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Daniel’s Parents   Leave a comment

The church I attend is starting “The Daniel Plan”, based on the Rick Warren book.  As part of that, we are studying the book of Daniel and talking about it.

My mind many times goes to ‘the story behind the story’ when reading the Bible.  And I was struck by how Daniel’s parents must have influenced him.  His friends also, but I’ll focus on Daniel.

As near as we can guess, he and the other young men that were taken to Babylon with the first invasion of Jerusalem were probably around 15 years old.  Daniel was born during King Josiah’s reign, so there was a great revival in Israel during that time which much have influenced his parents and him in his early years.

I like to think of Daniel’s parents being friends and even perhaps business associates of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah’s parents.  I picture all the boys as being friends, perhaps living in the same district in Jerusalem.  Playing together, going to temple together, being taught by their parents.  Celebrating Passover together, and the other feasts.  Living a good, carefree (one would hope) life.  Until the years before the first invasion by the Babylonians, when it must have been difficult to continue to live as an orthodox Jew.  The people were falling away from their worship of God and following other gods.  They must have seen shrines, and idols.  They probably saw and heard rituals and practices of those who worshiped the other gods.  Maybe some of their friends stopped coming to temple with them, stopped talking to them, because their parents started following these other gods.

I can’t imagine how difficult it was to hear of and then see the Babylonian army come against Jerusalem.  How frightening that must have been!  And yet, I think that Daniel’s parents had started planning for this.  Instilling in their son the teachings of the Torah, and helping him to learn as much as he could.  I think they knew what an exceptional son they had.  And I think they knew it was a good chance this son of theirs would be taken from them and be brought to Babylon.

I’m imagining that Daniel’s parents, his father especially, had talked to traders and anyone else he could.  Asking them about the Babylonians.  Asking about what happened to people taken to Babylon.  And so he prepared his son.  I think he exhorted his son in the strongest terms to hold tight to his faith and belief in Yahweh, and no matter what, to  continue to pray and live as he should as a follower of God.  As the army came against Jerusalem and there was no more hope that God would save them as He had done before, I imagine that Daniel’s father, as well as the fathers of his three friends, took the boys and talked with them about what was to come.

They would make a long journey.  They would be taken care of, since they were to go into service for the King of Babylon.  They would be brought to the palace grounds, into the service of the chief of the eunuchs.  I am sure they explained to these boys they would never father children.  The King would want them to be eunuchs so they would devote all their time and energy to his kingdom and its business.  Can you imagine a teenage boy hearing that?  What must have gone through their minds?  What they must have been thinking?

I think the fathers encouraged the boys and told them to use the gifts Yahweh had given them to bring glory to Him.  To do the best they could.  To stand firm.  And these boys, being intelligent and quick to learn, used to following their parents and obeying, probably drew strength from their fathers.

There must have been tears.  Everyone must have been frightened. But the Babylonians did take the boys, just as the fathers said they would.  And everything happened as they had been told.  They made a long trip, but they were taken care of.  I imagine on the trip the four boys continued to pray and worship Yahweh, talking among themselves and helping each other to stay positive.

When they arrived and were made eunuchs, Daniel became their spokesperson.  He knew they should not be eating the food or drinking the wine that had been offered to idols and were unclean.  I’m sure he sent up prayers to God for help, and then he boldly spoke up, and was granted favor.  While the other young men ate the unclean food and drank the wine, Daniel and his friends stayed strong.  And they flourished.

If you notice, Daniel and his three friends are talked about during the book of Daniel, but all the other young men “without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand” – they were never heard about again.

 

Hold tight to God!

Posted February 3, 2017 by Maureen in Christian, Musings, Stories

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OPENING   Leave a comment

Have you been opening your gifts this month?  The gifts that God is waiting to give you, that He has all ready and wrapped for you?

I had a small gift opening last week. I have a friend, a former co-worker.  She is out on disability, which is a long story I won’t get into.  She was raised Catholic but rejected that once she became an adult.  Now in her 60’s I’m not sure what she believes, but she has stated clearly that she thinks people who go to church are stupid.

And yet she does not object to my asking her if I can pray for her, or telling her I prayed for her.  She admits she prays.  At any rate, we recently had a bad wind and rain storm and during the course of about an hour and a half the power went out and came back on several times.  The longest time was about 25 minutes.

