Thursday, May 30, 2013

Abigail the Industrious and Intelligent


By Brenda Black

Abigail has to be one of the coolest women to ever live! She was smart, resourceful and prepared like a Proverbs 31 woman long before that chapter was written. Abigail was kind and clever. She was humble yet in charge. Abigail even kept a king from walking out of the will of God. Ladies, if you're looking for a role model, may I suggest Abigail the Industrious and Intelligent.
Her heroic story of common sense is found in the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 25.

“One of Nabal's young men informed Abigail, Nabal's wife: 'Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he yelled at them. The men treated us well. When we were in the field, we weren't harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them. They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were herding the sheep. Now consider carefully what you must do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family. He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!'” (1 Sam. 25:14-17)

Before the story continues, let's pause and consider one reason for Abigail's sensibility. She had to be! The man she married lacked tact, as well as intelligence. His own servants sized him up to be a “worthless fool.” If it is true that opposites attract, that may explain this polarized couple – a hot head and a kind heart; one who hoarded and one who gave; one who listened to nobody and one who heard the plea of a servant.

In the heat of the moment, clear headed Abigail knew just what to do. “Abigail hurried, taking 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she said to her male servants, 'Go ahead of me. I will be right behind you.' But she did not tell her husband Nabal.” (1 Sam. 25:18-19)

Okay, stop the donkey! How many of you are thinking, “Who has that much food at the ready?” My thoughts exactly. The fact that Abigail the Industrious has stockpiled enough food for an army is phenomenal. This was long before refrigeration, shrink wrap or any modern-day convenience. Sure she had the help of an apparently gigantic entourage of servants, but somebody had to be in charge. Abigail ruled that pantry with a cast iron fist!

“When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off the donkey and fell with her face to the ground in front of David. She fell at his feet and said, 'The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly. Listen to the words of your servant. My lord should pay no attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he lives up to his name: His name is Nabal, and stupidity is all he knows. I, your servant, didn't see my lord's young men whom you sent. Now my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, it is the Lord who kept you from participating in bloodshed and avenging yourself by your own hand. May your enemies and those who want trouble for my lord be like Nabal. Accept this gift your servant has brought to my lord, and let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive your servant's offense, for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord's battles. Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you.” (1Sam. 25:23-28)

Abigail the Intelligent saved lives and spared David another sinful slide away from the center of God's will. She called on courage and practiced great communication skills. She humbly honored David. She sacrificially assumed her husband's guilt. She wisely isolated Nabal from the innocent that would have been slain because of his sin. She stopped a catastrophe. She declared a prophecy. She fed an army. Just all in a day's work for this woman. Yes, Abigail has to be one of the coolest women who ever lived!

 Nabal was called harsh and evil. Abigail was deemed intelligent and beautiful. The world could use a lot more Abigails and far fewer Nabals. Which are you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Fast Way to God's Heart

By Brenda Black

“'Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.'” (Isaiah 58:6—9a)

Welcome to this week in America: Injustice, oppression, hunger, loss of home and clothing and life! And out of the mouth of Isaiah, a prophet who preached in the 740's BCE, we hear God speak directly to us today. He tells us if we do what is right, the Lord Himself will have our back!

The word “prophet” literally means “to boil up like a fountain.” So here are a couple of fiercely frothy topics that need some God perspective to put us on the fast track to His blessings.

Boiling up first is the need to “Loose the chains of injustice.” I'm not one to go political in this column, but for crying out loud, there needs to be a house cleaning of magnanimous proportions in our government! So much corruption and injustice cannot continue if we want to draw near to God's heart. 
The truth is rapidly and finally becoming unveiled. Those whom we have entrusted, have lied, manipulated and murdered. Trust has been decimated along with privacy. Lives have been lost along with liberty.

May the chains of injustice be loosed and the cords of this deceitful yoke be broken so that freedom and security will once again be available to Americans. There's a reason God blessed this nation for generations. Generations before blessed God!

Boiling up next is the need to “Share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter.” Oddly enough in a world where social media keeps us instantly and constantly connected, the human element is all to often absent. Instead of reaching out to meet the needs of someone else, we're standing in front of mirrors taking self portraits with cell phones and so absorbed with our own trivial day-to-day happenings, that we forget none of us is the center of the universe! Good grief – we need to use our fingers less for texting the latest gossip and more for holding the hand of someone in crisis! So often, God uses the people-to-people formula to convey His love and grace. With all the pain in our country this week, don't miss being the Lord's emissary of mercy.

