Abigail-like Judgement

My daughter was standing in my bedroom doorway.  She was asking yet again if we could purchase a piece to an old game system we have.  I was trying to do the motherly balancing act of being understanding, but not saying yes.  I know there are at least three of those pieces in the house somewhere.  And I know it’s not her fault no one knows where they are.  Yet, they are here somewhere, likely a box that remains unpacked from when we moved here.  To make matters more complicated, I had seen this request coming and I had already purchased one of these pieces to put in her Easter basket, just a week away.  Now she was trying to wear me down in that doorway.

Now, if she were to ask her dad, it would be a different response altogether.  He would have surely dismissed her with a “I don’t care if you ever find the controller for that game system.  Video games are the death of a generation!”  I was hoping to quell her persistence before he arrived home from work for the day.  I offered to go to the basement and start looking with her.  Certainly not what was on my agenda, or on my stove which should have been full of tonight’s dinner by now.   It settled her spirit for the moment.  How I’ll keep her settled for a week remains to be seen.

Balancing people and issues is often a woman’s job.  Since we are women, we can “feel” what needs to happen.  And then we have to take those feelings and mix them up with the thoughts and actions of those around us and make a decision as to what our part is.  Making good judgements about what to do next is in itself a discipline not for the faint of heart.

In a series that I’ve wanted to do on some of the lesser known women of the Bible, I came across Abigail.  As I read her story, I could feel her angst over “what to do.”  Abigail was married to a man named Nabal.  Nabal was an ornery man.  Have  you ever known anyone married to an ornery, cranky husband.  Not only is she on edge, but as a friend it is hard to be around her sometimes because he is likely to embarrass her with his grumpiness.  At some point, you know you’ve said this about someone else’s husband:  “I’m so glad I’m not married to that man! I don’t know how she can live with him!”   That is how I think Abigail had to feel…all the time.  In Samuel 25, we see that Nabal was a wealthy man.  He had lots of sheep and lots of hired hands.  When the hired hands had been out in the fields with the sheep, David (who wasn’t yet King), had pretty much been surrounding Nabal’s men who had enjoyed the comfort of having protection around them.  David’s men had been kind.  They didn’t take Nabal’s sheep or slaves, they even shared food and provisions with them.  Now, David wanted to move his men and so he sends a messenger down to Nabal and basically asks if he and his men can move that way and be treated well by Nabal. He asks Nabal to welcome him and provide for him, since he had treated Nabal’s men well in the fields.  Well Nabal is his ornery, cranky self and  sends word that he is not about to share any of his bounty with David’s men.  And David’s blood boils!  He is so frustrated he plans to slaughter Nabal and his men!

When Abigail gets word of what happened from a terrified servant, she probably feels that tug-o-war that I felt with my daughter in the doorway, knowing my husband would be home any minute.  Should she interfere?  Should she mind her own business?  Why did Nabal have to be this way all the time anyway!?  Then, in a judgement fitting a very careful and wise woman, Abigail gathers a massive amount of goodies and she takes it to David and his people.  David, who was descending on Nabal’s land at that very moment is quickly appeased.  Abigail, who hadn’t even told her husband what she was doing, had ultimately saved her home and the bloodshed of many.  God, knew though.  In a few days, her husband Nabal is struck dead by God himself.  David, who would become king of Israel, eventually takes Abigail as his wife.

Have you ever felt the anxiety of knowing what was happening in a situation, but no one else seemed to be able to see it?  Those are the moments to quietly analyze what’s happening and make a wise decision.  Sometimes these are feelings that only a woman has about a situation because of our “intuitive” design.   We can learn from Abigail by what she does do, and what she does not do.  What she does not do is run around screaming that they are in a crisis! She doesn’t escalate the situation.  She does not just close herself in a room and wait.  She doesn’t just cry and sit on her hands.   She actively seeks to run interference when it is needed.  She didn’t even alert her husband because he might have forbid it.  Knowing when your hands are tied and knowing when they aren’t takes wisdom.

Are you a peace maker?  Are you able to bring sense to a situation that seems to be spiraling out of control?  Can you see what is needed?  Pray for wisdom to make a judgement call and then make a good one!  Do not be afraid!  You may have to face an army, but if you’re obedient to God’s plan, trust He sees and will have the final say.

 

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Tomorrow ….and Forever

How many will get involved in government and politics after the election is over?  
This election has polarized the nation like I’ve never seen in my lifetime. And I truly believe the angst that plagues both sides is real. We are all afraid of what the other may do. And given each of our positions, we feel rightly so.  
I’d love to say after the election is over, we will all be fine, nothing will change. But for many, that actually won’t be true. What I can say with certainty, that if you have done your best to seek the heart of God and make your decision based on that, you can at the least have the knowledge that you have done your part.  

