Faith

Day 2 – Hagar Gets to Know El Roi

For me, Hagar has always been a sort of peripheral character in the drama of Abraham and Sarah and their long wait for their son, Isaac, but a few years ago, I was reading through the Bible, and Hagar’s story stuck out to me in a way it never had before.

Just to give you a little background. God had told Abraham that he would have a son, through whom God would build a great nation. The only problem with this was that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren.

God made Abraham this promise while also telling Abraham to go to a country that God would show him. So, Abraham and Sarah pulled up stakes in what was then, a center of civilization, to start travelling around.

Years passed, and though God continued to promise that Abraham would have a son through whom God would grow a great nation, Sarah remained barren.

In Genesis 16:1, we are introduced to Hagar with these words, “Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.”

Hand drawing heart in sand on the beach

Sarah often gets a lot of flack for not having enough faith, but according to many commentaries, Sarah, at this point, had probably gone through menopause. She was physically unable to have children, so she decided to come up with her own solution and that solution involved Hagar getting pregnant by Abraham. In this culture, a woman could substitute her slave to serve as a surrogate. The child was then considered hers, not the slaves. So, basically, Hagar was just viewed as a convenient womb.

Hagar as one of Sarah’s slaves, was not considered a person. She was considered property, and Sarah was free to use her however she wished. So, here was Hagar, far away from home. Not only was she a slave, but she was a woman – both were enough to make her basically invisible. When Sarah came up with her idea, Hagar didn’t have any choice about the matter.

Sarah pitched the idea to her husband, and Abraham listened to his wife’s idea. He let her persuade him that it was the only way for God’s promise to come true. Ever notice that things never seem to go very well when we try to “help” God?

In fact, have you ever noticed that when you manipulate circumstances to get what you want, when you finally get it, suddenly it doesn’t seem that great?

This is what happened here. Hagar did conceive and suddenly her view of Sarah changed. Hagar’s being pregnant gave her some status she hadn’t had before. I don’t know gave Hagar this bad attitude – her slight upgrade in status or if it was the fact that in ancient times, a woman’s ability to bear children gave her worth. Whatever the reason, in Genesis 16:4 it says that Sarah was despised in Hagar’s sight.

The two women were probably often in each other’s company, and even though it had been Sarah’s idea to begin with, now her maid was pregnant. Not only was Hagar pregnant, but she now thought she was better than her mistress. Talk about a tense atmosphere.

Maybe Hagar thought her pregnant state meant that Abraham would stick up for her, but when Sarah complained to him, he basically said she’s your slave and you are her mistress, so figure out how to control her.

Sarah’s solution was to treat Hagar harshly. I don’t know how old Hagar was, but she realized that despite her pregnancy with the long-awaited heir, she really had no better status than before. She was still invisible and had no worth, and now her mistress was making her life a misery – not fun at any time, but certainly not when you are pregnant.

So in Genesis 16:6 it says, “Hagar fled from the presence of her mistress.”

She didn’t go too far before she found a spring in the wilderness. Hagar’s position was precarious. She was alone in the wilderness and pregnant to boot. She had nowhere really to go. She just knew she had to get away from Sarah.

While she is sitting at the spring, the angel of the Lord appears to her. I find it really interesting that so many times when the angel of the Lord appears to someone, the first thing He says is, “Don’t be afraid.” That’s not the case here. He first calls her by name and then just asks Hagar where she had come from and where she was going.

Hagar tells Him she is running away from her mistress. The angel of the Lord tells her to return to her mistress and submit herself to Sarah’s authority. That must have seemed about as appealing to Hagar as eating a slug, but God knew what He was about.

First, Hagar was alone in the wilderness which would have been very dangerous for her. Second, if she was humble and submissive, Sarah would probably treat her better. It was Hagar’s superior attitude that had brought down Sarah’s wrath, after all.

Then the angel prophesies over her, telling her he will greatly multiply her descendants, that she will have a son, his name will be Ishmael, and he will be the father of a great nation. He tells her this is “because the Lord has taken heed of your affliction.”

So, here is little Hagar. She is a slave. In the eyes of the culture she lived in, she wasn’t even a person. She was property with no say over what happened to her. Her wants, her wishes, her dreams simply didn’t matter to anyone.

Yet, here was the God of Abraham talking to her and promising He would give her son many descendants – so many they would be uncountable.

In Genesis 16:13 it says, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You are a God who sees, for she said, Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him.”

She called God the name El Roi which means the God who sees me.

Have you ever felt like nobody really sees you? Have you felt invisible and not very worthwhile in the grand scheme of things?

The story of Hagar is such an encouragement to me. God cared enough about a little slave girl to really see her. He cared enough to appear to her and give her a promise.

In the eyes of the world, Hagar was just a possession to be used as her mistress saw fit, but God SAW Hagar. He called her by name. He gave her hope both for herself and for her unborn son.

The same God who really saw Hagar, sees you too. He knows your name. He knows your hurts and your hopes. And He cares.

El Roi is one of my favorite names of God because God is not just huge and majestic and all powerful. He is also a personal God – a God who sees me right where I am. He is a God who keeps the world spinning and yet, He knows the number of hairs on my head.

Blessings, Rosanne

25 Days ~ 25 Women ~ 25 Lessons to Learn

Welcome to the first day of the 31 day blogging challenge hosted by The Nester. During the challenge bloggers link up for 31 days to share their series. There are a variety of categories from which to choose. You can check them all out here.

Last year, I did this challenge mostly on a whim without a lot of pre-planning, and then I found out early in October that my Dad had cancer. While I did manage to get a post up most days, it was really difficult. This year, my Dad is doing a lot better, (thank you, God!), and I actually did a little planning ahead. 🙂 I’m hoping to be a bit more successful in staying with my topic, and actually posting every day. 🙂

This year, I will be doing 25 days about 25 women in the Bible and the lessons we can learn from them. I started teaching a series in my Sunday School class a year or so ago about women in the Bible. While most of the women I had heard about in Sunday school as a kid, I was surprised about how much I didn’t know. Instead of characters in a story, the more I studied the more real they became to me. And unlike the sanitized, flannel-graph stories from my youth, these women’s stories were far from G-rated.

There are 188 named women in the Bible, and they include adulteresses, liars, schemers, and even prostitutes. Yet, God used them, just like He can use us. Even when we are broken and a hot mess – maybe especially then.

Below, you will find a list of the women I will be blogging about. Each day, there will be a new link you can click on. I hope you will enjoy getting to know these 31 women over the next 31 days.

Blessings, Rosanne

The Matriarchs 

Day 1 – Eve

Day 2 – Hagar

Day 3 – Rebekah

Day 4 – Leah

Day 5 – Rachael

Women in Moses’ Life

Day 6 – Shiphrah and Puah

Day 7 – Jochabed

Day 8 – Pharoah’s Daughter

Day 9 – Miriam

Women in David’s Life

Day 10 – Michal

Day 11 – Abigail

Day 12 – Bathsheba

Other Old Testament Women

Day 13 – Deborah

Day 14 – Naomi

Day 15- Esther

Villians Who Were Bad to the Bone

Day 16 – Haman

Day 17 – Jezebel

Unnamed Women

Day 18 – the Adulterous Woman

Day 19 – the Bleeding Woman

Day 20- the Samaritan Woman

Day 21 – the Sinful Woman

New Testament Women

Day 22 – Martha of Bethany

Day 23 – Mary of Bethany

Day 24 – Lydia

Day 25 – Rhoda

 

 

 

 

P.s. I meant for this to go up on Wednesday evening when the 31 day blogging challenge started. Unfortunately, I ran into some major technical difficulties and I just now have everything straightened out. That means, I only have 25 days instead of the original 31, but hey, God is in control – even in the midst of technical difficulties! I am just so thankful that I still will be able to join the challenge!

 

Day 1 – All About Eve

What better way to start a series on women in the Bible than with the very first woman – Eve.

Eve was created perfectly and placed in a perfect environment. She and Adam were the only couple in the history of the world to enter marriage with absolutely no baggage.

She still messed up.

I find it really interesting that throughout the Bible, it never says EVE caused sin to enter the world even though she was the first one to take a bite of fruit (it’s just a myth it was an apple, btw). Instead, Scripture lays the blame squarely on Adam’s shoulders.

But my focus isn’t about Adam – it’s about Eve. So, what can we learn from Eve, seeing as she was the perfect prototype of us all, yet she decided to eat the forbidden fruit anyway?

Wine Grapes

I’ve always wondered how long Adam and Eve were in the garden before paradise was abruptly shattered by sin. No matter how long it was in actual time, the snake makes his appearance in Genesis 3. That chapter starts out with, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field…” It’s kind of a sinister version of “Once upon a time…” isn’t it?

Since one of the curses on the snake was that it had to crawl on its belly, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that the snake was upright or had legs or somehow got around differently than it does now.

It’s also interesting to note that Eve did not seem in any way startled that this snake is chatting with her. Maybe in the Garden of Eden, the animals talked. I know, as an animal lover and one who often wonders what is going on in my dog’s head, this would be my idea of paradise. 🙂

The serpent starts by asking a question: “Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Eve (who through this entire chapter up to verse 20 is referred to as “the woman”) answers him in the affirmative. You’ll note she adds to the command God gave Adam – she says not only has God has told them not to eat the fruit, but they also could not touch it or they would die.

This sounds to me like Eve perhaps has had her eye on this tree for a while. Maybe her daily walks seemed to always take her by this tree; maybe she would pause and look at its fruit longingly; maybe she added to God’s command to keep her from not just reaching out and touching the forbidden fruit but eating it, too.

Again, since we don’t really know how long it’s been between chapters 2 and 3, it’s hard to know what was going on in Eve’s mind before this encounter with the snake.

The next thing the serpent does is he disputes what God says and plants a seed of doubt buried in some twisted truth. “You won’t die. No, God knows you’ll become as wise as He is, and that’s why you can’t eat the fruit.” (paraphrasing here)

He’s essentially saying that God told Eve not to eat the fruit of this particular tree – not because God was looking out for her well-being and was good – but because God was holding out on Eve. He was keeping her from something that seemed beneficial and good.

We can point fingers at Eve all we want, but how many times do I chafe at some restriction God has placed on me, even if it IS for my own good? How many times have I thought MY ways were better than God’s ways, and that somehow, He was keeping me from something good? While we might not come right out and say that, that niggling doubt is there in the back of our minds that God really doesn’t want us to be too happy.

The serpent tells part of the truth – it is true that Eve won’t die physically at that very moment. It is also true her “eyes will be open.” However, the serpent neglects to tell Eve the whole truth – that she will die spiritually and eventually physically; that while she will have more knowledge, it will be a heavy burden, not a blessing.

So, Eve looks at the fruit. She sees it is good for food; that it is beautiful to look at, and on top of this, it will make her wise. So, she takes a big juicy bite.

Then, she hands it to her husband Adam. When I was growing up, the story was always told that Eve went looking for Adam to give him the fruit, but if you’ll notice in verse 6, it says, “and she gave also to her husband with her.” So, Adam apparently was an observer of all that went down between Eve and the serpent. You have to wonder why he didn’t speak up at any point, but he didn’t, but went ahead and ate the fruit, too. It kind of makes me wonder if he’d been wanting to eat the fruit too, but was afraid of the side effects. Now that Eve had taken a big old bite and seemed fine, maybe he figured it was safe to eat some too.

Whatever they were thinking, perfect paradise was no longer perfect. Eve, and then Adam, had made the choice to do the one thing God had forbidden them to do.

So, what happened here? I mean, had God actually shown Himself not to be good? There weren’t any disturbing newscasts to throw a bad light on God’s goodness in this perfect paradise. Disease, death and destruction – none of that existed yet. Had Eve been missing out on anything in the other 99% of the garden she was allowed access to? We are talking about a perfect paradise that Eve wandered in at will. So, why did Eve allow the serpent to plant the seeds of doubt in her mind? What made her doubt God’s goodness?

I believe there is a two part answer to that question. First, she thought God was holding out on her – that He was keeping something good from her for His own benefit. Second, she based her decision on her experiences and limited perspective.

Let’s look at these one at a time. While it is pretty hard to convince someone over the long haul that there is no God at all (most people at least acknowledge a “greater being”), it is much easier to cast doubt on God’s goodness.

Why? The answer lies in our limited perception of reality called our experience. It is completely natural to base our future decisions on our past experiences. All the fruit Eve had eaten up until this point had not harmed her. Why would this fruit be any different? In fact, according to the serpent, this fruit had the added benefit of making her “wise.” Knowledge is always a good thing. Isn’t it?

The serpent spoke the truth when he said Eve’s eyes would be open to good and evil, but instead of being a good thing, it turned out to be an awful thing. You’ll notice at the end of chapter 2, it says that the man and woman were naked and were not ashamed. Suddenly, after eating the fruit, shame enters the picture. They “know” enough to be ashamed of their nakedness. Where once they lived in freedom without guilt and shame, now they were aware of it and it pressed down on them. It caused them to hide themselves, not only from each other, but from God when He came looking for them. Sin still does that – it causes us to withdraw and hide from each other and from God.

Despite what the snake said or how he twisted the truth, Adam and Eve both knew what God had said -they just chose to disregard it in favor of something that seemed to make more sense and felt more appealing.

Truth is truth, though, no matter how we feel or how it seems to not line up with our experiences. I have had times in my life where I felt God leading me in a certain direction that did not make any sense at all to me at the time, based on my perception of reality. However, anytime I’ve ignored that voice, it’s been to my own detriment because I had a limited view of what was really going on while God had a bird’s eye view of not just the present, but the past and the future.

What can we learn from Eve, then? We can learn that God is good no matter how our feelings might be trying to tell us otherwise. We can also learn that what appears to make sense based on what we know/experience is not always the true reality as seen from God’s viewpoint.

Instead, we can choose to believe and act on the truth that God IS good, and we can know that the things God chooses to keep us from are for our own good, not because He is a cosmic kill joy.

Blessings, Rosanne

women of bible button

Is God Bigger Than ISIS?

If you are on social media at all, or even on the internet, you can’t help but see stories on ISIS. You can’t turn on your television without those horrible videos of the man all in black and another man kneeling in an orange jumpsuit. To be honest, lately I’ve tried to avoid these stories because they make me feel helpless and hopeless and defeated.

I did open the latest update on ISIS shared by a woman who knows missionaries and aid workers working in this area that are in real danger. As I read about them systematically coming to Christians’ doors and asking the children to deny Christ and then killing them when they didn’t, it literally made me feel sick. While I marveled at the faith of a child to look death in the eye and stand firm, my heart was breaking for the parents that were watching this unfold.

As I walked my dog today, my sunglasses hid the tears in my eyes as I prayed for these dear people – these people who have watched their children die for not denying Jesus. As a mother, I can’t even imagine what they are going through. It rips at my heart.

