Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Moses Met God in his Daily Routine

I don't know about you, but sometimes I wonder how I could possibly meet God in a given circumstance. I search hard when there are big issues, but I can be forgetful in the daily routine. 

Yet, God meets us where we are at. It is in our daily routine that we can encounter God. We must simply be observant and curious enough to check it out. 

If we are willing to see God, God will reveal His presence, His name, His plan, and His purposes for our lives.

I love how Moses saw the burning bush and just went to go check it out. It was in this simple act of curiosity that he had the most intimate conversation with God.

I love that he was real and raw with his fears. He feared his ability was not good enough. He feared how the people would respond. He feared that he would not be recognized as one with authority. 

With each fear God responded in kind. 

I AM WITH YOU! 
       WORSHIP ME!

I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FORE- FATHERS. 
       KNOW MY NAME!

I AM SENDING YOU! 
      TELL THEM THAT!

Such intimacy, security, and comfort found as Moses just went about his day watching his flock if sheep.

Do I watch for God? AM I willing to pause and check things out when He is at work around me? Do I share with Him my greatest fears?  Do I listen to His answers?

I can know this. God does not change and if He did this with Moses, He will do this with me.

I can trust that God is present!
I will worship Him alone!
I know His Name! 
I will share what I know!
I can trust this will influence generations!  

Amen

Sunday, June 26, 2022

When we see in justice, how we respond matters

I don't know about you, but sometimes when I see injustice I want to be or can be very reactionary in my responses. I can move too quickly or speak too quickly and cause more harm than good. 

In today's narrative, I see three types of justice occurring and as I watch them unfold, I see Moses maturing. I have never thought of this narrative this way before, but it is almost as if his maturity is being chronicled and condensed down to these three incidents.

The three types of justice I observed are...
1. Moses's response to justice. He is impulsive, reactionary, passionate, and irrational at first. He runs because his actions are wrong. It would have been better if he stayed to chase evil away.
2. Ruel's response to justice given to his daughters was welcoming, hospitable, and generous.
3. God's response to justice was He sees, He hears, and He responds to the groaning of Israel's bondage. 

All three see, hear, and respond. Yet, we see that Moses needs to mature in his response. We are given three separate accounts of how Moses responds to justice. 

Notice that the first situation was he encountered abuse, he was impulsive, physical, and it ended poorly. He killed a man and hide what he did.

In the second situation, Moses was verbal as he encountered two men fighting and he used questions. When he was confronted with his own poor use of just judgment by killing, Moses ran and hid. His approach was better but his poor judgment before caused consequences.

In the third situation, we are not told what Moses did except that he ran off shepherds that prevented the women shepherds from feeding their flocks water. His actions were just enough that he did not run away!  Also, the women told their dad and he welcomed him in and gave him a daughter as a wife. This time Moses reaped blessings so I am going to assume his justice leaned toward the side of goodness.

Because the narrative ends with noting that God sees, hears and responds to the cry for justice as Israel groaned, we can recognize that God longs for us to respond to justice, too.

As we reflect on Moses' three incidents,  we can observe that there are mature ways to respond justly. Justice should bring blessing and what we say or do should enable us to stand firm and not run.

I realize I must slow down, be rational, ask questions, and then move with action. I should chase evil away rather than run because I did evil.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Three character traits that save lives


Creative obedience, compassionate defiance, and courageous steps saves a baby's life!

These are the three truths that God taught me this morning as I reflected on the birth of Moses.

I sure want to be the person that says I recognize that your life matters! You matter! No matter how small you might be, you matter. You are God's gift.

I want to be creatively obedient like Mose's mom. Pharaoh said throw the babies in the Nile. She did, but only after hiding him to grow in strength for three months. She then made him a nice wicker basket boat to keep him afloat and protected from the elements! Talk about creativity!

I want to be compassionately defiant like Pharaoh's daughter. She knew that her dad said,  "throw the babies in the Nile", but when she heard the baby cry she had compassion. Not the kind of compassion that just moves the heart but the kind that moves the hand. She provided for the baby by agreeing to a nurse, giving her pay, and then taking the baby to raise as her own. 

Not only that, she named him Moses meaning "I drew you out of the water!"  This child would grow up hearing every time his name was called that he was delivered from an awful fate because she drew him out. Imagine how that alone plays out in his psyche as he becomes Israel's deliverer that draws them out of their bondage.

I want courageous steps. I want to be so curious that I am willing to see, but not just see, but step forward and do, maybe impulsively, but the right thing like Mose's sister. 

Anytime a life is saved physically or even spiritually, I realize it took someone or a group of someone's creative obedience, compassionate defiance, and courageous steps.

Father, please help me to walk in these and thank you for those that have already done this before me!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

God honors those that honor Him

When is civil disobedience okay in the eyes of God?

