Way of a Woman, Part II

Guest post by Kate Kenaston

Pt II: THE DEFINITION

The Hebrew word for “help suitable” is pronounced, Ezer Kenegdo

Ezer is the word God chose to use when defining woman’s role. It’s a very difficult word to translate into English, as the word “Help” has a very broad usage, everything from acting as someone’s assistant to rescuing someone. Generally ezer and related words are used in a military context where someone is actively receiving help against an enemy. When this word is read in it’s Biblical context, there is a strong sense of coming to someone’s defense. Proactively coming to help someone in their need. Some people had said that “rescue” would have been a better word, but though the context of the word is often used in rescue situations, Hebrew had a word specifically for “rescue”….and God could have used it if He had wanted to.

In the Old Testament the word Ezer is used 21 times. Only two of those times does it apply to the woman. Three of those times Ezer is used for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid and sixteen times God uses the word Ezer to apply to Himself when God is talked about at Israel’s helper.

And because we know that God does all things perfectly, let’s explore those verses:

Ezer used for God as Israel’s helper.

““O Lord, …give (Judah) strength to defend their cause; help them against their enemies.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

““There is none like God, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭20:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭33:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭70:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭115:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭1211-:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper.” ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭13:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What these verses have in common is that Ezer is used consistently in military context.

The Ezer is undoubtedly a warrior.

Kenegdu. This is sort of a mix of three words. The ke part means “according to” and the negd part means “in front” or “opposite” and the u part means “of him.” If you stick these together in English and translate them literally, it doesn’t really make any sense, which is why translations vary a fair amount. The central idea seems to be that God is making someone a helper that is the “opposite of Adam” in some way. In English “opposite” sounds more negative, which is why it isn’t translated that way. This probably means that she is “opposite” like “corresponding to.” A very loose (and more interpretive) translation might read that God made Eve to be the mirror image of Adam, that they aren’t the same, they aren’t copies of each other, but they do fit each other. Expounding the idea a bit, I think it would be implying that their differences are made to be complementary. She is strong where he is weak and he is strong where she is weak, and that would be why she could be such a necessary help to him.

We’ve all heard the comparison that mens’ brains are waffles and womens are spaghetti.

Men in general like to compartmentalize things and for a woman, everything is connected to EVERYTHING!

God never does anything on a whim.

Neither is He like us and makes a decision and then has to make another to compensate for missing a vital piece of information.

That means that men, with their common thought patterns, traits, instincts and tendencies are just as they should be.

  • That means men are SUPPOSED to be less communicative than women.
  • They are naturally less emotionally driven.
  • They are driven to conquer.
  • They were created to fix things.
  • They also were created with a co-partner in mind! (That means they are SUPPOSED TO need your help at remembering and finding things. Women, don’t complain about something that is our JOB.)
  • They were made to doggedly put one foot in front of the other. Day after day, shouldering responsibility and persistently doing life.

Their life is a life of doggedly doing.That is one of their greatest strengths as well as being one of their greatest weaknesses.

And that means that women, with their common thought patterns, traits, instincts and tendencies are just as they should be.

  • That means we are suppose to need to use words.
  • We are created to be emotionally driven.
  • We were designed to desire to love and be loved.
  • We were designed to be ATMOSPHERE CREATORS.
  • It’s our job to help him find the mayonnaise, the words, and the strength to keep going.
  • We were created to have a desire to be seen and heard.
  • We were created to be valued, honored and cherished.

It is said that every man is born with a question on his tongue and it haunts him the rest of his life: “Do I have what it takes?”

Remember the “opposite, mirror image” male and females are to each other? Satan wants to answer that question, but I believe our differences were created to answer it. (And in case you are wondering, women were also created with a question…but we will get to that later.)

Instead of our differences working together, satan has everything geared towards division. Movies, media are classic for this. Emotional damage is sustained by both genders and both men and women’s coping patterns of avoidance and protection are being used to divide and isolate.

  • Women stuff their emotional tendencies and try to toughen up. They feel like they need to prove that they don’t need or desire the security a healthy man brings.
  • Men are mocked for not seeing the ketchup in the fridge and pretend they don’t care.They feel inadequate, so they have a constant sense of needing to prove something. A lot of domination we see today comes as a result of being threatened and insecure.

Now, God has a sense of humor absolutely, so while it’s okay to laugh at jokes, take a moment to search your heart. Do you secretly despise him for something he was created with?

Satan’s tactics are two-fold.

  • Keep women from recognizing what Ezer is, and by default, men are isolated.
  • And to keep people threatened, shamed and insecure to ensure that humans will try to dominate humans.

God gave man dominion over the earth and the things in it, but He never gave humans permission to control humans.

We were created to be different. We process things differently. But we are designed and equipped to fulfill our role well.

I get the mental image of two warriors trekking down a jungle trail.

The man keeps to the trail.

He goes at a steady pace.

His determination and desire to conquer keeps him focused.

He keeps his head and bearings.

He has the physical strength to overcome obstacles.

He is focused on reaching the destination.

The woman is right in step next to him.

She is intune to the surroundings.

Alert to danger, the sound of water or sensitive to approaching enemies.

She veers in and out of the jungle around them.

She is a keen strategizer.

BOTH are equipped in weaponry.

Both are secure in the other’s knowledge and skills.

Both cover for each other in an attack. They have learned to work with each other, covering for each other’s weaknesses, and trusting each other’s strengths. They aren’t threatened by the other’s gifts, instead they are thankful for them and they count on using them. There is nothing to prove. They are one unit with one mission.Because survival depends on BOTH being strong.

Now, with this in mind, let’s read over the verses where Ezer is used for the woman…

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And to give a picture of what God was envisioning when He said that…

“Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs.””‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What do people call when being attacked by a dog?

“Help!”

