ALABASTER JARS

Life in Abundance


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Open Mouth, Insert Foot

by Cynthia Ward
foot in mouth

photo credit: flickr.com/photos/pdr/33530081

Are you kidding me? Did that guy really just say that out loud? That’s what I thought during my Bible study at church. We were studying Luke 1:7—“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.”

The discussion turned towards how childless couples were considered cursed; how children were considered a blessing; and how those without children had obviously done something wrong in the eyes of God. Then, out of nowhere, this guy pipes up, “Well you know who’s to blame—Elizabeth. It says she was barren.”

The room was quickly flooded by an angry wave of intense murmuring. How dare he say such a thing! As if any woman, desperate to have a child and yet unable to have one, would be to blame. A thousand rude comments clogged my throat as I clamped my mouth shut—which is very unusual for me. I spent the rest of the study time stewing over this Neanderthal’s comment.

But then I started to really think about the fact that Elizabeth had no children. What could have been the reason? I know that medical issues could easily explain this, but just follow my train of thought: In verse 6, Luke says Zachariah and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God.” Maybe Elizabeth’s barrenness was part of God’s plan all along. I mean, let’s be honest. Parents with many children parent differently from those with just one or two.

God chose Elizabeth and Zachariah to be the parents of a very special person, the one who was to pave the way for His Son. This person was to begin softening the hearts of God’s children. To be aptly prepared for the job, he would require a solid foundation in his early, formative years. He would need the undivided attention of parents who had the time to bring him up to fulfill the job description of his career. Just think about the man that John the Baptist became. He was a true believer, a dynamic preacher, and a great leader of his time.

Elizabeth—having been barren for so long, having matured along the way, having watched the errors of young mothers—had a huge advantage. She didn’t have other children or responsibilities to distract her. Both Zachariah and she were at a point in their lives where they could fully embrace God’s plan and focus all their time, resources and energy on bringing up John to fulfill the prophecy of a messenger.

And this may not have been the case without Elizabeth’s barrenness. Think about this the next time you find yourself praying for that one thing you need to fulfill your greatest desires. Never put your limits on God. He has amazing plans for you in His time.

You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.
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Much Like Dirty Pots

by Ruth-Ann Thompson

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. John 13:8, New International Version.

small__6112258221It had been a particularly stressful few days—sickness, unplanned meetings, unexpected visitors, plus an assignment that took me away from home and the children for a whole day. Routine household cleaning was the last thing on my mind.

Returning home at the end of the last long day, I looked around my messy home and wasn’t sure where I should begin. But when I couldn’t have a drink of water because there wasn’t a clean glass in sight, dishwashing was the obvious place to start. Somehow, without me noticing and being somewhat too tired to care, our dishes had piled up.

I was shocked. While I was busy, my family had done nothing to help out. Every dish, cup, glass, mug, bowl and every utensil and receptacle was absolutely filthy! Some had to be soaked for a later scrubbing! Time seemed to go on forever as I scrubbed and scoured (and scowled and screamed).

And then through my frustration, I realized that my sins are far more disgusting than any stack of dirty dishes could ever be. So often I go to God with my plan expecting Him to do a quick and simple cleansing process on me and send me on my way! But then He gently reminds me that there is so much more work He has to do.

With that insight, I chose not to be angry with my family. In my attempt to remove the toothpick from their eyes, God showed me the telephone pole that was lodged in my own.

So wash me clean, dear Father. Do what you must to remove every impurity from my soul.

You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.

photo credit: cuantofalta via photopin cc


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Dinner With Jesus

How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom. Luke 14:15, The Message.

I’m a homebody, relieved rather than offended when left off a guest list. But when the invitation is from the boss or from Al and Tipper Gore, I’m smart enough to accept with graciousness, show up on time and have a good time (The Gore invitation really happened, and I’ve been waiting years to weave it into a conversation. It was a wonderful evening even if we didn’t shake hands with them or if the only thing I ate that evening was the asparagus.)

The point is, everyone knows you’re supposed to show up when the invitation is from someone important, someone high up. So, it’s obvious the story Jesus tells in Luke 14 about the dinner fiasco is fictional. Yet the ridiculousness of the story drives home several points—the host is super ticked off when the guests don’t show; strangers off the street are treated to the gourmet meal of their lives; and the original guests never get invited again. At the end of the story, the obvious moral is: Don’t be a fool and blow your chance at something fabulous.

But I think there’s more to the story than foolishly losing what should have been yours. It’s not so much about missing out on the dinner as it is about why you chose to miss it in first place. I believe the crux of the story lies in the reasons the guests gave for not attending the dinner party: One guy was so involved in his real estate holdings that he simply could not get away. The next one was in the middle of a financial transaction that involved cow trading. And the third was on his honeymoon.

Out of our possessions, professions and relationships, emerge legitimate obligations and urgent needs that we serve up as excuses for not doing the important stuff. Fools, we dish out these excuses to God, naively hoping He doesn’t see through us. And later, when the same things that kept us from chilling with God collapse–when we lose our job, home or family–we knock on His door, hoping His grace will blind Him of times when we tossed that dinner invitation into the trash. That’s a pretty disgusting, yet truthful, picture of who we really are.

There are a million options out there for the New Year’s festivities. But do it right. Grab a chair at the Table of God’s Goodness. Revel in His presence. Give praise for everything–the joys, the pains. And acknowledge that God has been with you every step of the way.

Bring it on, 2012! I’ll be having dinner with Jesus. Every day.

(This is a reading from the book Alabaster Jars, Vol 1. Buy a copy of the book here. It’s also available as a Kindle ebook. Find out how you can write for the next volume here.)