You can also have the assurance that God’s position never changes, His power never gets transferred away, He won’t go on vacation, and you still matter to Him. His party (the Trinity party) is always in office. He’s still capable and strong no matter who is in the White House, no matter what party rules the House and Senate. 

He’s more powerful than you will ever be able to comprehend. He has the ability to overthrow governments, replace leaders, humble nations and even change the heart of Kings. He will react to this election, He will re-act to our actions one way, or another. He has a response to the ballots we cast tomorrow, and it was planned before time began.  

And we should have a response too. Tomorrow, after you fill in the little oval, or click the box, you need a response too. Will you sit back and expect a President to fix it all, or destroy it all, or will you get involved? What will you do?

Will you pray for this land? Will you call a senator or congressman? Will you change what is acceptable to you personally and your family?  

Will you demand better every day from yourself, your family, your legislators, from your habits and hobbies, from everything you input into brain, your heart and home?  

Will you feel a let down after tomorrow? You might. I might. But do not stop being passionate about any position that you think portrays the heart of God! Get passionate about demanding more! Just know that once you’ve done your part, you can be at peace knowing God is on the throne! kristanrussell.com 

Giving and Grinning

Every year on Oct 31, I stop at the “big tent” to pick up a few bushels of items that keep through the cold. I love bushels of my favorite acorn squash long into the winter months. The Northern Farm Market is run by a very nice man who two years in a row has donated some items toward our Wednesday night dinner at church. This is the last day every year that he is open for business. However when I stopped in, I found out they shut down a day early yesterday. But George was there and he let me buy my items. He offered me a deal, I gave him extra to make up for it and started to load up my purchases. Another young man pulled up and picked out a few things and George said “how about all that for $15”. The young man was thrilled with the deal and pulled out his debit card. George apologized “we shut down our machine yesterday”. The young guy and his wife looked disappointed. He said back to his mom, “you dont happen to have cash do you?” I stepped up and paid George for his items. George seemed wonderfully stunned and the young man, well he stumbled all over himself in gratitude. It was really fun! I looked over at my Emma and she was grinning from ear to ear at what she was watching. We loaded the items on Emma’s side of the car and then I walked around to the other to get in. The young man kept waving and waving with a funny smile that was beyond just thankfulness. I kept waving back. As we drove home I was thrilled to see my little girl still smiling and knowing she learned the joy of giving today ……And then…..

After we got home and unloaded she walked in my bedroom. She sat down still smiling and said “here…” She reached out and handed me a $20 bill. I refused assuming she was trying to pay for what we had done. And then she cracked up and said “this is from the young guy. As you went around the corner he snuck it to me and said “don’t tell your mom”. I knew his smile wasn’t just thankfulness! He got away with something! And Emma? That grin on the way home wasn’t because she understood joy, she was on an undercover mission for the young man!  

Lately, I can’t do anything well! Not even give generously! I ended with $5 more than I started with!

The Grape Factor

Even though I grew up as a city girl, my grandma and grandpa fed us more like a farming family. This time of year, as I harvest our gardens I am so often taken back to my childhood in their kitchen.  Dinner was often a batch of boiled Potatos, sliced tomatoes and fresh corn on the cob. I loved when we had lamb patties with it.  My grandpa always had a garden behind the garage.  Every year grandma made huge batches of the family chili sauce recipe. We would head to the farm stores to get the produce. Grandma loved corn on the cob!!  But there were two other things that she loved that I don’t remember anyone else  eating except myself and her. We both loved the prune plums with their slightly crunchy tart yellow flesh inside and we both loved good old fashioned Concord grapes. Their gel like center with those pesky seeds inside tasted so good!

I stopped at one of the farm stores yesterday that she went to so many years before.  In peck baskets there were the beautiful dark purple grapes calling my name.  And just like in grandma’s house, there’s only one of my kids who love to sit and eat them with me.  We ate to our contentedness last night. And then this morning I got to making the grape jam. 

I’m not a grape jelly fan. But my kids are.  The first batch came out much softer than I had planned. I think I added a little too much water when I first started simmering the grapes.  The second batch came out perfect!  I lowered the amount of water to start with and simmered a little longer. The concentration was just right.  You never would know by the color of the jam that there is any difference between the two batches. By all appearances, they are the same. But I know one is richer than the other.  It brought to mind my own walk with Jesus. At times, I’m steeped in His word and the fullness and richness is evident in my actions and in my own heart.  But at other times, I’m a little light on the quantity or quality that comes from time spent with God.  On the outside, the appearance doesn’t change.  But the flavor…the fullness…the wisdom just isn’t what it could be if I had started the day with more of Him.  A watered-down version of Him in me is not enough.  

Dwight L Moody once said “Merely reading the Bible is no use at all without we study it thoroughly, and hunt it through, as it were, for some great truth.”  It needs to be a all the fruit and very little water!  It needs to be lots of Jesus and very little us!  It helps us to be the strongest, fullest follower of Him we can be.  

In the winter, when my kids open the jars that came out of the autumn harvest, they’ll taste that goodness.  They might like one more than the other because of the flavor.  Or they might just eat it up without caring that I worked harder to make the second batch better. The quality might not matter to them. But I’ll know that the concentrated jars are the better ones.  How full of the Word are you?  How concentrated is your life with all of God’s wisdom and His power?  Pack in all you can!  You will have a lot more flavor for the world around you!  

 Psalm 119:96-98 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless. Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies!

Messy People

Coming from a mom of ten, if I say “people are messy”, you’re probably envisioning the rooms in my house. In your mind they would likely be rooms with un-made beds and clothes strewn along the floor. There’d be dishes in the sink, and the table would be full of “stuff” including all of last week’s mail. If that’s what you’re picturing for the word “messy” in the house of a big family, then you’d actually be right, sometimes! Sometimes, the world gets away from us for a moment, usually at very busy times. But then we catch up and get some order back in real quick. 
That’s not the kind of messy I’m talking about. I couldn’t have come to a stronger conviction that “people are messy” than I did sitting right here in McDonald’s this morning. I needed some internet time and so I sat down to a biscuit and some coffee. I was very much stuck with only one choice for a seat because I needed the plug for my laptop. It put me right between two groups of people. One was a group of six white haired ladies. They were slightly behind me. Slightly in front of me were four white haired men. The women, I guess some would say typically, were louder at first than the men. They were talking local politics and I was thrilled to hear they were in total agreement with my local views. They were sharp and knew exactly what was going on. I was thoroughly impressed with their knowledge and felt a little bit of small town pride knowing there are people like this going to our polls. 
Eventually the men’s voices drowned out the women and I cued into their conversation. I was more excited than I was with the women’s points of view. The men were talking about the fear of the Lord and having a reverential type fear as opposed to a scaredy-cat kind of fear. They spoke of King Saul and all of his guffaws. They spoke of David. They talked about being real men of God. I was just about to walk up and thank them because we need men like this in our towns, in our schools, in our churches. They got to the end of that thread of conversation and someone said, “Hey, how about those Detroit Tigers?” Another answered, “maybe we’ll get a new manager! I was watching the other day and one of those Victoria Secret commercials came on. My wife quickly brought up the program guide to cover the screen!” The conversation slowly slid into the abyss with the conclusion of it stopping here: “I’m just admiring God’s beauty.” ….oh, that slide into the abyss hit my spirit too as my initial excitement turned to heartache for wives everywhere.
I turned away for a split second thinking how’d we go from talking about God’s plan for Godly men into using God as an excuse for lusting after women. It was then I realized the old ladies behind me were now fired up and cussing up a storm! Followed by “for Christ’s sake, put that away!!”. I looked up and saw one of the old men standing up scratching his belly. He fired back, “it’s my six pack. You know you want more!” The ladies conversation slid as far as the men’s at that point.
Oh, humanity…who are we and where are we going. People are messy! I wonder if God thought the same thing when he poured into his servant David. As David sang to him in the fields, herding the sheep. As he stoned the massive giant. As he became King of God’s own people. And then as he slept with another man’s wife… Does God look at us and say, “people are messy.” Does he shake his head and wonder “who are they and where are they going? They’re not the people I created them to be and they’re not doing what I created them to do.” 
How messy are you?
“If my people…will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

 

The Corn Stalk

Tales from my garden abound! The harvest is good, both with fruit and vegetables and with valuable life lessons! The season is winding down and I’m canning my little heart out. The weeds are starting to creep in and my perfect dirt is starting to show signs of an unkept garden. But the truth is, at this point, harvesting is more important than weeding so the fruit does not go to waste. I hate how it looks, but I love the bounty I drag in each day. 
I’m exhausted, but the canning process is full-on! It’s a frantic feeling trying to get it all done before a sudden cold night changes it all. From spaghetti sauce to salsa to plain old tomatoes, from peaches to apple sauce and pear butter, from pickles to sauerkraut, every day is overwhelming. I’ve never run out of jars before but today I had to go buy more jars to accommodate. The kitchen has never been in such constant disarray. But each time I stand over the stove filling my jars I am taken back to my childhood.  