What about if a person is drowning?

“Help!”

At that moment, they are not asking for an indecisive person offering them tea on a tray.

They are begging for active relief and assistance!

That, my friends, is what we are.

We are “Help.”

We are the answer to that cry.

We are a partner to work as a team.

We know our spouse’s weaknesses and they know ours and we cover for eachother.

We are a co-strategizer to defeat the odds.

We are perfectly fitted together so our differences lock together to make a formidable force.

We are Ezer.

God never does something on a whim. He is intentional. There is a reason God chose the military term “ezer” instead of a cozy and comfortable word that would translate as “companion or encourager.” Lack of good company wasn’t the reason why man shouldn’t be alone.

Pt. III: WORKING IT OUT

I don’t believe that “Ezer” only applies only to married men and women. “Ezer Kenegdo” explains the reason why women are in the world. It applies to your relation to all men you come in contact with. Why? Because Jesus was single and totally and completely fulfilled His mission. It was HE that coined the phrase “life abundantly”. In Matthew 19 He gives logical reasons for remaining single. Paul defended and even encouraged singlehood.

  • Marriage is a physical representation of what Jesus did for His Church
  • Singlehood is a physical representation of Jesus WAITING for His church.

Jesus is still human, He is still single and He is still waiting.

Marriage is a lot like having kids. Complicated. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

But it can complicate healing in the individuals involved. Soul ties and dependence are created, and though absolutely God-ordained within the confines of marriage, satan has come in with sin and wrecked havoc. Remember that whatever God states as “good” satan singles out to destroy.

This next part may seem like I am speaking to wives, but I’m not. If you are single, listen with an open mind and evaluate what you have been taught in the past, your reactions, your preconceived notions, and your relationships with the men in your life. And who knows…you might someday need this. 🙂

Ephesians 6:12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

2nd Corinthians 2:11

“So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”

Whatever God wants, we know that the devil works towards the opposite end. But the cool thing is that we can recognize the devil’s tactics.

If God says, “It isn’t good for a man to be alone,” we can be assured that the devils goal is to isolate men. Like every road we have ever seen, there are two ditches. And both were created to isolate the man.

The Ditch of Feminism

Because satan plays two sides of the coin, you can be sure that he is trying to raise up controlling, domineering men. It is a definite spirit with an agenda of control in an unhealthy manner. I do believe though, that the most domineering men are the most insecure as they are trying to prove their competence by domination. But I’m not speaking to men. I’m speaking to women.

We have a job, regardless of what is going on on the other side.

But nevertheless, there is also a Spirit of Feminism. Jezebel, we sometimes call her. One of her goals is to persistently show men that they are inconsequential. Movies are classic for this. Men are portrayed as the oafs who can’t find their shoes, can’t find the mayonnaise and who can’t manage the kids. Men are no longer heroes, instead we are led to wonder how they manage without women. Again, Satan turns what was a God-ordained, intentional gift of needing women into a shame which incites a negative reaction.

“If a man can do it, women can do it too…if not better.”

When we are in this ditch, we feel like we have something to prove.

We fight for the man’s place.

We want their titles.

Their platforms.

We use our influence to silence their opinion.

We feel threatened.

We secretly despise him for who he is.

The end goal of feminism is to show men they aren’t needed. That they aren’t leaders.

It makes sure that a man knows that he is incapable, and never gives him a chance to prove otherwise.

And I ask you, is this not the very spirit that makes men want to dominate? It doesn’t matter which gender this spirit lives in, it’s wrong. What is in us that compels us to prove our worth?

When a woman allows feminism to live out of her heart, men are alone.

This ditch shouldn’t surprise us, because though feminism wasn’t created by God, it is a direct result of the fall.

“And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

So the power struggle was born.

God is holy and good. He doesn’t create evil to punish us. Yet He is omniscient, so He knows all things. And just like we know that a room gets dark when we turn off the light, He knew the result when sin entered the world, and so He did what He could. He warned us.

But it’s good for us to remember again, that Ezer was created before the fall.

Our place is not a punishment.

The Ditch of Deadly Compliance

This stance of wordless obedience is actually a form of passive control. It is intentionally blinding yourself and accepting decisions regardless of the consequences. It is exactly what Adam did to Eve. He stood with her, received the fruit and (seemingly) unquestioningly ate it. THEN, when God called him out, he did what? He blamed Eve, washing his hands of all guilt and playing the victim. And ever since then, we women like to play the same game right back.

The heart of it is so ugly. Deep down in the center of it is, “It’s his decision. If he wants to do this, the outcome is his fault.” We wash our hands and submit. And it’s so sneaky because it looks so good.

It even looks “Biblical”.

BOTH of those ditches gives the devil what he wants. Neither empower the man to fulfill his God-given role because in both of them he is isolated.

Jezebel either smashes masculine worth or incites male dominance.

Deadly Compliance never questions. It mindlessly and mechanically goes about seemingly doing the right things, but with no purpose and power.

And satan has a hayday. He can feed men lies all day long. A man can live out and rule over his family, all the while completely isolated in himself and out of line of the partnership God intended. All the while never being questioned.

And he is exactly where satan wants him.

Let’s explore a situation where a woman walked in this ditch…

Acts 5:1-2

Ananias and Sapphira

NKJV: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

NLT: “But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount.

With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

Amplified: “Now a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s full knowledge [and complicity] he kept back some of the proceeds, bringing only a portion of it, and set it at the apostles’ feet.”

ESV: “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

I’m going to start reading between the lines here…

We don’t know the full conversation between them, but we know that historically at this time, men didn’t normally ask for their wives opinions when conducting business matters. It’s very unlikely that Ananias would have thought to ask Sapphira’s opinion before deciding. Also take note of the word usage: “Aware of it. Consent. Full knowledge.” It’s not like the scene painted in Esther when Haman’s wife actively planned the gallows that was to hang Mordecai. It does not say, “Plan with. Decide together. Conspired to.”