I realized how grateful I was that Randy was not there.  My dear husband, the past few years of his life, was on supplemental oxygen.  When he was in the house we had an oxygen concentrator and a long tube (really, a series of tubes) that connected to his cannula and he could be on the oxygen anywhere in the house.  When he had to leave the house, he used portable tanks.  He could last about 45 minutes without oxygen, but that would be cutting it close.  It was always very, very stressful and frightening when he ran out of oxygen when we were going somewhere and we had to switch tanks.  And ditto for when the power went out, or the concentrator died for other reasons.

And now I don’t have that worry.   Now my stress and anxiety don’t spike when the power goes out.  I shared this with my friend, and I told her that it was a little funny to me that after almost 10 months of him being gone, I could find something to be grateful for that he was not there.

She wrote back and thanked me for sharing that, and told me it gave her a new outlook on her own situation with work and being on disability.  I really felt that was a gift from God.  Out of my pain and loss, I was able to help someone else.  It blessed my heart.

Posted January 18, 2017 by Maureen in Christian, Stories

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GIFTS   Leave a comment

I’ve had some time off at the end of the year, before and after Christmas.  It is a perk and a blessing of my job that I can take this time off.  I’ve so enjoyed it!  One of the things God has done during this time is work more healing in me.  I didn’t know I needed it, but He did.  I feel more healed from my dear husband’s passing.  I no longer have daily crying jags.  My memories are more often happy and comforting rather than sad and depressing.  Praise be to God, my healer and provider!

I am going to try to post weekly, at least in January.  I usually wait until I have something to say to post on this blog, but I will try a weekly post and see how it goes.  What do you think?

Something our Pastor’s wife shared on Sunday is what I want to share with you this week.  It may be that you have heard this already, but it was new to me.  She was paraphrasing from what she was told by someone she knows, so I am going to pass along that paraphrasing.

Imagine that you have died and gone to heaven.  At last!  St Peter is there to meet you, and offers to show you around a bit. You walk through the gate of pearl, on the street of gold.  You see trees and a river.  You see God on His throne.  As you walk you see mansions, but you also see large doors with names above them.  You stop — suddenly you see a door with your name.

“I want to go in there”, you tell St Peter.  “Oh, you don’t want to go in there”, St Peter says.  “Yes, I do. It has my name on it.  I want to see what’s in there.”  “Okay,” says St Peter with resignation.  “But you may be sorry.”

He opens the door and you look in.  It is a large, high ceilinged room, lined with shelves.  And on the shelves there are packages.  Gifts, really, because they are beautifully decorated and wrapped.  The most wonderful paper and with ribbons, and all of them are gorgeous.  You look around the whole room, at shelves and shelves of these beautiful gifts.  There are some empty spots on the shelves, but there are just so many gifts!

“What are all these?” you ask St Peter.  “Those are the gifts God had prepared for you and was ready to give you while you lived on the earth” he tells you.

“Oh!  I want to open them!” you exclaim.  Sadly, St Peter shakes his head.  “No, it is too late.  The boxes are all empty.”

See, it is not enough that you know God has good gifts to give his children.  It is not enough to know God is waiting to give His gifts to his precious children.  We have to receive them, and open them.  Unless or until we do, they just remain on the shelves, unopened.  Open your gifts this year.

Posted January 2, 2017 by Maureen in Musings, Stories

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Unusual Kindness   Leave a comment

Last Sunday Pastor was talking about the passage where Paul is shipwrecked, and everyone ends up safely on the island of Malta and the people living there showed them “unusual kindness” (I think that is NLT).  He asked us if we had known (or shown) unusual kindness, and it took me right back to Russia in 2002.

I was on a missions trip, visiting orphanages and old folks homes.  Our group split into two for the weekend, and I went with the group who made the long trip north of where we were staying to the twin cities of Gubaha and Berizniki.  When we got there we went to a handicapped orphanage in Gubaha.  This was a huge orphanage – I think it was 5 stories high and had probably 1,000 kids there.  The place where everyone gathered to hear us was crowded, and I finally persuaded a child to sit on my lap. He shuffled over to me, barely able to walk and stay upright, and I hoisted him onto my lap and we enjoyed the program.

As soon as he sat down it was obvious he had soiled his pants.  It was all soaking into the jeans I was wearing, but I didn’t care.  He was so happy!  He kept smiling and leaning back and putting his hand on my cheek.  He didn’t understand me, but I prayed for him and told him what a precious child of God he was.  We knew we would be staying overnight in Berizniki so we had packed for it – I had brought a change of socks and underwear and a shirt.  But I only had the one pair of pants.

