Working mom devotional: Daniel part 2

This isn’t going to turn into a chapter by chapter series on Daniel, I promise.  Although I can’t say there won’t be another one.

So in Daniel 2 the king has a dream and decides that his wise men should be able to tell him the dream and then interpret it and if they can’t do this he will know they are all frauds and kill them all.  Of course they can’t do this and so although only the top couple wise men were being consulted on this topic the king orders they all be killed.

Now if I was Daniel and officials randomly came to kill me for reasons that were vague at best I would panic!  But not Daniel.  He remained calm, asked to talk to the king and told him that he would be able to tell him his dream and interpretation in a couple of days. Impossible! Then he calmly went home and asked his friends to pray for him and sought God to reveal this information to him. And believed.

Jesus tells us that with only a mustard seed of faith we can move mountains. In this situation with Daniel I wonder if he really didn’t have much more than that. Had Daniel seen miracles at this point in his life? He had interpreted dreams before but never without knowing what they were in the first place. Never with a sword hanging over his neck. God does some pretty amazing and unbelievable things in Daniel but so far his friends had not survived the fiery furnace and Daniel had not faced the Lions.  He was just a Jewish boy who had been pulled into the service of the king. But the king asked the impossible and Daniel believed God would reveal the answer to him.

I have faith, I often think I have more than a mustard seed of faith.  Yet I have never moved a mountain. The truth is that while I do believe God has the power to do amazing things, if I am honest, I often am not sure I believe he will do them for me. While a mustard seed of faith is pretty small, it is also pretty big because sometimes even gathering up a tiny bit of faith takes a huge effort.

Recently at work I had a deal on the verge of destruction.  I was devastated as I had worked hard on it and couldn’t understand where it went wrong. I was talking with a good friend who said she was going to pray for a miracle.  I said to go ahead because that was the only thing that would save the deal. And then she prayed and I listened but I did not pray with her because I did not have even a mustard seed of faith that God would provide the miracle. Luckily for me it didn’t have to be my tiny faith that could bring a miracle because the next day I got one. You might think I am over stating here using the word miracle to talk about keeping a business deal together but if you knew the details you would agree. Miracle.

So I wonder how often I have missed experiencing something amazing because I couldn’t even muster a mustard seed of faith. Do I truly believe God will rescue me when I need help? I fully believe he CAN, but if I really look back on various experiences throughout my life I don’t always believe that he WILL. In other people’s lives I truly have that faith for them, but in my own life…

Daniel believed. In the face of execution he boldly went to the king to ask why he was being killed and then boldly told the king he would be able to reveal something to the king that only God could reveal to Daniel.

In the face of my own bumps in the road with work, family, friendships, marriage, home issues, do I face them with the belief that God can and will work things out? Perform a miracle? Remembering Daniel’s faith I will believe and keep going.

What trials are you up against today?  Do you believe as Daniel?

Working Mom Devotional: Daniel

Daniel_refuse_kingsfoodI love stories.  Although I have to admit I was well into adulthood before I realized they could be anything more than just that, stories.  So although I learned lots of stories in Sunday School it has only been as an adult that I understood why those stories were important to my life.  That I could apply the principles and lessons from those stories to my life.

Today I am thinking of the story of Daniel.  No not that one.  Not the one with the Lion and the den.  The other one.  The one with where he becomes a vegetarian.

Daniel and his friends, who we might note were part of the royal family, are captured when Babylon takes over Judah.  The king of Babylon decides that these royal kids will make excellent servants in his courts.  I suppose he reasons that they are already more refined and educated and therefore easier to train for a royal position.  So he sends them to 3 years of school to learn the Babylonian way of serving a king, and I suppose trains them to realize they will be serving not being served as they likely had become accustom.

So Daniel and his friends are captured and while being a slave isn’t ideal they did end up with a pretty good gig considering the options.  And they were submitting to this new authority in their lives.  But they still wanted to honor and submit to God’s authority if possible.  So when they  were offered food off the king’s table, perfectly good and tasty food, they requested a slight modification.  Could they skip the unclean meat and drink and just take the clean veggies?

