Rest in Jesus…Despite the Rapids

It was a gorgeously sunny day as my cousin and I drifted down the creek in our canoe. I was the lookout in front, and despite the fact that this was only my second-ever canoe trip, I was enjoying the blue sky powdered with puffs of clouds, birds trilling along the banks, and the lush green of the leafed-out summer trees. Compared to the last time I had sat in the front of a canoe, on my first-ever canoe trip, water rushing beneath me, this was blissfully relaxing. The last time?—not so much, as, unbeknownst to us before we started, the river was in flood stage.

This time, though, as I breathed in the clean scents and reveled in the day, I really enjoyed it—and tried to push away the fear that this time would end up like last time, with several of us clinging to a drowned log for dear life. The creek we were on had been in flood two days before, following a violent storm that dumped sheets of rain on the land. But today, with the creek down to manageable proportions and actually more perfect conditions than normal since the water level was still on the higher side, we glided through with ease. There were a few rapids to pass through—short stretches of tumbling, sometimes white-capped water—but thankfully even the one semi-trouble spot wasn’t too bad.

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First canoe trip. Notice our relaxed positions, as this was before we were tipped into the river!

“You know,” I mused to Beth as I shipped paddle for a bit on a particularly straight, gentle stretch in order to enjoy the experience more, “it’s interesting that these flat, smooth spots come right before some more rapids.”

We were silent for a little, as we glided past small cliffs for banks with tree roots embedded in them. “That’s true,” she said at last. “It’s a little like life, isn’t it? Things seem to be going along so well when—bam!—something happens, and we’re in the midst of trials again.”

We laughed, as we realized our thoughts had both been following the same direction. But as we paddled on—and yes, did have another short piece of rapids to go through—I was thankful for the time to spend with her, for the gorgeous day, and even more for the beautiful memories we were making together.

No matter what happens in the intervening time between when we said goodbye not long after that canoe trip, and when we say hello again, we know the One in control of the creeks of our lives…of our flimsy canoes, of our paddles, and, ultimately, of how we will respond to the rapids. And despite the uncertainty of the terrain, of what might be around the next bend, we can rest assured that in knowing Him, we know all we need to know for today. Isn’t that precious?

Have you gone on a canoe trip before? Did you enjoy it?

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

There were maybe twenty of us youth together that December evening eight months ago—perhaps a few less; I’m not certain. Together, we had just come through a week-full of meetings at a youth conference, each day, on average, infusing us and the many other attendees with four Biblically-rich, challenging sermons. I don’t know if my sentiments then could express what the others were feeling or not, but I felt full. Spiritually fed, my soul enriched far beyond what I normally encountered in my everyday life. The Lord had shown Himself faithful in the days leading up to that chilly Saturday evening, showing me areas where I wasn’t serving Him to my fullest extent, and overall just drawing me closer to Him.

I felt full. And as I looked around the room at all the other youth—spread across the assortment of couches in the spacious, yet cozy-feeling living room, I felt so blessed to be there. To be able to spend a bit of time with these special people, some of whom were very close friends, some friends from years past, or relatives—and grateful to have shared the enriching week with them.

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Someone—our evening’s host, perhaps, who happened to be one of the speakers at the conference—suggested we all write down one thing we really appreciated or were challenged by in the previous week. As we each took time to look back, I know many of us remembered fondly different scenes from the week, and the room grew silent apart from the occasional humming as someone tried to put their thoughts onto paper.

Soon all the papers were gathered up into a plate, mixed together, then passed out randomly, and we each took turns reading what was on our particular note, then tried to guess who had written it. Some of the notes were quite in-depth, with several sentences dedicated to whatever the person was thankful for. One, I remember, simply said “Food!”—it was submitted by a younger guy in the group! While that provided humor for some of us, the thing that really struck me was how many people said they were thankful for the encouragement to be grateful. That was a theme that had been running throughout the different sermons that week, unintentionally (or intentionally by the Lord?) tying together each of the four different speaker’s messages. Although by far that wasn’t the only thing we learned it was one of the most memorable thoughts. And I’d hazard to guess that at least half of us there that night mentioned something to that effect.

Fast forward to last Friday, when I was trialing a new pattern on a jumper (online dictionary says this should properly be called a pinafore—new word usage on me!). The first attempt failed, and it was late that evening when I finished a second top, only to find out that it was way too small as well. To say the least, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Twice, the solution had eluded me, and frankly, I was quite disgusted.

