Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters. . . Withhold Not Your Hand

Wise King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. . . . In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know which will prosper.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6)

From my research, this admonition is derived from a Middle Eastern custom of sowing seed. The farmers would cast seed from boats floating on rain-engorged rivers, onto the marshy ground. When the waters receded, the grain would fall to the soil and spring up.

So this scripture, in context, is a discussion of benevolence. The encouragement here is to be a benevolent person, because one never knows when he might be in need of benevolence himself.

I’ve bumped into a lot, A LOT, of discussion amongst other writers out there about generosity lately. One of my favorite bloggers, Jeff Goins (http://goinswriter.com) talks about this subject all the time. He was a virtual unknown once, trying to churn out his little blog, keeping at the difficult craft of writing, trying to get noticed, when he stumbled upon this truth:

 Be willing to give away what you have to others, even strangers, even/especially if you aren’t promised anything in return.

Once the Lord planted this truth in Jeff’s heart and he simply obeyed, God started doing things in his life and blessing his ministry of words. Much more than Jeff Goins the writer could ever imagine!

There’s a caveat attached to this scripture, though: This concept is not to be viewed as a superstitious talisman. In other words, “If you do this, then you are guaranteed health, wealth, happiness in this life.” NO. It’s a call of simple obedience.

A response to God’s overwhelmingly abundant blessing of our lives.

To DO SOMETHING with the myriad opportunities He places in our paths, each and every day.

And there too, is the real rub. How many of us, even us Jesus-loving devout believers, will employ each and each opportunity God gives us to bless others? To trouble ourselves to go the extra mile, simply because God GIVES US A CHANCE?

I’m not talking about things costing dollars and cents (although it could). I’m speaking about giving those those little acts of thoughtfulness and kindness the Holy Spirit whispers to our heart.

A job referral. A word or letter of encouragement. An unexpected offer to help out. The gifting of  something into the hands of someone in need. To believers and nonbelievers alike.

But our sin nature, deep within, cries out: But what’s in it for ME? Why should I help so-and-so out, if it’s not going to profit me any?

We don’t look to bless others many times, because we are terribly focused on ourselves.

Our God tells us the opposite. We are to love others deeply. And show our love by our actions.

We are to love others, like HE LOVES US.  So. . . .do not withhold your hand. Do not keep back the blessing.

I’m here to say that God convicted me of this very thing a while back. And by His help and abundant grace, I am trying to live differently. Whenever God presents me a chance to bless someone, I try to be obedient. To follow through with a positive action. With a grateful and loving heart. To God’s glory—whatever the outcome.

I’ve seen tangible evidence where God has blessed me in return, but not always. But I’m not seeking the reward, but just wanting to be where Jesus wants me. In total obedience to Him.

So. . . will you cast your bread on the waters. . . for others? Will you not withhold your hand. . . to do good in someone’s life?

Let us know how this concept translates into your life if you already do this or decide to do this. . . we’d all love to share in your story!! And as always, may HE receive all the glory and praise!

Lookin’ up,

 

 

 

 

Nourishing Ourselves First

A good friend has allowed us the use of her beach house in Emerald Isle, NC, for a few days, and Al and I are taking advantage of it. It’s been a great chance to get unplugged from the stresses of life and ministry.

I’ve started reading a new book, Linx: Women Connecting With Women. In it, author Verna Birkey said something that really struck a chord with me:  “It is NOT selfish to pay attention to your own needs. In fact, it is your responsibility to keep yourself as fit as you can so that you can serve [God] better and longer.”

This advice is so OPPOSITE of what we as women often do.

It’s similar to the standard pre-flight scenario we see every time we buckle the seatbelt on a plane. You know the one — the stewardess loops an oxygen mask around her head, demonstrates how to use it, then instructs, “For the safety of your children, please secure your own oxygen mask FIRST, then help your child with his/her mask.”

The wisdom underlying this series of actions is immediately apparent: If you pass out from lack of oxygen/nourishment trying to care for others around you, who will take care of you?

It is MORE thoughtless to continue serving others,when your body is unhealthy from ignored needs. The Lord tells me: I need to pay attention to nourishing myself properly first, then I can nourish others. This applies to my flesh-and-blood family, my church family, the worldwide family of humanity.

The Holy Spirit has spoken to me about certain areas where I need nourishment. . . .in order to continue being fit enough for God to use me.

**Please leave a comment below. Do you, as you a modern woman, ever struggle with this issue? What ways have you found to nourish yourself?

