ALABASTER JARS

Life in Abundance


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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.”


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Waves of Anger

by Stephanie Yamniuk

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8, New International Version.

Soon after we were married, my husband and I attended a seminar.* We were beginning our new life and looking for ways to build a peaceful life together. Ten years later, I still remember a technique we learned to get rid of negative thoughts.

When you feel angry or hurt, it’s easy to begin a negative script in your head. It goes something like, “I can’t believe he just said that. How rude! If only I could tell him what a jerk he is, I would. In fact, I remember when . . . .” This negative self-talk is just as destructive as discouraging words and hurtful actions. What we tell ourselves in our hearts and minds soon becomes reality. To break this negative cycle, you must fill your mind with something positive. One technique is to think of a song you like and singing it in your mind when negative self-talk starts taking over your thoughts.

When I am feeling angry or frustrated, I often cry out in prayer and sing the song, ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus. The chorus goes like this:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

With children just 12 months apart, I used to often feel overwhelmed trying to balance the life of a wife, a mother and a workingwoman. Some mornings were worse than others–-getting two sleepy children out of bed; feeding them breakfast when they weren’t hungry (the daycare wouldn’t feed them); and then trying to leave the house on time. And all this without bursting into tears.

But then, God gave me this song to sing and soon my children knew it too.

Thank you Lord, for your patience and compassion. * All Power Seminar by Leo Schreven


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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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Angel in Boots

by Doina Cismas Jeffrey

I was driving home after an evening shift at work. It was shortly after midnight and snowing as I got into my car. The roads were a little slick and there was just enough snow on the road to cause a slushy snow splash every now and then on my windshield. This made it difficult to see, even with the wipers on.

A semi-truck right in front of me moved slowly, throwing huge amounts of slush on my windshield. I decided to pass the truck, knowing my little Honda Civic had good tires and was stable on the road. As I passed and pulled in front of the truck, I felt the car spin. Right then, I knew it was the end. ”God, this is it,” I prayed.

What followed was remarkable. After I uttered the words “God, this is it,” there was no fear, no struggle trying to control the car, no semi-truck, not even the lights on the edge of the freeway. It seemed as though I just woke up and found myself in the center grassy median with my front tires buried in the ground all the way up to the bumper. And I was alive without a scratch or ache.

My first words were “Thank you, God.” Realizing there were very few cars on the road so late at night in such bad road conditions, I prayed again, “God, please send someone to help me.” Within seconds, a large white dual-wheel pickup pulled up behind me, onto the median. A large man with a white cowboy hat got out of the pickup, walked up to my window and asked if he could help me. His face and voice were kind. Could God have answered me so quickly?

The man had the chains needed to pull my car out. And when he was done, he would not accept any payment. All he asked was that I help someone else in need.

As he was leaving, I sat in my car attempting to muster up the courage to continue my drive home. When I looked up a few seconds later, the pickup was gone. There was no one in sight even though the road was straight and I could see down the road for miles.

Was that my angel that night? Did God perform a miracle? Had time somehow stopped while my car spun on the road to prevent me from being killed? Maybe. After all, with God all things are possible. This verse now has much more meaning for me: “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those that fear Him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).


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My Dream Bug

by Ruth-Ann Thompson

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8, King James Version.

It seems that every September I begin a new walking program. The Summer heat has curtsied to the crisp coolness of Fall, and I feel that I can breathe freely as I exercise. This morning was no exception and I was anxious to get started. After a few light stretches, I began. Just as I was picking up my pace, I saw a scary looking half-spider, half-tick, part-crab and part- monster, creepy-crawly-creature-thingy crossing my path.

Imagining that it was growling at me and following me on my walk, I decided to squash it. I skillfully lifted my right leg and paused–ever so careful to aim with precision–then slammed my foot down. Satisfied I had destroyed my target, I lifted my foot only to see millions of baby scary looking half-spider, half-tick, part-crab and part-monster creepy-crawly-creature- thingies scampering in every direction! Ewww! I gasped as I propelled forth with the speed of an Olympic sprinter. I screamed, running faster than the cars on the street nearby. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I shivered. I stomped my feet repeatedly into a nearby puddle only to realize that my old walking shoes had a hole in the right toe.