The worst part about it? I had posted on Instagram earlier that afternoon—before, you can be sure, I found out that both attempts weren’t right—saying something about being thankful I could sew. That evening, I wasn’t feeling very thankful.

A latte and time for sewing this afternoon. #Thankful #littleblessings

A post shared by Esther Filbrun (@estherfilbrun) on

So yesterday, as I was happily sewing along, making my third try at getting this pinafore top done, I started thinking over what I’d learned at youth conference about being grateful. Then I thought about the gratitude list I had started right about the same time as the two failed attempts…and how, for some inexplicable reason, those two pinafore tops were not included in said list.

Any coincidence? I think not. After all, why would I be thankful for something I was decidedly not grateful for at the moment? Yes, I had appreciated the moment earlier—back when it was (ahem) social media-worthy.

But I knew it was a double standard.

So while, yes, I did write down gratitude for the completed one, I’m going to make sure to add the two failed attempts to the list, too—I learned something from them as well.

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Because if there’s one thing I learned from the youth conference, we as God’s temple* have something priceless at our disposal. Back in the Old Testament, under the old law, the tabernacle held something precious: The altar of incense. Today, under the New Covenant, we as God’s priests (see the 1 Peter reference below) are in charge of our individual altars of incense—praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This is a task that should be attended as our highest joy, an outflowing from our hearts because of the inflowing of the Spirit as He does His work in us.

It’s a precious thing, one I want to keep practicing. So next time my side seams don’t match up, or the garment ends up fitting much differently than I had intended, perhaps I should post a picture of that and start a trend with the hashtag #ThankfulForFailure …and a chance to try again.

Have you been practicing being thankful for things lately…even if it’s things that really didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? What has the Lord been teaching you through failure recently?

*See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-22, and 1 Peter 2:4-10

Home, Sweet Home

One thing I love about being away is that I can thoroughly enjoy being home again. In saying that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time away…the sweet, albeit brief, reunions and all the precious memories made with our friends and family. It was so good.

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Little sister enjoyed petting the donkeys at the Creation Museum when we visited!

But near the end, especially those last few days as we were packing up, saying our last goodbyes, and realizing that our time had already past—like that!—it was bittersweet to realize we’d soon be home. Back to “normal” life, to a normal routine again, to just being us again. I looked forward to that. But as I looked back over the seven weeks, I knew that my heart would always be partly there—with those dear family members. Those that though I only see them once every few years, they’re still some of the nearest, dearest friends I have on this earth.

When I think of that, I know I’m so blessed.

We’ve been home just over a week now, and it’s been so, so good to be back. So good to say hello to the dear friends here, to have the comfort of my own bed (even on the nights when it gets quite frosty out!), to have my own space and just be able to be with my own family.

And as I think of all I enjoy about this temporal home, I can’t help but think of the heavenly—if I enjoy this so much, how much more should I look forward to Heaven, where we’ll forever be with Jesus? If I looked forward to being back in New Zealand, how much more should I long and yearn for the better Home? It’s then that I see how shallow I can be in my Christian walk…and how much growing I still have left to do.

In our family devotions recently, we’ve been studying Jesus’ crucifixion. And despite how horrific that ended up being, it was really interesting to discuss some of the different traits Jesus displayed during His trial and death. Love, peace, patience, and courage, just to name a few. Dad pointed out that Jesus wasn’t focusing on the next whiplash, though—He knew it was coming, but instead of looking at the “now”, Jesus was looking far ahead to the “joy that was set before Him”. In part, that’s us—and all the other courageous saints through the past ages. That’s how He could endure. How He DID endure. Partly because He knew He had to, as there was no other way to redeem us, but also partly because He knew the reward at the end would be so sweet it would be more than worth the pain.

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A version of The Great Bible, printed in 1566, as seen in the Ark Encounter.

As my mind raced ahead, following that “joy that was set before Him” path, a thought clicked in place that I hadn’t quite considered before. That’s how God’s saints endured, all through the ages. That’s how they stayed strong, even when they knew they were going to the stake.

It was the joy set before them. They knew about and reveled in the Home that was waiting for them on the other side, so no matter what temporal struggles they had to face on this side, they knew it was worth it all…and more. Our Lord had gone through it already, setting an example for us, and they were just treading in His footsteps. They knew, without a doubt, where they were going, and what they’d get when they got there.

