Monday, December 23, 2019

Discovering Advent

You, like me, may not have grown up celebrating Advent. You may not have ever heard about it until now. I became aware of Advent about 5 years ago, but I have not incorporated it into my routine until this year.

First, some background.  Here is some information on Advent that I discovered as I wrote this post:

Monday, December 16, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Change: There is Hope

The last chapter of Ezra does not end as we would expect; instead, we see what happens when we truly make a U-turn and change. In this final chapter, there's a recognition of error, coupled with a desire to correct even though it affects their life choices. You see, these men had married women from countries that did not believe in God, which means these women also did not believe in God. God placed a prohibition of intermarriage with the people of heathen nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). This chapter ends with a reckoning, listing all the men that left their wives, but let's not oversimplify it. This is

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Appalled: God's People Fail to Separate Themselves

What can make a man so burdened for others that he pours out his heart to God on their behalf? Like a loving parent, when Ezra prayed (Ezra 9), he was appalled by the blatant ignorance of God's laws by the people of Israel. The Jews weren't always this way. In previous chapters, they stood firm. Ezra's love for God and his people, combined with his knowledge of God, brought him to his knees.

Ezra's prayer has a posture of reverential fear and priestly intercession. Ezra 9:1-2 seems to recall passages from the Law of Moses against intermarriage with the surrounding Canaanite tribes, in particular, Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 7:1-4. The failure to separate was more

Monday, November 18, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Traveling: Weighty Matters

Early in his ministry in Montgomery, during the final difficult months of the bus boycott in 1956, Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon to encourage his congregation to live hopeful lives. "Lord, help me to accept my tools. However dull they are, help me to accept them. And then Lord, after I have accepted my tools, help me to set out and do what I can do with my tools.” -MLK  (Source: Michael Hyatt)

The priests were given some tools that were weighty as part of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In Ezra 8, after Ezra prays for protection, he distributes the treasure from King Artaxerxes (Ezra 8: 24-30), Ezra and thousands of Jews arrive in Jerusalem safely (Ezra 8:31-32), they perform a delivery check (Ezra 8:33-34), then worship God (Ezra 8:35) and finally relay King Artaxerxes' orders to the local authorities (Ezra 8:36).

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Walking: By Faith

Ezra 8 is a pivotal chapter in this book, for it's where we see Ezra's heart as he narrates the remainder of the book.  At the end of Ezra 7,  Ezra gives thanks before embarking on this journey. Effusive in his thanks, he is grateful that God has placed the opportunity to beautify the temple on the king's heart and extend mercy to him. After giving thanks, he gathers chief men (i.e., leaders) to travel with him to Jerusalem.

Initially, his traveling companions did not include any priests (no one from the tribe of Levi) or Nethinim. It was a large contingent made up of leaders from various families, with 1,496 men in the group. Adding an estimated number of women and children (Ezra 8:21), we can surmise that the total number of the party coming with Ezra in the days of King Artaxerxes was between 6,000 to 7,000 people ( Curiously, no priests were in this group. In essence, besides Ezra,

Monday, October 21, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Used: The Power of God

At the end of  Ezra 6, it was a time of joyful celebration. We see the first wave of exiles celebrating with joy all that God had done through them.

More than 50 years elapsed between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of Ezra 7. During this timeframe, the events in Esther take place. The events in the book of Esther occurred from 483 BC to 473 BC, during the first half of the reign of King Xerxes, who chose Esther as his Queen. During this time, the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Judah struggled to reestablish temple worship according to the Law of Moses. But Esther and Mordecai, along with many other Jews, had chosen not to make the trek back to Judah. They seemed content to stay in Susa, the capital city of Persia, in which the story is set (Source:  The sovereignty and faithfulness of God permeated each scene in the book of Esther; this pattern continues in the book of Ezra.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Real Life Marriage - Funny Married Stuff

When I first saw an episode of Funny Married Stuff, the couple were in the bathroom - he on the toilet and she at the sink, talking. I laughed because it reminded me of the many times my husband and I have done the same thing. It was refreshing to see; I've been a fan ever since. Interestingly, because I live in Los Angeles, I meet a lot of creatives. I met Lony'e, the creator of this series at church when I had no idea who she was. So it's been a pleasure to see the growth of this web series.