God caused the people who were responsible for their care to be open to the suggestion but they were worried about their jobs if Daniel and his friends weren’t as healthy as the others.  So Daniel proposed they just try it for 10 days and see what happens.  They wanted to be faithful to God by eating only clean food and God was faithful to them by providing care givers who were willing to give them only veggies.  God also saw to it that they remained healthy, healthier in fact than those who ate from the king’s table.

As a homemaker this story would have been all about the food for me.  A conviction to eat the foods God created for us.  And some days that is still my take away from this story.  But today, as a working mom, I see it more as a lesson in staying obedient to God while submitting to authority over us.

As an employee we are responsible to do what we are asked to do by our supervisors.  We need to be willing to follow instruction even when we don’t want to. We aren’t slaves but we still have to submit to authorities over us.  But does that mean doing something against God’s rules?  The answer is obviously no. What strikes me in this story isn’t that Daniel and his friends refused to eat the unclean food.  It is actually that they requested not to eat it, they proposed a test, they did not dismiss the concerns of those above them.  They worked together to find a solution that benefitted them all and as a result were able to both follow God’s rules for food and be an example of faith to those around them.

Request:  Daniel didn’t just go in there, announce he wasn’t going to eat the King’s food and demand a special kosher diet be prepared for them.  Once he had decided not to defile himself with the King’s food “he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  How we ask for something makes a difference.  Daniel asked permission.  Creating a situation where they can work together and the official can maintain their authority.  Don’t go rushing into a situation guns blazing, ask first.  You might be surprised by the answer.

Propose: The official admitted to Daniel that he was afraid of the king and didn’t want to get in trouble if they looked sickly while the others who ate the king’s food were healthy.  It would be easy to roll your eyes and act superior at your knowledge that God’s food is healthier than the king’s food.  But Daniel did not dismiss the concerns of the official, he worked with him. Daniel proposed a test, “Please test your servants for ten days:  Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” When we are proposing a new idea or asking for special treatment be sure to help your supervisor feel like they will not get in trouble or have additional work as a result of your special request.  Offer a trial, offer to take on the additional work yourself, be sure that what you are asking will reflect well on your boss not poorly.  Continue to allow them to have authority over the situation.  After the 10 day test Daniel and his friends actually looked better than the others which in turn made the official over them look better too.

When you are asked to do something that goes against your beliefs how do you respond?  Do you push, do you give up or do you respond with faith like Daniel?

Working Devotion: The Widow’s Oil

Lately the story of the Widow’s Oil from 2nd Kings 4 has been rolling around in my head.  The woman’s husband had died and crediors were coming to take her sons as slaves if she didn’t come up with the money owed them soon.  She told Elisha the only thing she had was oil.  Elisha told her to collect as many empty jars as she possibly could, from friends, neighbors, anyone who would give her an empty jar.  Then she was to fill every jar with oil from her oil jar.  She obeyed and every empty jar was filled.  When the jars were gone the oil stopped pouring from her jar.  With that supply of oil she was able to sell it, pay off her debts and get back on her feet.

I am in a season of life trying to provide for my family with limited resources and some days it definately feels like the creditors are on their way and desperation wants to kick in.  The story of the widow is one of faith.  She trusted and believed that if she collected lots of empty jars they would somehow be filled with her limited supply.  And God blessed her and provided.  What is interesting to me is that her success and financial freedom was limited only by her ability to collect jars.  I wonder how many she collected?  Could she have gotten more?  It seems to me she must have taken the task pretty seriously since she was able to earn enough money to both pay off her debts and live on the extra.  But what if she had done even more?  Would the oil have continued to fill the jars?  I think so.  The blessing God was giving her was only limited by her own faith and the work she was willing to put in.

