I spent last quarter working with the 1st-3rd grade class studying the book of Job. You may be thinking, “That’s a THICK book for elementary kids,” and you’d be right. Job’s tough. But it contains a ton of great lessons, AND we’re preparing for Lads to Leaders Bible Bowl competition this April. Considering the January theme of hope, there’s no better book to walk through the ups and downs of life and come up on top.
The first passage I chose for today is often taken out of context. As it stands alone in the meme above, it’s a picture of complete positivity. Like the tree, we have hope. If we’re torn, we can regrow. Rebuild. Renew.
Job 14 is a continuation of what many Bibles label “Job’s Despondent Prayer.” He doesn’t utter these words because he’s being encouraging or uplifting. Rather, this is a point where Job’s spirit is low because he’s lost hope. It begins with desperation in verse 1:
Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And following this thought in verses 7-9, Job is pointing out that there is hope for a tree, while there is no hope for man. In verse 10, he laments that “man dies and is laid low, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and does not rise again.”
This might lead a flailing Christian to believe that there is no hope at all. But thankfully, we have the second verse in the entry, which appears in Romans 5:5-6:
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
My journaling thought for today:
- Draw a budding branch in the margins close to Job 14:7-9. Write Romans 5:5-6 beside it to remember that these two verses are connected in our entry
- Draw this same branch in Romans 5:5-6
- In Job 14:7-9, circle the phrases: hope, sprout again, and it will bud. Remember that this is what our Christianity does for us. It allows us the renewal through Christ because he died for our sin.
- In Romans 5:5-6, circle: hope does not disappoint, the love of God has been poured out in our hearts, and “Christ died for the ungodly”
- Write the phrase “Yes, there is hope. In Him.” in decorative text.
*Mine ended up spanning two pages, so I wrote the link to Romans at the top of the next page and carried a little of the tree over to there.
Meet Pandora, the first of the seven Humbled Goddess Girls. Pandora’s Deed released from Mantle Rock Publishing in February 2016. Click on the image below to purchase the Kindle version for $2.99.
SAVANNAH BARRETT balanced the stack of envelopes atop her still-steaming latte and bumped the mailbox closed. She stepped to the right, making room for her fuzzy-leopard-coated neighbor and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.
A blast of wind tore through the parking lot, and Savannah pivoted, losing a long, white envelope with embossed teal words.
“Here you go, sugar.” Leopard-print knelt straight down, her tiny skirt shrinking as she retrieved the letter. She stood and placed the envelope on Savannah’s stack.
“Thanks.” Savannah brought her latte close to her chin, securing the mail as she crossed the lot to her apartment.
A battered cardboard box leaned at a precarious angle on her stoop. She hooked a heeled sandal underneath and slid it to the ground.
Her keys. Where were her keys? She cast a glance over her shoulder at Nellie, her beat up Nissan, and groaned. Still in the ignition. A strip of duct tape waved like a flag from the driver’s side handle.
“Great.” As she lowered her latte to the tiny concrete porch, the letters fell to her feet. She slid the envelopes underneath the lip of the box, protecting them from the droplets, and hurried back to Nellie.
Rain pelted her as she fumbled with the handle, tugging and jerking until the stubborn metal yielded. She spotted her keys on the floorboard, snatched them, and slammed the door so hard the handle pulled free and dropped to the asphalt.
Sighing, she tossed it inside the car. Wouldn’t do any good to tape it up in the rain. She dashed to her apartment and unlocked it.
The dampened envelopes clung together. She balanced them on the box then laid them out on the counter to dry.
By the time she returned for her latte, rain had collected in the lid. Fantastic. She dumped the water in the small rectangle of grass before her apartment window and wiped the mouth with her sleeve.
A tiny sip of caramel macchiato sent warmth down her throat and through her soul. She secured the deadbolt and the chain, and grabbed the package.
Her adoptive mother’s scrawl covered the bright yellow label. Savannah eyed her calendar, which hung lopsided on the refrigerator by two weak magnets. Rose had sent a birthday present, no doubt.
Savannah sliced the tape with her apartment key and opened the damp lid. A shiny teal ribbon looped around a white dress box. Underneath, the Dreyfus High 2005 senior class cheered at her from a shiny yearbook.
She tossed the dress box into a crate of textbooks next to her wall-mounted mattress. Why would Rose send her a yearbook when she didn’t graduate from Dreyfus High?
A trickle of water dripped from her kitchen counter to the floor. She grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped up the puddle left from the envelopes then blotted them with another wad of towels.
Perfect calligraphy smudged over the fancy white envelope, leaving dark splotches surrounding the embossed teal print. Savannah tore through the wet paper and spread out the letter. Not a letter. An invite.
They wanted her to come to the high school reunion? Why?
Savannah’s chest constricted. No way could she go back. Not ever.
Fourteen years fell away, and she saw her chunky middle-school face in the lipstick-smeared bathroom mirror. She’d adjusted her dress, smoothed her hair, and blown herself a kiss before walking into the gymnasium to join the other students.
