A Mother in Israel

Deborah_blog

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. Judges 4:4 NIV

Deborah had her own palm tree (seriously); the “Palm of Deborah” the Bible calls it.

Like Gideon and Samson, she was one of the Judges of Israel in that kind of nasty period between Joshua and King David (1200 B.C.-ish). Judges were Israel’s leaders, both legally and militarily—powerful, but still a few clicks down from royalty.

However, what I find most interesting—and appropriate for this week—was that Deborah was also a self-identified mother. In her own words:

I, Deborah, arose … a mother in Israel. Judges 5:7 NIV

What she arose to do was a lot of hand-holding of her military guy, Barak. (Jabin, king of Canaan, had been putting the whoop on the Israelites for 20 years and it was time to put the kibosh on that) But Barak, the big ol’ sissy, wouldn’t go to war without her, so she climbed out from under her palm, tucked her tunic, donned her combat boots, and got that snowflake to stop trembling and start trampling.

What a woman—during the day she held court under her palm tree, making the rowdy Israelites behave and leading their rag-tag army in battle, and at night she wiped snotty noses and picked up after the kids. She was the first Biblical mother who worked outside the home.

And if you read Judges 4-5, you’ll see that her work was definitely never done—just like most moms. ‘Cause while Dunkin’ is great to get Americans up and at it, I think what the country actually runs on is working moms.

And verily I say to thee—I don’t know many moms who don’t work. Maybe that work doesn’t include a cubicle and a retirement plan, but whether it’s in the boardroom or the bathroom, the bottom line is still given a tremendous boost.

Come to think of it, I know a bunch of near-moms—aunts and besties and sitters and the like—who are as much moms to the kids in their charge as the bio ones. If you’re part of that village helping raise a kid, you’re a mom in my book.

So thank you to each of you for making the world a kinder, gentler, and much nicer smelling place. I wouldn’t want to live here without you. As Solomon says…

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30 NIV

Exactly. Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

• • •

So what happened to Deborah? After defeating the enemy army…

…the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him (ouch). Judges 4:24 NIV

Then the land had peace forty years. Judges 5:31 NIV

IOW…Mama kicked Canaanite keister and took names. (You go, girl.)

• • •

Deborah says to follow me on Facebook. Click here or on the Facebook logo below. (You don’t want to mess with her.)

Follow me on Facebook!

Seedy

From the I Am the Clay “Story” Series

coffee10

A farmer went out to sow his seed… Matthew 13:3-8 NIV

“Ally?”

“Oh my goodness—Jess? Hey!” Ally stood up from her small table and gave her high-school friend a hug. “What are you doing back in town?”

“I’m here for the women’s conference this weekend at the New Life Center at Calvary Memorial.”

“It’s so good to see you!” Ally motioned to an extra chair. “Please—join me.”

Jess sat down. “I thought I might run into you at the conference, but this will give us a chance to catch up.”

“What are you having? Cappuccino? Latte?”

“A cup of tea would be great.”

Ally flagged down the server. “Evie? Can I get a tea for my friend, hon?” She turned to Jess. “How about the mango/peach tea? It’s amazing.”

“Sure.” Jess turned to the server. “Mango/peach it is. Thanks.” She looked around the small restaurant. “This is really cute. I don’t think it was here the last time I was in town. Didn’t it used to be a gas station?”

And now for the rest of the story…

Far more than rubies

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

I’ve been surrounded by Godly women all my life. I was raised by one, shared the backseat of the car with one, was inspired to study music by one, worked for and with a few, and sang with choirs full of them. They taught me to pray, to hold doors, to love words, to read music, to dance, to say “yes ma’am,” and how to eat the English peas in the TV dinner without gagging.

Although God has indeed blessed me with the opportunity to fellowship and be accountable to a team of Godly men, He has brought joy and beauty to my life through Godly women.

A little over three years ago, I became reacquainted with yet another Godly woman; someone whose friendship I quickly grew to esteem and value; someone I admire, both for her personal relationship with Jesus and for her ability to lead others to a similar relationship; someone who, in fact, was part of the duo who led me to faith in Christ in June of 2010.