So, I pray. I pray even though I have no idea what to say or even how to pray.

Wooden cross (3

I can try to imagine what it is like for my brothers and sisters in Christ, but in my middle class, ordinary life, it’s almost impossible to grasp this kind of grief and horror. To be honest, I don’t really want to try to imagine too hard because it is too painful. My mind shies away from trying to put myself in a mother’s place across the globe watching her child die, waiting in terror, wondering why she is still alive when her child is dead.

As I prayed and cried for these suffering Christians – my brothers and sisters – a world away, I felt a nudge in my spirit asking for the impossible, asking me to pray for the people in ISIS.

Everything in me rebelled. I argued with God – the people who NEEDED prayer were the ones that were suffering NOT the men who were creating the suffering. These men are evil personified. They do not deserve mercy. They deserve to die. Anyone who would kill children, be cruel enough to do it in front of their parents and then leave the parents alive – how can I possibly pray for someone like that?

God kept pushing me to pray for them, so finally I did. I have to admit I did it under protest because I really, really didn’t want to.

Then God brought to my mind the apostle Paul.

You know, the guy who, before the Damascus road, went around killing Christians – the one who dragged men and women from their homes. The one who hunted down Christians with a zeal that was frightening in its intensity.

The same Paul, who once he was changed by an encounter with God, went on to evangelize a good chunk of the Gentile world. That Paul.

Then God gently asked me a question. Is this life the only thing that matters? He reminded me that the children who died at the hands of ISIS won in the end. The worst ISIS could do was kill their bodies (as awful as that is to think about), but there is more to the story than the horror of their deaths because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross defeated death.  Those children are in heaven now. Their deaths a momentary tragedy in an eternity of joy and peace.

I don’t mean to make light of these children’s deaths. It is awful. It is evil. But it isn’t the end because after Christ’s death on the cross there was a resurrection.

Those children who so bravely refused to deny Jesus with literally their last breath, are now basking in His presence. “Oh death where is your sting? Oh grave where is your victory?”

ISIS thinks it is winning, but in reality, they lose because while they can kill the body, they cannot kill the soul.

I think God asked me to pray for ISIS because it tested my faith to its limit because I had to believe more in God’s goodness, His grace, and His ability to change people than I believed in man’s capacity for evil.

I had to believe that God was bigger than ISIS, and sometimes, I forget that because the evil staring me in the face seems so monstrous.

God is bigger than ISIS. He is big enough to change those men, to save them if He so chooses. Their plans and their hatred are no match for God’s power.

You see, even though satan wins momentary victories here on earth, I’ve read the end of the Book – and we win.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Why You Just Need to Do It Already!

You know that thing – the thing God keeps nudging you about? The thing you sort of push aside or life gets busy and it gets put on the back burner. Or maybe you push it to the back of your mind because you don’t feel accomplished enough or you don’t have the right experience or maybe you have too much of the wrong experience.

Whatever excuse your using to give yourself a pass – just stop it!

I know because I’ve been doing it. Lately, I’ve been restless, restless to do something that matters, that has worth. I look around me and not to sound melodramatic or anything but I kind of feel like I can hear a clock ticking loudly in the background. Maybe it’s as big as world events. Maybe it is as simple as being 41 and realizing that I’m half done if I live a normal life span. Whatever the reason, I yearned for more than the same old same old.

Being a Christian has to be about more than going to church on Sundays.

Whatever the reason for this restless yearning to do more, I’ve been praying about finishing well, about using whatever talents, abilities, gifts for His purposes. So, when he nudged me again to contact a woman I know who runs a home for unwed teenage moms who have nowhere else to go, I emailed her about teaching at the Wednesday night Girl Talks.

Surfer at the beach

I had met this woman through an article I did on her vision for the home, and then another article about the year anniversary of when they opened. I’ve thought about volunteering there before but the timing never seemed right. My schedule would get crazy and I felt overwhelmed, with no extra time to add a weekly obligation to my to do list.

What God has opened my eyes to is how very effective the enemy is in tying me in knots over perceived busyness. I FEEL like I don’t have any time, but when I step back and take a realistic look, I DO have time. My six weeks of full time subbing, while challenging, had the positive benefit of shining a glaring light of how much time I really DO have – time to give away where God directs me to. See, while I congratulated myself on not holding onto my money tightly, I was very stingy with my time. I held it clenched in my fists, unwilling to trust God with my to do list and my time.

It was amazing, how easily the enemy was manipulating me once God helped me to see this constant overwhelmed feeling for what it really was – spiritual warfare.

It was at this point that I finally I decided if God wanted me to do this, I needed to just make the commitment and do it already! Hence the email. After I sent it off to cyberspace, I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into.

But I was excited. I love to teach the Bible and I love teaching about the women in the Bible because of all the interesting stories. And let’s face it, the Old Testament women were not a boring bunch! I was excited to share the life lessons I had learned by studying these women who lived in a completely different time and culture.