In Exodus 1:1-22, we discover that God honored the midwives when they protected the lives of little boys being born. Pharoah commanded that they kill them at birth, but they disobeyed Pharaoh and let the little Hebrew boys live. God honored their decision and blessed them with families of their own.

See, back then when a woman could not have children, she was socially despised and greatly disadvantaged socially and politically. Women were property good for bearing children. When a woman could not bear children. she might become a midwife so she can at least be near children and the blessing of bearing them. 

Shiphrah and Puah (midwives) chose to disobey Pharoah at great risk. They could lose their lives but God showed His pleasure with their choice to save lives by blessing their wombs! Wozer!

But, even beyond the blessing of family. God used these two brave women to make a way for two deliverers: Moses and Jesus. 

God used them to fulfill His promise to Abraham to make him the father of a great nation. God used them to fulfill His promise to Jacob to make his family into a great nation. God used them to fulfill His promise to send Israel into the promised land by sending baby Moses that would deliver Israel from Egypt and eventually to send the Messiah through their descendants!

Sometimes, in the moment when we struggle to make the right decision, maybe great risk is involved, maybe we are very disadvantaged, trust that God has a plan and when we walk in obedience blessings will come. Recognize that some fruit will remain unknown because it is fulfilled generationally, but God honors those that honor Him and His commands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Truth & Love

Truth and love... these two character qualities can change any situation. There is power in them so much so that lies abound to destroy both. 

I am listening to an audiobook called REMEMBER ME. It is about the Spanish War in 1937. 

It is a historical fiction telling what it might have been like to be one of the 400 children that were shipped to Mexico to protect them from the war. 

Over and over truth and love were the factors that brought blessing. Hatred and lies only caused destruction. 

This book has really made me think about what is happening in the Ukraine, in the US, and well around the world. What would happen if truth and love were brought into the circumstances?

Did you know that in the Bible God is called Truth and Love? These are character traits of the Most High God and when we walk in them we most look like Him. 

Today, as I interact I am internally asking, How can I bring truth and love to this moment? When I do this right it shuts down my stupidity and makes me look so much smarter and more compassionate. Now that is a good thing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

One way I pray through the Bible


A devotional thought I wrote June 9, 2013.

In Canada I was asked numerous times, "How do I pray the Bible?" 

This morning this was my prayer for Philippians 1:29, "God has given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for Him." 

I have been given the privilege to suffer for Christ. This is not a unhealthy pursuit of pain, but an intentional pursuit to build the kingdom of God. It is purposeful and life changing. The suffering represents the passion and will to move forward when it is not easy. 

Willing to love when nothing is returned. Willing to serve when it is not recognized. Willing to give when it is not noticed. 

Am I willing to suffer for Christ? Without a doubt!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Put Others First

To get ahead, Put others first" John C. Maxwell, Leadership Bible.

I started praying through 1&2 Samuel today and finished 1&2 King's. 

Servanthood and kindness go a long way. As I read through these chapters, I noticed how the kings (leaders) that honored God by honoring others were the ones that developed loyalty. I don't think King David was saying to himself, "Be kind and serve so they will be loyal to you."  He was just being himself... kind and serving. 

But, as I read about this type of leadership I realize I am not always serving others and I am not always kind. I am very aware of my short comings. Sometimes, my tone can ruin a month's worth of kindness and service. Who wants to be loyal to a self-serving person? Ugh. Do you ever struggle with your tone like I do? 

The other night I just let Greg have it. I was tired, frustrated, and well honestly self-driven so my tone unleashed.  As it was unleashing, I realized how awful I sounded and how he really was being kind in his response. I had to repent instantly. I did. He accepted and we moved on. Praise God. But I could not help but ponder my behavior.

We cannot allow these moments to be our norm. I am definitely a work in progress. So I pray and ask God to forgive me and to do a work in me. It is so much harder to do than when I release the uglies in me. It takes more strength and restraint. 

So, I pray.

Father, please help me to be kind and serve. Help me to be others-serving and not self-seeking. Help me to recognize life isn't fair. I will need to be the one who is kind when others aren't.  I will need to be the servant when others aren't.  Help me to do this because it honors others and You. Help me to do this even when life isn't fair. Help me to be loyal in my tone, words, and service not because I seek gain but because it brings blessings and honor. Help me to find ways to help others win. In Jesus name, amen

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Creation Story Summary: A Simple Method for Recall.

I don't know about you, but remembering large content does not come easily to me. So, I am always looking for tricks that can assist my memory. The Creation Story has always made me struggle. When I taught I was always afraid on the day that I that I would forget the order. This method is what helped me. Truly, it is the simple things. 

I have a doctorate and I am not ashamed to say I need these types of memory cues. 

I hope it helps you!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Was Naaman Only Healed of Leprosy?


Some of the best stories have role reversals. 2 Kings 5 is always labeled: Naaman Healed of Leprosy. I get it that this story has a crazy miracle in it. But, I feel there is a deeper lesson.

