ALABASTER JARS

Life in Abundance


Leave a comment

Problems Take a Back Seat

by Fylvia Fowler Kline
God’s name be ever blessed. Job 1:21, The Message

I was there to listen to Bruce sing again in the quartet for the first time in three years. To compensate for the loss of salivary glands, he took long sips of water between songs. And on one of his water breaks, he shared his testimony. He began, “Three years ago I got the blessing of cancer.”

It was a time when nothing seemed to be going right. His health was in crisis, his marriage was falling apart and his business was struggling. A man of faith, Bruce turned over his problems to the Lord. He prayed, he meditated on God’s Word, he exercised faith at every turn, he surrendered to God’s will. But he couldn’t shake the heaviness of his problems. It hovered over him. Then one day while praying, he realized that it wasn’t enough to turn everything over to God. He needed to find a way to praise God for his problems. He needed to live like he really believed that “all things work together for good to them who love the Lord.” And that’s when his problems took a back seat in his life. And that’s why he is able to say his cancer was a blessing.

There’s the kind of faith that helps you to stoically wait for God’s plan to unfold, so you can see in hindsight that everything that happened was meant to be. Then there’s the dynamic kind of faith that does more—It is an active agent that enables you to laugh and live and rejoice during your trials. Most all Christians have the first kind of faith. But those who have the second kind live every day with the rush of contentment and peace.

It was this second kind of faith that allowed Job to chastise his wife with the words, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

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.


Leave a comment

The Crazy Side of Divine

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Luke 1:38, The Message.

Seems to me like most of God’s plans are on the somewhat crazy side of divine. Is it to amuse His audience, to make obedience that much more difficult or is it just for theatrical purposes?

For instance, making man out of dirt, fighting a giant with a boy, bringing down a city wall with horns and trumpets, feeding thousands with a couple of fish. And, of course, creating Baby Messiah without sperm.

What’s with all this divine flamboyance? I’m not second-guessing God; just wondering. After a closer look and a more serious reading of the stories, it seems like all the behind-the-scene acts of grace imply that it’s not about His own dramatic glory or self-gratification. Likewise, all the love and mercy He pours out on us wretched people imply that it’s not about trapping us into sin either. So, the only reason I can come up with for these bizarre plans of God is to nurture trust.

God asks Noah to build an ark during rainless times or asks us to do something equally nonsensical not because he likes to confuse humans or play Twenty Questions, but because he wants us to learn to trust Him. God wants us to be willing to do it His way, no matter how crazy the request.

We need to have the faith to know that when God asks us to do the illogical, He does the impossible. Like when Mary was told she would have a baby as a virgin, we too must be able to say with ease and conviction, “I am the Lord’s, ready to serve.”


Leave a comment

A Jar of Stale Bread

By Fylvia Fowler Kline 

Keep a two-quart jar of it . . . so they can see the bread I fed you in the wilderness. Exodus 16:32, The Message.

If you just got off a toast diet that you were on three times a day, for 40 years, I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to ever see toast again. You might even go all Atkins and give up carbs altogether. And toast art would be the last thing framed and displayed on your mantle.

Yet, after 40 years of only manna on the menu, God tells His people to store some manna in a two-quart jar and display it in a place of prominence so the grandchildren would not forget the manna stories. Personally, I really don’t think they needed pneumonic devices to remember 40 years of manna! But God knew better.

God knows how the human ego retells a story—how we love to give ourselves the credit, how we exaggerate our part and minimize the role of others. The manna in the jar was for future generations to know that God fed His children every day of the 40 years. It was not about having eaten manna, but about being fed by God. It was not about the pillars of cloud and fire, but about being protected by God. It was not about surviving the wilderness, but about being saved for the Promised Land.

The jar of manna was about God’s desire for every child of Israel to look at the jar and believe, without a doubt, that the God of the Exodus would be with them forever.

What’s in your two-quart jar that reminds you of God Everlasting?

 


Leave a comment

On Seeing Red

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

When Sky came along, it was Roy’s turn to play stay-at-home parent. Every day, they both spent time in anticipation of mommy coming home (which made me feel very special). Every day, there’d be a card or a handmade trinket waiting for me. But once in a while, they’d surprise me and personally deliver my gift.

A visit to mommy’s office was always very exciting, but Sky would get impatient during the trip. It was only 11 miles to the office, but distance and time are, of course, beyond a toddler’s comprehension.

One day, Roy came up with a clever way to address Sky’s impatience. He said, “Mommy’s office is five red lights away. You can count them and know when we’re there.”

Sky looked at him, “You are wrong, Daddy.”

Patiently, Roy assured her that he knew what he was talking about. “I have driven on that road many times,” he said. “And I have counted the number of traffic lights. You just trust Daddy. Count the five times you see a red light and we’ll be there.”

Sky narrowed her eyes, let out a big sigh and clearly emphasized each word, “You. Are. Still. Wrong.” She continued impatiently, “You can’t drive through red lights to get anywhere. You have to wait till they turn green. So there are five green lights to get to Mommy’s office.”

That conversation told us a lot about the person Sky was going to grow up to be. And since those early toddler days, she has continued to reinforce in us, over and over again, the importance of a positive perspective.

