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Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. For more on Alberts visit janellealberts.wordpress.com.

Janelle Alberts

Janelle Alberts
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Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. For more on Alberts visit janellealberts.wordpress.com.

How To Avoid A Fake Life

When I first read the book To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite line was, “Courage is when you know you’re licked…but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

 

Even young, I knew that was…optimistic.  Begin anyway?  That’s not a usual suspect for How To Cope When You’re Licked. 

 

Coping usually involves words more like “fake-it-til-you-make-it,” which we all know has its benefits.  We like tools that temporarily help us tread water when times get tough.

 

But, faking is not beginning.  Faking is rather more like wandering and wandering and wandering through the wilderness, much like the Israelites, for 40 unnecessary years.  Through sputtering starts and stops, the Israelites eventually managed one meaningful step after another, and finally stood before their promised land, having gone all the way

 

That is a main difference between faking v. beginning.  Beginning testifies that all the way is even a thing.

 

On the contrary, faking works up a sweat just standing still.  Faking is disillusioning and makes all the way sound like a joke. 

 

But there they were, those Israelites. 

 

God had been with them through one thing all the way over to a brand new thing, a land that the Lord their God would care for (Deut 11)..  He asked, would they remember Him, the One who had brought them all the way

 

Do we?  Remember God?  All the way?  Through the basic bits of everyday life, where no matter which way we juke then jive, it looks like things will not get better.  Not really.  Not in ways that count.

 

Sorry, Atticus.  Courage is seeing it through no matter what?  Who possibly is that optimistic?

 

Well.  God.

 

In light of the Israelites’ tendency to fake it rather than begin anyway and in light of our own reasonable, rational, suspicions that all the way is elusive, at least as far as we can see – there is a God who hopes on, on our behalf.

 

He would like to strengthen us to try the same.

 

“Observe therefore…so you may have strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess...” (Deut  11:8)

 

God’s antidote for the Israelites’ predilection for living a fake life?  Remember.

 

“Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God; his majesty…”

 

Not your children.  You.

 

“His mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did…as (your enemies) were pursuing you…”

 

Not just anybody’s enemies.  Your enemies.

 

“It was not your children who saw what he did for you….”

 

You.

 

“But, it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.”

 

That is not pixie dust or a mantra or a tiny little sheet pulled out of a tiny little cookie.  That is not a wish.  

 

That is remembering.

 

Remembering gives begin anyway something irrefutable.

 

In the case of the Israelites, they could not un-see how this God had personally involved Himself in their circumstances and also in their hearts.

 

In the case of us?  The Author of the Bible promises the same - a relationship with a God who unapologetically does not tell all, but does want us to see His very personal touch on our lives.  He admits the harsh reality of circumstances and likewise affectionately, persistently, beckons us to…begin anyway.

 

With Him.

 

What will happen?  The Israelites received little more than, “You’re about to find out.”  That led to a rescue from Egypt, manna from heaven and a lot more that their ancestors had never before known.

 

Beginning is scary.  Remembering is hard.  That was true for the Israelites.  It was sometimes easier to drum up a fake golden calf rather than sticking with God and stepping into the abyss.

 

Yet, courage is when you begin anyway.  It isn’t an easy life, but it mercifully isn’t a fake one.

 

Begin.  Put one foot in front of the other.  With Him. 

 

To what end?  Try Him, and we’re about to find out.

 

He wishes we would.

 

Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.

 


Does God Even Care?

I once heard a mother speaking with her son about a recess fight with his little friend. The mom said all the usual encouraging things, and then added, “And son, maybe you could talk to God about this.”

 

The little boy turned to his mom with a question.  “Would God care?”

 

He was ready to get personal about this God that his mom had been making him put on church clothes to go sing about every Sunday.  The mom believed that her God cared about this recess situation. Pretty much. But the real question she couldn’t answer was this: “If God cares, then what will He do?”

 

It’s the theme of the whole Bible. Introductions go a little like this:

God: “Hi! I’m God. You are people. I love you.”

People: “Prove it. Then I’ll believe. Pretty much.”

 

And so the stories are told from the Israelites who, after crossing over the dry land of the parted Red Sea looked around only to ask, “Now what’ll we possibly do about dinner?”

And on to the disciples who, after Jesus walked on water and de-demonized a little girl, stood scratching their heads wondering where to get bread in such a remote place to feed so many people.

 

When we are right smack in the middle of a crucial moment, we are confused.

 

We must get it through our head, it’s not about the bread.  Or it’s not just about bread. Certainly there are bread-multiplying, cancer-curing, miraculous moments. But they come and go.