1. Naaman is the servant of the king that worships false gods and is out to destroy the people of God. He is a commander in a big position. Well respected, but has leprosy (a skin disease).

2. Gehazi is the servant of the messenger of God, Elisha. Elisha serves the One True God, the Almighty. 

3. The king if Syria sent his commander to the king of Israel to be healed because they received word through a captive servant girl from Israel that the prophet of God from her home could heal Namaan. He sends an over the top generous offering so his commander can be healed.

4. The king of Israel freaks out. He thinks it's a trap. He should seek God. He is God's king after all. But nope. He just flips forgetting who he serves.

5. Naaman is healed. You will have to read about his own lesson on doing that which is simple even if it doesn't make sense. Oh, and he listened again to his servants when they gave advice. We see a pattern of humility and teachability in this.
6. Elisha doesn't show himself for the healing. His presence woukd cause Naaman to possibly worship him. But by not showing up and just letting Naaman walk by faith. It reveals that the God of Israel is the Most High God who can do the miraculous in dirty water.

7. Gehazi is upset that Elisha healed Naaman and took nothing. So he plots to deceive and fulfill his greed.

8. Naaman gives generously and Gehazi goes home to hide it.

9. Elisha confronts Gehazi because God revealed to him what he did. He gave Gehazi a chance to tell the truth. Gehazi lied again. In the great role reversals, the servant of the Most High God's prophet walks away with leprosy and the servant of the enemy king walks away healed worshipping the One True God. 

10. But the lesson that blessed me the most. Elisha told Naaman that when he had to bow while serving alongside the king to the false god to be at peace. Naaman was afraid of offending the Most High God. Ponder that for a moment. It isn't about your position. It is all about your heart.

Why? Because the Most High God knows the heart of men. Culture may make you go on bended knee and think it a sign of worship. But the Most High God knows when a heart is bent toward Him or a false god made of stone or even the false god of greed in wanting possessions. 

Go read the story. It is crazy amazing. So many powerful lessons.

Which one speaks most to you today?

Saturday, April 16, 2022

You Two are Like a Tandem

When Greg asked me to marry him he said, "We will be better together than we would be apart!"
It was so much fun team teaching together on this trip. Everyone loves Greg because he balances me out. 
I am loud. He is quiet.
I am over the top. He is calm.
I am too serious. He is funny.
I don't get jokes. He tells jokes.
One leader said to us, "You two are a tandem! You teach together like a tandem story. It is..." He then did a hand motion to show fullness with lots of swirls. He didn't have the English word but his motions spoke volumes. 
I believe in marriage the greatest gift we give each other and those around us is to find how we are called to tandem for the LORD. We should pray for it. 
Ask God, "How do you want us as a couple to serve you so that we are so one we are like the two tires in motion on a tandem bike?" This is a prayer God loves to answer.
Don't get me wrong. It isn't easy learning to tandem. But it is worth the wobbly struggle and skinned knees!

Friday, March 25, 2022

God uses the Small to Change the Nations: Modeling a Generational Timeline while Teaching the Stories of Joseph and Esther By: Dr. Tara Rye

“One person can change a generation!” My friend from India shared that his dad used to say this to him often. I have not been able to stop thinking about that short phrase. As I prepared for our trip to Gambella, Ethiopia, to minister to the Nuer people group that phrase bounced in my head, my heart, and my prayers. I realized that God was doing something in me in preparation for our teaching time. We were going to minister to the Hope for the Children Orphanage. Simon, the leader, did not set out to be the father of several hundred children, but as he saw all the children without parents because of the South Sudanese crises he began to gather the children. He told me, “We cannot change our nation if we do not give them Jesus!” So, Simon started collecting children that had nowhere else to go. He sought to change the next generation by loving the children of South Sudan. 

When Simon invited me to come and teach to the top English-speaking students, I prayed and asked God what would be the best Bible stories for us to bring. I knew the children were being taught the Bible, so what stories might have a profound impact? God put it on my heart to bring the story of Joseph and Esther because they both represented someone placed in circumstances beyond their control, yet they both chose to honor God and their people. I also knew that the Nuer language did not have the Old Testament translated yet, so I wanted to introduce them to stories in the Old Testament that they might not know yet. I love that Joseph and Esther’s life choices led to both of them being used to save their nations. God uses the small to change nations! This would be a phrase I would repeat often! It became our theme for the whole week and the one truth we wanted them to know deep in their souls. 


Generational Timeline 

Because knowing your family’s tribe and history are important to the Nuer, I wanted to help them see God’s generational timeline for them through the Bible and how each person plays an important role in God’s big plan. We started off by creating a human generational timeline for the Bible. We invited a boy and a girl to come forward to represent Adam and Eve while sharing that God created all things. He created the first man and woman in His image. God had a plan for the man and woman, but they disobeyed God and, in the process, brought shame and separation from God for all of mankind. But God had a plan to restore mankind to Him. God would provide a way through their descendants to save the nations through His Son. 

