words inspire and encourage you to see Jesus in your everyday too.  He is right here waiting for each of us, in the daily mess, hoping we see He wants so much more from us and for us than we could ever imagine.  I pray my writing will lead you to Him.”

Visit Jacqueline’s website at: http://www.pruninghooks.com or like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pruning-Hooks-Ministries/173578226122133

Fingernails[4]I am running late this morning.  We got in from out of town, and I hit snooze 982 times on my alarm which equals about two hours of time, and I woke up at 7am instead of 5:15.  That will jolt you out of bed on the first day back to school after Spring Break.  Luckily, all outfits had been picked out the night before, and the plan was for leftover donuts for breakfast (feel free to judge that breakfast), and the kids had already planned on buying lunch too.  It actually wasn’t a bad morning.  Everyone seemed to move pretty quickly through eating, brushing teeth, finding jackets and shoes.  The baby woke up at the perfect time and he even got breakfast before we were out the door to take the big kids to school.  It was smooth and easy and there were lots of pats on the back reserved for me and my morning awesomeness.

Since we were running so late we decided to drive to school instead of walking with friends.  Waiting in the drop off line is a nightmare.  Always.  People cut in line, hold up traffic, and break all sorts of laws all while trying desperately to get their kids to school on time. I have to turn up the “Jesus Music” super loud so I don’t yell horrible things out the window to the other parents I will likely see in the hall someday.  It’s a crazy balancing act of kindness and stupidity all while keeping your place in the longest line ever.   Jake opted to hop out of the car when we were close to his entrance.  Jude got out shortly after him when we were close to his classroom too.  So, it was just me and Grace and Joshua who isn’t much for conversation at 14 months old.  Grace moved up from the back of the minivan to the captain’s chair.  She looked cuter than cute today partly because she had decided to wear a green frog hat my mom had bought her this weekend…partly because she is missing loads of teeth…partly because she is my girl and she owns a large portion of my heart.  We were talking about her incredible hat when I could feel the tears welling up and spilling all over my face.

“Grace, I love you more than anything.”

“You’re my favorite girl in the whole wide world.”

Ribbit“And YOU are my favorite Mommy,” says Grace.  And she hops out of the car.  Leaving behind the conversation we have pretty often when I feel the tears welling up and spilling over.  Always the same.  Always have to let her know just how much I love her.  You see, I am afraid someone is going to steal and hurt my daughter.  Because someone stole and hurt me.

This is how it feels to be a Mommy who lives inside the delicate balancing act of knowing fear and pain and the reality that bad things can happen to very good little girls, and living in victory with Jesus.  This is my daily tight rope and today, this morning, it feels like fear is going to win and I am going to lock all the car doors, take Grace back home where I can see her every second of every day and protect her from everyone. And I am Jochebed once again.  Making my tiny basket to hold everything I hold dear.  Knowing I will place my baby in a river y’all.  A river.  Knowing I will place my baby in a basket and put the basket in the river.  Some days it feels like too much.

In Exodus 1:22 – 2:10 we meet Jochebed, Moses’ mother (her name is revealed in Exodus 6: 20).  Pharaoh has issued an order that every Hebrew boy born will be thrown into the Nile River, and Jochebed gives birth to a son.  Oh the terror that must have consumed her heart when she saw the face of her precious baby boy, knowing his fate was to die.  And in that moment, of seeing his face, she chose instead to be courageous and brave and bold.  She would hide him.  And for three months she did just that, but there was a point when she could no longer keep her baby hidden, and she began to make a basket.  Coated with tar and pitch.  A basket she must have prayed over.  A basket she cared so completely about.  A basket that she lay at the feet of God hoping that He would have absolute care and control over her precious basket carrying her priceless bundle.  She put her baby inside a basket in a river.  And trusted in God.  And I can’t even imagine the scene at the edge of that river that day.  As she held herself together to not cause a commotion.  As she said a million and four things to insure her child knew how much she loved him.  As the tears welled up and spilled over, and she could not watch and she could not breathe and she could not believe that God would ask her for the basket and the baby and the unbelievable amount of faith required to simply watch the basket float away.

Grace You AreYou see, I am Jochebed.  I am placing my baby, my adorably quirky frog hat wearing princess in a basket every day.  My basket is not made up of tar and pitch.  My basket is made with words of love and encouragement and hugs and kisses…sometimes an annoying amount…because I have to let her know…she has to know how loved she is…in case someone steals her…in case the statistics are true…in case the river is too deep, and the current too fast and the basket goes under…I have to know she knows…

And as my car pulls away from school…

And my precious basket is skipping into her classroom…

God whispers into my ear,

I HAVE THE BASKET…

 AND THE RIVER TOO.

He has the river y’all.  For all of us broken mommies out there…Know this:  He has the river too.  He is carrying that basket we made down the river and He heard every single one of our heart wrenching prayers and He saw every single one of our tears welling up and spilling over and He knew …

He has the river too.

“But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch.  The she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the banks of the Nile.”