Actress Lony’e Perrine,  created the show with her husband Peyton to promote positive relationships. Despite the facts, media representation of marriages is widely negative, with even the most successful black comedy shows such as Blackish showing the stars exploring divorce. Tired of seeing negative images of marriages in the media, the creators of this series are trying to change the narrative. Actress Lony'e Perrine and her husband of 15 years, Peyton Perrine, created the web series Funny Married Stuff as a way to promote positive, fun, and real images of marriage by combining improv humor with a touch of marital lessons.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Celebrate: It's About HIM

Joy leaps out from the last five verses of Ezra 6. "And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy (Ezra 6:16)." Joy is appropriate at this time as they remembered how God worked in and through them.

With God's help, the people of Israel had rebuilt the second temple. They started off enslaved, were freed by a new leader - King Cyrus, and journeyed to Jerusalem with directions to rebuild the temple. They mourned their losses while weeping for the promise of new things. Their leaders unified them, ensuring clearness of purpose. As they plodded along with the

Monday, September 9, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Verified: God is Working

Have you ever felt like you're not where you're supposed to be? While following God's plan for your life, there are bumps and hurdles along the way, but you persist. When you look back, you see that God's hand was evident, but amidst the bumps and obstacles, there are questions. You wonder if you should be doing what you're doing and struggle with continuing. I think they call this impostor syndrome which is a psychological pattern or a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success, usually marked by doubt.

In Ezra 6, the exiles had a similar experience. Though they were granted freedom by King

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Encouraged: A Gift to the Weary Soul

As I study the book of Ezra, I've found it more enlightening and exciting than I anticipated. I love when I'm surprised by what I see in God's word because it changes you. I wish the same for you, so dig in.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Rebuffed: Standing Firm

In Ezra 4, we see a scenario that is common today.

Why do your enemies want a piece of God's blessing in your life? They didn't earn your blessing, they have no relationship with God, they weren't the beneficiaries, yet they have no problem wanting to align themselves with you when you're on a holy mission. They don't know your relationship with God and the manifestation of His promises to you. They only see your outcome and are filled with envy, not recognizing what it took for you to get there. So they approach you because they know your character and anticipate that you'll act in a way favorable to them. But Christians don't need to be pushovers; they can stand firm on God's promises like the Israelites did.

The mysterious they, in this case, are the Samaritans who wanted to form an unholy alliance with the Jews as they rebuilt the temple. The rebuilding of the temple was not significant to the Samaritans, yet they knew of its significance.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Unified: As One Man

I am struck by the unity expressed in Ezra 3:1, in particular how it reads in the KJV.

And when the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Ezra 3:1 KJV

They lived in separate villages, but now it was time to be unified in their purpose to rebuild the temple. There was a period before they started building, seven months which served as preparation. Once prepared, they were united.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Coming Home: Gratitude

So far, we've learned the significance of the role of Ezra as a priest and a scribe. As such, he provides a rich background of what happens to the Jews that are freed after Cyrus' proclamation. Catch up on this study here, here and here.

Finally, the first wave of exiles is on their way to Jerusalem. I'm sure there were excited and relieved, but also perhaps nervous and worried. Humans can get used to anything, and for those

Monday, July 1, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Counted: It Matters

Once Cyrus issues his proclamation, he sends the Jews on their way with a bounty that displays the intentions of his heart towards them.

At the end of the first chapter of Ezra, we see Cyrus restoring to the Jews what was rightfully theirs. When they were captured,  Nebuchadnezzar took accouterments from the sanctuary and placed them in his temple, which was dedicated to idol worship. These items were plenteous, precious, and treasured. Ezra 1:7-11 reads:

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Stirred: Cyrus' Proclamation

Ezra begins with a proclamation from King Cyrus, the king of the Persian Empire, considered the greatest ruling power in the world at that time. Cyrus was a great military leader, bent on universal conquest. Babylon fell before his army - B.C. 538 on the night of Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel. 5:30), and then the ancient dominion of Assyria was also added to his empire (Isaiah 21:2)In capturing Babylon, the Jews had new leadership under King Cyrus. The oft-quoted verse in Jeremiah 29 refers to the Jews who were in captivity. In Jeremiah 29:10, Jeremiah prophesies that after 70 years are passed in Babylon, I (God) will visit you because God knew the plans he had toward his people: thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). God had plans for the Jews' freedom.