In the process of time, God chose Abraham, a descendant of Adam and Eve. At this point, we invited one boy to stand beside Adam and Eve to represent Abraham. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars of the universe and the sand of the sea. Through Abraham God would save the nations. Abraham was to go and tell the nations what God had done for him. The LORD blessed Abraham to be a blessing. 

Abraham had a son named Isaac, and the promise continued through him. We then invited someone to stand as Isaac. Then we shared that Isaac had a son named Jacob. Now, Jacob had twelve sons. God promised Jacob that he would give him the land of Canaan and make his family great and blessed him with many good things. Jacob in turn blessed his sons. We then invited someone to stand as Jacob and then gathered twelve people to stand as Jacob’s twelve sons. 

Once Jacob’s twelve sons were settled upfront, we pulled one boy out to represent Judah. We shared that Judah was blessed by his father Jacob. Jacob told Judah that the royal line would come through him and that the nations would come to obedience through his descendants. It will be through Judah’s descendants that Jesus, the Savior of all nations, would be born. It was very important that the descendants of Judah were kept safe. We then pulled one boy forward to be Joseph. 

Next, we explained that we would be telling the story of Joseph during the week. He will save his brothers and forgive them even though they sold him into slavery. What man did for evil, Joseph recognized that God used for good. God used Joseph to protect the descendants of Judah so that we would eventually have Jesus, the Messiah. God used the small to save His nation. 

We then explained that many descendants were born and as time passed, the people of God ended in exile in Persia. It is in Persia that we will meet Esther and Mordecai. We then invited a girl and a boy forward to stand for Esther and Mordecai. We explained that God used Esther as a young, orphaned, unmarried girl in exile to become the queen of Persia. The king of Persia oversaw 127 territories that spanned from India to Ethiopia. We wanted them to see how Esther was the queen for their nation and that for such time as was needed, she was willing to sacrifice herself for the people of God. God used the small to save her nation. 

We then explained that in the process of time, God saw fit to send His one and only Son, Jesus, to come to earth. At this point, we brought up one boy to represent Jesus. We explained that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature in favor with God and man. Jesus preached, taught, healed, and cast out demons while pointing to the father’s will. Jesus willingly died on the cross for the things that all of mankind did and will do that bring shame and dishonor to God. Anyone who believes in Jesus is promised eternal life. Jesus gave the command to go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He entrusted His followers to bring the message that God loves the whole world and sent His Son for them. God will use the small to change nations. Jesus entrusted His command to go make disciples to anyone who seeks to follow Him and be His disciple. 
I then invited the team upfront. I had shared previously that each of them was someone that I had the privilege of training, and now I am teaching alongside them. As much as possible, I gave them the key role as teachers. 

We split the stories equally, so it was a shared teaching time. My prayer was that they would see the generational teaching being modeled. We then shared that in the process of time, we learned the story of God and how He so loved the world that He sent His Son. We obeyed Jesus’ command to go make disciples of all nations and that is how we ended up in Gambella. God uses the small to change the nations! 
I then shared that God has a plan for you! If He can use us, then He can use you! God wants to use you though you may feel small to change the nations!


Big God Story Summary

In order to make sure that the listeners knew the Big God Story, we had Alice come forward and tell the Big God Story in Summary. She shared a less than three-minute basic summary of what God did for the nations through Jesus. The generational timeline allowed them to see and hear where each person fell in God’s timeline, but we also wanted to make sure that they knew what God had accomplished through Jesus. 

The Big God Story Summary was told to emphasize Jesus’ role in the timeline. We did not want to miss out on sharing about Jesus since we would spend the week telling stories of Joseph and Esther. Below is the Big God Story Summary. 

The Most High GOD created the heavens and the earth and every living creature in the earth, in the sea, and in the sky said, “It is good!” 

Then the Most High God created man in His image and placed him in the garden and told him to care for the garden. 

He could eat from anything in the garden, but not from the tree of knowledge, good, and evil. 

But man ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and it caused him to be ashamed. His shame separated him from God, and he hid from God. 

God loved man, so He made the first blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and sewed clothes for man from the animal. 

God then gave man commandments to live by, but the man did not obey those commandments and his disobedience hurt his relationship with God. 

The Most High God had a plan. He so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. 

Jesus walked on this earth as the Son of God teaching, preaching, healing, and casting out demons. 

Man killed Jesus and hung Him on the cross. Jesus died and rose on the third day. 

Now everyone who believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life. 