Oh, that I might have faith like that when my day of testing comes! And may we all follow the Lord ever more closely, so we can spend our eternity with Him, and with all our precious brothers and sisters that have gone before us. What a reunion that will be!

Fearless and Full of Faith

A month or so ago, I was memorizing the last of a memory verses list that I had created a year or more previously. I came to Daniel 3:17-18, and as I began working on the passage I was struck with the beauty in it.

Imagine the scene:

Court retainers line the smooth walls of the throne room, their eyes keenly intent on the three young men standing before the great king Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, conqueror of much of the known world. The king’s eyes flash as he stares down each unrepentant man by turn, his voice a low rumble of angry thunder as he bends toward them. “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that you do not serve my gods, or worship the golden image that I have set up?”

The young men don’t waver for a second. Not once does their gaze shift to each other, and yet they remain silent. Waiting. The court tenses, each man knowing the fate of these foolish leaders if they don’t follow the king’s command.

“I will give you one more chance,” Nebuchadnezzar continues, his voice growing harsher with each word, “to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will immediately be thrown into the burning fiery furnace.” He pauses for a second, his gaze shifting from one uplifted face to the next. His final words cut through the room, a defiant challenge to those listening. “What god can save you from my power then?”

The throne room is silent. The king still leans forward, his threatening, keen gaze on the three men—administrators of the province of Babylon—standing before him.

Slowly, one sandaled foot raises and settles without a sound, another follows. A young man looks down at the tiles below his feet for a moment, takes a deep breath, and as he raises his eyes to meet those of the king, his shoulders draw back—not in pride, but in power.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”

The court gasps at his boldness, their attention riveted on the young speaker standing just one pace beyond his fellows. Many glance at the unmoving face of the king, then back to the firm yet hopeful countenance of the bright-eyed youth as he continues, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

An explosion of furious words blasts through the air, shattering the breathless silence.

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This statement…it’s powerful.

I don’t think I’d ever considered faith in the light I saw it in that morning while reviewing memory verses. These three young men—dear friends of Daniel—had complete trust in God.

I’m sure, as they stood there meeting the gaze of this king who could order their death at any moment, that there was some unease in their hearts. Any human facing death is bound to have a little (or maybe not, maybe I’ve always assumed that that’s a fact of life?). But they had such faith in the Lord that they weren’t overly concerned about it. They didn’t even mention death in their reply to the king! Their strength came from the Lord, and they knew it—and weren’t overly worried about other people knowing about it either.

This is true fearless faith.

Unswerving, unbending trust in the LORD, the Creator of the world and the Upholder of all things…including their lives.

As I was mulling over this beautiful fearless faith, I had to think of some of the other Bible stories that have to do with faith. Not too much later after memorizing these verses, my brothers and I listened to a dramatized audio version of David and Goliath from Your Story Hour. (By the way, I love how Your Story Hour shares Biblical stories! As a child, I often was quite bored with the same stories over and over, but they have a way of presenting them in a whole new light—I highly recommend looking into them if you want a fresh perspective for you or your children!)

Consider 1 Samuel 17:45-47:

“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”

Notice all the confident verbs (I think that’s what they are…correct me if I’m wrong!) in the passage. Again, David had no doubt that God would deliver Goliath into his hand; it was just a matter of going out and conquering him, which he saw as no challenge.

And of course there are plenty of other examples in the Bible too:

  • Abraham and Isaac (“God will provide Himself a lamb” Gen. 22:8)
  • Caleb (“give me this mountain” Josh 14:12)
  • Jonathan and his armor bearer (“there is no restraint to the Lord” 1 Sam. 14:6)
  • Jehoshaphat (“our eyes are upon thee” 2 Chron. 32:7)
  • Ezra (“The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him” Ezra 9:22)
  • Job (“I know that my redeemer liveth” Job 19:25)
  • Paul in the shipwreck (“I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” Acts 27:25)

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that I’ve remembered or been referenced to in my study.

I looked this subject up in my Thompson Chain-Reference, and the label they gave was “victorious faith”. That’s what these people had—victorious, fearless faith. Wow.

So I ask myself this evening: Do I have this unwavering, unrelenting faith in God?