Itching ensued as I swatted at imaginary creatures on my legs, arms, neck and everywhere else. (I’m still scratching as I write this!) Once I settled down—and believe me, it took quite awhile for that to happen—I had to smile. Even though I tried to end the life of that bug-creature-thingy, it would live on through its many babies.

We all have dreams inside of us—“thingies” that we would love to give birth to—and the devil seeks to destroy us at every turn. Let’s determine not to let him squash our dreams.


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God in the Back Pages

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

If the family is too small for a lamb, then share it with a close neighbor. Exodus 12:4, The Message

As it is with most things, it’s the sensational side of God that makes the headlines. Like when He parted the Red Sea, or when He asked little David to fight Goliath, or when He sent down a chariot to whisk Elijah into heaven. It’s not that I don’t like these stories, but sometimes these stories shroud my God in an awesome, holy glow that makes me feel unworthy and hesitant in His presence.

That’s why my favorite stories are the obscure ones, the ones that take just a verse or two to tell, those that make the back page and not the headlines. These brief stories speak to me of a Father God, someone who is sensitive, understanding and extremely reasonable. Such is the story told in the first few verses of Exodus 12–It’s time for the last plague, the death of the firstborn. The only way to escape death is to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on the doorpost.

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single Hebrew family that was going to risk losing a child. Every family was determined to get a lamb, no matter the cost. One lamb per family was not much to ask on the eve of their freedom.

Here’s the scene: No one is questioning the cost of the goat or the demands of God. They are willing to do whatever it takes. But God makes a concession– God takes into account that one lamb per family may be too expensive for some, that a whole roasted lamb may result in wasted food. So this mighty, awesome God of mine—who is in a time crunch and in the middle of the major project of delivering an entire nation out of slavery—takes the time to pay attention to something comparatively insignificant. And He tells the people to share a lamb if needed.

God makes time for the little things. He’s concerned about my food budget, my dying garden and my bulging waist. I love that my God doesn’t expect me to just suck it up and look forward to the Second Coming. No, He sends His Holy Spirit to help me with mundane human activities too.


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Born Again by Grace

by Michelle Caviness

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1: 3-4, New International Version

On August 29 of last year I was reborn! I ran through the grass with my arms outstretched to the sky, praising God, crying, laughing. I finally allowed years of guilt and unworthiness to roll off my back.

Since I was a little girl, I have carried a lot of guilt, most of it unsubstantiated. Even when good things happened, for some reason I could never entirely enjoy them. My life was filled with many tribulations, which resulted in me taking care of everyone else while feeling sorry for myself. Being the unwanted child of a teen mother compounded the feelings of unworthiness and distrust in me.

I couldn’t trust anyone, not even God. I was determined to do everything myself and do it all perfectly. Obviously, this was neither possible nor realistic. So, I experienced failure, guilt and shame. And all of my relationships solidified these feelings.

Then, during a conversation with a therapist, a light bulb went on that put me on a new path of self-examination. At that time, I was in a healthy and loving relationship. Yet there was something in me that made me feel guilty and uneasy about the relationship. It was as if I was going out of my way to find something wrong with the good thing that I had. I had been brainwashed by circumstances and was now questioning everything. I found myself even questioning God’s love for me, feeling I could never measure up.

Then, my therapist gave me a simple word picture that unlocked my heart. He asked me if I found joy when I threw my child a birthday party. He asked me if the joy on my child’s face gave me joy. Of course! How could I not find joy in giving my child something special? Next, he asked me how I’d feel if my child were to walk away as I was trying to give him a gift. He explained that that was what I was doing to God.

Suddenly, I understood God more clearly. So, on August 29, I accepted God’s gifts. I decided to do more—I was going to open God’s gifts to explore and enjoy them. I am going to make up for lost time. I felt as though a blindfold was ripped away from my eyes. I now clearly see God’s love and it overwhelms me. I stand under His fountain of love, and let my tears wash over me while He heals years of hurt.

Thank you Lord for my new birthday. I love the gifts and will thank you with every breath of my life.


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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.)