Geoff Spencer grinned as he took her hand and led her across the dance floor to the opposite corner. “Let’s get our pictures made.”
The photo backdrop sheet reflected the dance’s jungle theme, complete with bright parrots, monkeys, and snakes. A sturdy fence surrounded the area, and a walkway led to a small stage where couples could pose.
Her friend Megan waved from the front of the line. “Let’s pose together.”
Savannah joined her, barely squeezing through the opening. She made her way to the stage and draped an arm over Megan’s shoulders.
“Say ‘Friends forever.” The photographer snapped the picture. Then Megan and Savannah exited the space.
“My turn.” Geoff dragged her back to the end of the line, and the photographer turned his attention to the other couples. Finally, the line dwindled to the two of them.
“Last ones?” The photographer yawned.
“Yep.” Savannah grinned. She stepped through the fence, and Geoff bumped the decorative gate shut behind her—only it wasn’t decorative. It locked, trapping her.
Behind the backdrop, giggling girls removed the sheet to reveal another depicting a mountain and deep blue clouds. In the forefront, bamboo trees hosted a mother and baby panda.
Her heart stopped. As Geoff leered from the other side, the crowd of students waved their fists. “Panda! Panda! Panda!”
The photographer struggled with the gate. It didn’t budge.
She should have known. Why else would Geoff have paid her sudden attention?
The chants stopped, and something creaked overhead. A bucket swung then teetered, dumping stalks of celery in her lap.
“Panda! Panda! Panda!” Amidst cheers and claps, the chants resumed.
While the principal sent the shop teacher out for tools to free her, she tugged the sheet, ripped it from the ropes holding it up, and cowered beneath it.
Taking a deep breath, Savannah blinked back to the present. She eyed the blurred numbers for the RSVP. Fate herself decided she couldn’t go. She shredded the invite into tiny wet pieces and dropped them into a bag of leftover takeout Chinese.
She settled on her worn linen couch, a spring poking her leg as she eyed the yearbook. Would her fingers burn from touching it? Curiosity battled resentment, and she took it in her hands.
Flipping pages to the senior spotlights, she traced the colored pictures. Megan Carter, her former best friend and partner in crime, glared through glazed eyes beneath jagged jet-black bangs.
A pang struck Savannah’s chest. Megan, who’d wanted to be a pediatrician from the second grade, listed her ambition as moving to California to be a beach bum.
On the next page she found Athena Lewis, another good friend, listed as Athena Clark instead. Athena, who’d sat next to her every week in church and spouted off scripture at every given opportunity? Married with a child in high school?
Below Athena, Anabelle Cooper’s frown punctuated her airbrushed face. The caption reflected her desire for happiness.
Tears wet Savannah’s cheek. They’d all been so close. But these girls were strangers. All her fault.
A couple more pages past, her heart flip-flopped when her gaze landed on Geoff Spencer’s sun-kissed face. A wave of nausea rendered her clammy.
She knocked herself in the forehead with the heel of her hand. “Shouldn’t have looked.”
His smile seemed genuine, less of the playful smirk she remembered. She eyed the caption. Born again Christian? No way. His life goals were to attend college, to find a good wife, and to have several children? Not the Geoff Spencer she knew.
She snapped the book shut and forced several deep, calming exhales. If Geoff Spencer was a Christian, then she was a deep-sea diver. No way. She’d take the stupid yearbook straight to the dumpster as soon as the storm ended.
Thunder cracked, as if in response. The book slipped from her grasp and landed on the carpet. A shiny piece of paper poked out of the pages.
First a glance, next a stare. Finally, she grabbed the book and peered at the marked page. Her breath caught when she saw the heading. The Ones We Miss. There, in the center, her brace-faced eighth grade picture overlaid a pale pink heart. Her picture, before Lynn Thomas, who died in a house fire. Before Keith Wells, who lost his battle to cancer.
And worse—apologetic messages from the horrid people who ridiculed her and drove her out of town, dedicated to Pandora, the dreadful name she legally changed years ago.
Six words, etched by a scratchy pen, sent a jolt through her. With all my heart, I’m sorry. And the signature beneath it… Love, Geoff Spencer.
She closed the yearbook and tucked it in the crate beneath her birthday box. As she settled on her couch, she raised her cooled latte and toasted the air. “Here’s to twenty-eight. May it be drastically better than fourteen.”
There’s nothing like a little stress and business to thwart a good evangelistic effort. Many of us start off our days with good intentions. We know the great commisison, but sometimes we get too busy to share God’s plan of salvation.
The Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (NKJV).
“Follow me,” Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “and I will make you fishers of men.” But are we really doing our job as fishermen? If the earth is our big fishbowl, and if God peeks in, how many of our fish would he find dead in sins? Are we doing enough to keep them alive?
We interact with dozens, maybe even hundreds of people in a single day. How many of them know we are Christians? How many of them have seen a glimpse of our faith?
It’s hard, sometimes. It’s hard to remember all the steps and all the relevant verses. So, here’s a little summary for you, to help you share your faith.