Before leaving this earth, Jesus commanded us to go make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. I will be with you always! (Rye, p. 6) 

One villager came up to me later in the week and said that they really appreciated us sharing the Big God Story SummaryIt helped him to see the generational timeline for Jesus. I found it interesting how different aspects of what we did impacted different people. This villager was so impacted by the Big God Story that he came back and took notes while other stories were told. He was just someone passing by on his way to do chores, but he stopped to listen. He made sure to stop by the next day because he was so captivated by the stories.


Story Summary 

Now that we know God’s generational timeline for Joseph and Esther and how God has us moving toward Jesus, our team would teach the entire story of Joseph and Esther using various storytelling methods. We would introduce the story with a short summary of the story. The story summaries typically take about twenty minutes. They cover the key scenes with simple phrases. This provides the overview of the story so the group can know the whole context of the story before we dive into the week of learning. 

Grant presented the story of Joseph in summary as the crowd kept growing. As villagers would pass by us while we taught under the big tree, they would stop their journey and stay to listen. Our group that was supposed to be fifty students from Hope for the Children Orphanage ended up being a huge crowd from the village and almost all of the students at the orphanage. The big tree outside the compound not only provided us with shade from the sun but also placed us on the path that villagers traveled as they completed their daily chores.


One teacher, Peter, came up to me after Grant taught the Joseph story in summary and said, “Thank you for sharing the generational outline. I now see how Joseph fits in God’s story. This is very good! We will be using this in the future. We have taught about Joseph, but not like this.” 

On Monday and Tuesday, we only focused on Joseph. We told Esther on Wednesday and Thursday. The Esther summary was told by Emily. We were very excited about Esther because when we asked if anyone knew the story of Esther, no one raised a hand. Emily had a surprise element to her story summary. She prepared a short song that introduced the characters before she told her story summary. She used the same motions that we created for the story in motion, but only introduced Esther, the king, Mordecai, and Haman. The children loved it, but I am certain some of the teachers loved it more!


Emily’s song 

My name is Esther. My husband is the king. My uncle’s name is Mordecai and Haman wants the Jews to die! 


As I woke up in the mornings while in Gambella, I would be singing Emily’s catchy tune. As a teacher, it was my gift on the trip. It illustrated how Emily owned her story and took seriously the call we give to our listeners to go and create their own thing related to the story. She took it to the next level and owned it. This is when generational teaching blesses those who have given the investment to another! As we traveled home, this story song was a fun way to show family and friends what we did in Gambella. One night as Emily led her story song, even the fathers in the room stood and joined in the motion and song!

Emily’s song prepared the listener well for her story summary. The sound of the crowd moving and chatting never seemed to cease. There always seemed to be a hum of movement and chatter, but, when Emily stood and started telling the story of Esther the silence that fell was palpable. We never once had to ask them to listen or be quiet. The power of story silenced them as they were gripped with the true tale of a young orphan girl becoming queen. A few women listened with huge smiles on their faces as the story unfolded.

Story Outline in Motion

After the story summary was told, we introduced the story through a basic outline that used motions to help us remember key scenes in the storyline. These were shared with a sing-song sound while using hand motions that communicate an idea. 

Because I knew movement was important to the storytellers in Nuer, I wanted to incorporate something that would provide easy story recall as well as provide a fun activity for the children. I created a basic outline and motions to tell the story, but the story in motion came alive when we as a team sat down and went through the motions together. The team took what I created and made it better. It is in these moments that teachers realize that what we teach is often done much better by the ones we have the opportunity to pour into. Grant, Alice, and Emily reminded me that I could stand back and reap what they sow because of how God has gifted each of them. 

For the story in motion times, we would ask the listeners to stand up so that they could engage their whole body in the movements. This was intended to help awaken those who might have become too comfortable or to quiet those that were too noisy. Movement will also awaken both sides of the brain. By using both words and movement, we are more likely to recall what we are hearing. 

It was our goal to have the story in motion before story time and after storytime to help create a basic story outline that would chunk the story for recall. For the most part, we were able to follow this rhythm, but there were a few times that time did not allow us to tell it at the end of the training. If they could remember the basic outline, it was easier to recall the bigger story. 
As the week unfolded, it was fun to watch the children both young and old unconsciously do the motion as the fuller story was told. They recognized immediately when the motion connected to the storyline. This story connection will remain long after we leave and enable them to tell it well.
You can access the Joseph story in motion at Joseph Story in Motion .

You can access the Esther story in motion at Esther Story in Motion 

Story Told in Sections 

The Joseph story spans from Genesis 37 to 50. It is the longest narrative of any one character in the Bible. It deals with family drama, favoritism, jealousy, revenge, slavery, power, influence, favor, and blessing. It has plot twists and role reversals found in dreams that come alive. It shows how one man adjusts to cross-cultural situations. 

In contrast, Esther is told in 9 chapters and shows us what it is like to live in exile as a foreigner, an orphan, and being commanded to do things simply because of her womanhood and beauty. It also has plot twists that bring about justice with finality and celebration. In order to tell the stories over several days, I broke them into smaller sections. 

My goal was to try to keep them under four minutes, but I wanted to stay true to how the story scenes unfold. I divided the stories up and each of us told our story section. If you see two names, then that section had two storytellers. If there are three names, it had three storytellers.


Here is our basic outline: 

Joseph 
Joseph was sold into slavery (Genesis 37) Tara & Alice 
God was with Joseph (Genesis 39-41) Emily, Grant, and Alice 
Joseph’s Secret (Genesis 44-45) Alice and Emily 
God’s Promises (Genesis 46-50) Grant, Tara, and Alice 

Esther 
A Plot to Destroy (Esther 3:1-13-4) Emily and Grant 
Honor is Esteemed (Esther 5-7) Tara, Alice, and Emily 
A Nation Saved (Esther 8-9) Grant and Tara 

For each section, the storytellers would stand and tell the whole section at one time. This allowed for the flow of a natural story conversation, and it followed the scenes for that section. We would not do an introduction; we would simply start telling our story. The first person would start off by saying something like this is a true story in the Bible and then start telling. The last storyteller would say, May God honor the telling of His word! This allowed a clear beginning and ending for the sacred story of God.


QAR (Question, Answer, Response) 

After each story section, we then began a process of asking questions about what the listeners discovered from the story. Each storyteller would stand and ask basic observational questions related to the story. At the beginning of the week, the group did not engage much. But as the week progressed and they discovered the rhythm of listening and sharing, they started answering more quickly and more excitedly. We discovered that we did not have to ask anyone to retell the story because someone always seemed to retell it naturally. When a question was asked, they would often summarize the story as part of their answer. We would faithfully encourage them to go and tell the story to someone else!


Using art for story recall 

In order to help me recall the story of Joseph and the story of Esther, I created storyboards using stick figures. As I prayed about Esther, it was on my heart to provide a storyboard that could be replicated with bead art. I created a storyboard using geometric shapes to help me recall the story. I wanted to put the storyboard on scarves to hand out to the children. This way they could use them for headbands and then take them off to share with someone. Because I knew that art was not a typical learning tool used to recall stories in Nuer, I did not use it as part of our main teaching. However, at the end of the week when they knew the story of Joseph and Esther, I pulled out the art and retold the story using the storyboard to reinforce what they already learned. This is best used in smaller groups so that everyone can see the storyboard and follow along. It was quite a task to try to use with a large crowd. 

On the day before I was to share the storyboards one of the teachers, Peter shared with me that he loves using art. I showed him the storyboards, and he was very excited. I gave him the challenge to create art to tell Bible stories. I also had a young villager named Prisca approach me and say that every day as she passed by while doing her chores, she loved hearing the stories. She wanted to come by in the afternoon to learn more. To my surprise, she showed up that afternoon. She said, “I am sad that you will not be telling more stories this afternoon.” We were doing fun activities in the afternoon while Pads4Pupils taught women’s hygiene. I asked Prisca, “Would you like for me to share them with you now?” She said, “Yes!” So, I took out the scarves and started telling her the story of Esther. A small group of young men and a few boys gathered behind us as I used the story scarf to tell the story. I told her both the story of Esther and Joseph. I gave the scarves to Prisca and asked her to go home and share it with her family. She did! She shared with her mom, sisters, and aunts. Her mom and one sister came to greet me the next day. 

The next day Prisca and several family members showed up for our morning teaching time when I presented the story scarves and told the stories using the art. We had our team and a few teachers stationed around the crowd holding the story scarf pointing to the symbol as I told the story. For the most part, the group was able to track along with me and see how the story unfolded using the art. I left behind 70 scarves for both the story of Joseph and Esther for the teachers to distribute as they felt necessary. In order to help the teachers, recall what each symbol stands for I left behind a printout of what each symbol means for each row. 

The storyboard is unique in that it starts at the bottom of the page and moves up. This was to be symbolic of how God uses the small to change the nations! He lifts us up and moves us up when we are willing to seek Him and walk in obedience to Him. God used Prisca to show us that He can use art in their area to help them with story recall and encourage others to want to come and hear more. This affirmed the importance of using as many methods as possible.


When our team left the area and was staying at a guest house, I pulled out a story scarf to give to the house manager and assistant. I did not intend to tell the whole story but was showing them how to use the story scarf with the women they serve. The house manager sat down so he could listen to the whole story. So, a moment when I thought I would be just handing out a gift with a short explanation ended up being the whole telling of Esther using the scarf. Once the story started, he did not want to leave until he heard it all. 

The story scarf is a tool that can be used to draw someone into the story, and it is fun because you can give it to them so they can use it to retell as well! Another example of how, God uses that which is small to change the nations! 

On Thursday afternoon as I was about to crawl into the bajaj to leave when a young boy walked up to me and did the motions for “God has a plan for you” as he spoke in Nuer and then he hugged me! I knew in that moment that God had used that which was small to change one, and it only takes one to change a generation! Because God uses that which is small to change nations! 

 And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18)


The story summary, story outline in motion, and the stories we told can be found in a workbook I created called Joseph and Esther (Rye. 2022).

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Parable of the Tenant

What will the Vineyard owner do?

I have read the Parable of the Tenant (Mark 12:1-12) for three days now.  Sometimes God just wants us to sit and be still in a passage.  

There is so much here, but what I caught for prayer in this moment is that when the religious leaders that sought to hurt Jesus heard this story they feared the crowd and walked away. I thought now that is a great prayer today. 

Father, let those who seek destruction of Your people that You placed in this massive garden called earth let them fear the crowd and walk away from seeking to cause more destruction.  I especially long for this in the Ukraine right now.  I recognize that this is a temporary fix because they will seek to do it again. Thank you for being so faithful in sending servants so that even they may know You and respect Your Son. In Jesus name amen

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Jesus' Baby Dedication


As I prepared to study Jesus's baby dedication or presentation at the temple, I thought, "I don't think there will be much for me to take away." LOL! God loves these moments in my life. I don't know why they still show up in my head, but they do and He always shows me how wrong I am. LOL!

I never paid attention to all the descriptions of Jesus in this passage before. I discovered 12! Seriously! Wozer!

Well, I just started listing more in my head...
Baby
Jesus
Messiah
Consolation
Comforter
Salvation
Light
Glory
Lifter
Lowered
Revealer 
Redeemer
Strong
Wise Counselor
Grace

Some are listed directly and others are implied. But, OH MY! 

No wonder Simeon and Anna's responses were thanksgiving and praise! 

What I love is that they saw Jesus!  Am I looking to see Him?  Do I seek Him out in my day? And once I meet Him do I do what Simeon did, bless those that brought Him to me?  Or do I do what Anna did and go tell those that are looking for redemption about Him? 

I love that seeing Jesus brings out praise, blessings, thanksgiving, and telling of Him. 

We cannot share about what we do not know! But when we do know, we can't help but pour it out. It just overflows!

Jesus' Baby Dedication

As I prepared to study Jesus's baby dedication or presentation at the temple I thought, "I don't think there will be much for me to take away." LOL! God loves these moments in my life. I don't know why they still show up in my head, but they do and He always shows me how wrong I am. LOL!

I had never paid attention to all the descriptions of Jesus in this passage. I discovered 12! Seriously! Wozer!

Well, I just started listing more in my head...
Baby
Jesus
Messiah
Consolation
Comforter
Salvation
Light
Glory
Lifter
Lowered
Revealer 
Redeemer
Strong
Wise Counselor
Grace
Some are listed directly and others are implied. But. OH MY! 

No wonder Simeon and Anna's responses were Thanksgiving and praise! 

What I love I'd that they saw Jesus!  Am I looking to see Him?  Do I seek Him out in my day? And once I meet Him do I do what Simeon did bless those that brought Him to me?  Or do I do what Anna did and go tell those that are looking for redemption about Him? 

I love that seeing Jesus brings out praise, blessings, thanksgiving, and telling of Him. 

We cannot share about what we do not know! But when we do know we can't help buy pour it out. It just overflows!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Wilderness Testing and Temptation


Sometimes when I am in a wilderness moment, you know those seasons where you know you are in a struggle and feel like you are being tested or tempted on every angle, I often don't realize I am in it until I am at the end of it or until I put an end to it. The end always happens when I choose to activate my faith through the power of God's Word in me. Then suddenly it all makes sense and I feel release, relief, strength, and the ability to move forward. 

Once when I was preparing for a speaking engagement in Lake McQueeny, Texas I felt heavy weeks before it almost like I was walking in a dense fog. I kept moving forward in prayer, reading Scripture, and praising God even though I felt the weight. There was a moment when someone repented of a very serious sin and then the weight was gone. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I was fighting a spiritual battle. The lifting happened when I prayed Psalm 51 over the person. God taught me alot in that moment. 

This morning as I read about Jesus' testing/temptation or wilderness moment, I am reminded once again of the power of praying God's Word. It is what makes us strong when we are weak. His Word is what makes Satan flee. Yes, Satan is real and he is out to steal, kill, and destroy, but God's Word is powerful, effective, and can cut through any circumstance. 

We are all fighting spiritual battles. These are not easily won. We need to do as Jesus did! Counter the lies with the Word of God! We must listen to it, read it, believe it, speak it, and pray it into every circumstance of our lives.

We must trust that the Holy Spirit is with us. Notice that Scripture does not say that the Holy Spirit left Jesus! The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. This is telling us He was with Him. 

So when we are in our times of preparation hold onto the presence of the Holy Spirit. Trust Him to guide you in all truth and speak the Word of God to counter the enemy.

Shalom y'all!

