Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We're made up of a hundred little pictures, a thousand little events, emotions, evolutions (not the ape kind) that shape us into the image of who we are...I used to be an ESFJ, but I’m not sure anymore. My husband is an ENTJ, and I would guess my older daughter as an ESFJ and the younger as an ENSP. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m guessing you’d like me to explain pdq, asap! Those letters are descriptors assigned after taking the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test. Maybe you’ve heard of other personality tests like the Keirsey Bates or perhaps you’ve heard tossed around the terms sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic or melancholy. Someone might introduce themselves by saying, “Hi, I’m a phlegmatic melancholy.” To which I would reply, “Go take some cough syrup and cheer up!” Then I would promptly get kicked out of the conference or class or whatever social gathering I was attending. Some have tried to define a person by these standard personality tests, which is of course impossible. God created each of us uniquely with billions of different combinations of pasts, presents, and futures. Each decision, each experience shapes the person we become. The personality indicators are wonderful tools – and incredibly interesting and insightful. But they don’t define us. It takes much, much more to know a person. Let’s get to know a man named Ezra….

Ezra 7:1-6a – “After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest-- this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.”
  • WHO is Ezra? Well, Ezra’s lineage was of great importance to the Jews because it gave him spiritual “clout” as a direct descendant to the first chief priest of Israel (Aaron was Moses’ brother). Our lineage, our childhood, our past shapes us – for better or worse. However, his ancestors couldn’t learn the Law of Moses for him. That choice he made for himself…as we must.

Ezra 7:6b-7 – “The king had granted [Ezra] everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.”

  • These verses also tell us HOW Ezra is perceived by others. He enjoyed the favor of his king, his God and his peers. Even though we can’t/shouldn’t derive our value or worth from other people’s opinions of us, the way we’re perceived by others does in fact shape a portion of who we are. The most important opinion, of course, is God’s view of us – and to Him, we’re worth dying for.

Ezra 7:8-10 – “Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

  • WHAT we do also helps reveal who we are. Ezra didn’t just talk about the Law of Moses. He observed the Laws that he studied, and he embarked on a perilous 900-mile journey, arriving just 4 months after he began because of God’s gracious protection. He was a man of faith and action.

Lord, it’s so tempting to sit and learn. It’s so difficult to learn and GO. I want to become a person of faith and action. When my circumstance limits my activity, show me creative ways to serve. When my circumstance calls for new steps into uncomfortable territory, give me the courage and commitment to make the journey. I want to know myself and be known by others as a person who studies and acts on the Word of God. Let it be so in me, Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My mother-in-law, Glenda, celebrated everything. She chewed bubble gum til the day she died because every day had something in it worth blowing bubbles about! When my husband, Roy, was a senior in high school, she brought him breakfast in bed every morning! Pop-tarts and bacon, five days a week. Boo-yah! And Glenda was like the Energizer Bunny on steroids when we went on vacations. She planned every detail and crammed every minute full of activity. On one such marathon trip, we were at a hotel in Canada, and she woke up our two daughters so the three of them could sneak into a little 3-wheeled cart race-track that was closed at night. The rules said Glenda was too tall to ride the carts while an attendant was on duty. So obviously, when an attendant was not on duty, Glenda shrunk to the right height. At least that’s the reasoning we used with our girls (I don’t think they bought it either). The picture above is a memory of her last official celebration on earth - watching her older son receive his doctoral degree. Three months later, heaven celebrated her homecoming. Sometimes I use the excuse that I’m just too tired to celebrate. I fall into the trap of “let’s just stay home and rent a movie” rather than finding creative date night ideas. I buy a birthday cake and stick a few candles on top instead of baking a cake and cooking the birthday person’s favorite meal. When you really think about it, celebrating is hard work – but it yields great rewards. God loves our celebrations – so much so that He commanded feasts and festivals – because He knew celebrations are life-giving.

Ezra 6:13-15 – “Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (emphasis added).
  • God provided both external/political (the king’s decree, Tattenai accountability) and internal/spiritual (Haggai’s and Zechariah’s preaching) motivators to complete the work on God’s Temple in 3 ½ years of sustained effort because the Temple was the central focus of all celebration and worship for the Jews.

Ezra 6:16-18 – “Then the people of Israel--the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles--celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses” (emphasis added).

  • Notice that their celebration was God-focused. They sacrificed and installed priests according to God’s directive. They did it to please Him, not just themselves. That’s true worship; that’s diligent celebration.

Ezra 6:19-20 – “On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.”

  • The Temple was completed in the twelfth month (Adar – v. 15), and depending on whether this was a leap year (in which the Jewish calendar adds a thirteenth month), Passover would have been at least one month after the Temple celebration. So often after big events, like Christmas or Easter, churches especially notice a downturn in enthusiasm and service. It’s easy to “letdown” after a celebration, but what’s “easy” isn’t what’s best.