The Jews were no longer in captivity, but they were still in Babylon. If they knew of this prophecy, they probably could not conceive how their lives would turn around; how they would be the beneficiaries of peace

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Review - Hearts Set Free by Jess Lederman

I had no idea what I was undertaking when I said yes to reviewing this book.

Hearts Set Free is complicated, epic, messy, and disjointed, just like real life. It is semi-autobiographical spanning a timeframe of 80 years or more that starts in native Alaska and ends in Las Vegas. It's a lot to keep track of - characters, connections, and timeframes with a little bit of spiritual warfare - devils, demons, and visions.

The story eventually becomes engaging, but it takes a while to get there. Luke is one of the main characters, and we learn about his background, which initially starts in Native Alaska. His father abandons his family - Luke and his mother, which starts them on the quest to finding him. They eventually do find him, many years later in Vegas where he died as he was working on a dam. In the interim, we also meet David Gold, who became a preacher in the Vegas desert. David is Luke's stepfather. There are other characters - Tim Faber and Joan Reed who connect with Daniel Gold - Luke's

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Who Was Ezra?

Before we jump into the events written by Ezra, let's discover some fundamentals about Ezra.

This book bears his name while showing how God used Ezra and others to fulfill his plan for the Jews. The book of Ezra is considered a historical book and begins where 2 Chronicles ends. In the chronological order of the Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah are considered the end of the old testament. Ezra details the rebuilding of the second temple which was ultimately destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.

Knowledge of the Law was lost during the seventy-year Babylonian exile. The Babylonian

Monday, May 20, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Introduction

In this space, I try to encourage you in a way that points you back to God's Word. In my life, I have seen the value of reading the Bible and I want you to reap a similar benefit. I love to read the entire Bible, but I have a particular fondness for the Old Testament.

The Old Testament highlights the time before Christ; before the realization of the Messiah. With this void, we can see men and women of faith, fallen men, and a favored nation - the Israelites.  We see unfavorable actions, the bad side of human nature and through it all God's grace, power, and sovereignty. Man is nothing without God.

When I studied the book of Judges, it had a profound impact on my life. (Type The Book of Judges in the search bar on the blog.)

Monday, May 6, 2019

Book Review - Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey

The titles of Philip Yancey's books captivate me because he's asking the questions that are in my head. While in the library, I saw PRAYER in big, bold print on the spine of this book which immediately grabbed my attention; when I saw that it was by Philip Yancey (one of my favorite Christian authors), I knew I would be borrowing it.

If we're honest, I think many Christians struggle with prayer. We pray because it's how we communicate with God, but we know it goes deeper than this yet many of us don't grasp the more profound meaning. We struggle with why, how, where, what. Why are we praying? How do we pray? Where do we pray? What do we say? We wonder, are my prayers heard? Is my prayer making a difference?

What I appreciate about this book is the author's honesty. Despite his pedigree, he too struggles. Writing as a fellow pilgrim about that mysterious intersection where God and humanity meet and relate, Philip Yancey pushes beyond conventional treatments to

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Rabbit

In my neighborhood, I usually see a family of wild rabbits with bushy white tails. They're harmless and pretty, but they hop quickly. As I studied the pace of their movements, I remembered that in the sport of Track and Field, if you want the field to go faster than intended, there's usually a rabbit in the race. The rabbit's role is to set the pace for the field, but the rabbit does not complete the race. He merely ensures that the others running are doing what they're supposed to do so that when he drops out, the remaining runners have the momentum to keep going.

According to Runners World, in distances as short as the 800 meters and as long as the marathon, the

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book Review: Cross of A Different Kind

In my life, in recent memory, I have lost two close friends to cancer. The first was Dwight, a young man who was a friend of my children. As with all of my children's friend, I treated him like my own. He was at my house having Sunday dinner when he started to complain of pain in his back. This was new to me, but I thought nothing of it and thought it was normal childhood pain. It turned out that this pain was the indication of a relapse. Dwight fought valiantly, and cancer went into remission before it came back and stole his life from him. He was 23 when he left this earth.