Every year my grandparents would can our family’s favorite chili sauce. We put this slow cooked sauce over meatloaf and ring Bologna and meatballs or on my grandma’s lost recipe of yummy lamb patties. My grandpa would grind the onions and peppers with the hand grinder and I’d listen to it “swish, whir, swish, whir” till it was ground enough to add to the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar, sweet and sour goodness. I think of my uncle’s frozen applesauce and how much I liked it over the jarred sauce. Harvest time brings back so many great memories for me. And even though the process is hard, I love the year-long goodness it provides. Long after the garden is covered by snow, the fruit of the ground will bless our family!  

Just before the snow flies, we will turn under all the stems and foliage, the leftover unripened fruit and even the weeds, tilling it under to nourish the ground for years to come. One of the unripened fruits this year will include a lone corn stalk in the middle of my garden. I didn’t plant corn. I wanted to but ran out of space. It’s beautiful really. Tall. Green. Sturdy. But it won’t be ripe before the frost and it is the only stalk. At first I wondered where it came from. And then I realized that the ground corn I feed the chickens must’ve had a single unground kernel spread to the garden…but just one seed. We all marveled when we saw it. We’d never grown corn. It obviously doesn’t belong there. The lone stalk between the pickling cukes and the watermelons. We could call it “God’s plan” and pretend “it was mean to be!” But it isn’t. It’ll never produce fruit in time, and one or two ears would never serve the purpose of feeding our family anyway. 

Sometimes we are just like that stalk of corn. We are someplace we were never supposed to be. We walked in a direction in life that we wanted to go and then called it God’s plan. But it doesn’t produce fruit and it would not meet anyone in a way to make a difference. It’s the very reason we need to follow ONLY after Jesus and let Him do the directing in our lives. He won’t send us where we can’t make a difference. He never calls us to nothing, which is exactly what my lone stalk of corn will accomplish all by itself this late in the season. Following Jesus with every part of our being will always land us where we produce fruit.  

There’s nowhere you NEED to go in life, (emotionally, monetarily, physically, spiritually), that you won’t get to by following God’s plan for your life. Just follow Him and you’ll end up every place you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there. If you find yourself in the middle of the wrong field, maybe you didn’t NEED to be there in the first place!  

If you’re in the wrong field, get out! Plant yourself in the knowledge and will of Jesus Christ where you can produce some fruit! In the wrong field, you might be wasting an entire season and the harvest, which needs to be picked quickly before the frost, will be left, wasted on the ground. In the wrong field, you might have planted a seed in vain. 

Pray, seek, and listen your way to the field God wants you in. Produce some fruit! 

Proverbs 3:5-6. “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.”

Tomatoes!

I love gardening. I love hoeing in the dirt so everything is in tidy, picture-perfect rows. I stand and admire the fluffy weedless dirt around the growing plants and declare it good. This year I spent a ton of time really working it. The plants were lush and green. During one week in June, my tomatoes had grown tremendously and I marveled at these amazing green bushes. I had to add stakes for support they grew so big. The number of tomatoes on the bushes was fantastic. And then, seemingly overnight, they over-grew. I could no longer even walk between them. They were up to my chest and bigger around than my arms could encircle. One night a wind driven storm pushed them in one direction with their heavy stalks and fruit. I struggled to get them all back upright without breaking them from their own weight. I suddenly realized my pride in their size was misplaced. An “expert” reminded me, “don’t grow foliage, grow fruit.” So much energy had gone into these massive bushes, can you imagine how much better if it went just into the fruit? And so the pruning began. I snipped and clipped till much of the green pretty stuff was gone and what was left didn’t look that gorgeous. In fact, it might seem kind of ugly. I made big piles of unwanted foliage. But the fruit was unburied, and the sun could now get in to ripen them. In days, the tomatoes got bigger and more plentiful, even though the garden itself wasn’t as pretty. Every day now I bring in half a bushel of goodness and put it away for winter. I liked the way it looked before a lot better. I like my life that way too. Neat and pretty, everything presentable. The peacemaker in me loves order and kindness and goodness, beautiful and full. How easy it is for me to forget that pruning isn’t always pretty. That sometimes I have to let the pruning happen, in spite of how it looks, in spite of how It makes me feel. I’m not good at that. I want the world to get along, feel and look good. I like to order how the leaves fall, instead of looking at a heap that comes from pruning. Today, I am reminded that God wants me to grow fruit and not foliage in my home, in my kids, in my marriage, in my ministries. Big and lush and green may be pretty, but strong, and sturdy and fruitful is better. It’s stalky, lenky, and more bare than I like. But the fruit is bigger and more abundant. Putting peace and order before straight-up Godliness can come at the cost of the fruit that pruning produces. The peace will come not from how it all looks or feels, but as a result of being bare before God, letting the light shine in on our deeds and motives, being fruitful, if even a gawky looking,  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2
The pruning is good, if not a little ugly, and even if I don’t like how it feels. But the fruit…..