Ezra 6:21-22 – “So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.”

  • Notice that the remnant now included anyone who honestly separated themselves to the LORD. Also, it's also good to refresh our memories on the original purpose of Passover. God commanded that the Israelites celebrate the Passover Feast as a lasting testimony of when God passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. God had delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, but now this remnant celebrated that they’d been brought back from captivity in Babylon. Suddenly, Passover became personal.

Lord, I remember the first time You, Jesus, became my personal Passover Lamb. Because of Your blood, smeared over the doorframe of my heart, the death angel has passed-over me, and my eternal life with You has already begun. You have delivered me from the captivity of sin. I am no longer a slave to my desires. I am Yours, Father, and someday I will see you face-to-face. Help me to celebrate that deliverance each time one of those sinful desires rises up to ensnare me. And remind me that every day is worth celebrating - because my eternal life with You has already begun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sometimes you know exactly where you're going - and sometimes, well.... Now, I don’t even like to shop, but set me in the middle of a shopping mall and I instinctively know which way to turn in order to arrive at the correct store. It’s actually quite fascinating. When my husband gets bored, he blindfolds me and spins me in circles and sets me free to find my way out of the mall – no, not really. But it sounds like a great new reality show, doesn’t it? On the other hand, navigating road signs, atlases and even MapQuest has been a learned skill for me. When Roy and I ventured in 1984 from Anderson, IN to the honeymooner’s dream-spot of Cincinnati, OH, I routed us into the heart of a downtown ghetto – iron-barred windows, guys with chains hanging from their belt loops. We were supposed to be finding a suburban hotel – oops! Well, we serve a God Who doesn’t need road signs or MapQuest to direct His people. In fact, He doesn’t even have to use His people to carry out His plan. He sometimes uses people whose hearts are far from Him to accomplish His purpose.

Ezra 5:17 – [Governor Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius saying,] “Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
Ezra 6:1-2 – “King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it…”
  • By God’s design, King Cyrus wrote his original decree all those years ago rather than simply speaking it. At God’s prompting, Darius’ heart was moved to order the search. And talk about your proverbial needle in a haystack! Within the entire Persian Empire – one scroll with Cyrus’ decree on it was found.

Ezra 6:3-5 – “Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.”

  • Look back at Tattenai’s (governor of Trans-Euphrates) letter to King Darius in Ezra 5:8-16. Tattenai had no way of knowing IF King Cyrus had even made a decree eighteen years ago, let alone the exact words recorded on the scroll. But look at the words of Tattenai’s letter – his own words and the words he told King Darius the Jews had said when questioned. Compared to the words of Cyrus’ scroll, they’re almost identical. Two exceptions: 1) Cyrus says the royal treasury gets to fund the construction, and 2) Cyrus gives the dimensions for the Temple. In this way, God uses the past to affirm, finance and direct the Jews’ future.

Ezra 6:6-10 – [King Darius instructed…] “Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed--young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem--must be given them daily without fail, so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons. Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence” (emphasis added).

  • Isn’t it amazing how God can even direct the favor of some very hard hearts toward His people? Obviously, if King Darius can randomly decree men to be impaled, he’s not a warm fuzzy kind of guy! Yet he looked with favor upon the Jews – perhaps out of fear – because he was especially interested in their prayers for himself and his sons (maybe he’d heard of the plague of the firstborn when God delivered Israel out of Egypt). And notice the way God ingeniously placed the people of the Land in constant daily contact with the Jews. Wouldn’t this also give them daily testimony of the Great God of Heaven?

Lord, Your ways are unfathomable. Your plan is so far beyond my reasoning and ability to comprehend. Remind me that when I receive favor in the eyes of those around me – especially when I’ve done nothing to deserve it – it’s simply Your grace with skin on. Thank You, Lord, for those little reminders that You’re very near.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Sorry that the last 2 posts are out of order. I've been a little scatter-brained over the past couple weeks. I'm so thankful for God's grace and the grace of kind friends.

Just wanted to share some good news with ya'll! The publisher has sent my manuscript through committee for "financial analysis and managerial review" - meaning, "If we publish it, will it sell?" Which also means I get to wait another 3-4 weeks for the final answer. I thought yesterday was going to be the final answer, but I'm finding that there are many "final answers" in the publishing process. Argh. So thanks for your prayers, and keep 'em comin!