Lookin’ up,

 

 

 

 

The Prayer Closet

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6, NAS

The best, most important thing you can do for your children is to pray for them.

Lately God has been re-instructing me about prayer, and it has spurred me on to make some noticeable changes in how I approach Him. If we’re honest, we believers must admit to requiring reinforcement in the basics from time to time . . .

Humbly, we should be like Jesus’ disciples, who came to Him after they’d observed Him at a distance praying to His Father, simply asking: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) This pleased Jesus, Who immediately following this request, gave us the rich pattern of praying in the Lord’s Prayer.

What true prayer is. . .It is relationship with the LORD God. First and foremost, it is a proclamation of Who God is. . and what He’s done on behalf of the human race . . and what He’s done for me personally. Then it’s a forthcoming about my own insuffiiciencies, my sin. Lastly, it’s a detailing of needs–mine and others’.

It’s a two-way street and requires much more listening on my part than my talking. (Oh, so hard to do!)

In our church’s recent University of Life class on prayer, we’ve been studying the excellent little book, How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life by Dr. Gregory Frizzell. It’s short, pithy, and to-the-point—in which he explains different kinds of prayer and why saturating your prayer with Scripture reading is SO important. (Here’s an Amazon link:)

http://www.amazon.com/How-Develop-Powerful-Prayer-Life/dp/1930285000/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1332432564&sr=1-2-catcorr

Frizzell suggests the importance of a prayer closet, and I’ve taken it to heart. This said, please do not infer that I am an expert on this subject by any means. I do think this extra step may encourage you, as a parent, or as a fellow believer, to take the necessary steps to obtain a deeper walk with Him, to know Him more intimately through prayer. May He receive all the glory!

Jesus tells me in Matthew 6:6 to go to my “inner room” to pray. My inner room, which I’ve specifically repurposed for this, is my walk-in closet.

Yes, I know not everyone is blessed with a walk-in closet! But God has given you an “inner room” somewhere. . . You just have to ask Him to reveal it to you! He will never ask us to do something for which He’s not equipped us already. So ask God where He’d like to get away to pray, alone with Him . . . .

Another possibility of an inner room for a young mother might be. . .the bathroom. Teach your children that when you withdraw in there for short periods of time, you are to be by yourself. No interruptions, if possible.

Or, perhaps in your car, when your little ones are down for a nap or during lunchtime if you’re in the workplace outside the home. . .anywhere where you can be alone, “in secret” with Him is where He wants us to meet Him.

This is key. . .it needs to be a place without distractions and where you can pray aloud, if God so leads you.

I have some favorite things I’ve put in my prayer closet. . . First, there’s a seat and writing area. Because I will be writing stuff down.

I ask the Lord quiet me and fill me with the Holy Spirit, otherwise I can’t pray what He wants me to—Psalm 86:10, James 4:8.

I use a couple of Bibles there, a couple of translations. . . I start off my prayer time reading a significant portion of Scripture (from one of my One-Year Bibles or a Bible-reading plan) and I let God speak to me through it, taking notes.

I ease into praise and worship, through even more Scripture. A dear lady recently gave me this little book, 31 Days of Praise by Ruth & Warren Myers. I find I like to read it aloud to God, one portion a day. I know this book is going to become a staple for me! (But you could just as easily use any favorite Psalm or passage that describes or praises God.)

I go through the different kinds of prayer, following wherever the Holy Spirit leads. Praise. Confession of Sin. Petition. Intercession. Meditation. It’s never the same way twice!

Sometimes a prayer need weighs heavy, and I find God wants me to dwell there for a while. I use a notecard to write key things He reveals to me about this request, and then allow Him to bring to mind any Scriptures that pertain to this request, using the Strong’s concordance to jog my memory. I write out the Scriptures on the back of each card to help me easily pray them back.

I would suggest you use a separate card for each child–changing and adapting the specifics of whatever the Lord urges you to pray for them!

I then have a prayer journal in which I record the date and the major things I prayed for that day, perhaps a quick thought or two God has left me with.

Although we humans most definitely have needs that we can bring before Him, we pray to know God BETTER. We pray not to receive the gifts He from His hand, but because we love Him and want to please our Heavenly Father.

I challenge you—find and equip your prayer closet. Pray, like you’ve never done before. And God, Who sees all, will surely enable you to see answers to those prayers, to His glory and His praise. Let me/all of us know how it goes!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn