A Letter-Live!

LetterBy Elaine Baldwin | elainehbaldwin

Along with millions in our country and even around the world, I’ve paused and contemplated the evil brought upon the community of Sandy Hook, CT. The images and accounts from that day and in these ensuing days of pain have been part of conversations and integral in prayers…as they should be. This truly is a time to weep with those who weep. But I live half a country away and know no one personally or even remotely connected with this greatest of heartaches.

I am only one and the complexity and depth of the need is great, but it is my heart’s desire to do something…not just anything…but something…profoundly meaningful.

But, what will last? What will have the greatest impact; not just for those in Sandy Hook, but for our nation?

I struggled with a suitable answer until I was reminded of a letter received long ago that I had  pulled out from my stash a few months ago. I’ve poured over its words several times since its rediscovery and I believe it is most appropriate for the times we abide in.

The letter was written by a man, a leader, facing great struggles. In fact his life could be characterized as one big tragedy. I think that is what makes his letter so credible and practical. He didn’t write it as one who’d been spared hardship. No! He lived in hardship every day and yet he believed and lived with great hope and strength. I guess you could say he practiced what he preached. I like that.

I don’t like being told how to get along in life by people surrounded by comfort and ease. But, not this man. He’s seen and lived among wickedness and evil. He wrote this letter to several of us who have lived in captivity. (I guess I’ve never told you about my captivity. I will some day.) Captivity is awful and can hardly be described in words. And I must say that when I first read his letter I thought him crazy, at the least, and, at worst, callous.

Did he not understand what we captives were going through? Had he forgotten our cries as we were carried away  and dragged from the arms of our loved ones? Did he not realize our deepest desire to be free from the unbearable pain and anguish? Of course, he did. Though it took me several reads to understand the wisdom of his words and his plan for not just surviving our captivity, but thriving even while in captivity. Because even though we may be captive, we are free and no one can separate us from the One who gives this freedom.

It seems impossible, but I share his letter with you now as a testament to its truth and power.

Oh, I almost forgot. I think you have this letter as well. You remember. It’s the letter from Jeremiah. I know you have it. It’s probably just stashed away like mine was. Jeremiah 29: 1 and 4-13

Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…

…Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD. For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Here’s the bottom line according to Jeremiah.The very best thing we can do for our hurting nation.

Live life While Seeking Our Nations Welfare!

The saying goes, “The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I think that is true. But according to God, evil also needs God’s people to stop living and to only exist. There is a huge difference! It would have been easy for these captives to simply give up. To stop living and just survive. But God commanded them to thrive and live fully. As the New Testament puts it, “to be salt and light.” We can’t do that if we allow our weeping to become more than consoling and instead turn into worry, fear and despair.

Do you want to help those in Sandy Hook? I do!

Do whatever tangible, specific thing God instructs you personally to do and then…Live!

Live wholeheartedly with reckless abandon for God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

Seek the welfare of our nation; however God shows you to do so.

This is this week’s One Another Living Challenge, and, I would dare say, the never ending challenge for all of us!

(I was re-introduced to this passage in the Fall of 2012 by Janet Parshall at the True Woman conference in Indianapolis, IN. It has made a huge impact on my outlook on life and drilled my focus to why God leaves me here, a captive in a sin cursed world. I pray my small, condensed, and inadequate version of Janet’s insights compel you to thrive as we wait for our complete deliverance to Glory! You can hear Janet on Moody Radio and you can also purchase her book, “Buyer Beware”. This is not a book about economics…it is about living life fully in a hostile world. I highly recommend it.)

photo credit: athena. via photopin cc

A, B, Cs of Loving One Another (Another “T”)

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  This is not earth shattering news. What is a tad bit disconcerting to me is that I have experienced over half-a-century’s worth of Thanksgivings.  Where has all that time gone and how did I get this old? I am after all the baby of the family. That should count for something!

And it does count for something. No matter how old my siblings get,

I will always be younger than them; still old…but younger!

Actually I don’t feel that old. I’m not sure what 54 is supposed to feel like, but I remember as a kid thinking anyone over 50 was ancient and soon to expire. I am very grateful that I will not soon expire; at least as far as I know. And a person is not ancient until they celebrate their 100th birthday!

My how perspectives change over time. That is a good thing. We’re told by God to put away childish things; to grow up. That doesn’t mean I have to be all stodgy and have the expression of a prune. But, it does mean I mature in my thinking, in my attitudes and in my thankfulness. But putting away childish things doesn’t always come with age nor is it always progressive.
I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving table as a kid and being asked, “What are you thankful for?” My usual answer was the food sitting in front me and the new dress I was wearing. My answers weren’t a whole lot deeper as a teen. Back then I gave thanks for friends (whoever I wasn’t mad at) and music and good times.