The Lord’s Plan of Salvation
- We are to HEAR the word of God, and let it be the foundation of our faith: Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- We are to BELIEVE the Bible, particularly that Jesus is the Christ, our savior, and the Son of the living God, and that through his death, we obtain salvation from our sins: John 8:24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He,you will die in your sins.
- We must REPENT of our sins, meaning that we choose selflessness over our sinful desires, and choose instead to serve God and others. Luke 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
- We must CONFESS our faith before men. Matthew 10:32-33 Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
- We must BE BAPTIZED for the remission (forgiveness) of our sins, not as a work of man, but as a symbolic showing of our clean conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21). Remission is like the cancellation of our debt, which Jesus paid with his own blood. When our body is immersed in the waters of baptism, we are symbolically renacting the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and we come out of the water a new creature. Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- We must REMAIN FAITHFUL, even in a world where we are constantly assaulted with temptation from the devil, and it feels we will always have to struggle against our sin. Remember God’s promises, which are new every morning. Revelations 2:10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Photo by Régis Lachaume (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Between working childcare for a Young Adult Weekend at a local church camp, moving dirty volleyball light posts, walking barefoot on a dirty wood floor, and changing a car battery, I’ve had to work double-time this weekend to scrub off a myriad of black spots. Some of them, I didn’t think would ever come clean. Others caught my eye after I thought the scrubbing was finished, and I had to start again. Three showers later, I think I’m finally to a point where there are no more dirty spots to scrub.
This happens sometimes when I paint, too. I’ll clean up and change, run to the grocery, and someone will point at the spot I’ve missed on the back of my elbow. “Someone’s been painting!”
Spots on mirrors, spots on windows, spots on the wall–everywhere we look, we find dirty places that need cleaning. And don’t even get me started on my kids!
It’s so easy to become spotted without meaning to. And it’s so easy to miss spots when we’re scrubbing.
This reminds me a lot of my walk with God. I stumble into sin before I’ve realized it, and sometimes it takes more than a scrub or two to get things back to good.
Maybe it’s walking into a furniture store and coveting things I know I can’t afford. Or possibly it’s an argument with a friend that festers into a week-long war. It might even be less sinister than that, and just the omission of something to grow my faith because I didn’t feel like it.
The world constantly intrudes in our lives, brushing up against us and dusting us with sin.
But James 1:27 says:
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Remember this today, when you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and seeing all the hoopla about what celebrities are divorcing and who’s worthy of gossip. I know I need to!
Have a blessed day!
Late, but not too late for Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!
I’ve been working on polishing three different manuscripts this summer–Humbled Goddesses, a series of short stories to introduce my romantic suspense series, Pandora’s Deed, the first book in my series, and Cavernous, my YA dystopian.
Mom’s been missing four hours. Priorities, Amber. Blowing hard, I puff my cheeks and count to ten. “Yeah, me too.” I head to the kitchen, grab a jar of peanut butter, and slather it on slices of multigrain bread. “I’m worried. Maybe we should call Dad again.”
Flickering candlelight crawls across her face, creating a landscape of shadowy slopes. “Maybe.” She takes a sandwich and downs it in four large bites.
I try his cell. Whatever keeps Dad from answering must be important. Mom wasn’t in an accident. At least I hope not. And he’d tell us. Besides, wouldn’t the police have called?
Another hour passes. The power returns, but wind still jostles the windows. Amber cowers on the couch, watching the radar on our old-school, boxy TV. A hint of her tawny hair peeks from under a blanket, and she resembles a Middle Eastern princess with her striking green eyes and perfect skin. She yawns, long and drawn-out like a cat.
I touch my own face, running my fingers over acne. “You should go to bed. I’ll wake you if there’s any news.”
“I think I will.” She stretches again and drops the blanket to reveal the low-cut tank top she wore under her jacket. Of course, said jacket spent most of the evening draped over the kitchen chair since Dad wasn’t home. She’s going to end up pregnant before my eighteenth birthday. By the boy I love.
“Monster.” I stalk to the opposite end of the couch, my head filling with sinister thoughts I’d never act on—shoving her off steps, tripping her as she crosses my path.
Thunder crackles as if in answer, and I glance at the sky with a sheepish grin. I get it. Thinking it in my heart’s as bad as doing it. Forgiveness and compassion… easier said than done.
I turn off the TV and flop down so hard it unsettles the cushions.
A piece of white plastic catches my eye, poking out from the depths between us. I reach for it, knocking it farther under Amber’s seat. “Get up a second.”
She dives under the blanket.
“Amber. Get up.” I scoop below the cushion and lift, uprooting her slender frame.
Loose change and junk food crumbs litter the burlap covering, as well as a tube of Mom’s favorite lipstick and a gas station receipt. Her purse must have spilled, and she was in such a hurry she didn’t notice. I grasp a plastic driver’s license, photo side down.
As I raise the edge, my heart skips a beat. West Virginia, not Kentucky. I turn it over, revealing Mom’s face underneath a dark wig, distorted by heavy makeup.
About the book:
In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?
The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.