Then there was Michelle. Michelle was a joy to be around. She exuded joy. Her family and my husband's family grew up together, and so my husband considered Michelle his sister. In the summer of 2017, we got the news that Michelle had breast cancer. We saw her that Christmas, where she still exuded joy though waging a valiant fight. But after that Christmas things took a turn for the worse and Michelle left us too soon in March of 2018. Michelle was 51.

The title of this book appealed to me because of these close

Monday, April 8, 2019

When Giants of Faith Laugh

Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they heard God's promise of a child to them. We often hear about Sarah's laughter; rarely Abraham's.

In Genesis 17, God visited with Abraham first and made a promise to him. This was after Abram and Sarai had taken things into their own hands whereby Hagar had a son with Abram. When this visitation happened, Abram was ninety-nine years old and Ishmael, Hagar's son, was thirteen. It was in this meeting that God

Monday, March 25, 2019

Stick By Me, I'll Stick By You

I bought this figurine maybe seven years in, because of what it represents - longevity, closeness, contentment while still dancing and liking each other as each has changed. All of this ran through my mind when I initially saw it. Then there's this reggae song that we have danced and mouthed the words to. It makes us smile as we groove to the music.

I love you darling, and that's no lie, oh-oh
Stick by me, I'll stick by you
When you cry, I cry, too, oh-oh
Stick by me, and I'll stick by you
Remember my heart and my love belong to you, oh-oh
Stick by me, I'll stick by you

Recently, I've been singing this song because 30 years later I realized that we've stuck to each other. Yes, we have.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Thinking About What It Takes to Be Desperate For God

We don't need much to serve God - we need willing hearts and open minds, but as with most things we complicate it. Recently, it feels as if I'm spinning plates and failing miserably. As long as I have breath, I plan to live my life to the fullest with God's help. So there's new goals, new adventures, new tasks even at this stage of the game.

Sometimes I'm tired because if I'm honest, I thought by this point, certain things wouldn't matter. I thought contentment was acquiring the things I'd always wanted and planned for: good

Monday, February 11, 2019

How Gossip Can Wreak Havoc

We may think saying things about another person that we have no knowledge of is harmless, but God knew what he was talking about when he lumped gossip with murder (Proverbs 6:16-19). A reckless tongue can do a world of damage and destroy relationships (James 3). In his letter to the Romans, Paul equates gossipers with “slanderers, God-haters” (Rom 1:30) and warns the Corinthians not to engage in “quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). As a refresher, gossip is defined as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. Gossip is the enemy hiding in plain sight.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Why Do You Fast?

It's that time of year again where churches encourage members to fast at the start of the year. To launch fasting in our household, we had a long discussion about what fasting means while reviewing Isaiah 58: 1-7. This chapter speaks about right and wrong ways to fast. In this passage, the reality was that God's people didn’t fast with the right heart and did it only as an empty ritual. The context of this passage focused on their relationships with others - the oppressed and the needy. But the overriding theme was not to do something just because you think it will please God without changing your ways. We were mindful of this thought as Monday dawned.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Young Girl's Manifesto

I watched Surviving R. Kelly on Lifetime, and it can't seem to leave my mind. I've raised three daughters who are confident and know their worth. Because I've raised daughters, I've seen girls who will do anything for attention - especially male attention. This clouded judgment leads them down foolish paths.

I've lived long enough to see the broad spectrum of human behavior; this documentary was a sobering reminder that not everyone is well-intentioned. Today, I want every young lady to know her worth. If you're at an age where you can make decisions for yourself, here's what I want you to know for yourself.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Notes From My Daughter - Letting Go of the Time Constraint

Notes From My Daughter are occasional notes from my second daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes but I am always blown away. Did this child come from me? Read on

It’s the beginning of a new year, and many of us are reflecting. There's wisdom in reflection. 2018 has felt like one of the longest years ever which got me to thinking, "what makes time meaningful?" It’s a question I ponder often, and some of those answers I want to share with you.

1. Community makes time meaningful. Comparison is only the thief of joy because it robs you of a sense of community. When you come to understand who supports you and the mutual commitment each has to see the other thrive, there is no need to compare anyone's journey to your own.