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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Rodents in Life

by Cynthia Ward

There is nothing that can bring a man to his knees faster than a small rodent. I am watching two men looking out the window, waiting for a gopher to poke his head above ground. Now this does not mean they will be able to do anything to the gopher. It just means they will now be able to lay blame for the damage to the landscape on this evil rodent.

In the last two weeks, three different vehicles have been damaged, to the tune of $1200, by squirrels chewing on the engine wires of the cars. Now it’s gophers destroying the lawn.

In moments like this, it is hard to comprehend God’s plan when He created the rodent. But first, I should make it very clear—I am not, in any way, someone who has devoted her life to the study of rodents; nor am I someone who participates in lawn care. So my life is hardly disrupted by rodents. I actually enjoy watching squirrels scamper around. I even believe that, in the grand scheme of things, rodents are mini rototillers that replant our forests. Of course, I keep that information from men who seek revenge upon rodents.

Everything has been changed by sin. It is difficult to see the need for something when sin blurs our vision. Who sees the rainbow when the floodwaters are everywhere? Why notice the tiny new oak tree when all around us is the fire-ravaged timber?

Today, ask God to open your eyes to the blessings that you sometimes quickly overlook or misjudge because of the overwhelming burdens that come with it.


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Parked in a Bathtub

by Cynthia Ward

Last week I found myself on my hands and knees at the bottom of my bathtub thanking God.

Let’s just say I graduated from large sizes a long time ago and have been wrapped up in XXL most of my adult life. So falling is something that is dangerous both for me and for those around me. So it wasn’t a good start to my day when a bar of soap gone crazy and the lack of support from the shower curtain sent me to the bottom of the tub. I landed hard on my hands and knees. I held that pose for at least a minute before the pain kicked in. Even with the pain spreading up my limbs, I thanked God I landed the way I did and not on my backside, unable to get off the floor by myself. Visions of paramedics peeling me off the floor, all wet and slippery, and dragging me off to the emergency room were very real.

I slowly, and painfully, hoisted myself to a standing position, checked to make sure nothing was broken, and tried to slow down the rapid beating of my heart. I paused for a few minutes, waiting to see if the others in my home had heard—or felt—the fall and

might come to check out the damages. But all was quiet.

For the rest of the day, every time I stood, walked or sat, I was painfully reminded of my morning adventure. I repeated the story many times throughout the day and, after the first couple of times, was able to join in the laughter at my expense.

When I arrived home at the end of the day, I told my mother of my morning mishap. She responded, “I thought I heard something.” When I asked my sister, her response was much the same, but she added, “I figured if you needed help, you would have called out to us.”

How many times have you been down on your hands and knees, still resisting the urge to call out for help because you were too embarrassed to have people see how stupid you are? In Revelation 3:20 Jesus tells us, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” He is right there, just waiting for us to call out to Him. He already knows what I’ve done, and yet He still waits for me to call out to Him.


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The Pig on the Road

by Cynthia Ward

I am number four of five children who didn’t often get to visit extended family in California. So any opportunity for a road trip to see Grandma was wonderful.

When I was 12, a family friend was getting married in California near where my grandmother lived. I begged my mom to let me go with Violet, the groom’s mother, who didn’t want to travel alone anyway. My mom said yes; I was thrilled; and Violet was glad for the company.

That morning I piled into the car with great excitement. After the required prayer for safe travel, we backed out of our driveway and headed towards California. It should have been a five-hour journey from our small town to Grandma’s home, except that Violet was a good Christian woman who abided by all highway rules and regulations. In other words, we never broke the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit.

Finally, as we were nearing our destination in the San Francisco Bay Area, we merged with hundreds of other cars driving on a five-lane highway. With Violet resolutely stuck in the slowest lane, I had plenty of opportunity to see everything. Soon a flatbed pickup truck was alongside us. Around the truck bed was a wooden slat fence. Within the fenced area of the flatbed were a dog, a calf and a pig—and plenty of hay. Just as the truck began to pass us, the back fence guard fell off and splintered all over the highway. Naturally this caught our attention. And we watched what happened next in horror.

The pig apparently decided this was his stop. He walked up to the edge of the flatbed and leapt out onto the highway right in front of our car. The pig landed on its side. But because it was so fat, it bounced back up on its feet. Instinctively Violet slammed on her brakes. But there was no way we were going to stop before we hit that pig head on. I can still hear her shout out, “Stop us, Jesus!” And we stopped. Just like that. There was no skidding of tires, no swerving into the other lane. We just stopped. Right on that spot.

The pig walked around our car and poked his head through our window. He was huge! And after poking his nose at us, he proceeded to the side of the road. We could hear car tires squealing all around us, but we were safe; and so was the pig. Neither the pig nor our car was hit by another vehicle.

I think about the big fat pig every once in a while and remember that I’m safe in the hands of God.

 


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Singin’ in The Blessings

by Cynthia Ward

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10, New International Version.

Tithing has always been a difficult task for me. I have read all the verses in the Bible; I have listened to all the sermons about the importance of tithing; and I have seen the blessings of tithing. But I continue to struggle with it. Recently, however, I began to understand what tithing really means.

You see, all along I thought that if I give my 10 percent, the Lord Almighty would “open the floodgates of heaven” and give me back that 10 percent and then some. But you know, not once does the Bible say that I’m getting the money back. What it does say is that I’m going to have so many blessings poured out so much that I will not have room to contain all of it. It says blessings, not money.

Blessings such as those I have experienced: Like the time when the insurance company started deducting my payment from my account a month later, when I was better prepared to pay the full amount. Or the time I got a gift card to purchase gas just when I was running out of money and wasn’t sure I’d be able drive my car to and from work. Then there was the time there was so much of leftovers from the company picnic that I had free meals for three days.
I guess my struggle comes from my focus on the money, not the blessings. I have been spending so much time waiting for my 10 percent check back from God that I forgot to notice all the blessings that were raining down on me. I was soaked in blessings and didn’t even notice or really care.

I still struggle sometimes, but when my first check each month is made out to God, I spend my time now singin’ in the blessings!


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Caves are for the Bears

by Cynthia Ward

Do good to those who hate you. Luke 6:27, New King James Version.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure when the comment in Luke 6:27-31 was made, it did not pertain to my enemies and me. You see, I deal with a special group of folks. They are different from the ones the Lord was talking about in Luke. Had he considered some of the people I have to deal with, I can say with certainty that he would have said something like this:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, (except the ones who don’t listen to your perfectly good advice), bless those who curse you, (except the ones who gossip about you), pray for those who mistreat you, (except the ones who make every effort to humiliate you in public). If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also (unless a penetrating glare can freeze them in their place). If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. (But if they look down their nose at you, just give them the clothes you don’t like). Give to everyone who asks you, (never forgetting though, that enough is enough), and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back (Just take it when they’re not looking). Do to others as you would have them do to you, (because you are obviously the better person).”

Is there anything more difficult than a relationship? Even your best friend can sometimes make you want to spit. Time and time again we are given counsel on how we can be a better friend. Never does the Bible say, “Tell your friend to do this, and you will treat them better.” Instead it says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Is that not the easiest request? Yet it is one that’s almost impossible to do. Jesus created us to be in relationships, even if crawling into a cave for a week is something you privately dream of. Come on, give it a try. Smile at the person who drives you crazy, and tell them you’re happy to see them. You’ll see, cave dwelling is strictly for the bears.

(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.)