Ananias made a decision and Sapphira knew what he had decided. And she chose to go along with it rather than risk conflict. She remained silent.

She wasn’t willing to be Ezer.

She left Ananias alone.

Before we are too hard on her, let’s just think for a moment. She probably also was used to not sharing opinions. Just the fact that Ananias felt like he had to pretend to gain acceptance shows that he was a deeply insecure man…and insecure men often take even suggestions as a threat, let alone an outright question. There’s a good chance he had anger issues, rejection issues or perhaps he had a silver tongue that made her feel stupid.

When Peter called her and asked her if they had sold the piece of property for the amount stated, she didn’t know her husband was dead. She couldn’t hide behind his decision and play the victim. But she stood there and was afraid. I am certain she had a flashback of what would happen if she spoke the truth and Ananais found out. So she chose her husband over what she knew was right. And she paid the price.

What should she have done? Let’s explore it.

1 Peter 3:4-6

“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.

… And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

And this is the catch.

Women were created to want to be desirable to men.

We crave their admiration.

We crave their approval.

We crave acceptance.

We want to make them proud of us.

To stand up and speak up risks all of that.

But I believed that God instilled in us the gift of foresight and He gave it to us for a reason.

There is a REASON why “everything is connected to everything.”

We know.

We know when our husband is losing his children’s hearts.

We know when he is coping with childhood wounds.

We see when he is driven by insecurities or threatened by authority.

We can list the lies he believes.

We often understand his motives better than he does.

We see the future and where it is leading.

All these are part of our calling! We were designed to see all these things!

For many of us, the “submit and respect” commands have gone so deep we feel guilty for seeing our husbands weaknesses. .It feels easier to just ignore and agree than to engage our concerns. Or, we allow our panic to force us into nagging him prematurely.

You might see rejection ruining your husband’s relationships.

You might see how fear makes him control his family.

You might recognize how he uses humor as a protection against vulnerability.

You might recognize how hurts make him harsh with the children.

Or you may see how insecurity keeps him from living his potential.

We were created to see past the outward, and into the reason behind the action.

But so often, we are afraid.

  • We are afraid to acknowledge our husband’s weakness because we haven’t experienced healing ourselves so we aren’t sure there is healing for him.
  • We don’t know what it’s like to experience unconditional acceptance, so we don’t know how to give it.
  • We feel like recognizing his failings is somehow disrespectful.
  • We don’t trust ourselves to respond rightly to them.
  • There is hurt inside of us that will be exposed by being honest with how we feel, and so it’s easier to just ignore it than risk vulnerability.
  • We don’t know how to be okay in imperfection.
  • We aren’t patient enough to prepare a safe place.

And this is the main reason why Peter tells us, “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Remember how we talked about how men’s instinctive responses are God-given? Men are destination oriented. They don’t see the mayonnaise in the fridge because their eyes were created to see the big picture. They are well aware the fridge is full…it’s the mayonnaise they can’t find.

Men don’t like being told what to do.

In a healthy man, it makes them decisive, level headed and confident.

In a healthy man, we women admire those traits. They make us feel safe and protected.

But remember, just as God created men with their characteristic tendencies,

God also created US women “Kenegdo.” We are “opposite: as pertaining to.”

EVERY strength has a weakness.

Men are do-ers. They find it easier to “do” than to analyze uncomfortable feelings.

Women tend to be feelers. We know everything has a reason behind it.

Men are leaders.

They doggedly stick to the trail.

They were created to be competent, and can be threatened by too many suggestions, because suggestions can sound like they aren’t perceived as being capable.

All these things make them the leaders God sees them to be. These characteristics are not our enemy. I find it remarkable that our perfect God is so okay with imperfection that he created human beings with strengths and thus weaknesses on PURPOSE.

So if men don’t like receiving directions, how can we help them?

Do you remember how every boy is born with an unanswered question burning on his heart.“Do I have what it takes?”

Satan’s goal is to make sure that question destroys him. And though it is said that a little boy’s father should be the one to answer that question, I believe that women’s job is to answer it again and again and again.

Respect and honor is meant to do just that.

Inside you is the map to help guide your husband into wholeness into the places in his life that he will never go on his own. Holy Spirit is there to help to navigate it–all without him knowing. This is where “respecting and submitting” comes in.

But first, we have to know a few things ourselves, because this next part is what makes respect and honor powerful….

Way of a Woman, Part 1

Guest Post By: Kate Kenaston


Pt I:  THE HELP

The sun rose.

The moon shone.

The earth revolved.

The grass grew.

Trees bore fruit.

Animals walked silently through the trees.

…and everything was good.

So God created a perfect world,  then placed two ignorant humans inside it who had the capacity to ruin everything.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

Ephesians 1:4

“ Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.”

Even before He first called light into being God saw His Son welcoming His bride and as He formed man and woman, all the decisions He made and pieces He put into place was to that end.

So let’s dive in…

What is it that makes us who we really are? We all know we aren’t our appearance.

If we get past our preferences, insecurities, personalities and thought patterns, we realize that the part of us that only really matters is the part of us that will live forever. 

Now, let’s read the Genesis account and take note of the nouns and pronouns.

Genesis 1:27 “God created man (singular) in his own image. 

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

In the image of God He created him (singular)

male and female He created THEM. (plural)

Genesis 5:1-2 “When God created man, (singular) he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them,(plural)  and he blessed them (plural) and named them Man (singular) when they were created.” 

In John 4:24 Jesus says, “God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” He made our spirit like his own. Eternal.

God created the human spirit. In His own image he made it. 

Then He created male and female bodies and put that human spirit inside. 

Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Angels are gender neutral.