You can spend your life seeing red, the stuff that slows your pace and cramps your style. Or you can live in anticipation of the green, the things that herald new opportunities and exciting options.


Leave a comment

If Wishes Could Come True

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

I’m a realist. I’m so objective that in our very first year of marriage, I released Roy from the obligation of roses, chocolates and niceties on Valentine’s and anniversaries. But then, every once in a while, excess estrogen foams to the surface and I slip into wishful thinking. Today is one of those days. So, here goes.

Ten things I wish I could have right now.

  1. All three of my children living with me or next door to me.
  2. Daily diet of chocolate, fruit, rice and fried fish—with an ample supply of fresh coconut on the side.
  3. A green thumb and a golden voice.
  4. A bed by a window that looks over the ocean.
  5. The ability to travel, volunteer, help–anytime, anywhere.
  6. Pets that don’t die or poo.
  7. A book deal that’ll send Grisham into exile.
  8. The license to be snarky–anytime, anywhere.
  9. Roy seeing the wisdom in downsizing.
  10. Never needing sleep.

Make time for yourself today. Sit in your favorite chair. Relax with a cup of whatever. And give yourself the luxury of making a list of wishes. One of them just might turn up one day as a serendipitous blessing. (I got #4 for two days last month!)


Leave a comment

Dung and Stars

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

Before moving to Nepal, I did my research. Lonely Planet, the Internet and an uncle who had lived there. But my information sources obviously did not prepare me enough. As I stepped out of the airplane, the smell hit me, almost knocking me over—the warm, pungent combination of diesel fumes, animal dung, and human sweat.

The hour-long drive from the airport was decorated with sights to match the smells. Animals and humans defecating side by side. Ancient buses grinding against one another, puffing black fumes. From somewhere deep inside my sterile soul came a silent scream, “Take me back to air-conditioned homes and litter-free streets!”

With every new day, I grew increasingly sensitive to every dung heap and diesel cloud. My daily walks were carefully orchestrated—wear shoes at all times; ensure pant legs end above ankles; use perfumed handkerchief to cover nose; and most importantly, don’t take eyes off the road. Always. Look. Down.

The inevitable happened one dark night. I stepped into a fresh, warm pile. In anger, I waved my arms into the black night and yelled out my every suppressed thought. And as I vented, the brilliant beauty hit me: Nepal’s coal black sky, far away and untouched by the pollution of its soil, showered me with the most beautiful stars I had ever seen—translucent, shimmering sparkles of perfect beauty. A canopy of gems, fit only for nobility; yet it shone on everyone alike.

Standing in a pile of dung, I was lost in exquisite beauty. All that time, while engrossed in combating the smells of Nepal, I missed out on the beauty. All that time, I was looking down instead of looking up.

Standing in that heap, I realized that life is kind of like dung and stars. There’s the good and the not so good. I can either spend my time looking out for the smelly stuff in life or I can revel in the beauty.

Life is what we make of it. A heap of dung. Or a thing of beauty.


Leave a comment

The Call and The Cookie

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1, The Message.

When our family received a call to go to Nepal as missionaries, I said no. It was the worst possible time–My career that was perched for great possibilities would die; my son’s intensive piano lessons that were preparing him for a future in composition would be jeopardized; my daughter’s academic goals would be crushed; and my husband’s break from the for-profit business sector would make him less marketable when we returned. It simply did not make sense. But God knew better. His persistence grew stronger with my every objection. The signs I got would have put Gideon, Moses and Joseph to shame; yet I refused.

Then, one Sabbath, away from home, Roy and I opened the Yellow Pages to find a church to attend. There were many; so, we randomly picked one and began our drive. Less than three minutes on the road, I spotted a church and suggested we attend that one instead of the one we had picked. Roy refused (his Germanic genes do not allow changes in plans). Five minutes later, I saw another; Roy refused. Another ten minutes went by and there was another church; Roy refused. We were now late for the service.

By the time we got to the church, the sermon had begun. And I was furious with Roy. Just as we sat down, the minister said, “Faith is about setting out on a journey without all the answers to your questions.” Roy nudged me. My response was silence, but I could not help scribbling the quote in my Bible.

The trip back to the hotel was long and silent. I took a nap that afternoon to blot out the irony of attending that particular church and hearing that particular message. I woke up late, hungry and miserable. We ordered Chinese takeout and ate in silence. The meal ended and I broke open my fortune cookie. It said: “You will go to a strange and far away land.”

In that moment I imagined God smile and say, “Checkmate.” After six years of our mission service, life was just as I had predicted—my career took a dive. My son’s music career never happened. My daughter didn’t end up in an Ivy League school. My husband did not find a job comparable to his strengths and experience. Yet we gained more than we lost. Our journey of faith that began with a fortune cookie took us into an experience of complete trust in God. We survived political strife, physical hardships, poor health, emotional trials and dangerous conditions. Every day was an adrenaline rush of miracles, a continual supply of blessings.

When I was able to give up my vision for myself and obey God’s call instead, God’s plans became my plans, His desires my desires. And in Him, I found abundant joy even in the worst of times.