Could I stand firm, even if I knew I faced certain death, and proclaim boldly that God is who He says He is and He will do what is best—whether to glorify Himself in taking me home to glory, or perform a miracle? That’s a tough call! I hope I can say yes, but I don’t know. Sometimes my faith seems to be quite weak!

How about you? Do you have this kind of faith? What would you do in a situation like the three young men were facing? Do you know of any other Biblical stories that would fit on this list? Has anything special popped out to you in your memorization time lately?

Good vs. Great (and Why I Don’t Like War Room)

I read great books all the time. Sometimes, it almost feels repetitive to say “this is such a great book!” because I’ve said it literally a hundred-plus times before. But the truth is—there are lots of great books out there. Yes, there are a lot of “good” ones, too. Ones that aren’t really great, but are still good and still teachable.

Often, I ponder the difference between these books. What makes one book just good and another really great? Do I judge a book as great simply because it had an adventure-filled storyline, or is it something deeper?

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Case in point: Just recently, my family and I got to watch War Room for the first time. If you’ve followed Christian news at all for the last year or so, I’m sure you’ve heard of this new movie from the Kendrick brothers. Having watched and appreciated the four previous movies, I figured this would be another great one as well. Well…I came away feeling less than impressed. The overall theme of the movie? Yes, that’s great. But the movie itself? Good, at best. Now, that isn’t the opinion of everyone in my family—praise God for different people with different strengths who can appreciate things I can’t so much!—but for me, I was disappointed to some extent.

As far as the encouragement to pray, I can go along with that 100%. I also appreciated the (whats-it-called?) cinematography—that was also well done. However, I felt like some of the things added to the movie were only there for the excitement factor (such as the jump-rope competition; yes, it was part of the story throughout, but it felt contrived). Many of the scenes felt like telling, not showing (characters just sat and yakked…which isn’t all bad AND there is some good stuff shared there, but it still was “telling”). And overall, I felt like the winning was contrived—whether it was the tension at home (wrapped up way too soon), or the bad guy being let off with a way too easy fine (considering the circumstances, he should have gotten a lot more punishment than he did), it wasn’t all that satisfying. Yes, it was good. Yes, I did mostly enjoy it in the end. But I’ve found a few bones to pick about it.

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Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Knowing that I tend to write some pretty lame fiction, I really don’t want to pass judgment on other people’s books. Maybe I’m cut out to be more of a reader than a writer, although I’m sure I’ll always secretly wish that I could be a writer too. Writing is just so fun! At the same time, though, I wonder why one book that should be great is just good. Average. Why somehow it’s failed to hit the higher point on the judgment meter, even though I know the author is a dedicated Christian who has the ability to craft amazing stories.

In rereading my review of 21 Days of Grace tonight (review will be up in about a week), I think I may have discovered a partial answer to that: The characters weren’t needy. By that I mean they didn’t desperately need an out, whatever it is. They weren’t flawed.

Is it possible that in writing Christian fiction we’re so steeped in our ideal of what Christianity should look like that we miss the fact that underneath we’re all sinners? That we’re all flawed, in some way or another? And as a result of this ideal we create people—saved or unsaved—in our stories that ultimately end up “perfect” (which, of course, isn’t possible or plausible in real life)?

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Of course, there’s got to be a balance here. We can’t glory in sin in order for characters to be flawed. And we can’t have them so flawed that it makes it unbelievable that they can ever be a true Christian. But perhaps we need to step outside of our idea of perfectionism just a little bit in order to grasp the beauty of what Christ has done for us. Perhaps once in a while we need to distance ourselves from what we know and believe is right and consider another point of view, in order to see the truth more clearly.

I’m sure there are more pieces to this puzzle that I haven’t figured out yet. There’s got to be. But maybe this is one key to work with, one reason that makes some books that should be great just good, and makes some books truly amazing.

What do you think? What are some differences that you can see between a “good” and a “great” book? Do you think we could be so blinded by our worldview that we can’t create engaging, useful stories?

He Will Be There for You

This is a mantra I’ve been chanting to myself over the past week or so. Things don’t always go as planned, and when disappointments arise I find myself asking “what, Lord? What do you want me to do in this situation? Was I assuming something wrong all along? What’s Your plan for my life—what should I be doing right now?”

This coming weekend, our homeschool group is holding their annual concert. It’s a time for families and individuals to share something—a piece of music they’ve learned, a short skit, a poem, or something along those lines. It’s a fun event, often going on for an hour and a half or more.