Our spirits are also gender neutral.

And it’s the same Spirit in both genders.

A complete human being is made up of our spirit, soul and body. 

Our soul and body are intertwined with our gender while our spirit is not defined by it. 

Genesis 2:18, 21-25 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him….So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

    and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

    for she was taken out of man.”

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

I want you to take note of how Adam spoke the woman’s identity over her as soon as he saw her.

He placed his stamp of complete approval over her life.

She was accepted.

She was his pride and joy.

  • We know that man and woman were BOTH created in the image of God.
  • Both man and woman are partakers of the same name and nature before the fall.

 The “man” made in the image of God is in Hebrew  “Ish” and “Ish-shah.” 

The word “woman” literally means “man-ess.” 

  • Both man and woman were created to rule together and have dominion over the earth. 
  • Both man and woman were blessed by God to live in partnership. There was no hierarchy in the relationship God created. Male and female completed and complemented each other perfectly.
  • Both man and woman were equally responsible and accountable to God for their deeds.
  • It is only AFTER the fall that Eve is named, and thereby the woman comes to have a separate identity from the man.

So with all that clarified, lets go back to God’s reason for creating Eve. I think it’s important to realize that she wasn’t an afterthought. God intended to create her all along–and His biggest obstacle was making man aware that he NEEDED her. God created Eve to be VALUED, and He knew Adam would never truly value her unless he experienced life WITHOUT her. I also think it’s important to realize that OUR CALLING is NOT a result of the fall. Because it was BEFORE the fall that God stated that her role was necessary.

 And so God states, “It is not good for a man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  

The Hebrew language specifies the woman to be a “helper corresponding/mirroring” the man.

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 

So what is a “help suitable”?

Because in order that we fulfill our calling, we need to know what we are called to. 

(to be continued, guest post by Kate Kenaston)

Connection During Covid

I always wonder which latte to try when I walk into this sweet little place here in the south, because truth be told, I no longer laugh at coffee snobs.

I’ve kinda sorta joined them, instead. Just a little.

Today, it’s a Creme Brulee’ with my friend from back west. Seeing her is laughter, love, and goodness all wrapped up in one human package. She sings her heart out and cries over the goodness of God, makes fun of my food, prays with me, and shares wine over heart to heart talks.

For crying aloud, why did I leave so many good people to rebuild community in a brand new place?

Many of us move for various reasons, but the important thing is that we all recognize our need for community and are available to be community as well.

Check out @julieannariemusic on Instagram!

The addict on the street corner likely started using out of a soul lack for connection, first with God, then with others.

The depressed friend you have needs connection more than she needs someone to quote one more verse on joy. Connection with God, then with others.

The teen who is constantly on his phone isn’t wanting to be lethargic or lazy–he’s wanting connection, too, and doesn’t realize that his phone will drive him to loneliness and keep him from the kind of human interaction he needs most of all.

Even God has relationship. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are in constant, uninterrupted communion with each other. Even Jesus had twelve disciples with Him during His time on earth. He calls us to love each other, cover each other, and be here for each other.

Today is a new day with old problems we’ve long wished away. Covid-19 convinces people to isolate, shut down gatherings, and stay alone, more afraid of possible germs than of suicide rates that are increasing, homes that are breaking, and children who are showing up in increasing numbers with bruises covering their bodies.

Along with concern on how to handle this virus, we need to raise just as much concern on how to handle the loneliness a lockdown brings. I don’t want to hear of one more suicide, ten more addictions, or another divorce.

As Jerry Flowers says, “Don’t be so afraid of the fire that you die from the smoke.”

Friends, people are dying in increasing numbers, and not just from Covid.

I call on all of us to raise awareness on the affects of loneliness (which is one of the most unhealthy things a human can experience), and to be a cause, a channel for connection.

Who can you connect today? Who will you love today, and how will you do it practically?

Rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything”, let’s just show up at a doorstep with flowers or food. Let’s send a gift or write a note. Let’s take a friend out to coffee.

Let’s even ask God to lead us to complete strangers who may need something only God knows about. Because what if YOU could be the one to keep someone from contemplating a dark death?

If suicide rates are going up, love should be rising even higher.

If child abuse is sky rocketing (and it is), so should the amount of adults who are there for neighborhood children, children at school, and children from broken homes who want to medicate pain with more pain.

Let all of them encounter LOVE, instead.

God’s No is His Better Yes

“Would you do anything God asked you to do?” I asked a teen who happened to be at my house during Bible time.

He grinned, then joked, “I wouldn’t do anything like Abraham did because I’m not as crazy as he is.”

We all laughed, but I dared disagree with his youthful joke.

Go figure—the Father of faith obeyed when God told him to take his only son and sacrifice him on the altar. We know the full story, how God stopped him at the testing point and told him to offer a lamb, instead.

Abraham didn’t know how the end would turn out, yet he obeyed.

The entire universe grapples with God in a quest for his grace without his Lordship. Sometimes God asks hard things of us—really, really hard things—and it is entirely more convenient to do what seems fun, then beg God to help us when life gets rough.

But back to Abraham. He could only say yes to that order because He knew the character of God. Complete faith in Who God is led Abraham to complete obedience to God’s commands.

Cheap grace calls people to claim Christ verbally without a change of lifestyle. Non-Christians look on and see the mockery of it all. Satan himself looks on and laughs.

“You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:20, ESV)

Abraham understood that he could not claim God while refusing to obey God. The Father of faith had an understanding of real grace, that the Lord of the universe is interested in a relationship with us that changes us.

Truly walking with God means he is with you. He cannot be with you without affecting you in every possible way. You can believe He exists and claim that as your salvation, but scripture teaches that demons do the same thing.

Your kind of faith has to be an intimate relationship with His presence rather than head knowledge of His existence. The Presence changes everything.