This dog is a perfect picture of how I feel inside when I come up against a question I can't answer. And believe me - there are lots of unanswerable questions. If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Can God create a rock too big for Him to move? Does a bear p--p in the woods? Oh, wait! That fourth question we CAN answer! Ha! But the first three questions are famous unanswerables, aren’t they? There are a few questions atheists like to throw out with a smirk. Then there are those favorites from Darwin’s followers. The most troubling unanswerables, however, are the personal ones. I was relatively young in my faith, and my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She deteriorated to the point of needing to be in a nursing home, and the last time I saw her I railed at God. “Why! Why does she have to suffer like this? Why can’t you just take her now?” My Mom-Mom Cooley was a mighty woman of God. Ornery to the core, but she loved Jesus. She lingered on this earth, suffered in pain; and I was angry with God. Finally, the night she died her favorite nurse was on duty and in the room with her. My grandmother, in her dying moments, prayed the salvation prayer with that little nurse. Did God wait too long to take my grandmother to her eternal home? The little nurse doesn’t think so. Her eternity rested on that lingering. I got the answer to my “Why” question. But I must tell you – there are dozens…maybe even hundreds of other “Why” questions that I’ve never had answered. So what do we do when we don’t understand?

Ezra 4:17-22 – “The king sent this reply: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates: Greetings. The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition. Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?”
  • Okay, don’t read this like a textbook. Be there. Remember the remnant (50,000 people) walked 900 miles from Babylon in order to build God’s Temple. They’ve already endured terrible persecution for years just to be able to sacrifice on the altar they built. Now, a new king has double-crossed them – after they had FULL support of the previous administration. Just because a couple of dirty rotten, mean-girl, politicians got their shorts in a bunch and sweet-talked the new king over to their side. Hrumph! Why would God let this happen? I mean they’re building the Temple for Him – at His command, to fulfill His prophecy through Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1).

Ezra 4:23 – “As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop” (emphasis added).

  • King Artaxerxes’ decree said nothing about using force. That was just a little gift from the local politicians to add salt to the wounds.

Ezra 4:24 – “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

  • Sometimes God’s plan is postponed, but it’s never cancelled. God ALWAYS wins. He always fulfills His promises. Always.

Lord, I’m so NOW oriented that I forget tomorrow is Yours, too. Remind me of Your faithfulness and Your perfect understanding of the whole plan for the whole world for all time. When I realize your presence in the future as well as the past, all the unanswerable questions suddenly come under the comforting umbrella of Your knowledge and protection. Thank You, Father, for being the God of the now, the then and the to come.


You don’t have to live long before the past tries to poison the future. One spoonful of strained peas is enough to convince most babies that anything green and slimy on a spoon is going to taste “just like last time.” But that kind of thinking has caused many poor little tikes to pass up pistachio pudding or green Jell-o with cool whip! As we get older, the stakes get a little higher. Another friend is diagnosed with cancer, and we’re afraid it’ll turn out – just like last time. Our younger child begins displaying the same rebellious behavior as his/her older sibling, and we’re afraid of the pain that waits down the road – just like last time. Some of you know that I deal with several chronic illness issues. Fibromyalgia, daily migraines and a goofy condition called P.O.T.S. make the future an uncertain place. Each of the conditions ebbs and flows, flares up and calms down. When a flare-up begins, guess what goes through my mind? Will it be…just like last time? And of course my mind always fears the worst time. Have you noticed a word running rampant throughout this opening paragraph? Actually, it’s a concept revealed in two words: afraid & fear. These words are the arch enemies of faith, but when a scenario begins to follow a familiar pattern, fear of repeated disappointment or pain often settles in. Just like last time is a problem common to us all….

Ezra 5:1 – “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.”
  • After ten years of inactivity, God’s Spirit moved. One man of God felt called, another confirmed the call, and they acted together on it.

Ezra 5:2 – “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

  • They worked on this project together, in the fellowship of the Body, drawing on each other for encouragement.

Ezra 5:3-5 – “At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ They also asked, ‘What are the names of the men constructing this building?’ But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received” (emphasis added). (See vs. 6-12 for the Jews’ responses to Tattenai’s questions)

  • This governor was sending a letter to another king – just like had been done before. However, God was doing something good in the current difficult circumstance – and they noticed it.
Ezra 5:6-12 – “This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. The report they sent him read as follows: To King Darius: Cordial greetings. The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction. We questioned the elders and asked them, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.” This is the answer they gave us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon” (emphasis added).
  • It wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about God, and who they were in relation to Him. That knowledge not only brought glory to God, it also kept them out of hot water!

Ezra 5:13-17 – [the letter to the king continued…] “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, and he told him, “Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.” So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.’ Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter” (emphasis added).

  • A deeper look at this letter reveals that Tattenai was a man of very different character than the previous enemies, Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4). Tattenai includes a careful dictation of the Jews’ response. He seems to genuinely desire the truth. When the Jews heard another governor was sending another letter to another king they could have given up and expected results – just like last time. But they didn’t…

Lord, give me the strength to try, to keep building, to keep believing, to put one foot in front of the other when everything inside me fears it will be – just like last time. Remove that phrase from my heart and mind. Take away the memories of strained peas! I don’t want to miss the pistachio pudding that You have waiting for me. Let it be so, Father.