We first attended the concert five or six years ago. It was the first time in my life I’d ever been on stage, ready to say something to almost a hundred people, and I remember clearly the knee-shaky feeling as I stood there staring out over this group of almost-strangers. We sang four songs that time, songs that I had memorized but my brothers hadn’t had time to. It wasn’t that great, but we made it through—and what a relief to have it over with!

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Being up on stage has gotten somewhat better since then. I now know almost everyone in the audience, and knowing in advance about stage fright has made it a little less frightening (funny how that works!). Still, as I prepare for another round, I often think back over the last few years. The hilarious skits we watched (or participated in), a few flunks, that time when several people were unintentionally mean…almost a microcosm of life, in some ways. There’s great, there’s bad, and as always just a bit of average. In the end, we all have an enjoyable time and are drawn together just a bit more as a group.

About two weeks ago, I picked out several songs to go along with a poem Mom suggested—What God Hath Promised by Annie Johnson Flint. We’ll be singing Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and My Ways Are Not Your Ways to go along with that.

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

I find the messages of these songs quite an irony now. Of course, I had no idea then what personal significance they would have for me, even though they’ve always been encouraging. But as I struggle with disappointment, I realize the Lord knew all along. He knew that I’d find the words strangely thrilling as I sing them over and over trying to memorize the songs.

You know, God never promised things would be easy for us. But He’s promised that whatever the trial, He’ll be with us. Sometimes, He calls us to walk with Him in the darkness, and often we can’t understand why (Psalm 22:1 would be an example). Sometimes, we can’t see Him—but by any even small examination of the Psalms, we can easily see that the Lord hears us. He understands, and more than that, He is worthy of our praise!

Consider Psalm 28:6-8, for example:

Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

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Then there are other beautiful passages like Isaiah 43:2-3:

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.

Despite the pain, look to Jesus. Trust that He’s got a plan—a better plan—in place for you. You may be in the dark now, but He is your light. More than that, He understands and is more than willing to help you.

So this weekend, as we’re singing these songs and trying to be an encouragement to the dear friends who will be there, I’m praying that we will above all glorify the Lord. No matter what the future holds for any of us, He’s still there. As I was reading in Zechariah 2 this morning, He calls us “the apple of His eye” (I know, somewhat out of context…but it does apply, because just a few verses later we learn of “many nations being joined to the Lord”!).

Take courage, my friend. Stand in the strength the Lord has given you. I don’t know what you’re facing right now—perhaps, just maybe, you’re in a time of relative peace. Or maybe the devil seems to have all his guns out against you. I don’t know. But whatever is going on, know that if you’re truly following the Lord, this promise is for you: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

Guy/Girl Relationships: An Aha! Moment

These last few days, I’ve been really wondering what a Biblical perspective for guy/girl relationships is. How are we girls supposed to treat guys? Is it possible to be friends with a guy, and yet not have to worry about coming across as romantically interested when all you intend to do is simply be a friend? For me, it hasn’t been that hard to be friends with other girls. Yes, I’m always nervous when I meet new people, and am generally pretty quiet until I get to know them better. But I’ve never really had the chance to be friends with guys, probably at least partly due to the fact that I’m always worried that I’ll come across in a different way than I intend to.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this, and while I’m sure I don’t have the entire answer yet, I think I’ve found the key to the solution.

My problem is that I’ve always imagined friendships with guys with the view of them being possible future marriage partners. Never simply as “friends”.

Guy/Girl Relationships

From what I can see, these are two completely different friendships—the one with my girlfriends is mostly about being a blessing to them, listening when they have struggles, sharing struggles of your own, being together and talking about everything under the sun. However, what I’ve always imagined in a guy’s friendship is mostly stuff centered around romance and marriage. How selfish and pointless is that?

I think what’s happened is that I’ve unconsciously bought into a lie—and I’ll explain that in a moment.

I’ve got an older friend (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this!) that made a bad decision in her younger years. She went against the advice of her friends and family, and many years later realized her mistake and tried to correct it. However, from what I read in the Bible, her method of correcting the situation was wrong. That fact aside, she’s since told me that in effect, you should do what you deem is right, no matter what others say. That you should follow your heart no matter what the outcome will be, instead of leading your heart.