 

The emotion we feel in their absence reveals what we believe about this God. It reveals whether we really believe Him at all.

 

Here’s an emotion: confidence.

 

When three young Israelites named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were facing down a deadly furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, they didn’t know what their God would do, but they told King Nebuchadnezzar that they pick Him anyway. They said our God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, He’s still our God.

 

They were not sure what God would do, but they were sure how God felt.

 

He cares.  He can, but even if He doesn’t, He still cares. He is still the One.

 

It’s possible He has a plan. It’s possible I am playing part in something that is bigger than me. Even today. Even at recess. It’s possible.

 

Is it possible? Pretty much.

 

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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. Find out more about Alberts here.

 


Two Reasons Jesus Made Water Into Wine For MOMS

You don’t have to watch many Real Housewives reunions to know that too much of a good thing can be a problem.  Case in point: wine, and the fact that these women might fight less if they all stopped drinking so much.

That revelation puts panic in my system because I love me a good Chardonnay. 

All of which has me reconsidering Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine.  It’s a curious first move, no?

If my fifth grade son were writing a book report on the matter, he’d have to mention that the very substantive Jesus character puts His first miracle muscle behind…a party.  Isn’t that odd?  My 11 year-old dodges these book report chats with me by using this line, “We don’t have to get it mom; we just have to report it.”

For moms, therein lies the rub. 

We are not reporters.  Our job is to actually get stuff, so we can pass it on to our littles.  Isn’t it just like God to throw in a miracle that a mom first has to get and then pass on to…herself.

Reason #1 Jesus’ first miracle was for MOMS: Too much of a good thing was always a problem; Jesus made wine anyway.

We moms stink at nuance.  If one thing needs ousting, we tend to toss…it all!  If one thing needs reconsideration, we tend to reevaluate…it all! 

“It all” is a problem for us. 

We often function less like free-in-Jesus believers and more like moral lawyers who wrestle a good gift from God down to formulaic submission.  Then along comes Jesus who shoves a miracle like this right in our faces.  He leaves us no choice but to break up a bit with the legalism in all of us.

Like a pal of mine, who once said to me, as a way to play down the actual winemaking in Jesus’ first miracle, “You know they drank wine only because water back then was so bad.”

Okaaaay, but Jesus didn’t decide then to turn water into better water.  The wine?  It was on purpose.  Jesus was not a guy known for imprecision.

True, it wasn’t for everybody, like John the Baptist who never “took wine or strong drink,” (advice Real Housewives cast members could take to heart).

However, wine was for some, like Timothy, whom Paul told to “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness.” (Luke 1:15, 1 Timothy 5:23).  Beyond that, it was for lots of wonderful times to be had by all.  Like at a wedding.

Reason #2 Jesus’ first miracle was for MOMS: It wasn’t to numb a problem; it was to continue a celebration.

Jesus’ first miracle applauds celebration - laughter, love, saved-the-best-for-last kind of celebration and joy.

Which should be an easy thing for moms to wrap our heads around since what got us the title of “Momma” in the first place starts with “bundle of” and concludes with joy, joy, JOY.

Right?

Kinda.

The fact of the matter is that the needs and wants of our cherubs can be mind numbingly repetitive and heart seizing erratic at the same time.  Also, there are breakfast dishes.  Also, client meetings conflict with track meets, and contemporaries run businesses better than us and run marathons more than us and also, bake.

We’re told the “joy of the Lord is our strength.”  If joy is what reinforces our strength, then the source from whence joy originates better not be another something we moms need to drum up ourselves.  A girl can only do so much through act of will. 

Nobody gets that clearer than Jesus.  So much so that when He started His whole ministry with a nod towards celebration, He took it upon Himself to bring to the table a concrete contribution to make that happen.

So, if the Real Housewives franchise shines a light on over imbibing as the enemy of civil discourse, so too does an inaugural wine miracle shine a light on the importance of celebration to the God of Scriptures - and His willingness to do something about it.

We moms are soldiering through best as we can.  It’s nice to know from Jesus’ first miracle that we need not wear a refrain-from-fun face (since, turns out, stoicism does not solve what we think).  At the same time, we are not pressured to fake happiness.  Life with God is not for sissies.  We get it.

Despite that, maybe in light of that, celebration matters to this God.  So much so, that He kicked off His ministry on earth letting the world know He’s the kind of God who brings to the table something worth celebrating.

That’s a book report character that a mom can get behind.  That, plus, when invited to a wedding at 30ish years on, who did Jesus ask to come with Him?

His momma.  Good on you, Jesus.  Good on you.

 

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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.