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.)

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Plenty of Needs…Not So Plenty Help

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Not only is November the month of Thanks, it is also…

American and National Diabetes Month

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

National Adoption Month

National Family Caregivers Month

And we know there are many more voices crying out for our awareness and our resources. What is a lone one another to do when the needs are so many and so overwhelming? The answer is two-fold and really quite simple.

First: Do Only What God Is Telling You To Do.

And guess what? God is telling each of us to do something…very specific somethings to assist and aid the very specific someones He brings along our way. That doesn’t mean He expects us to help with every person we know who has a need. What it does mean, when we are aware of a need we must ask God specifically…”Am I to help?” AND “How am I to help?” If the answer is “Yes” AND “Here’s how” then we must act upon what God is telling us to do.

Problems arise and needs go unmet because of two extremes.

A) We don’t ask God how we should respond to the need before us. So, we either dive in helter-skelter, trying all kinds of different ways to help and none of them are effective.  Or we try to help everyone with everything, which of course, is impossible and we eventually burn out and so do the people we tried to assist. Or…worse yet… we do nothing for no one.

B) We do ask God, but we don’t like His answer. The results are the pretty much the same as point “A”.

Bottom line is…Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17

Second: Do Not Expect Others To Do Exactly What You Are Doing.

God is not obligated nor inclined to have everyone help the same people He tells you to help or in the same way He tells you to give that help. This means that the people you are helping are not more important than the people someone else is helping. It also means that the way you are helping is not “God-breathed.” In other words, the way in which you provide assistance to someone is not the only method or ultimate, best method.

So often we judge each other because we aren’t serving and meeting needs in the same way. Or worse yet, we make judgements that someone isn’t helping anyone, anywhere, or in anyway just because we can’t see them doing anything. Some people are called to do “behind the scenes”. Others are asked to do “more open.” Neither is wrong if done with God’s prompting and direction. And neither is better than the other if done in love and humbleness of spirit.

Here’s Jesus’ Take…And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-3

This week’s One Another Living Challenge:

Meet the need God shows you in the way God shows you to meet it!

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In the Quiet Place

Often when we speak of a quiet place we refer to serene scenes by a lake or a cozy nook next to a warm fire. Rarely would we describe wind or pouring rain or storms as being quiet places.

When we think of quiet moments we think of ourselves alone with a book or our Bible. We don’t usually associate huge crowds or the hustle and bustle of dredging out a life as quiet moments.

But I wonder if more people aren’t in their own private quiet place in the midst of swirling winds and expanding crowds.

Think about the last time you sat in an emergency room with a sick loved one or friend or your daily commute on mass transit. Didn’t you seclude yourself into your own quiet place even in the midst of the chaos around you? And wasn’t everyone else doing the same?

We are encouraged, even commanded to retreat to our closets and be quiet before the Lord (Matthew 6:6.) Jesus retreated often to a quiet place to pray and commune with His Father (Matthew 14:23). It is important for us to have the quiet place and to visit there often. It refreshes us. It shores us up. It renews heart, soul and mind.

The question is and the Love One Another Challenge this week is…

Do we actually retreat into various shapes and sizes of quiet places when we should not?

Are we supposed to be so self-absorbed and guarded that we do not see and do not care about the hurting and dying world around us? Jesus retreated to His quiet place after long hours of engaging and investing in peoples lives every day. I think modern day believers are much better at taking their quiet places with  them wherever they go so they won’t have to notice and impact lives.

Is it possible the modern believer has made an idol of his/her “personal space?”

I hold no claim to living outside my personal space. I confess I value it (translation; I idolize it) a great deal. The result is I miss so much.

I miss the check out clerk who looks weary and could use a kind word and a smile.

I miss the mom juggling three kids and a dozen shopping bags who could use a hand with the door.

I miss the lady sitting right next to me in church who dabs her eyes more than once during the closing hymn.

But, God has taken His two-edged sword and patiently clipped away my personal space. At first it was really…really scary and I kept scurrying back to my shrinking take-a-long personal space (quiet place.) And God would shoo my out again. This has been a long arduous process, but I am so thankful God remained (and remains) faithful in giving me courage to do away with this idol.

The result?

My days are more meaningful; full of smiles and laughter and, yes, some tears. But, my days matter! Isn’t that we all want? The legacy we want to leave; that our days mattered?

And my nights? Well, I sleep much more soundly. Why? Because after a full day outside of my own space, I retreat to the true quiet place with my Lord where I am calmed and restored.

The Challenge…
This week ask God to shrink your personal space and open your eyes to those around you. People trudging through wind and pouring rain and desperately wishing they weren’t alone in their portable quiet place.

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