This is not some die hard, works based religion. Never! Religion suffocates a soul, and good works will never redeem your soul. But a relationship based on trust so sweet, personal, and deep that it will permeate your soul and cause it to change because that’s the only thing the presence of Christ can do—this is the faith God is looking for.

Like a caterpillar resting in its chrysalis, your soul will merge into sanctification when it knows the presence of Jesus Christ. In Christ, you can both rest and grow. It seems contradictory, but Kingdom ways are often opposed to human reasoning.

Nothing else will ever do Christ the credit He deserves. How could we think it possible for someone to know Him without being changed by Him?

Obedience can only happen when we see that God’s no always leads to His better yes. The character of God is all goodness; therefore, He can only ask good of us.

Abraham knew, as he trudged the mountain side with his only son, that God was all goodness. Though told to offer Isaac, Abraham told Isaac that God would provide a lamb for the offering. Abraham’s faith simply knew that all would turn out well.

Still, God tested him to the point of a drawn blade raised over his son’s heart. Abraham was still pushing through in obedience when the Spirit of God said, “Enough.”

In your situation, God knows exactly when to say, “Enough.” You can trust Him to come through with a better yes.

God was not depriving Abraham of his only son; He was inviting him to be the father of many nations through faith.

See this again—God’s no is never deprivation, but always an invitation to a better yes.

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness, and he was called a friend of God.” (James 2: 23, ESV)

Why 2020 was a Great Year/Mourning and Joy, Part 2

While I’m wrapping gifts this morning in my pajamas, grateful for a day off work, I’m remembering a lot about this crazy year.

Many people think of 2020 as a horrible year—and while I agree that it was difficult, I also have to say it was one of the best years of my life.

“Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

I got to watch God do a lot this year.

2020 had my children and I leaving our home, friends, church, schools, and community for a place we’d never lived before, all the way on the east coast. But it also had us getting to know new friends, find a beautiful church, and see God provide for a good school.

2020 had me as a single mom without a job. But it also showed me how God could help me build a growing business, learn about marketing, and hire employees to help me accomplish more than one person can do.

2020 had Covid-19 hit the country soon after we moved. But it also had me even more grateful for the continuing health of my children.

2020 spun us into loneliness as the virus hit hard. But it also taught us endurance, that better days come, and that, if we’re patient, life brings the people and places we need.

2020 had me unsure of how to manage a growing business. But it also showed me (again) that I could trust God for all my needs as He let me meet a girl at my favorite coffee shop who needed a job and ended up being a fantastic employee.

2020 brought opportunity for my children to learn that they are not victims; they are responsible for all life choices—and what they choose really matters. I got to watch them struggle, then do massive turn arounds for the better. I got to watch life lessons go deep—really, really deep.

2020 brought opportunity for my children not to compare with others, but to get to work to build the life they want.

I could go on about all that God has brought us through. What I want us to see is that there will always be trials and God doesn’t always remove them. Sometimes they even get worse. People die, people betray you, Covid hits hard—but just as light always dispels darkness, so God’s goodness is much more powerful than anything bad that can happen in this world.

When we open our hearts to receive eternal Goodness, no earthly evil (or the affects of it) have actual power over us. Difficult circumstances will bring us to tears but they will not bring us to despair.

Supernatural joy is a free gift and is very different than circumstantial happiness. One is contingent on everything going “right”; the other is a constant gift from the God of heaven even when things don’t go right.

Remember that sorrow is not in opposition to joy. Rather, God gives peace and supernatural joy in the midst of sorrow. Sorrow is nothing to be afraid of—Jesus Himself was called “ a man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)

When you know the God of heaven, He will deliver you from hopelessness and despair. He will lift you up and allow you to grow from things that would otherwise damage you permanently.

He is God.

He rules and reigns. Because of Jesus, love, joy, and peace reign over despair, hopelessness, and pain.

Someday, all sin and the affects of it will be overtaken with the glorious return of our risen Savior, Who first came to this earth as a babe, born in the manger in Bethlehem. He who was God came to be human so we could learn from Him how to navigate life.

2020 may have been a season of mourning for many of us, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus, 2020 can lead us deeper into a life of joy.

For the Christ of Christmas,

Sara

How a Season of Mourning Can Lead to a Life of Joy (Part 1)

Most people naturally shy away from pain and gravitate towards happiness.

No baby is born into this world asking for grief. What child doesn’t hope for the best and happiest life? And what little girl doesn’t long for Cinderella’s glass slippers leading her to the Prince of her future?

We watch Hallmark movies because we long for relationship.

We eat chocolate because our taste buds crave tasty.

White Chocolate Cranberry Bliss bars

We like hanging out with kind people because our hearts were designed to receive love.

We were created in the image of God with a high capacity for the things of God. Love, joy, and peace are meant to be central to our lives and when the opposite hits hard, we cringe.

Some fight, some take flight. Which one are you?

I have to admit that most of the time, I’m in the flight category. People who love to argue will be frustrated with me because I hate fighting and often walk away if I feel one pending. Those who love to control every detail of life might be dumbfounded that I simply don’t care about getting my way in every single thing.

I’d rather have peace than have it my way. This can be good but it can also be dangerous, and in the life I’ve had to live, I’ve learned to pick up my sword and wield it carefully when needed.

Whether you naturally attack the grief/pain in your life with anger and lashing back to fight for what you crave, or whether you run into internal oblivion too afraid to move, our negative responses to pain show that we were created for something better.

A human created in the image of God for the glory of God is of necessity born with the need to receive things that line up with the heart of God.

A baby develops better when held and snuggled lots.

By nature, women respond to love and tenderness.

Men naturally gravitate toward those who call out the manhood in them.

But the question remains: How to respond when we get the opposite of what we were created for?