From what I’ve heard from modern music, TV, blogs, movies, the internet, and other sources (intentionally or not), I believe this is a modern worldly view. Modern media is pushing the thought that girls’ relationships with guys (and vice versa) can never be simply friendships. It’s okay to have lots of friends in your own gender, but if you cross over into the other gender, that most likely means that you’re interested in dating or going out with them.

The sad thing is, it’s so prevalent that I have unconsciously accepted that as truth. That I can’t have simple friendships with guys without having a “purpose” behind that friendship.

This is not only a lie, but it’s dangerous. And completely unbiblical.

A pertinent verse that comes to mind on this subject is one from 1 Timothy 5:1-2: “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethrenThe elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (emphasis mine)

Taken at face value, this literally means we girls should treat younger men as if they were our brothers, and for the guys to treat younger women as if they are their sisters. Note that nothing is said like “but it’s best if you’re only friends with those of your own gender.” The only stipulation is that you treat them “with all purity”. That would apply to both parties, I believe.

For me, this is revolutionary—that it is okay to simply be friends. Of course, we still have to be careful in our friendships. We still have to be aware that others may see and interpret our words and actions differently than we do. But if we keep to treating everyone “with all purity”, in Christ’s love, be sober minded (yes, I’m talking to myself), and continually commit every friendship to the Lord—whether it be within our own gender or not—we should be alright.

Oh, and sober minded? Different definitions could include self-controlled, wise, discreet, or sensible.

Here are two other helpful passages as well:

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” —1 Timothy 4:12–16

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”—Titus 2:4–8

The Flow of History

If there’s one thing I remember doing in my earliest memories, it would be having our family worship time. Although the times of day when we do it has changed over the years, it’s an every day occurrence aside from Sundays. I only remember one time when we’ve actually missed having it, and that was not on purpose, believe me! This is a long-standing tradition, one that I’m sure will never stop, even after all of us children eventually leave home.

01: Flow of History

I really respect my dad for keeping it up all these years. It can’t be easy for him; often he’s had long days at work and he’s physically drained, but he always makes sure that we have our Bible time.Over the years, we’ve done at least two almost cover-to-cover read-throughs of the Bible (we’ve skipped some of the genealogies—the younger children have a hard time reading, let alone understanding, all the names!). I can’t remember exactly when we started the last read-through, but it was probably a year or two ago. We got up to 1 Kings 7 by October last year, then Dad decided to switch to Blue Letter Bible’s Chronological reading plan. Reading the Bible this way adds a whole new dimension to the stories and context, which makes it quite interesting! Currently, we’re reading in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah.

As we’ve been reading through Kings and Chronicles, I’ve noticed some interesting “threads” of history. I’m keeping track of those findings on slips of paper, and eventually I’ll transfer them into my journal for safe keeping. I thought I’d share them here today, since I find the similarities so interesting.

The Flow of History #1:

Taken from: II Kings 15, especially verses 9, 18, 24, and 28.

Zachariah, son of Jeroboam, king of Israel (not related to the first king of Israel; he was Jehu’s great-great grandson, according to the word of the Lord—see II Kings 10:30)

  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins (Jeroboam the son of Nebat was the first king of Israel, and this is who it is referring to)
  • Was conspired against and killed by Shallum (vs. 10; who was in turn killed a month later by Menahem)

Menahem, son of Gadi, king of Israel

  • Killed Shallum (who had killed Zachariah)
  • Died a natural death
  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins

Pekahiah, son of Menahem, king of Israel

  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins
  • Conspired against and killed (vs. 25)

Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel

  • Killed Pekahiah
  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins
  • Conspired against and killed by Hoshea the son of Elah (vs. 30)

IN CONCLUSION:

Jeroboam the son of Nebat set a precedent that was never overturned. He went down in history as the “man who made Israel to sin.” What precedent are YOU setting?