Friday, February 4, 2022

The Gift of Gratitude and Thankfulness


Do you ever struggle with gratitude?  I know I do. Sometimes, I want to just grumble and complain. Oh God forgive me! My mom Olive Kathy Warren is blessing me so much as I watch her journey a very difficult season. Literally, she oozes thankfulness and gratitude. She is having to figure out a new norm and when we talk she tells me of the simple joys she had that day. 

This morning as I read 1 Chronicles 23, I read again that the priests were given the task to start the day and end the day with giving praise and thankfulness to the LORD. As I prayed over our family asking God to make us a people that start our day and end our day in praise and thankfulness, I was reminded of how praise and thankfulness are a gift to us mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, and even spiritually.

Did you know that scientists have done research and that patients that give thanks and gratitude release serotonin and dopamine the feel good hormones? Science  supports what God has already shown us. 

"Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. His love endures forever!" (Psalm 136:1-2).

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16

When I taught at the University of Houston in a lab school, we used to have a saying on really bad days when it seemed like the whole classroom was in complete chaos, "He/she has good bones." No matter how bad it got, we could find something good to say. Even if it was simply someone has good bones. They couldn't do what they were doing if their bones were not functioning well. Lol.

What can you give thanks for today?  How can you praise God? Thankfulness and gratitude are gifts of God that give back to you. Give them freely and give them generously. Blessings will over flow inside you because of it! 

By the way, I praise God for you!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Why was Jesus baptized?


Why was Jesus baptized?

Jesus' baptism story is in three books (Matthew 3:23-17, Mark 19-11, and Luke 3:21-23). Each author tells something unique that they noticed.

Matthew noticed that Jesus asked John to help Him and when John tried to refuse Jesus pointed out that His baptism fulfills righteousness now.

Mark noticed that when the dove ascended from heaven that heaven tore open. 

Luke noticed that Jesus prayed when He was being baptized.

All three spoke of Jesus, the Holy Spirt, and the Voice of Heaven (the Father).

All three pointed out that the Father Said, "This is my Son, whom I love and am well pleased!"

Then Luke lets us know that Jesus' ministry began. 

Based on what you just read, why was Jesus baptized? 

Why would it be in the Bible for us to read about? 

What do learn from this true story?

Many years ago, I caught the truth that obedience fulfills righteousness in the moment. This was a huge truth for me to meditate on. I started asking myself, How can I fulfill righteousness now? 

For some, it could be you need to know Jesus, for others it could be getting baptized. For some, it could be seeking help to fulfill righteousness in the moment, and others it could be listening to the voice of God and the truths that He speaks over you. Some might need to be aware that the Holy Spirit is present and at work.

It is so much fun to be in the Word, to be with Jesus, and be transformed! 

Shalom y'all!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Jesus is Risen and Gives the Great Commission

What I love about asking these simple questions when I study the Bible is that it allows me to hear from God directly what He needs me to hear. 

I don't know about you, but sometimes obedience us hard, scary, and overwhelming. 

How can I? Who am I? 

You know the question reel in your brain. But, then God sends the reminder, "Do not be afraid!" 

I may not have an angel appearing, but the consistent study and listening to His Word brings about His authority in me. It is one crazy thing. A mystery. I cannot explain and I cannot achieve it on my own. Yet, BUT GOD! Somehow, obedience happens in me and I am walking in it before I know a change has happened. 

I never had it on my list to teach nations. Yet, God brings me people from different nations that ask me to teach them. 

Have you ever read the Resurrection and the Great Commission passage and simply asked, "How does this apply to me? What do you want me to go? Who do you want me to teach or disciple?"

Trust His presence! Trust His authority! Trust His Word! And remember, it is never ever about me! 

Father, please show me the who and the where. I will obey Your how!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Generosity comes from the Latin root of noble birth

(Image taken from braveheartedbeauty.com)
Did you know that the word generosity comes from the root words "to be of noble birth"?

Aristotle is quote as saying that generosity is seeking to be noble in your actions. But the more I study generosity, the more I realize it is so much more than giving monetary. It is giving of words, time, talent, treasure, and hope.

In the moment, when I want to be sparky generosity is being kind because it is the noble thing to do.

When I feel I have no time and I have someone that has a legitimate need in their life that I can meet, it is the noble thing to do it.

When I see an opportunity to give and feel compelled in my spirit to give, I do so without expectation of return. In fact, it is best it not be known I gave. This one us hard to do with our world of record keeping. But it is noble to find ways to give without being seen.

It is when I see an opportunity to be a blessing and bring about noble influence in a situation through guided conversation, encouragement, etc. While seeking the noble outcome even when it means sacrifice on my part.

Generosity comes from noble birth because our God is a generous God. He is who gives us our noble birth and the ability to be generous. 

Father, will You please teach me how to be generous and live out of my nobility rather than my poverty. In Jesus name, amen