How could I not esteem, value, admire – and love – someone who sat and held my hand and cried and prayed right along with me the day my life changed for eternity? That’s why, at the time this post was published, I was in South Alabama celebrating the life and ministry of my dear friend, Judy Tucker.

Judy, Judy, Judy

I met Judy when I was 9- or 10-years-old. Her father-in-law pastored the church my family attended, and she and Bro. Johnny, her husband, visited frequently. I thought Judy was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. That hasn’t changed, actually, except now I know her beauty to be as striking on the inside as it is on the outside.

Judy has a lovely voice, so she and Bro. Johnny often sang duets. (Bro. Johnny has a lovely voice, too, but he’s nowhere near as pretty.)

She’s raised three children who, along with their spouses and children, actively serve the Lord. When they were young, Judy would stay home while Bro. Johnny was on the road ministering to others. Having practically grown up with those three, I’m pretty sure she had to raise her lovely voice a few times while they were growing up. (You know who you are…)

I’ve had the chance to get to know her all over again these past three years. During that time, I’ve observed that she is not just an evangelist’s wife, but is an equal partner in the success of Bro. Johnny’s ministry, managing the administrative side of International Missions Association. Bro. Johnny is the first one to say that Judy is indispensable to their ministry. He often calls her the “wind beneath his wings.” She does everything from book flights for armies of people for mission trips around the world to turning out a regular newsletter. In spite of her great gifts, her daughter says she’s “always willing to be outside of the limelight doing tasks that receive no glory to further the calling placed upon them.”

Since we’ve reconnected, she has become a dear sister in Christ, sharing in my ongoing spiritual growth, lifting me up in prayer, and providing encouragement as I attempt to share what God has done for me here on “clay.” She even has video footage of me doing some sort of tribal dance in one of the Disney theme parks. (That’s apropos of nothing; it’s just goes to show that a Godly woman can have a sense of humor, too.)

Everyone should be blessed with a friend like Judy.

Girl power

Judy serves as a role model for the next generation of Godly women, just as women have always done. Although we tend to focus on the men of the Bible and revel in the heroic stories of their leadership and dedication, throughout the Old and New Testaments we see incredible women who rose above cultural attitudes and constraints to accomplish amazing things and inspire us with their devotion to God. For every Joshua or David or Peter there is a Rahab, an Esther, and a Mary.

Here are their stories and what I learned from each…

The “ah” sisters

Before taking up residence in the soon-to-be land of Israel, five Israelite sisters – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, the “ah” sisters – approached Moses and the entire all-male assembly and petitioned for their right to inherit their father’s share of the new land. He had passed away earlier with no sons to serve as his heirs, as was customary. I’m sure some of the elders almost choked on their manna when they heard the sisters’ request, but not Moses. Moses simply asked God and God said:

“You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.” Num 27:7

I suppose we could think of these brave and resolute sisters as the first all-female legal team presenting the first case for women’s rights, with God Himself as judge and jury. The lesson? If I “ask anything according to his will” He will hear me. (And don’t name a child “Hoglah”.)

Rahab

Rahab, a resident of Jericho, is described as a harlot, a prostitute, or an innkeeper, depending on which Bible translation you read. Although I wouldn’t classify prostitution as a Godly occupation, Rahab definitely ended up being a Godly woman. Risking death for herself and her family, she stepped out on faith in a God she didn’t know and became a traitor by harboring a pair of Israelite spies casing Jericho for conquest.

This faith led her to declare to the two spies:

“I know that the LORD has given this land to you…for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Joshua 2:9,11

And so the walls of Jericho came a-tumblin’ down – everywhere except where Rahab lived. Rahab was actually saved by her faith.

Salvation by faith; a novel concept…

Here’s what Rahab’s story taught me: as lost in sin as I was, God was able to work a miracle in my life, too; and if I continue to trust Him, He may do something equally amazing through me.

By the way, Rahab, the former prostitute? She’s an ancestor of Jesus.