I found it fascinating that of the five kings in this chapter, all followed the sins of Jeroboam and four out of the five were conspired against and killed. Isn’t that interesting? Reminds me of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

02: Flow of History

The Flow of History #2

Taken from: II Chronicles 21-29

Chapter 21: Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, who was the son of Asa, king of Judah (the latter two followed the Lord)

  • His mother’s name is not mentioned
  • Married Ahab’s daughter (21:6)
  • Compelled Judah to sin (21:11)

Chapter 22: Ahaziah, youngest son of Jehoram, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Athaliah (22:2; we find out later in the chapter that she killed all her grandsons so she could reign over Judah)
  • Walked in the ways of Ahab (an evil king of Israel; 22:3)

Chapter 24: Joash, son of Ahaziah, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Zibiah (24:1)
  • Did that which was right all the years that Jehoiada the priest was alive (24:2)

Chapter 25: Amaziah, son of Joash, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Jehoaddan (25:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (25:2)

Chapter 26: Uzziah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Jecoliah (26:3)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (26:4-5)

Chapter 27: Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah

  • Mother was Jerushah (27:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (27:2)

Chapter 28: Ahaz, son of Jotham, king of Judah

  • No mother named
  • Provoked the Lord God to anger (28:25)

Chapter 29: Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah (one of the most righteous kings in Judaean king history; he prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians and the Lord defeated the army)

  • Mother’s name was Abijah (29:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that king David had done (29:2)

IN CONCLUSION:

The Godly mothers are named for the kings that followed the Lord. Only one evil king out of the three mentioned had his mother named, and that was because everyone knew how evil she was. We are all examples to someone, just as these mothers were to their sons. What kind of example are you setting before your coworkers, your siblings, your children, or others that you come in contact with on a frequent basis? What kind of Godly influence are YOU?

Indeed, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

Be blessed, friend. Live for Jesus today.
-Esther

Why It’s Important to Choose Your Books Wisely—I’m Guest Posting!

Why you should know what your child is reading

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Kendra Stamy, author of the blog A Proverbs 31 Wife, asked me to write a guest post for her. This was a difficult post to write, because I know some of the things I talk about could potentially be very controversial. At the same time, as Mom kept reminding me, these are the kinds of things that need to be shared. After lots of prayer and writing and rewriting, it’s now live. If you’re interested to hear my thoughts on why it’s important to know what your child reads (or why it’s important to choose wisely yourself!), go here.

One Year Thankfulversary: Giveaway Time!

When I mentioned that I wanted to do a giveaway yet this month to my mom, she asked “is it because you launched the site about this time last year?”

“No…but that could be the reason!” I replied.

One Year Celebratory Giveaway

While that isn’t the only reason why we’re having a giveaway today, it is part of it. I enjoy giving things to people, love celebration, and love meeting goals. One of my yearly goals was to have a giveaway sometime here in the first quarter, and with that coming to an abrupt end in about a day, I think it’s about time to try to accomplish that goal!

Like I said before, I love celebration. For the most part, I love this thing called life that God has called each of us to live. And I love celebrating the little things—hasn’t He given us so very, very much? Just pause and look around for a moment, if you’re in doubt. See that bed? He gave you the gift of being able to relax and rejuvenate in sleep. Hear that bird? He made that amazingly complex machine. He made it all. And we should praise Him for that.

Beach

Today, I’m praising Him for a year well lived. Yes, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but He’s been there through it all. Through His love, He has brought many people past this website, and I’m thankful for that. And I hope in the coming year, we’ll be able to help even more people find good books.

Thank YOU, too, for sticking with me through the ups and downs and learning curves and pictures blowing out the side of your inboxes…thanks for understanding. 🙂 And thank you in advance for your support in the coming year.

And now for the giveaway! Since Easter has just finished (how was YOUR Easter?), I’ll do a Bible-themed giveaway. We’ll have several winners, so when you enter you’ll have the chance to receive one of the following:

  • A $20 Amazon.com gift card
  • Joseph of Arimathea by Sarah Holman: Two Kindle editions (from Amazon.com) of this book will be given away. I was reading this last Easter, and really enjoyed the story!
  • More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell: One paperback copy, can be sent from Book Depository. So far, this is one of my hands-down favorites in the Christian apologetics world—very practical and readable!
  • DVD of ABC Say it With Me: Bible Memory Verses: —Available only within the US. Our family loves this, and I’m sure the younger people in your life would as well.

Note: This giveaway is open worldwide, just as long as you can receive books and gift cards from Amazon.com. Please note that the DVD is only available to people who live in the US.

So in total if you add all that up, we’ll have FIVE winners! Yay!

Enter below. Giveaway begins on March 30th at 7 am EDT and ends in two weeks, on April 13th at 8 am EDT. (I’ll stick with Eastern time—adding New Zealand time to the mix is too confusing.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And legal info: Want to see the Terms and Conditions for the giveaway? Go here.

May God bless your coming week!

Esther