As the time drew closer to my first visit, my excitement drained away and doubt started to replace it though. Who do you think you are? Why would anyone want to listen to you? They’ll think you are some pretentious, self righteous, do-gooder who has no clue about their lives. How can you dare to think you can make any difference with your piddly little lessons?

Even though I recognized the enemy and his whispers fairly quickly, I still was really tempted to call the woman up and make an excuse about why I couldn’t come. After all, the doubts he whispered to me were similar to my own. Maybe I could push it off until next week – like delaying things that are scary make them any less so.

But I knew I needed to go. That Wednesday, it seemed like Girl Talk hung over my head all day. I looked at the clock and knew I only had a few hours until I went. To say I had butterflies in my stomach was an understatement. While I can stand in front of a large group and talk with no problem, one on one is always a crap shoot for me. Sometimes, I click with people and can chat away. Other times, I feel tongue tied and awkward. When I’m nervous, the whole feeling awkward thing just gets worse.

I pulled up to the curb, parked my car and took a really deep breath. I said a little prayer and walked up the sidewalk and knocked on the door.

And you know what? It was awesome! I just went to introduce myself and get to know the young women there that first visit, but I had a really wonderful time. After years of life in church and at Bible studies, it renewed my spirit to see women who were HUNGRY for God, HUNGRY for His Word. Because these women did not just give lip service to needing God – they KNEW their only hope of changing paths was sticking close to Jesus’ side.

I went there hoping to bless someone. I left feeling like I had been given a gift – a gift of seeing God, His Word through fresh eyes. Eyes that saw Jesus as new, exciting and the answer to real problems.

What I feared would be awkward and just weird ended up being a beautiful time of fellowship with sisters in Christ – and sisters that are still seeking what it means to know God and make Him their Savior.

So, that thing that God is nudging you to do? Just do it already because if you do, the blessings you’ll get out of it will far outweigh any benefit you end up giving. God is just cool like that.

Blessings, Rosanne

Sarah – When Fixing It Isn’t the Answer

A look at Sarah’s life wouldn’t be complete until we take a closer look at the whole Hagar issue. Who is Hagar you might ask (and you might also be wondering why did her mother give her such an ugly name but I can’t help you with that one)?

Hagar was Sarah’s Egyptian maid. In Genesis 16 it starts with this verse, “Now Sarai, Abrams’ wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.”

 

You just know that with a start like that, trouble is brewing and the next verse bears that out. “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

Now before you accuse Sarah of a lack of faith, it’s important to know that most commentaries say that she didn’t just grow impatient with the wait. She had gone through menopause, and could no longer physically bear children.

Based on the physical evidence, Sarah came to the conclusion that her biological clock had ticked its last tock. She was past the age of childbearing, and so she decided to take matters into her own hands.

idols no grace

Of course, by doing this, she didn’t just affect herself and Abraham, but also Hagar and Ishmael, the child Hagar eventually had by Abraham.

What’s even MORE interesting is if you read the chapter before this one. The whole of chapter 15 is taken up with God making a covenant with Abraham, promising him many descendants.

Abraham even brings up the fact that he and Sarah have no children and since they are getting up there in age, the likelihood of that happening seems less and less. God tells Abraham very clearly that HE will give Abraham descendants that are his blood children.

This leaves us with the question of why in the world would Abraham go along with Sarah’s scheme after this intense interlude where God Himself made a covenant (which Abraham would have realized was serious stuff)?

The answer is in verse 2 – “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” If these words sound familiar, that’s because they are.

If you remember back when we were talking about Eve, when God told Adam his portion of the curse, He explained why, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife.” As in – you listened to your wife and not Me!

Can’t you just see Sarah persuading Abraham. “Well, God did say you would have a child of your own blood, but did He specifically say it was <i>ME</i> you’d have the child with? Be reasonable – I’m past the age of childbearing – how would I even get pregnant at this point when I was never fertile in my young years? This is the only way Abram – it’s not against what God told you, is it?”

Obviously, I have no idea what Sarah said to Abraham, but he went along with her scheme. The result is the Middle East mess we have today – the descendants of Abraham still are feuding today with no end in sight.

Before we are too quick to criticize Sarah, though, how many times have YOU decided God needed a little help when all circumstances seemed to point that things were hopeless and it was up to you to fix them?

I know – I’m guilty too.

The other thing that hit me about this part of the story is that we <i>DO</i> have influence with our husbands. I remember Beth Moore once saying that while women don’t have the authority in the home, they have the influence.

There’s a reason for the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” So, what kind of influence am I having with my husband? Am I encouraging him to follow God wholeheartedly or am I instead persuading him in a different direction – particularly if it makes my life easier? This story makes me very aware that I need to use my influence prayerfully and with wisdom – not throw it around casually.

The final lesson I learn from this part of the story is that sometimes, if allow ourselves to get so desperate with longing for what we want that we are willing to do anything to get it, we end up hurting ourselves and often those around us.