 (Exodus 2:3)

 

Irrevocable

Running girl            Have you ever questioned God’s call on your life?

            Maybe you felt a tug to teach Sunday school, help out with the youth or sing in the choir. Before you ever got involved, you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the Lord asked you to do it. But lately, because of some bumps in the road, you’re not so sure anymore, and you’re running in the opposite direction.

            I’m guilty of wearing my running shoes, what about you?

            In 2005, I felt a strong calling from God to minister to women. An unusual directive in light of the fact I’d always worked in a man’s world, first as a television sportscaster, then later in a job at an airport.  That’s one of the reasons I knew this pull to women’s ministry was from the Lord. He infused me with a love for women and I wanted to help them in any way I could.

            So for about eight years, first leading the ladies at the church, then through the Pearls of Promise ministry outside the church, I had a desire to teach women how to overcome the dysfunction in their past or current lives. I had grown up in a difficult childhood and it was my heart to share how the love and strength of Christ helped me to overcome and how it can provide women freedom from the past.

            But after a busy and fruitful ministry season in 2013, there was a personnel shakeup in Pearls of Promise. After that, things slowed down to a halt and several friends told me not to worry; God wanted me to rest to prepare me for what was ahead. I wondered if that was really it.

            I questioned my call. How could this happen? Did God change his mind? Did he remove his blessing?

            Then my husband lost his job, so I began to believe I needed to go back to work in the marketplace and put the ministry aside. The key phrase here is I began to believe. This is not what the Lord intended.

            So I ran after full-time work and God began to show me I was running in the wrong direction.  After a command to stop and spend time at his feet in his Word, one of the first verses that popped off the page was Romans 11:29: “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

            The Webster Dictionary definition for irrevocable is: “not possible to revoke.” The definition of “revoke” is to” to officially cancel the power or effect of.”

            So putting it together, It is impossible to cancel the power or effect of God’s call.

            Early in the morning, snuggled in my blanket, my father was lovingly telling me my call to minister to women had not changed. The call I received in 2005 was the same in 2014. Running away to a full-time job was not the answer. Running back to the loving arms of God was. The call to reach women through the Pearls of Promise ministry was impossible to cancel and God made that clear to me. I needed to trust him with our finances and that he’d provide for the ministry. 

            Praise the Lord for his clear direction and the power of his call.

            Are you discouraged about where you are serving? Are you running the opposite direction of God’s call on your life because it’s gotten too tough and sometimes unfair?

            Remember, his calling on your life is irrevocable. If you are musician, there’s a reason you hear the voice of God through the notes you play.  If you love to sing, it’s not a fluke that worship music sends chills down your spine when you participate in song. If you teach, then watching someone understand a new concept probably thrills you. It’s in your DNA, designed by God.

            The difficulties you are facing may be God’s way of forcing you to re-center. The Lord may want to teach you a new, improved way to facilitate the call he’s placed on your life. That’s what has happened to me and I’m so happy I didn’t make a terrible mistake by giving up on the dream of reaching women for Christ.

            So don’t run away from the God’s call on your life. The Lord may package it in different ways throughout your years but no matter what, it’s what your father in heaven wants you to do. 

            Don’t get discouraged.

            Just like your call, the love of God is also irrevocable and many times through his loving guidance, the Lord will put you back on track when you’re headed the wrong way.

            It’s time to put the running shoes away.

Closed Doors

 Closed door 2            Have you ever prayed for God’s clear direction and asked Him to close the doors if you weren’t supposed to walk through them?

            I am searching for a job for the first time in over ten years and asked the Lord to only open the door to the position I am supposed to take and close all others.

            What I realized is you have to be ready for the consequences of that prayer. It stings when the door slams, uh… I mean… gently closes in your face. It’s humbling when God says no.

            I sometimes get down when there’s no response to a resume or rejection comes.

            Is that how you react when God closes a door in your life?

            My husband responds to my long face with a reminder, “Didn’t you pray for God to close the doors if it’s not what He wants for you?”

            I find myself with a case of “yeah buts” when he says that.  “Yeah, but I thought working at the race track would be really cool.” “Yeah, but I am so qualified for that job.” “Yeah, but they don’t know what I can do!”

            I prayed the same door closing prayer when my son, Kyle, began his job search.  We prayed for God’s clear direction and that Kyle would get a job where the Lord wanted him to work.  He had lots of interest from impressive companies but only received one job offer.  That’s crystal clear.

            When we ask God to close doors, we must trust Him and believe He shuts the doors for a reason and that 

            He has a better plan

            He has a better place or

            He has a different person for you.

            We can’t take the rejection personally because God is in control. Instead, we should praise the Lord for closing the doors. He’s only doing what we asked.

            Proverbs 3:5-6 is a staple passage we should all store in our mind pantry. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

            I want God to be in control of my life, don’t you? It’s not just about a job. I don’t want to walk through any door He has not opened. Only He knows what is best for us and what’s on the other side of that door. When we don’t pray for God to go before us, we enter at our own risk.

