Both of these Corinthian women are only mentioned once in Scripture, but there is much to discover about their life and role in the early church. Though it’s easy to skip over their verses, these names hold special meaning to me personally because they are the names of my two daughters, Chloe & Phoebe.
While I am sure Mary trusted God to be faithful as she bore His son, she knew that she was putting her reputation, marriage, and family status on the line. She knew that no one would believe her if she told them the truth. And she knew that people would treat her differently if she went through with it. Yet she was faithful.
So many of us girls love a good romance story. We love the drama, the beauty, the glamor, the excitement and the passion. There’s something so compelling about the story arc of two people falling in love. We’re so drawn to this kind of narrative that I think we often subconsciously read it into the story of Esther. Hers is a classic princess story, right? She’s gorgeous, wins a whole beauty contest, and catches the eye of the king, who chooses to take her as his wife. It sounds picturesque, right? But this romanticized version is simply untrue, no matter how badly we wish it were a classic princess romance story.
Growing up I learned that God wants us to be kind, love one another, and respect authority. Somehow along the way I incorrectly adapted that message into that I should not “ruffle any feathers” and instead I should seek to make "peace" in all situations. I became very shy aside from the rare occasion I simply could not stop myself from speaking out against injustice, but even then it was often in a whisper tone
It’s late Spring and the sun is high in the Israeli sky. Ruth bends down to collect pieces of barley dropped by the harvesters. She is a foreigner in this land and a childless widow. Fortunately, Israel has provisions in its law made for people like her, a woman with little lot in life, so she can glean in this field, and at least she won’t starve. When she returns home, the only one to greet her will be her mother-in-law, Naomi. A woman who too has seen loss: a husband and two sons. Naomi now desires to be referred to as Marah, which means bitter.
As a mother of two, I am inspired by this important reminder that children are a gift from God. Every day that we wake up, when we watch them take their first steps or wave goodbye at the bus stop, we are slowly releasing them into a world of overwhelming waters. We may not be facing the deadly orders of a Pharaoh coming after our children, but there are everyday injuries, natural disasters, and school shootings in our broken world. Try as we may, we cannot protect ourselves or our children from every harsh reality of this fallen world. We cannot possibly avoid every ailment or prevent every danger.
Change can be an exciting venture, but it can also cause stress and uncertainty while you’re working through the fog. There are times when my brain is overwhelmed, and time appears to be flying by without much progress being made. And in another moment, I’m being blown away by the amazing ways God is moving. When the impossible is looming ahead and we invite God into the conversation/situation, we experience His power and His solution to our problems.
Last spring I took a spiritual formation class during my last semester of undergrad. Honestly, I expected it to be a breeze. I was used to academics. I knew how to study well, maximize my time, and give professors what they wanted. When I saw that we were assigned a different spiritual discipline to practice and journal about every week, I was prepared to go through the motions and check off any box necessary for me to succeed (I had severe senioritis!) But what I didn’t expect was a loving but convicting lesson from the Spirit about my tendency to do all the things (prayer, worship, Bible reading) to feel as though I was succeeding in my relationship with God rather than to simply bask in his presence.
If I am completely honest, prayer is something that has felt daunting to me. I have often become discouraged because my prayer life is not what I want it to be. I get distracted. I don’t always know what to pray for. Sometimes it feels like a chore. Often I feel guilty because I know prayer is a beautiful gift we have, and it is a calling. I want to have intimacy with my God, but my own imperfection discourages me. I often let my discouragement paralyze me, which inhibits me from growing in prayer.
I used to think that fasting was about “sacrificing” or “suffering” for God, showing Him just how much we loved Him by giving something up for Him. But this year, that all changed. I’ve personally only fasted a few times in my life. Yes. You read that. Only a few times. Recently, our church had a month-long fasting and prayer challenge, and for the first time I saw it in a new light. Fasting isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about finding our satisfaction in Jesus Christ.