May we feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked and love one another as Christ loved us. “'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'” (Matthew 5:7-8)

There's an overflow effect after boiling up like a fountain and taking God to the masses.“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

The rear guard is that part of a military force that protects it from attack from the rear, either during an advance or withdrawal. Be aware, that as you speak up for truth, as you demand justice, as you sacrifice to meet the needs of another, the enemy will be on your heels in hot pursuit. I pray that the church of God does not withdraw, but advances, declaring the love of Christ and standing up for His justice.

May the timeless words of Isaiah appropriately overflow at a time when we need to hear them and follow them closely. May our fasting be honorable in the sight of God so that when we call, the Lord answers. When we cry for help, we here Him say, “Here am I.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Entering the Empathy Zone

By Brenda Black

Warning: For the more stoic, this may be difficult to read. I'm a hugger and a crier and a share your pain, feel your pain, walk through your pain with you kind of gal. So for those of you who shed no tears and cringe at the thought of an embrace, this is your final are about to enter the “empathy zone.”

Some call it a blessing; others a curse – this ability to put yourself into the shoes and soul of another. I believe it is a gift, all be it a gift that must be handled with care. For the personal toll it sometimes takes can wreak havoc on one who lovingly bears the weight of so many.

As a pastor's wife, I take on the cares of many. As our years of ministry grow, so does the list of those I love and continue to lift in prayer. But long before I was a preacher's wife, I was a confidant to many a classmate who trusted me with their biggest worries and deepest secrets. In college, though I didn't work as a Resident Assistant, I frequently had girls at my door asking for counsel and prayer and a sympathetic ear. I guess God was grooming me for such a time as this.

Bearing another's burdens is indeed a heavy burden to bear and there are times when I feel overwhelmed by the emotional strain, but I never have regretted bringing hope and compassion to someone in crisis. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is a whole lot more comfortable than mourning with those who mourn. Both are important. The latter just demands a greater emotional investment.

So, what's that investment worth? It's worth gold to the one it is given. It's full of grace by the One from which it is gifted.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.'” (Ephesians 4:1-8)

In just one week I used this “unity of Spirit, to rejoice and mourn for countless friends watching their babies grow up and move on. I grieved deeply for a friend who endured an unimaginable tragedy. I cheered and laughed and celebrated end-of-school accomplishments for dozens of young friends. I partnered in prayer for sadness and final exam stress.

It's called the human touch when one person cares enough to feel for someone else. It's exhausting and exhilarating! This charge to be the Lord's helping hands and compassionate heart gives hope when it's needed most. And bearing one another's burdens sends a clear message to the rest of the world about the Christ we serve.

“'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples fi you love one another.'” (John 13:34-35)

One of the best ways to show love is to live the pain of another as if it were your own, for no one should have to ever go through the hard things in life alone. It's your choice whether you enter the empathy zone or keep a safe distance. Just know that once you cross the threshold, you'll never be the same and that's a good touchy-feely thing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lying Lips Deliver Only Bitterness

By Brenda Black

The marble floors and granite colonnades, high domed ceilings and cavernous hallways showcased mind-boggling and beautiful architecture as I strolled through the square and round mazes of the Capitol building. They also provided great amplification. A simple clickety-clack of an aide's stiletto heels or the giggles of touring school children sounded like fireworks and chaos when their echoes collided and bounced from one hard surface to another.

Still, the din from daily traffic was no match to the roar from the House floor. Debaters who took their places near microphones competed with constant chatter from the gallery. Hushed conversations escalated in volume as representatives and constituents or fellow law-makers huddled together to attempt intelligible conversations.

In the midst of all the mayhem, somehow the work of law-making continues. And in the middle of that business are men and women who perform one of two ways – honorably or dishonorably. If the walls of Congress could talk, they'd tell the battles of integrity versus immorality, principled decisions in struggle with unethical behavior. It's the human condition and it gets magnified in a magnificent place.

With every scheduled meeting, I felt fairly confident discerning whether I was hearing truth or just getting lip service. Having only met most of these legislators for the first time, the impressions of others who knew them better proved far more valuable in determining their credibility. When their own constituents spoke highly about them, it proved the elected representatives had earned their respect. Some were even applauded for valiant efforts and their long-standing integrity.

Unfortunately a few law makers have a different type of notoriety – a reputation for insincerity. A lack of wisdom and inability to see beyond their own personal agendas has those bad players better known for lying tongues, two-faced performances and narrow-minded opinions.

Which would you trust? Which would you rather be? Whether constituent or Congressman, receptionist or Representative, lobbyist or legislator – honesty and integrity matter.

Scripture speaks clearly about the importance of honesty. “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22) The Word of God also declares the benefits of honorable living. “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:12-14)

Most of us would contend that it is troubling to be on the receiving end of a liar's litany. But what of the snare the liar lays for himself when he refuses to speak the truth. “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.” (Prov. 12:13)

Throughout my day at the Capitol, I heard of the work of honorable men and women. I learned about their passion for justice or their willingness to go to battle for right causes. I listened to colleagues drop their egos and applaud the accomplishments of fellow legislators.

On the flip side, one man's name repeatedly received negative reaction from every rank and file. He had earned the reputation for saying one thing and doing another. He lied, he broke trusts, he refused to listen. In short, the man was despised and disrespected by many. His reputation for insincerity didn't just bounce of the walls, it was proclaimed from the rooftops of this noble building.

His lying lips had rendered only bitterness when truth may have provided sweet bliss. “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (Prov. 24:26)

I may not understand all the ins and outs of passing a bill through Congress, but I learned this much from my day at the Capitol, I'd rather walk blameless and seek the favor of the Lord and the respect from others than to walk in such a way as to leave a wake that causes others to despise and disrespect me. If it matters in law, how much more in life?

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ” Galatians 6:7-9

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Unexpected Vet Care

Courtesy of 

By Brenda Black

Seems there is always something that needs doctoring when you have kids, pets or livestock. At the moment, around here, it is all of the above.

When it comes to the four-footed segment, in addition to administering annual spring protocol for every parasite that bites or crawls on four different species, I'm now tending to an equine eye injury.

Though I don't have answers yet for a family member's health issues and I have no idea how long it will take for this horse to heal, I know patience and compassion make all the difference while I await results for each. My vet demonstrated both of these traits perfectly when he tended to our little bay gelding, reminding me once again of the kindness God delivers through the hands and words of others.
In order to appreciate what I'm about to describe, you need to get acquainted with the patient. 

“Cowboy” can be a fist full of spunk at any given moment. I warned the vet of his spirited personality, atypical for most 29 year old Quarter Horses. Considering the precarious location of the wound and the fact that I was the only assistant for the task, I sure didn't want anyone else to get hurt. This is the mount that I can ride like a dream for two hours, but never without keeping weight in the stirrups and a deep seat in the saddle since I know he can come unglued over a rabbit scurrying through the grass 20 feet ahead. He blows like a freight train on crisp, foggy mornings if I accidentally surprise him. Get the picture? He's full of vinegar at times and the reason for his name – it takes a real cowboy to ride him. Oh, did I mention, I love him!

No doubt, the veterinarian has seen his share of wild ponies and ragged wounds, but lucky is the horse that gets his tender mercies in their worst moments. Some would liken his method to constant chatter as he talked in a low, comforting tone. He chose kind words like “Buddy” and moved quietly and fluidly as he tended to every detail. Not every procedure was pleasant or painless, so he purposed to hasten those tasks – all the while, talking and touching and reassuring a beast who outweighed him a thousand pounds to his hundred.

I was thankful for his gentle ways. I'd seen him offer it before in an even more sobering moment, like the time another equine family member suffered a stroke. Then and now, as he spoke in hushed tones, he assured these creatures that he meant them no harm. I thought to myself that's how God treats me when I'm hurting or troubled. He speaks constantly in soothing tones with kind words and encouragement. Sometimes it's a lingering thought or a Scripture that comes to the forefront of my mind, compliments of the Holy Spirit. It may be a song I hear on the radio at just the right time or an old hymn that pops into my head and rolls off the tip of my tongue. God touches my life with generous portions of His gentleness.

Sometimes the Almighty still allows pain to accomplish the greater good. It might be to sharpen me or teach me a lesson. Could just simply be a loving correction. His medicine for many a spiritual ailment comes in hard-to-swallow forms like discipline or disappointment. But only for the moment. In the long run, He is always right and good and knows what is best. If we listen and follow the Great Physician's prescription, we get better.

If there is such a thing as irony, both my son and my horse are dealing with eye problems. So when I went to the Word today, imagine my delight to hear God chattering encouragement from the book of Matthew: “'Lord,' they answered, 'we want our sight.'

“Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:33-34)

I hadn't gone searching for anything so specific! But, oh my, that was just the shot I needed!

Medicine or surgery may be the path to wellness, but the beautiful, compassionate touch of Jesus and His continual whisper of peace are the two greatest aspects for true healing. Thank you Dr. Brown for being so kind to the animals. And thank you for looking and sounding like Jesus to me. I was grateful for the reminder from my vet and my Lord.
Yes, you are at the right place!  This is still Blessings from Brenda. I just gave it a face lift on this beautiful May first!  Check it out and get acquainted with the handy, interactive elements located along the right side of the page.  Just scan over the grey bar to reveal drop down menues and links you'll want to visit.  Thanks for stopping by and I pray you are encouraged as you spend a little time hearing from my heart and seeing Jesus in every word.