Then I got married and had kids. Of course now my objects of thanksgiving were much more meaningful as long as we were all healthy and we could buy the latest toys we wanted (for kids and adults) and everyone appreciated me the way they should.

And then the kids grew up and had adult style problems (I thought potty training was hard.)

Our Nest Was Empty!

At a time when God challenged me to trust Him…

I chose not to be thankful; not even childish thankful…

and my little slice of existence in this world turned gray.

I do not recommend this choice. Choosing ungratefulness is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done and by far the most destructive and paralyzing. It zapped every ounce of energy out of me and battered the brave souls who stuck with me. It is only by God’s mercy and grace that my marriage and my family survived those awful years of thankless living.

You see love and thankfulness go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. If your thankfulness dries up your love will dwindle right along with it. Oh you may be able to pretend to be thankful and have a pretense of love for awhile, but if these are not truly and deeply in your soul, the ugly truth will seep out all over everything you say and do. I know this is fact because I’ve been there and done that AND because God makes it clear that a lack of genuine thankfulness will lead to ruin.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Romans 1:21

So on this my 54th Thanksgiving…

I Chose to Give Thanks to Jehovah God and for All His Benefits Toward Me!

photo credit: bemky via photopin cc

I Love to Write Day & Jury Duty

Today is I Love to Write Day. It was founded 10 years ago by John Riddle to encourage people of all levels and interests to do a little bit of writing. So what does yet another “Day” have to do with Jury Duty. Everything! Today we are posting an article from a first timer, Margaret Richards. Of course, it’s not the first time she has written anything. She’s a home school mom, ministry leader in her church, and story teller extraordinaire. There’s just a tad bit of writing that goes along with those titles. But she has not shared anything online…until now.You may recognize Margaret’s name. She provides original photos for the A,B,Cs of Loving One Another Series. Her photography and that of her professional photographer husband, Lonnie, can be viewed here.

We are so honored to share her first online article with you today.

I Am Alternate Juror Number Six By Margaret Richards

I am waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

I arrive in plenty of time. I set off the metal detector twice–once for my belt (I guess it does have metal holes all the way around it!) and once for my necklace (It’s from the Dollar Store. The beads are plastic. Wasn’t expecting that one!) I sign in and receive my $10. I take a seat in one of the back rows in the courtroom with other fine upstanding citizens of Medina County. Bailiff Bill arranges us in our computer-generated random order. Eight people are placed in the seats of the jury box. We watch the video that explains the legal system. And now, here I am in the front row of the audience, alternate juror number six, awaiting voir dire. In French that’s “to see, to talk.” It’s where the lawyers decide whether or not I will benefit their client as  a Caucasian, brunette, green-eyed, tee-totaling female who attends a Baptist church three times a week, has been married for thirty-five years to the same man, and is the mother of six children. So, I am waiting… and waiting… and waiting.

It’s interesting the thoughts that go through my head while I sit with twenty-three strangers; waiting… and waiting.

“Why is the light in that section of recessed ceiling is yellow? The other fifteen are white.”

“The long horizontal planks along the front of the courtroom contrast interestingly with the brick on the walls.”

“Where is the witness stand?”

I contemplate the video and  think about jury duty. I mean jury service!

With most of us, what’s our first thought when that envelope comes in the mail from the Court System? “Oh, no!” And we try to find a way to get out of serving. But I think about the privilege that we have to be judged by a jury of our peers instead of an evil dictator. “Off with their heads!” I’d like to think that if I were on trial, those peers wouldn’t be just the ones who didn’t want to be there but couldn’t get out of it.

After much waiting, we find out that of the three possible cases for the day, only one was coming to court. And the judge, attorney, and defendant worked out a plea ahead of time to save the man the time and expense of a jury trial. So that’s why were waiting. We do finally get to see the actual plea. Bailiff Bill, calls, “All rise!” and we stand as Judge Chase comes into the courtroom. They discuss the situation and the possible pleas and get it all straightened out.

My time as alternate juror number six is over. I am never questioned by the lawyer. I am never sworn in. I never sit in a jury seat. But I get to see a bit of the American legal system at work. It’s the best in the world…except for that of the God of the Universe.

With perfect understanding of every situation, He judges rightly. I’m thankful that though His justice demands payment for my every sin, His love provides a sacrifice to take the punishment for that sin… Jesus.

All in all, it is a good day.

photo credit: vaXzine via photopin cc