I know what it’s like to put reality to the back of my mind so I could try to function in the reality I wished I had.

I know what it’s like for something so troubling to happen that the only way forward was to go into denial.

I know what it’s like to reach out for help, but feel false quilt while doing so.

See this—hitting denial mode on pain only prolongs the effects of it. Like a poisonous labyrinth, denial mode causes the branches of pain to spread. When you shut up something that exists in an effort to create something that doesn’t exist, you shoot ugly streams of poison into many areas of your life.

Many times the church is great at spiritualizing pain by calling people to “rise above it” and “find peace”. It often pushes people into denial and a false sense “happiness” which can cause unreleased emotions to surface many years later.

Christian friends, you don’t need to tack God onto every explanation of your feelings. “This is hard but God is with me” while tacking on a (fake) brave smile.

How about honestly saying, “This is so hard I don’t have energy for anything but just to make it through. Thanks for being here for me.”

And for those who use the flight mechanism, consider that staying quiet so you don’t ruin someone’s reputation can cause your own soul so much unrest that your life becomes marked with internal anxiety and depression. Please know that God cares more about your healing than He does about anyone’s reputation.

Reach out to others for help and council even if (and especially when), the one hurting you doesn’t want to be exposed. The latter fact alone should cause you to run for help. You are not meant to walk alone.

The only way to handle grief is to face it head on. Whether this is the death of a loved one or the knowledge of a cheating spouse, owning up to your painful reality will help you navigate it in the best possible way.

This will look differently for different people because there is no stream-lined way through grief and there is no certain finish line.

Say it to yourself, “My spouse cheated on me and I feel like I’m going to DIE.”

Or, “My brother passed away and I feel like I’m not going to survive unless we find his body in the lake.”

Give yourself permission to grieve. If you need to crawl into bed for the day, just get right in there and pull the covers up over your face.

If you need a movie to distract your mind, watch your favorite show for awhile.

And if chocolate comforts you, eat away at it and chuck that raw broccoli for a few days.

If you’re too tired to pray, simply know that at that very moment the Spirit Himself is praying to the Father for you. You are not forgotten by an all-knowing God simply because you have no words to utter. Know this—the throne room specializes with needs too great for you to handle.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26&27, ESV)

By allowing yourself to consume your grief, you will rise above it before it consumes you. Sooner or later God will reach down and begin to walk you toward healing. Bit by bit, if you know and love Jesus Christ, you will see the sun shine again.

“The Son of Man will rise with healing in His wings.”

The most exquisite glories of the mountain top can only be experienced if you first walk the valley of grief.

Denial mode takes you to an alternate route into a barren dessert where you function as a robot because you never embraced your humanity.

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Jesus wept first, then he rose Lazarus from the dead.

Supernatural strength is most realized by those who face catastrophic dilemmas beyond their control.

Today, if you’re faced with a trial too great to handle, look up into the face of Jesus as you walk the valley of pain. Ask Jesus to go with you, and He will. Every step of the way, He will comfort your soul as you whisper to Him of your need.

Your soul is not meant to have sadness as a permanent companion. But that’s a story to write for another time—for now, embrace your pain with the end goal of being delivered from the grip of it.

In 2020, hope is still rising for every soul!

All is grace.

Love from my bone marrow into yours,

Sara

Why I Can’t be Silent

An almost other-worldly shroud hovered over the room as the lifeless form of a baby girl lay on a table surrounded with monks and the eyes of a little boy stood dazed in shock of what he saw and experienced.

It was evil to its core. But the irony of it all was clear—these monks didn’t begin their journey with the intent to turn into debauched human beings; they thought they had embarked on a journey of holiness.

The vibe in that room many years ago was anything but holy. In it’s place was silence in the name of holiness.

Today I’m aware that millions of conservative Christians are silent on voting day. But it’s not just christians on voting day—somehow, silence has been the go-to answer for far too many.

I receive messages from women suffering under abuse, wondering if they should be silent or if they should speak up. Some of them are afraid of displeasing their husbands by reaching out for help. Some are afraid they “haven’t forgiven” if they speak up.

Some of them pose opinions as questions because they will be perceived as dishonoring if they share a strong opinion.

You’d think silence by those two parties are very different things, but they have similarities. Christians aren’t voting because they believe in “separation of church and state”. The result is that the unborn have less voices to speak for them, that freedom of religion is more liable to be taken from us, and we are less likely to be able to put our children into schools of our own choice (schools where they can actually pray and be taught Christian ethics).

Women aren’t speaking up because they believe in “submission and honor”. The result is weighed down, suppressed women who survive marriage rather than thrive in it. The result is a woman who is more difficult to connect with because she has forced herself to be out of connection with her own heart (and with God’s heart), all in the name of holiness.

And monks are remaining unmarried because they believe in “holy celibacy”. Silent about their true needs, they become full of desperate need. The result is a room full of debauched men who are so intent on living a “holy” life style in opposition to all human desire that they end up in a realm of evil few of us can comprehend (ask Bobby Eaton, and read his book here).https://www.amazon.com/Boy-Window-Mennonite-Memoir-ebook/dp/B0868BVTS9/ref=sr_1_1?crid=9RIMIZHM77C4&dchild=1&keywords=bobby+eaton&qid=1604422880&sprefix=bobby+eaton%2Caps%2C171&sr=8-1

Anytime you shut up voices of truth you open up doorways of darkness.

Satan comes as an angel of light to silence voices of life.

The teaching of “life” I was promised if I “submitted to” my ex-husband was so opposed to true honor that it brought death. Had I known the truth I would have been unafraid to reach out for help much sooner than I did. I would have protected my mind and soul from despair and mental apathy.

Women have a voice to use. So does the church.