Esther

Esther became queen of Persia by – get this – winning a beauty pageant. The interesting thing (besides the fact there was no swimsuit or talent portion of that pageant) is that Esther was secretly Jewish; secretly, because the Jews, who were living in exile in Persia at the time, were not a beloved people.

To circumvent an ill-begotten edict to wipe out all the Jews, Esther risked death by approaching the king unbidden and, in a gracious manner befitting a queen, revealed her true identity and convinced the king to spare her people.

One of my favorite verses from the book of Esther is chapter 4, verse 14 where her uncle is trying to convince Esther to speak to the king. He tells her:

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Other than the “royal position” part, that same sort of thing could possibly be said about me: God’s timing + His hand on my life = endless possibilities.

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was as faithful a disciple of Jesus as any man. She (along with other women) followed him from town to town, supporting his ministry with her own money. She listened to Him preach, watched Him perform miracles, and took everything He said to heart. She stood nearby and watched Him die a horrible death while many of the men ran away and hid. She was the first one to see His empty tomb, the first witness of His resurrection, and the first one He told to go and tell the good news.

The bearer of that announcement could have been Peter or James or John, but instead it was Mary: Mary who never abandoned Him or denied Him; Mary who believed in Him – heart, soul, mind, and strength; Mary who, as a woman, wasn’t deemed trustworthy enough to serve as a witness in court, but who Jesus trusted with testifying to the greatest truth ever told:

“I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18

I’m also a witness of His resurrection. No matter what I think of my ability and effectiveness to share His truths, I’m commanded to go and tell them. As Nike says, “Just do it!”

Et al.

And let’s not forget:

  • Deborah, the only female leader of Israel, who inspired ten thousand troops to victory over their enemies with her bravery and quick thinking.
  • Ruth, a pagan from Moab, who valued the bonds of family and chose to follow her Israelite mother-in-law and her God, becoming the daughter-in-law of Rahab and another link in the ancestry of Jesus.
  • The barren and childless Hannah, who faithfully petitioned God for a son, promising to dedicate him to the Lord all the days of his life. The son God gave her was none other than Samuel, the great prophet of Israel.
  • The beautiful and intelligent Abigail, who, with her graciousness and wisdom, deftly averted a deadly confrontation between her rude and churlish husband and the soon-to-be-king David. David was smart enough to make Abigail his wife when rude and churlish hubby met his demise a few days later.
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, a beautiful portrait of surrender and trust.
  • The sisters, Mary and Martha, who were devoted to Jesus and sponsored Him during his ministry, hosting Him in their home on numerous occasions.
  • Priscilla who, along with her husband, played an important role in the life of the early church and the ministry of Paul the apostle, traveling with him, learning from him, and spreading the gospel he taught them. They never hesitated to open their home as a meeting place for churches wherever they lived.
  • The entire cast of women in Romans 16 Paul named as being significant to the advancement of the gospel and the Church (in addition to Priscilla): Phoebe, Mary, Narcissus, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, and Julia.

And this is just scratching the surface. The Bible is filled with portraits of Godly women who were indispensable players in our sacred heritage, freely and selflessly giving of their time and resources, tirelessly serving the Lord – much like Judy.

So today, I’m blessed to be in Citronelle, Alabama, gathered with many brothers and sisters in Christ – most of whom I’ve never met until now – celebrating our dear friend and faithful servant of the Lord. No doubt if Judy had lived in Biblical times I would be writing about how she slew 1000 Canaanites with one of her high heels or how she rammed her car into Jericho and knocked those walls down (and gave Rahab a lift); or better yet, how she helped spread the gospel to thousands.

Maybe in Heaven my assignment will be to write Godly Women of the 21st Century” filled with the stories of all those who made a difference in my life, with titles like “The Book of Margaret,” or “The Book of Lynne,” or “…of Wanda,” “…of Bonnie,” “…of Tammy,” “…Deidre,” “…Leslie,” “…Jo,”  “…Connie,” “…Jean,” “…Jennifer,” “…Leanne,” “…Beth,” “…Paula”…

…and, of course, “The Book of Judy.”

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:25,26,30