How many women have insisted on a relationship; married and then been miserable? How many women, once married, have destroyed that marriage in the quest to have a baby? There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married or wanting a baby. Those are natural desires. But, anything that is raised to the status of an idol in our lives has the power to hurt us badly.

Idols demand sacrifice but offer no grace in return.

Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and it says he took her as his wife. So now, after all these years, Sarah has to share Abraham. Even if she was probably only a concubine, Hagar was now clearly more than just a maid. She had gained a bit of status.

Then Hagar did end up getting pregnant which gave her even more status – after all Sarah couldn’t have children and the number of children, particularly sons, a woman could produce gave her worth, value and status in that ancient culture.

Now, the Bible says, Hagar despised her mistress – the original word means that she looked at her as trifling or inferior.

Sarah just wanted a baby, but by trying to manipulate the circumstances, what she ended up with was a mess.

I don’t know what Hagar and Sarah’s relationship was before this whole thing went down, but afterwards there seemed to be a continuous strain – even after Sarah had her own child, Isaac.

It’s interesting to me that even though Sarah inserted her free will and jumped way ahead of God’s plan, He still carried it out. God said He would give Abraham descendants and He meant for them to come from Sarah and that’s what happened.

It’s sort of comforting to me to know that even if I mess up – even if it is in a big way – I can’t thwart God’s plans. Yes, I have to live with the consequences of my choices – just like Sarah had to deal with the problem she created for a long time – but God loves us so much and is so merciful that He works out His plans in our lives anyway.

Despite her big mess up, Sarah still gets a mention in the Biblical faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11:11, “By faith, even Sarah herself received ability to conceive,even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”

I guess Sarah finally realized that God’s promises were more reliable than her own solutions.
~ Blessings, Rosanne

Sarah – Not Just a Pretty Face

The Bible makes it clear that Sarah was incredibly beautiful. She was so beautiful, in fact, that old Abe asks her not once, but twice to say she is his sister so the king of the land they were passing through wouldn’t kill him in order to have her.

I guess Helen of Troy had nothing on Sarah. The first time this happens, Abraham and Sarah, along with their entourage, had gone down to Egypt due to a famine. Abraham had an idea that the Pharaoh would want Sarah for himself, thus decreasing Abram’s life expectancy – at least in Abe’s mind anyway.

starfish

A little side note: The truth was, Sarah WAS Abram’s sister – his half sister, that is. They had the same father and different mothers. I know this is rather icky to us – incest and all that – but back in the day, this was not unheard of or really frowned upon. It wasn’t until Moses’ time that God forbade the too straight family tree.

The next time, was much later in Abram and Sarah’s life. In fact, Sarah was in her 90’s at that time. So, either love really does make someone appear more beautiful or Sarah had some killer genes. The thing was, King Abimelech DID take Sarah for his wife.

In both cases, God had to step in and protect Sarah since Abraham, sadly, was not doing the job. In the first case, God struck Pharaoh and his household with great plagues. Pharaoh was understandably upset since he had no idea Sarah was anybody’s wife but his! He gave Sarah back to Abraham and escorted them out of his land. I don’t think they got an invitation to stop by the next time they were in town either!

The second time around, God visited Abimelech in a dream and basically told him he was a dead man if he didn’t return Sarah to Abraham. Needless to say, Abimelech couldn’t return Sarah to Abraham fast enough.

So many times, we see women who are beautiful, thin or super stylish. They seem to have it all together in some way that we do not, and we imagine their lives are just perfect and overflowing with happiness.

Things like Facebook, blogs and Pinterest play into this idea that somehow, someway everyone else has it all together <i>but us</i>. Every woman out there seems to make homemade meals from scratch after harvesting their organic vegetables from their raised bed garden out back where their free range hens are scratching around. All this is in between homeschooling their children who have retained the innocence of childhood (captured in wonderful, candid photos featuring sunny meadows, adorable overalls on equally adorably mussed children) while recording these moments in a literary award-worthy blog.

Oh yes, while the children are romping in the sunny meadow absorbing their education through fun, one-with-nature type projects, the mom (who happens to also be thin, fashionable without being too fussy and radiantly wholesome) is handcrafting a wreath while simultaneously re-purposing an old wardrobe into a very chic piece of furniture with yarn, a power drill and the kids’ finger paints.

I don’t know about you, but my life doesn’t look like that. On any given day, I am fortunate to have dinner on the table and clean clothes for my kids. It’s an added bonus if I get the floor mopped and bathroom cleaned that week. My idea of decorating is setting a couple pumpkins on the porch. I usually forget about them until I discover that the entire bottom has rotted out.

As women, we tend to compare ourselves with other people – at least I do at times. We compare our marriages, our children, our homes and our physiques. The problem is often what we are seeing are the best moments of someone else’s life, not the day by day grind. We don’t see them with bed head or when their children are threatening each other with bodily harm or they are sniping at their husband for not feeding those stupid chickens.

Yes, Sarah was incredibly beautiful, but she carried the heartache of being barren in a culture where the ability to have children equaled a woman’s worth. I bet she would have traded a plainer face or dumpier figure for a houseful of kids any day.