There are so many interesting things to explore in this passage as a working mom.  One of the things that jumps out at me is that while God performed a miracle and blessed her, she had to work for that blessing.  God didn’t just drop money in her lap to take care of her problem, he asked her to go out and work for it trusting Him that her work would be fruitful and profitable.  I am not going to lie, I want to be profitable without the work.  All this hard work, all this being away from home, and doing things for other people, I don’t want to do it.  I just want God to magically provide for me, I want to win the lottery, get a big inheritance or develop the midas touch.  But running around to neighbors asking for empty jars?  That sounds exhausting.  I would probably have just asked a few immediate neighbors that I knew would be receptive and then gone home and hoped I had enough.  But this woman didn’t.  She and her sons went to everyone and collected so many jars and filled them up with so much oil that not only was she able to solve her immediately problem of paying off creditors but she had enough left over to live off.

Another notable thing in this passage is how she involved her sons.  When she was in the house pouring oil into the jars her sons were bringing the empty jars to her.  This is such a great image to me.  While our children can’t necessarily come with us to the office each day and help us enter data, write reports or attend meetings they can help us with our work at home.  The widow’s sons might have helped with collecting the jars but they are only mentioned helping her when she is at home.  While I love the Proverbs 31 woman for her working example, I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered what her children were doing while she was busy being perfect.   For those of us without a household full of servants to take care of our children, this widow can be our example.

Finally she went out and got a job.  OK not really but she had to go sell that oil.  I imagine that she went to the market, set up a table and worked all day long hawking her oil day after day until the last jar was gone.  Having recently spent a weekend at a vendor show I can tell you it is a lot of work.  I thought of this woman several times that weekend.

So while this is a beautiful story of God’s provision for this very needy widow it is also the story of a woman who did the work God put  before her in faith that He woud provide.

“Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

 

Working Devotion: Noah

Have you ever thought about the process of building an arc in the dessert? Last weekend I was reading through the story of Noah and thinking about working. And I thought about that process. Noah didn’t just slap together a boat big enough to hold his entire family and 2 or more of every kind of animal in a weekend. He was probably working on that boat for years. He didn’t order his supplies from the local lumber yard and ask if he could get a builders discount. He had to go find the wood, cut down the trees, rip them down into boards, etc. Get nails from a blacksmith, cook up some sort of waterproofing to paint over the whole thing. Yes God had given him this command, instructions and paved the way so it could be done on time but Noah had to do the work. And since building an arc isn’t really a money maker this was probably a second job, an evenings and weekends sort of project.

I do imagine his whole family pitching in to help him. Although this story is of Noah and his faith, his whole family was invited into the arc and I tend to believe that they were a family of faith under Noah’s leadership. So maybe, Noah’s wife went back to work to help support the family and fund this project while Noah focused on the arc. Maybe his son’s tended his flocks alongside their own while dad was framing up the animal stalls.

I also imagine that the people in Noah’s community probably weren’t that supportive. They all thought he was a crazy old man spending all his time and money on a worthless project. The arc was huge. This was not a model train collection that you could hide in your basement. This was taking over the backyard and spreading out into the dessert. This was very much a “Field of Dreams”. Noah and his family were the only ones who saw what God was really doing.

At 900 years old I assume Noah had learned a few lessons and had lots of maturity. At 42 I think feel like I have learned and grown quite a bit and love the wisdome that comes with aging, I can’t imagine all there is to learn in 900 years! Still I wonder if there were days he struggled with doubts and insecurity as he worked on the arc. No matter how old we get we still live in a fallen world and are fallen people. So I wonder if he questioned God and this crazy calling on his life. Yet, he never gave up, never stopped believing, didn’t stop working. And as a result humanity was saved.

So what can I, a working mom, learn from Noah?

Well, like Noah, I believe that I am working because God has called me to work in this season of my life. And, like Noah, I march forward in faith that God will take care of my family as I walk in obedience to Him.

And like Noah, I too have a second job, as a wife, mom and homemaker. My family helps and supports me so that I can work and care for them.

And just as I believe God provided the necessary supplies to build an arc in the dessert I believe God is equipping me as a working mom for what ever tasks lie ahead.

