Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 7, Day 1


Text: After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.

Teach: Nehemiah is a very wise leader. He knew he couldn’t do the work alone, so he appointed assistants. It was a lesson Moses’ father in law taught him and even Jesus employed.

WP Neh devo 7 availability or ability

Take: There is so much work to be done for the kingdom. Some of it is upfront, while other work happens behind the scenes by people who rarely get or want credit. Where you work is not as important as if and when.

Task: Have you been gifted for a special service in the church or community? Take time to assess your gifts and your readiness to work. There is always something to be done, and something special just for you.

WP Neh dev 7 1 Pt 4 10

Sermon Seed: Investing a Treasure

SP talents words

Imagine, you have been given a fortune. More money than you could make in twenty lifetimes.

Actually, you haven’t been “given” it as much as it has been entrusted to you by another–your boss.

What would you do?

In Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 ), he tells a story about a master who does that with three of his servants.

SP talents playing it safe

The first two double what was entrusted to them, but the third is some combination of fearful and lazy so he buries his.

The investors are rewarded and invited to celebrate, while the non-risk taker is cast out.

There are mountains of theories and interpretations for this story.

For me it boils down to this:

SP talents used it all

Mother’s Day Gifts

(I wrote this as a gift to my mother for her birthday. I didn’t send it then. So it became her Mother’s Day gift instead.)



Dear Mom,

I hope that you don’t mind that instead of sending you a card with someone else’s words I have chosen to write you a letter. I know that are very few things that you “need” and less that you might tell me you want. So rather than a plant you have to fret over as it dies (through no fault of your own), or a geegaw that you have to dust–not even another owl picture or mug, I’m giving my time and my heart.

Much love, T

Gifts from My Mother

I considered flowers, but decided against, knowing they would just die. What do you get a woman who wants for little when her birthday comes again?

This year I opted for time and thoughts. Perhaps I could put pen to paper and express my gratitude for the gifts she has given me.

You see, this amazing woman has a tendency to blame herself for all the bad that happens in our lives. She will say things like, “Oh, I guess you got that (bad habit or problem) from me.” Or, “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” She’s quick to assume the blame, but I’m not sure she’s aware of how gifted we are because of her.

I have two siblings. They will have to share their perspective on their own time because this is just about what I am thank-full to have received from my mother.

From a very young age, I knew my mother wanted me to succeed. She wouldn’t let met settle for less than my best. Okay the downside is that I became a bit of a procrastinating perfectionist, but I am getting better. She would groan when I waited to the last minute to start whatever project was being required of me, but knowing how to use that last minute burst of creative energy has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Whenever kwe moved to a new town, Mom always sought out the church with what seemed to have the best choir. From this I received the awareness of the importance of praise and worship. Church never seemed to be about the dogma, theology, tradition, or practice. We were in church to praise God by lifting our voices in song.

Additionally, these churches also had strong programs for children and teens. Looking back, I can see that this was also a gift. Mom was surrounding us with godly teaching and wise mentors, without cramming spiritual nurture down our throats. It was like placing all the food on a buffet and allowing us to choose what we wanted…and when.

Mom was involved in community theater and at one point got me involved in a production. I never felt the bug bite, but I was hooked. Being on stage became very natural to me. As I grew and realized my call to preaching and teaching ministry and I was well-prepared to feel comfortable in front groups of people. Add to this: my husband and I met and fell in love during a drama production in college, and you might begin to see why I truly appreciate this gift.

There was always a crossword puzzle to be worked when cooking and cleaning was done. It became the obvious gift as we were growing up and each one brought many expression of thanks. Mom was always working with words and hungering after knowledge. She had her personal research library right beside her chair and she seemed to delight with each opportunity to dig for some answer. My love for learning seems to be a direct result of this. One time in Sunday School a teacher asked one of my daughters what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply, “A student like Mommy.” I could say the same.

But her love for words didn’t stop there. Many nights my siblings and I would be shuffled off to bed just as the Scrabble board was being set for a game between her and Dad. She tells the story that she started playing while I was in her belly–I was pre-ordained to love the game. I’m not so sure about that, but I know that I have a love for words, and also the strategy that goes with winning that game. One of the greatest joys in my life these days is the times Mom and I spend stretching our brains for hours and days playing Scrabble and laughing together. Honestly, I don’t think I get enough.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate my mother’s organized and patterned lifestyle. I often complained that it cramped my style. Truth be told, She held up a standard that I never felt I could measure up to. Her house was always clean. Our clothes were laundered and pressed. We were well fed. Like many, we may have wished for more, but we always had what we needed. Being able to distinguish between wants and needs may not sound like much of a gift, but it has carried me through some sparse times with a deeper appreciation for what I have, which has resulted in deeper peace, trust, and ultimately joy.

I was recently asked to lead a Bible study for widows. I agreed, but wondered how I could identify with them. What could I bring? Though clearly not the same, I have known grief and loss, and I have seen the amazing example of courage and perseverance in my mom. I watched her draw from resources I didn’t know she had as she walked with my dad through his battle with cancer. I was amazed by her strength when he died. When she struck out on her own and moved to Arizona, traveled around the world, and then bought a house, I wondered briefly if perhaps aliens had abducted the woman who raised me. In the back of my mind I could hear the refrain of the song from the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet! In my life I’ve only had a few opportunities to unpack parts of this gift, but I know that this courageous and strong woman’s example will serve me well long into my future.