She left a thriving metropolis to be dragged around in a caravan with no real destination in sight. She could have coined the phrase “living out of a suitcase.” She suffered the humiliation of being passed off as her husband’s sister and given to two different men. It’s unclear if Pharaoh had relations with her, but it said that God stopped Abimelech before he “knew” (in the Biblical sense) Sarah, but still the fear and uncertainty she must have felt during these times are hard to imagine.

Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the saddle bag during the ride back to their camp after Sarah had gotten out of another guy’s harem? I mean, what would Abraham have to say for himself anyway?

<b>While Sarah’s outward appearance was breathtaking, it certainly didn’t guarantee her an easy life. <i></i></b>

As women, we long for close friendships, but sometimes, I think the comparison game keeps us from experiencing that. We get so busy feeling inferior and trying to impress others, that we miss the real wounds and sorrows of those around us. Worse, we never get real with each other because we are too intent on trying to appear all with it.

So, this week, call that woman who you think has it all together. Invite her out to lunch and really listen to what she has to say. You might be surprised that she thought <i>YOU<b></b></i> had it all together.

~ Blessings, Rosanne

Sarah, the Princess – part 1

The first woman we’ll get to know better is Sarai, or Sarah, the name she is better known by. She was the wife of Abraham, and the mother of Isaac. Of course, what makes her story so unique is that she was 90 years old when she gave birth!

We meet Sarai, whose name means princess, in Genesis 11:29, 30, “Abram and Nahor too wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Sarai was barren; she had no child.”

Coffee Beans

So, the first time we meet Sarai we learn three things about her – she lived in Ur of the Chaldeans which was a thriving metropolis; she was married to Abram; and she was barren. Just in case you don’t get what barren means, the verse reiterates – she had no child.

While infertility is something modern women face, and nobody can say it isn’t very painful and difficult, there was an added component in ancient culture. Because ancient culture was very cause and effect, if anything happened to you physically, it was sort of a given assumption by those around you, that you had done something bad to deserve it.

I have never personally struggled with infertility, but I have several friends who have, and one thing that seems to be a repeating theme is they feel somehow broken or defective – like their bodies have betrayed them by not working the way they should to conceive and/or carry a child. I’m sure that is very hard to work through.

Now what if you are infertile and you feel that way AND everybody is saying the fact that you can’t get pregnant is all your own fault – you must have done something to become barren? That’s how it would have been in ancient times. It wasn’t just a heartache – it was a shame. That woman walked around with a stigma hanging over her head like a neon sign blinking above her head – barren.

A woman’s husband could get rid of her because she couldn’t have children. Nobody would have looked askance at him either, if he took on another wife or two. In fact, the people who knew him would think he was very generous to keep his barren wife, even if he added more wives.

It kind of tells you the type of man Abram was because not only did he NOT divorce his wife because she couldn’t have children, but until Sarai basically threw her maid at him, Abram didn’t take any additional wives either. It appears that Abram saw Sarai as more than as a means to perpetuation his gene pool.

Added to the shame was the practical implications of being barren. There were no nursing homes. There was no social security or medicare or council for the aging. Your children were the ones that took care of you. If you had no children, well, it was a pretty scary prospect.

The word barren is the Hebrew word aqar which means sterile. The root of the word means to, “pluck up; rooted up or hamstring.” In other words, being barren meant the roots of your family tree were rooted up. It’s interesting that this word is also translated “lamed” elsewhere in the Bible. To not have children, certainly did cripple you in practical ways as you got older.

While not being able to have children is still a heartache for many couples, things are different these days. Not only are there medical options that weren’t available in Sarai’s day, but there aren’t the stigmas attached either.

That’s mainly because these days, as a general rule, we don’t believe that if you get cancer or a tragedy befalls your family then you must have done something bad to deserve it. There are those who still have this view, but they are in the minority.

At least, we <i>SAY</i> we don’t believe that. On the flip side though, there are a lot of people who question why bad things happen to good people. There are books, sermons, study series – all on this topic. If we believe that bad things aren’t a result of bad behavior, why do we believe good things are a result of good behavior? Or inversely, righteous living shouldn’t equal bad things happening.

There is a great quote – I <i>think</i> it is by Ernest Hemingway – that I had hanging in my classroom for years. It said, “Expecting bad things not to happen to you because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.”

Even though I <i>love</i> that quote; even though I can chant the line that bad things happen independent of behavior; even though I can spout the promise that God works all things for good – I still fall into this thinking. I still tend to feel like it is unfair if unpleasant or difficult things befall me even – or to be honest especially – when I think I am doing the right things.

I guess the first thing we can learn from Sarai’s life is that following God is not an insurance plan against suffering. I think if we can truly understand that God is sovereign and He really DOES work everything out for good, we can let go of our expectations or at least not be completely blindsided when (not if ) bad things happen. I think there is a lot of peace to be found in truly accepting that life is not always fair or even understandable at times.