Afterwards we went through each floor, hugging, playing, and interacting with the kids.  In the infant floor we picked up babies who were stiff and unresponsive because no one had the time to hold them and they didn’t know how to react.  Many of them wore urine soaked clothing and my shirt got soaked with it.

By the time we made our way back to where we were staying — I didn’t smell very good.  I knew that I would have to rinse out my pants.  I was already ripe — there was no way I could go another 24+ hours wearing those jeans without cleaning them.  I explained to our translator.  She told me that the apartment where we were staying, home to Victor and Luba, did not have a washing machine or dryer.  I assured her it was ok, I understood, but I needed to be shown how to use the bathtub and where some soap was.  I would hang up my jeans and wear them wet the next day if I had to.

She explained to Luba.  Her husband Victor was the pastor of the church in Berizniki, a large church. He was away on a seminar, but Luba had already shown us her wonderful hostess skills.  Silently, she listened to what the translator said, and then she looked at me and held out her hands. Now, by this time it was after 11:00 at night.  We were all tired, and Luba had had hostessing duties on top of everything else that day.  I did NOT want her to wash my jeans.

I insisted I could do it, I didn’t mind, I just needed to be shown where things were.  Without a word she kept her hands held out, gazing at me steadily.  I knew I had to give over my jeans.  I had to let her wash them.

When we got up in the morning, here came Luba in our room, smiling, holding her arms out with my jeans folded neatly on her hands.  I thanked her profusely (I could at least say that in Russian).  You have probably worn jeans that were not dry all the way.  Maybe you were in a hurry and didn’t let them dry all the way, or just didn’t notice they were not all the way dry.  The seams, where they are thick, and especially the crotch where the seams come together, hold the moisture more than the other parts.  They are uncomfortable to wear when they are wet.  I had fully expected to be wearing wet jeans all day.

Not only were the jeans dry and smelled terrific — there was not a speck of wet on them. I could not feel any moisture in any seam anywhere.  They felt brand new!

I have no doubt that not only did Luba carefully clean them, but she also ironed them dry. Have you ever done that?  Do you know how long it takes?  How long do you think it would take you if you didn’t have an electric iron?  I don’t know for sure if she had an electric iron, but chances are high she did not.  Chances are high she had one of those manual irons, where you put the bottom iron part in the oven to get it hot, then grabbed it with the tongs or top grippers and ironed until it cooled, where you then had to put it back in the oven to get hot again.  It must have taken hours.

It was an unusual kindness shown to me when I really, really needed it.  It was a huge blessing, and I have never forgotten it.  What kind of unusual kindness can you show to someone?

Posted May 5, 2015 by Maureen in Memories, Stories

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Of Bullying and Forgiving   Leave a comment

Have you ever been bullied?  I was bullied, in Junior High School.  By two different girls who would boss me around, call me names, shove me.  I remember at one point we were playing a kick ball game (my whole class) and one of the girls started yelling at me, and then telling me what to do and not to do.  The other kids looked at her with a puzzled look while I just ignored her, secure in my safety in the big crowd.  One of my classmates finally said to her, “Why don’t you leave her alone?  She’s not doing anything to you.”

Which was true.  I had four older brothers and three older sisters, and I knew the best defense was to ignore the person giving you a bad time.  All they wanted was to get a reaction from me, and if I failed in that they would leave me alone.  Eventually.  Sometimes that took a long time, which is the problem with using that method.

The girls shortly started to ignore me as much as I ignored them.  I remember one of them, in my Junior year at High School, tried to strike up a conversation with me while we both happened to be walking out of school at the same time.  I told her I was flying to Washington State for the Easter holiday to go house hunting with my parents, as we were moving up there in the summer.  She stopped and looked surprised, and I remember glancing back at her, puzzled.  I thought she had tripped or hurt herself or something.  “Well,” she said almost in wonder, “We’ll miss you around here.”  I just smiled and walked away.  It felt like a victory, but later I thought that maybe she had wanted to be friends with me?  I was in no way going to befriend someone who had deliberately treated me so horribly for several years.  I truly can’t remember the names of either of the girls.  It has been many years and I forgave them long ago.  It just is not important enough to me now.