I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ll save some things for the next time I need to send a gift. As I was trying to figure out how to close this, I remembered a time as a teenager when I was exasperated by something Mom wanted me to do or some opinion she held–the specifics elude me, but they aren’t the crux of the story. What I remember clearly is how I stomped away with a sigh and a slam of the garage door. I went out to where my dad was working. I rolled my eyes and questioned quite dramatically, “How do you put up with her?”

My dad laid down his tools and calmly, but sternly replied, “That woman is your mother and you will show her respect.”

I didn’t get it, but I did it–or at least I tried. Years have come and gone since that scene in the garage. Respect may have started out because of position/role, but it has clearly transitioned into a deep appreciation for who this woman is and how much she has gifted my life.

And this I know with every fiber of my being, I love her more and more each day.

Thank you for blessing my life in so many, many ways.

xo, T.

Advent 9: Good Gifts

Todays’s thought comes from James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

For some reason this morning I started singing the old hymn, Give of Your Best to the Master.

It is the season for giving gifts.

Buying gifts when the girls were young and we were foster parents was not something I enjoyed. Do I sound like Scrooge?

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to give gifts. I just hated the way the kids counted their presents and made sure there was equity for all.

I dreaded hearing their pronouncement of: It’s not fair s/he got more than me.

Sigh. Like it was some kind of competition.

I don’t think I ever liked the gift giving part of Christmas. For so many years I was disappointed after not receiving the gifts I truly had my heart set on. I quit asking for things.

What would happen if we boycotted the whole gift giving insanity?

The best “gifts” my children ever gave me were the coupon booklets that they proudly (or forced) made in school. There were coupons for cleaning their room, or doing the dishes without being asked. They were the kinds of things that cost no money but demonstrated love and care.

They were gifts of time.

The best gifts are like that. They are gifts of time, of touch…of you.

Who could you give the gift of you to this Christmas?

You know who gave you the best gift, don’t you? He gave himself. Pretty good example to follow.

And onto the next…

Today my job ended. The woman I’ve been caring for the past five and half years died this morning. I had the privilege of being there.

I was still a little numb when I got home. When I lost my job in 2008, I hadn’t gone looking for a job as a care giver. It was quite hard for me at the beginning. God and I had some long talks because I felt so useless. At the beginning my lady was still “with it” enough to resent the heck out of my presence. I likened it to babysitting a teenager: they don’t think they need a babysitter, yet it brings comfort to the parents. I was comfort for the family.

More recently, as she became bed fast, my lady accepted my help–most of the time…but like a child: she didn’t like bath time.

It seems to me that life is held together by bookends. We start sleeping a lot, eating orange fruits and veggies, and wearing diapers. The end looks that way too.

The family I worked for cared about me. Not long ago they made me a huge basket with fresh produce, a loaf of zucchini bread (which my husband enjoyed) and several other things. It was so heavy I could barely lift it into my car. Today they included me in their grieving and their remembering. It was such a precious gift to me.

Back to feeling numb…I sat here at home for a bit and half wondered, half prayed. I heard the mail truck go by…actually I heard the dogs barking out in their pen, like they do when the mail arrives. My body responded by going out to the box, even though my mind wasn’t really in the task.

As I pulled the stack of bills out of the box, I noticed one that had a hint of green in the window. A check. I wondered what my husband overpaid this time. I glanced at the return address, Judson Press, and realized the check was for me. They had accepted another devotion. Instantly I could see nothing else as my eyes filled with tears.

The $20 check didn’t make me rich, but I still felt lavishly loved in that moment. Last week two publishers mentioned my submitting articles. I was encouraged by that and began immediately to work on articles for them. On the weekend, a friend whose opinion I highly respect, spoke to me about my blog and her words encouraged me deeply. Then this. I’m dense at times, but God got all the way through my fog and numbness.

Write, Tina.

So until something else should come along, I will be writing. I have so many things started and now I have time to finish them. Submit them. Edit others. Work on two books I have in process. Seek out contests.

I don’t feel as numb. Actually, I’m feeling excited. And ready to get to the next phase of this journey.

A final thought:
As I read back through this another thought occurred to me–another window into God’s hand upon my life.

I used to function in an extroverted manner that was off the scale. It was so bad that I used to think I needed others around me just to breathe. Then God gave me the job as caregiver. It was one on one. It was quiet. And except for my lady, I was alone. I didn’t like it at first. I chaffed. I squirmed under God’s hand. But I stayed, and I came to love it. The quiet has become so much a part of me that I can’t imagine going back to the world of noise.

As I have immersed myself into the world of writing, I have read many articles about the solitary lifestyle required for writing. I questioned whether I would be able to survive in that lifestyle. This morning the voice of hindsight whispered in my heart, “You’re ready.”

Now isn’t that just like God?

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