I think the overall message for me in this aspect of the story of Noah is the faithfulness and hard work necessary to fulfill God’s call on your life. Yes I need to believe God has called me but also I need to work. They are not really 2 separate things, they are joined together. God calls, you work. Works without faith is useless but faith without work isn’t particularly useful either. James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?…faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead… So I keep getting up and I keep working. And it is good.

Worship While you Work

Some mornings I wake up and can’t believe I have to go to work. Again. I jump up late, get ready, rush off to work and immediately launch in to the stress of dealing with difficult people, projects and deadlines. Problems and frustrations come all day long. Finally, it is over and I go home.

I hate those mornings. I hate those days. They don’t feel good in my body, my mind or my spirit.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

Right now I am transitioning from one job to another. While on paper it is the perfect job situation, and I think once I find my groove it will be, the transition and learning curve has been significantly bigger than I had prepared for. I don’t like having to deal with the problems I am encountering, I don’t like having to work so hard to prove myself and I have found the training I recieved from the last person to be more than a little lacking. I was finding myself struggling with the right attitude and perspective.

Paul calls us in Romans to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. He calls it an act of worship. Do you think that includes my body while I am working?

I have been learning bit about worship lately, opening my eyes really. If you are way ahead of me you can just skim here but for those of you back where I am I submit these thoughts. Worship is not all about feeling good, singing happy songs and praising the Lord. That can be worship for sure and is a great tinme of worship. But I am learning that worship can also be done while struggling and complaining. It isn’t really about pretending you are OK with the fact that God has brought you to a place you don’t like. It is about acknowledging the fact that while you don’t like where God has brought you, He is God and he can bring you there.

I was recently listening to some program on the radio with some Christian who wrote some books. I think they guy is a Christian musician who is now writing books? I like to give credit for my thoughts when possible. Not sure it is possible this time. Although this is my paraphrase, hopefully I am telling it right. Anyway…He pointed out that in the Psalms David is often lamenting. He goes on sometimes for many verses about his problems, and then throws in one verse of praise to God. And David is seen as a man after God’s own heart and the Psalms are seen as great poems of praise and worship. So therefore we can conclude that complaining about our circumstances can be an act of worship. Well, within reason. It isn’t about the complaining, it is about the attitude. An attitude that tells God we know he is there, he has our best interests in mind and while we don’t like it, we will follow Him.

There are so many examples of this that I literally just opened my bible to Psalms to find this in Ps 64:

“Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers.” He goes on to explain all the evil things they do and are planning for him. Then finally he says, “But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down…Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”

So I have decided to make my work and act of worship to God. Doing so doesn’t mean I have to put on my Happy Working Mom face every morning it simply means that I am acknowledging God’s presence and plan for me in my work. When things go well I praise God, when things go wrong I trust God.

Are you giving yourself and your days to God as your spiritual act of worship?

Finding Your Way in Faith

I really wasn’t sure I could do it.  I knew I had to.  We had commited to a path and we needed the money I was now making.  But, every day I wondered how much longer it would be before I would loose it and quit.  It took everything in me to keep my resolve.  I knew I had to work at least 5-6 years and so I kept getting up.  Because I really didn’t know what else to do.

Each morning after I got up I spent a few minutes with the Lord.  I prayed, I shared my fears, my doubts, my disagreements, my exhaustion.  And each morning I was strengthened for the task He had given me.  Each morning I was renewed.  It wasn’t perfect, it didn’t change the fact that I was working, that my family was struggling, that I really wanted to run away.  Until one day I began to relax, to trust, to see the blessings instead of just the problems.

This is the place to come for a weekly devotion.  A word of encouragement.  A prayer.  A place to be reminded that through this transition you are not alone.

And a place for prayer.  Many people prayed for me as I went back to work and know that you are being prayed for too.  This is the place to leave a prayer request in the comments if you feel comfortable or you can always send an email.  I would love to pray specificly for you.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13