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:22

Blessings, Rosanne

Barren – A New Series in God’s Uncharted Paths

I was doing a series of lessons in my Sunday school class about women in the Bible. We studied the usual suspects, as well as some lesser known females that figure in the pages of Scripture. As I studied and looked deeper into the lives of these women, many of whose stories I had heard since I was a little girl in Sunday school, it hit me that many of them struggled with infertility to one degree or another.

Sarah was an old woman, well past menopause, when she had Isaac. Rebecca also had to wait a long time before she finally gave birth to twin boys: Jacob and Esau. Rachel watched her fertile sister Leah produce child after child, while her womb remained empty. Not even having her husband’s love filled the void she felt.

Barren series pic

As I looked at these women who struggled with infertility in a time when answers for empty arms were few and far between, I also saw another pattern that emerged. The  majority of these barren women went on to become the mothers of key players in the Bible’s pages.

Think about it. Isaac was Abraham’s heir. Jacob became Israel and father to the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph saved a nation of people from starvation.

Over and over again, the barren women in the Bible played a key role in bringing up chosen children who made a big difference in the world. While their path to motherhood was not necessarily the one they would have chosen, God had a bigger plan in mind.

Since this is May and we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at these women and what their lives can teach us. I have never struggled with infertility. When it was time to have our children, things were pretty easy for my husband and myself. However, I do know that many women struggle with infertility or not being able to have biological children of their own. I am adopted, so my mom knows this heartache firsthand. Others have suffered the loss of one or more miscarriages. Others wait and wait to adopt a child and it seems like it will never be their turn.

It seems every woman I’ve talked to or interviewed for an article or even read about that struggled with being infertility seems to wrestle with the feeling of being “less than” as a woman. As if not being able to reproduce made her a failure as a female. The thing is, though, no matter what your path to motherhood looks like, we need your stories.

It’s in the brokenness of deferred and denied dreams that God’s presence stands out the most. 

My wish is that this series offers hope and encouragement to all women no matter where you happen to be on the road to motherhood. Hope that God sees you. Hope that though the path might be uncharted to you, God has it all mapped out. 

My other wish is that this series brings us together as women. It’s when we understand each other’s stories that true sisterhood takes place.

Will you join me?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

Getting It All Together – Or Not

I wish I had it all together. I had hoped by the time I hit my fourth decade that I would have myself together – that meal planning, house cleaning and keeping on top of all those papers would be second nature to me by now.

But it’s not.

I had hoped by my fourth decade I would be happily living out God’s calling and purpose in my life, that I would have cultivated the fruits of the spirit so they weren’t mere buds but full blown fruit – ripe and ready to pick.

But I’m not.

I had hoped by my fourth decade I would have figured out how to do relationships without regret. That I would be able to prioritize the things that were truly important and not allow the urgent to drown those things out. That I would have learned to love well my husband, my children, my family and my friends.

But I haven’t.

I had sort of thought that by the time I hit the ripe old age of 41, I would have gotten the hang of being an adult, but instead, most days I still feel like I’m 17 (at least in mind, if not body) and clueless.

The truth is, I don’t have it all together – no matter how much I wish it was otherwise. And just when I think I might be approaching having it all together status, something comes along to knock me off course again. 

Mother Teresa door

The past few weeks, I’ve been doing a full time subbing job and I have come up hard against my physical limits. I am something of a wimp and getting up at 5:45 a.m. four days a week is killing me. By 1 p.m. every afternoon, I long for my couch so I can take a power nap. Even though I force myself to go to bed by 10 p.m., I still have to drag myself out of bed come morning. The sad fact is that I need a lot of sleep and when I don’t get it, I fall apart – and everything around me pretty much goes to pot!

The one day a week I have off is filled with errands and to dos and frantic trying to catch up from all the days I couldn’t get it done. It hasn’t helped that we have had something nearly every single evening and full weekends since I have been working full time.

Other women do this full time working thing and do it well. (My kids have been watching the Cosby Show and I really wish Claire Huxtable would come live at my house! She seems to together and grown up) I just don’t know HOW they do it! I haven’t really cleaned my house in three weeks and the paper piles are threatening to take over the counter (and I can’t really remember what is in said piles anymore either, but it’s likely the stamps I can’t find are probably lurking there).

But it’s okay not to have it all together. God doesn’t love me any more or any less based on my having it all together. In fact, God has a habit of using people who are messy and totally NOT together.

The people God used in the Bible were not pictures of success and perfection. Moses was living in exile in the desert after killing a man when God spoke to him out of a burning bush. David committed adultery and then murder to cover it up. Rahab was a prostitute. Abraham kept passing his wife off as his sister. Jacob’s life resembled something from Jerry Springer with all his wives and children.

God is not in the habit of using perfect people to accomplish His work. He’s more in the habit of perfecting people while they accomplish His work. 

All He needs is for us to say yes. Yes, even if we don’t have it all together.

I love this quote by Mother Teresa – although I have no idea where I read it at (if I had it all together, I would have written that down somewhere I could remember). “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”

God’s love is so much bigger than my failings, and I am so grateful for that fact.

Blessings, Rosanne

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