Teaching Christians that it takes silence on voting day to separate church and state doesn’t actually separate the church from the state; rather, it invites the state right into the church to control and inhibit it from all it should be. You may not want to be a politician but you do have a voice for the unborn and future generations.

We all need to ponder HOW we speak more than IF we speak.

Did you know you can speak to an opposing party with as much honor and dignity as you speak with a friend?

Women, did you know you can speak up about the wrong in your marriage with both strength and grace? That God wants you to use your voice because He loves you and hates what’s going on inside the walls of your home? That using your voice doesn’t have to mean losing your femininity?

Silence on election day doesn’t keep the church out of the state; it invites the state right into the church.

Silence in your marriage (when you really need to speak) doesn’t maintain “submission”; it strips you of real honor.

We may not be extreme like the monks mentioned in the above page, but I ask all of us:

“Why are we silent, and how have we perverted God’s original intentions for holiness into something that breeds the opposite?”

How I Found Wholeness in the Breaking of Divorce

Divorce is an epidemic in our twenty-first century culture.

I remember my children being in public school and realizing that most of their friends no longer had both sets of parents in the house. It blew me away.

Divorce was not a word in my vocabulary. When my marriage hit the rocks, I refused to sign the papers he wanted because I knew divorce was not the answer. When reality forced me to agree with the divorce and even to want it (because of his teen-aged girlfriend living in our house with him),I knew I no longer lived in the world I wanted to live in. I had joined the club.

A few years earlier, my heart had fallen to my toes when I greeted him at the door with a smile, looked down, and saw books in his bag on how to do divorce well. Then and there, my world was never the same.

He wanted to be friends and have a friendly divorce. But to me, there was nothing friendly about divorce and betrayal.

That was almost three years ago and our divorce is just now being finalized.

I had to see the girl a few weeks ago, had to be in the same court room as my now ex-husband and I sat for trial over things we never should have needed to decide.

Then, it was over. I joined my friends for brunch, started crying, and couldn’t stop for a few days. Every ounce of strength I had gathered for the past three years flew out the window and I cried ugly in my father’s arms.

I’m a single woman. Not just a single woman, but a christian single woman intent on staying faithful to the God I know, intent on finding out more of His true heart for women, and determined to continue healing.

Many years ago when the first huge ugly in my marriage started rocking my inner world, God taught me that He not only came for the sin of this world, He also came for the pain of this world. I found Him in ways I had only heard of before.

I found Him greater, stronger, and more powerful than what was rocking my boat.

If Jesus Christ died to SAVE, that not only means my sins are forgiven; it also means that sins committed against me are forgiven and have no real power over me.

If Jesus Christ is the Giver of Life, that means nothing deadly on this passing earth can take eternal life out of me.

And if He cares for me as He says He does, that means the past three years of tears will be redeemed because He weeps with me, then offers life to me.

I can sink or swim. I happen to believe that we were not meant to go down in the storm, we were meant to ride the waves.

It sounds cliche`. The honest truth is that riding waves often looks like swimming in tears.

Let the tears roll. They will purify your soul and cleanse you from pain so you can be washed in life. Let them roll for three years, if need be.

Jesus weeps with you but He doesn’t merely commiserate with you; in the end, He liberates you.

I want to walk with you, not ahead of you or behind you, but beside you. I want us to be community and that means sharing the good, bad, and ugly for each other and with each other.

We are human and life is real.

But God is also God and He is eternally alive. He is Victor over all, through all, and in all. Allow Him to walk with you, then lead you.

Beauty for ashes may not mean your circumstance becomes beautiful, but it does mean your soul will merge into beauty in ways you’ve never known before.

Your pain has led you to glory because even though pain speaks, it cannot have the final say.

Friends, don’t be afraid of the thing you don’t know how to survive. Just make one good choice after another even when you don’t know which is the best one. Trust God to make up for your mistakes as you do the best you know and ask Him to lead you. I promise, He will.

My heart is healing from the inside out. I trust yours will, too. And in the process, I am here for you.

All is grace.

Love, Sara

Just Say Yes

I stepped into the bathroom and looked around, appreciating the faux paint splashed onto formerly jagged up walls.

Thank you, Jesus,” I whispered for the hundredth time.  

It had been a season of blessing. I looked around and wondered at all of it, because I remembered difficult seasons behind those years. My brother drowned, I needed to brave it and get counseling, and daily life was nothing short of challenging. I still had no idea when or if my dreams of publishing a book would materialize, and we lived in a crowded, one bathroom home with seven people.  

God was faithful in those years. But they were hard.

Later, we were unexpectedly able to purchase a three bath, six bedroom home, and my first book was listed on Amazon. The perfect jobs came my way so I was able not only to move in, but also decorate that home.

I kept walking into my office, remembering the years I didn’t even own a desk. I remember carrying my laptop through the house for a quiet spot on the bed, then wondering where to place it when I was done.

I kept doing my make up at my extra sink and mirror outside the third bathroom, remembering rushing through the process in one bathroom while a million people knocked on the door in desperation. Or I’d let them in and two or three of us would crowd the sink.

I stepped into the large walk-in closet and remember having so little storage I would carry things into the crawl space under the house where rat droppings and dirt would cover everything.

Then, I looked around and said it over and over again. “Thank you, Jesus.”

He whispers back to my heart, “You were faithful to do small things.”

Small things. Aren’t our days as mothers made up of small things?

My entire summer was made up of small things, and I’d feel a bit let down when I couldn’t walk to my laptop and type out a lovely puzzle of words creating a picture for the soul.

I’d feel a bit cheap, like I didn’t care enough for some things and cared too much for other things.

But God whispers to my heart, “These walls are painted and this home is lovely because you were faithful in doing the small. The book is available because you typed out those words when you didn’t know what they’d become.”

I’m telling myself, “Soul, the answers you found came because you were willing not only to do the small, but to feel small.”

Ah, yes.