Kitty Jump by Tina Hunt

Tina hunt photoOur devotion today was provided by guest blogger, Tina Hunt, one of our Pearls of Promise devotional contributors.  Tina is a writer and speaker from Ohio. She is also a theologian with a Masters of Divinity. To find out more about Tina, you can go to her website at: about.me/tina_hunt.  You can also follow her on Twitter @tinamhunt.

cat jumpingThis morning a cat was sleeping at the base of one our maple trees in the front yard. She was snuggled into the roots with her back to the wind. I watched out my kitchen window while I washed some dishes. She occasionally looked up into the tree, clearly keeping an eye on something hidden up in the limbs.

As I watched, she stood, cautiously circled the tree, and then headed for our front porch. I walked from the kitchen to the living room picture window to see what she was up to. I peeked around the curtain and we were face to face. She froze. So did I. Then I began asking her what she was up to.

She quickly tired of my questions and headed back to the tree. I went back to the kitchen to watch. She looked up into the tree. Then she put her paws up the trunk and gave a big kitty stretch. Then she jumped, landing half-way up the trunk to the first crotch. I thought she might give up at that point—it was still quite a distance to the first limb. But no, she worked and pulled, pulled and climbed until she was not only to the lowest limb but moving on up higher.

I waited to see what would happen next. She was only up in the tree for a few minutes before she decided she needed to come down. She quickly moved to the lower limb, but stopped to contemplate her next move. It was too great a distance to jump. I wondered if I needed to offer assistance, but decided to watch the feral cat instead.

The brave climber made her first move, inching down the tree front paws first. This quickly proved to be the wrong choice as the weight behind her overpowered her frontward climb. Her backend swung around and she looked like she might fall. To my surprise, what looked like a disaster in the making turned into what seemed like a strategic movement. Her back legs completed the swing while her front paws released from the tree and in a blink she was hanging to the tree and descending the same way she had climbed it.

It was a move that would have rivaled a gymnast’s release on the uneven bars. I was in awe. I stood at my window and applauded as the kitty ran out of my yard.

Now if you are a return reader, you have already begun to wonder what spiritual implications I might draw from a cat in a tree. Have you seen any yet? What Bible reference pushed its way to the forefront of your mind?

Are you thinking about the persistence of the widow and the judge? Did your thoughts flow to doing what comes naturally? Or was it more about finishing strong?

Those are all good, but the thought that niggled its way into my heart was the oft repeated “don’t fear” that weaves its way through both the Old and New Testaments, and finds prominence several times in the Christmas story.

I was so sure if Kitty saw me as I peeked around the curtain she would skitter away instantly. But it didn’t happen. There was no fear in her eyes at all as I gazed into them. Then to watch her determined effort to both get up into and down from the tree, left a deep-seated impression on my heart.

I am facing the daunting task of finding a new job. Without going into the entire list of things that makes this so difficult and discouraging, just trust me when I say  if I were the cat and job hunting was jumping into the tree, I would be much more tempted to just walk away.

But I’m not wired that way. Walking away isn’t in my nature. So I’m looking at the tree like the cat. It’s a leap for sure, not without risk, but well worth the effort.

Nothing in scripture tells me to leap into the tree. But all of scripture resounds with “do not be afraid.” So here we go…one, two…..threeeeeeeee!

Crossroads

 

crossroadWhether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

            Have you ever been at a crossroad in your life, not knowing which way to turn?  Oftentimes God allows us to go there because he wants us in a place of total reliance on Him. Should I take this job? Should I continue in this ministry? Should I attend this school or that? There are many intersections we face over the years that can affect us long-term. The path can often seem unclear.  It reminds me of the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz trying to give Dorothy directions to Oz.  Do you remember that dialogue?

Dorothy: Now which way do we go? 

Scarecrow: Pardon me, this way is a very nice way.

Who said that? [Toto barks at scarecrow]

Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.

[points other way] It’s pleasant down that way, too.

That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?

[points both ways] Of course, some people do go both ways.

            Yes, sometimes we feel like the scarecrow.  It’s confusing!  But confusion is not of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.  I’m a firm believer that God gives us clear direction if we ask Him and lay our potential decisions at His altar. I am currently finishing up a book, applying for jobs and desiring to continue in ministry if that is the Lord’s will. I am confident the Lord will whisper in my ear, This is the way; walk in it.  However, I also believe I have to do the work so that God has some options to choose from for my life.  

            The Apostle Paul knows firsthand about God’s holy direction at crossroads. Paul had a plan for his journeys but at one point, he was warned not to preach the word in the province of Asia. Instead he was given a vision to go help the people in Macedonia.  He was at a crossroad and the Lord whispered which direction to go in his ear and he changed his direction.  Paul had some experience in being detoured by God!

            If you are at a crossroad right now, just remember the word “cross” in crossroad.  Take your decision to the cross.  Know that the Lord is with you and if you ask Him, he will guide you to your destination. This is the way, walk in it.

 

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