Which brings me to the next thing.  Have you forgiven people who have wronged you?  Who have hurt you?  Mistreated you?  I had a friend who I got along with great.  We would talk on the phone several times a week and get together a couple of times a week.  Then, she asked a lady from church to move in with her.  She needed help with her mortgage payment.  But what hurt was that suddenly I was no longer invited when she did things.  See, the other lady had a boyfriend, and my friend soon had a boyfriend.  And I didn’t.  They both ended up getting married, and I was invited to both weddings, but did not see them or talk to them afterwards.  It really hurt to be dropped like that.  Just recently that lady found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request.  I thought about it.  And then I decided not to accept.

Not because I hadn’t forgiven her.  I truly had.  But, after being betrayed and dropped as a friend I couldn’t trust her to not do it again. I wish her well and not harm – but I don’t want to see her or talk to her.

Does that make sense?  What about you?  Were you bullied?  Did you bully?  How have you resolved that?  Or have you?  Have you forgiven?  Do you need to forgive?

 

Posted October 21, 2013 by Maureen in Randomness, Stories

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The Gospel according to…..Me!   1 comment

I’ve read the entire Bible through —– I don’t know how many times.  I don’t keep count.  One of the things I noticed was the writers do not write as you would write a novel.  They often leave descriptions out, conversations out, details out.  And so, in my imagination and fancy, I will sometimes “fill in” what I perceive to be missing pieces of the story.  And that is the Gospel according to me.

For example:  In Exodus chapter 14 we read about the how the Israelite people left Egypt and crossed by dry land through the Red Sea.  Terrific story!  Lots of drama, suspense, etc.  But there were some details left out, and here is where my imagination takes over.

When I read that story, I see many hundreds of thousands of people scurrying through two walls of water.  Yes — high walls.  Of water.  Fantastic, don’t you think?  Except the people aren’t paying too much attention because they are frightened and anxious and in a hurry.  They are clutching their belongings and their loved ones.  You can hear the creak of the wheels on the wagons as they move over the dry ground.  The animals are making noises.  Babies are crying.  Mothers are shushing their children, scolding them to walk faster.  The men are urging the animals forward.  The adults are darting glances and looks into the walls of water on either side of them as they move as fast as they can to reach the other side.

And in my mind I see: a little boy, about 6 or so.  He has no worries, no concerns.  He does not pay attention to the pillar of fire and cloud, nor does he think about the Egyptians bearing down on them or the fact he will have to eat bread without yeast in it because there was no time to add it before they left.  He is barefoot, carefree.  He is delighted with the walls of water.  As a child born and raised in Egypt he has never seen so much water before.  Delighted with this new thing, he has his arm outstretched, fingers just touching the water, running beside it, giggling and laughing, as his fingers get wet and make splashes.  The adults call to him, scolding, trying to catch him.  But he runs, laughing, splashing; and other children immediately see the fun in that and join in with him so that soon there is a whole line of children with their arms outstretched, fingers in the water, running over the dry ground, towards the Promised Land.

Posted January 5, 2011 by Maureen in Christian, Musings, Stories

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Pirate Cove   2 comments

Allow me to do a bit of fancy story-telling.

On the way to work part of the highway swings by the beach. At that part of the beach, the beach curves and part of the land sticks out. There are rocks there so when the tide is out the tide pools are cool to explore. 

Now that winter is coming, the morning commute is just starting to get the light, and we get more fog.  About half the mornings lately there is a light fog hanging over the cove where the land curves.  I always think of pirates when I see that.  I imagine the pirates coming ashore in a boat, with their tall ship standing off to shore.  It is quiet and of course there is no highway there.  Just scrub and brush, deer and maybe some skunks and birds. 

In the early light it is hard to see, but you can just make out the pirates pulling the boat up the sand, and hauling a big box out of the boat.  Shouldering their shovels and pick axes, four of them haul the bound box up past the high water mark, and begin to dig. 

*Shiver*  Can you picture it?  The cold morning air, the slowly brightening sky, the fine fog hanging over the cove and water, making everything fuzzy and indistinct.  Light sounds of the surf and perhaps an early bird.  The sound of shovels in sand, and the grunts of the men as they lower the box down into the hole.

Then I come to my senses and pay attention.  After all, I’m driving in traffic and should be watching the cars, instead of looking out over a misty cove in the cool morning.

Posted November 19, 2010 by Maureen in Musings, Stories

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