For the soul to feel small is for the soul to know how big God is. And when you scurry down a sidewalk toward a building, hoping no one sees you because the sign outside says “Counseling”, you feel about as small as an atom—and at that moment you wish you were, because then no one would see.

So, hey, sister-soul. That hard place you’re in, when you shed more tears than crack smiles? Did you know that if you walk through it faithfully, there’s a glory-something at the other side?

Those years you spend in a crowded house, wishing you could afford something larger, those things you drop to your knees over, the tunnel you can’t see light in, and the disaster that just occurred that takes your breath away………did you know that all you need to do is follow God with a great, big yes, and He simply does the rest.

You can rest, because He does the rest.

Just be faithful. Just do the small things. Just know that moments themselves lead us right to eternity, because God is a never-ending God Who doesn’t stop leading us into all things good, and He’ll lead you straight to the throne room when He sees you on your knees in the prayer room.

He’ll lead you from your small moments to an everlasting eternity with no end, where there are no moments in time.

He’ll lead you, soul. He’s faithful when you feel nothing else is.

He’s lovely when nothing seems beautiful.

He’s in charge when you can’t see Him leading.

The meaning of a season is that it’s a passing time. We may be in a season of no’s, but we must still follow God with a yes.

Whether you’re in a no season or a yes season, simply choose to be faithful.

Simply worship God.  

Home School, to Public, to Private

I cried the day I made my rounds to elementary, middle, and high schools to enroll my four children.

I was the home school mom who taught her babies how to read at young ages by creating words with wooden alphabet blocks. Often at two years old, I’d be on the floor placing blocks before my toddler and teaching him what it said. It was fun for both of us!

My oldest child started first grade at age four because she was brilliant. The next child was brilliant but didn’t like school, and it was work to get him through it each day. I was thrown into the mess of it all—but I loved it.

Then, my world changed from top to bottom. Out of necessity, I went to work. I knew I couldn’t work and do a good job with home school.  I needed to trust God and do what I needed to do–I would have to send my children to public school. 

Each morning as I put my little boy on the bus at 6:35 am (in NC that’s what happens!), I wondered what under heaven had happened to my home school table.

Each time my girls told me of another crummy boy with gross language and attitudes, I wondered why there wasn’t a better option for Christian moms who were unable to home school. 

But, I was in the thick of learning trust.

Mothers, when we’re in circumstances we can’t change, the best thing to do is put our chins up and trust that heaven is on our side as we wage war with hell. (Many of the pressures in public school are just that—pushes for teenagers to engage in things that could turn their world right over.)

Still, we have to trust. God is on our side as we faithfully choose Him no matter where our children go to school.

I was slowly learning to trust my Master more than any method. There, He showed Himself strong.

This year, Covid-19 is in all its glory as I watch with bated breath to see what public schools have to offer their students. It didn’t take long to get the email with plan B being the best for my children.

But plan B offers them only one day of face to face interaction, only one day in school, and the rest of the week at home doing online classes.

I was getting that pit-in-my-stomach feeling as I realized how difficult our year would be. My business is growing and I realized that many a morning would find four children alone navigating each other–and classes–while I was gone to work.

It didn’t seem like something I could ask of my children, but I had no better option. The drastic change of not being able to be there for my children 24/7 hit me even harder, but I tried to trust what God was continually teaching me over the past few years as a single mother. I had to trust that He would fill in the gaps and we’d all learn things during a difficult school year.

I had to trust my Master more than my method. Only in this way would I keep peace and be able to offer my children the best of mothering under the circumstances we were in.

Still, my heart was fearful and I sunk into weariness, rather waiting for a school year disaster.

Then, as I sat under a sermon at our new church (I’m so grateful for Joy Church), God spoke to me. “Sara, trust Me for good things for your children.”

Realizing my  state of distrust and fear, I said yes to God. I would choose to trust Him before I saw how things would play out. I would trust Him to do what I could not do. I would trust Him to show Himself to my children.

A few nights later I had a dream so vivid that I woke up, jolted into a deep awareness that I had to do something. A few hours later I knew I needed to do my best to get my children into private school where they could be mentored and taught each day even when I was at work.

Sometimes you can’t move until God lets you know that you know that you know that you heard Him speak.

It felt crazy, but I began phone calls immediately. My heart was filled with peace and assurance that I was in line with God’s heart. True to His nature, God worked everything out from paper work to finances to uniforms (yes, they have to wear uniforms, haha), and my four beautiful children are now enrolled in a private academy five days a week.

What’s more, my Junior can take college classes to get a jump start on her associates degree. Not only that, transportation to and from college is free.

My eighth grader gets to do Cross Country and make new friends on the team. This same child also had an unexpected—and amazing—counselor suddenly come on the scene.

My ninth grader gets to do the same curriculum he had just told me he’d rather do and would do so much better at than online school.

My little boy gets to attend the same school his little fishing buddies attend.

And this mama is filled with faith in a good God Who always shows up in many ways  when we’re facing things we didn’t expect.

I trust my Master more than any method. I trust Him when the method seems faulty but is the only way in sight. And when the method seems better, I still want to trust Him most. 

I will probably never home school again, and next year may have them back in public school. But from home school, to public school, to private school, and who knows what next year, I’m learning to lean into Jesus more than I lean into anything else.

Where you send your child is not as important as the spirit you show your child in your daily life with him. If you insist on home school when circumstances are not right for it, you may do more damage than if you trust God and send him to public school.

May each of us mothers trust Him fully whether our circumstances are difficult or easy. And may all of us know Grace that is truly greater than the sins of the whole world.

He’s looking over the earth to see whose heart is with Him so He can show Himself strong. 

May we posture ourselves in position for His blessing (whatever that looks like), and receive His word gratefully. 

From my heart to yours,

Sara