Category Archives: Inspiration

Lessons from Hebrew

Hebrew Bible
 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a lesson in Hebrew. This is a lesson from Hebrew. Hebrew class to be exact.

Two years ago I signed up for a Biblical Hebrew class. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In my loftier moments I daydreamed of reading the Old Testament in the original language. In reality, I liked the idea of pointing to a page of what looked like chopped-up stick men and telling someone, “This says ‘Abraham’.”

That’s just cool.

And so my foray into Biblical Hebrew began. I was pretty sure that once I mastered the alphabet, the rest would be cake. After all, being able to pronounce the word you’re reading is half the battle, right? I dedicated myself to hours, days, and eventually weeks of learning the alphabet. It turned out to be harder than one might think. For starters, there’s not entire agreement about how many letters are even in the alphabet. Then there are letters that look different at the beginning of a word compared to the end. And letters that sound differently if they start a syllable. And letters that don’t make any sound at all. There are also letters that sometimes act as vowels and sometimes don’t, and vowel pointings that used to not exist but eventually did…

Have you ever seen one of those 3-D images that at first seems like nothing but geographic shapes but the longer you study it, the more you see the deeper image underneath? Lines and spaces begin melting into shapes and suddenly you’re staring at a wolf, or a leaping dolphin. That’s what learning Hebrew is like. The harder I studied these mysterious shapes, the more I could pick out familiar symbols. Months into the class I could finally point to a section of the page and say, “See this right here? This says ‘Abraham’.”

I still think that’s cool.

I was having so much fun I signed up for semester number two. With the alphabet, some verbs, and a few key phrases under my belt, I was feeling pretty good. Until about the second week of class.

“You’re probably wondering why this has a qamats instead of a patah,” the professor would say.

Actually, no, I was just impressed that I recognized it was a qamats.

“This symbol here is an atnah which marks the midpoint of the sentence meaning which can cause the vowel to be lengthened.”

Right…

Or I’d be trying to parse a word and he would say, “This is a doubly weak verb. Only one of the three letters is actually present.”

Right… So tell me again why I spent all that time learning the alphabet if these ancient writers didn’t even bother to record two out of the three letters of a word?

“Sometimes Hebrew doesn’t make a lot of sense, but you’ll have to take that up with God. After all, He wrote it,” the professor would say with a grin.

So much for learning the alphabet and eating cake, I thought.

challenges sign
In this way, God’s plan for learning Hebrew seems to be similar to God’s plan for life. (Image by Janet Beagle)

Learning Hebrew is hard, but I don’t think this is unique to Hebrew. It seems like everytime I learn something new and think things will get easier there is an even bigger “something to learn” that takes its place. In this way, God’s plan for Hebrew seems to be similar to God’s plan for life. Just when we master one lesson, there are new challenges that force us to refine our understanding. Just when we start to feel comfortable with how things are, there are disruptions that force us into new situations. God never lets us sit idle too long. He’s never content with us merely learning the alphabet; He wants us to learn words, and sentences, and grammar rules. And then He wants us to apply it.

Our life is a constant series of lessons, and God is our head instructor. He sends people into our life to inspire, motivate, and encourage us. He sends challenges into our life to develop and refine us. And He sends moments of reflection into our life to help us catch our breath, gauge our progress, and keep us moving forward. There’s a life lesson knocking on each of our doors right now.

You don’t need to read Hebrew to learn the lesson God is teaching you.

 

Janet Beagle

Janet Beagle, Ph.D.

 

Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.

 

Theresa “Pinky” Garrett: Clowning Around is Serious Ministry

Theresa animal ministry copy

Three and a half years ago, I shared the ministry of Theresa “Pinky” Garrett here at Inspire a Fire. A lot has happened since that time.

For more than 20 years, Theresa has been traveling to Ukraine to minister to those who not only need a Savior, but who also need help in order to survive. In 2012, Theresa was the one who needed help to survive. She was diagnosed with aggressive stage two breast cancer and underwent multiple surgeries, as well as lengthy chemo and radiation treatments.

But even during those long months of treatment and recovery, Theresa’s heart has remained with the Ukranian people. Praise God, He supplied exactly what she needed, and on May 11, 2015 she will finally have the opportunity to make her 22nd trip to Ukraine, taking much-needed supplies and funds that can make an eternal difference in families.

Years of Devastation in Ukraine

Theresa’s heart breaks for the Ukrainian people. They lost their farms through years of government-run collective farming, their crops locked behind closed doors in their own barns—barns to which they had no key—while millions of Ukrainian people starved to death.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 wiped out 1300 villages, prompting the Russian government to give the Ukrainian people their own country.

Twenty-nine years after the accident, the death rate still exceeds the birth rate two to one. Eighty-five percent of the Ukrainian people live well below poverty level, and doctors—the highest paid workers—make only about $100 American dollars a month. Three hundred thousand Ukrainian children live as orphans, dependent on others to survive.

The Master’s Mission: Replacing Devastation with JOY Boxes

That’s where The Master’s Mission steps in. A key element of the ministry is the distribution of JOY Boxes, which stands for Jesus, Orphans, and You. Pastor Rooks, founder of The Master’s Mission, quickly discovered boxes of gifts provided a way to gain permission into Ukraine and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each box contains a Gospel track with the Plan of Salvation in their own language, a toothbrush, comb, pens, toys, candy, hat, scarves, and gloves. What an exciting treasure this is for the children! Many have never seen such things. Most have never heard the Gospel.

Stories of God’s provision through the boxes abound. One year a little girl began to cry when she opened her box. When the translator asked what was wrong, she said, “I asked God to send me a doll and He did!” With over 6000 boxes distributed, God made sure she got her doll!

Another time a little boy jumped up and down and yelled as he grasped an object and pulled it out of his box. He had seen a billboard in town advertising Bubblicious Bubble Gum, and had asked God to let him taste a piece. Guess what was in his box? Yes, a pack of Bubblicious gum!

Clown Ministry Spreads The GospelTheresa Pinky and Cilly

Theresa started her Performing Clown Ministry in 1995, serving in orphanages, schools, hospitals, and churches. But knowing that the borders could close at any time, they knew they needed to train Ukrainian people to be Professional Clowns so they would be able to carry on the ministry. In 2002 Pinky’s Gospel Clown School International began, and we have trained five classes—about 80 clowns from all over the former Soviet Union—to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Family Food Boxes

Donations help feed families physically through the Family Food Box Ministry, where each box also includes a Bible…to feed them spiritually. Their goal is to have enough money to provide at least two dozen Bibles during each mission trip.

The Pass-It-On Animal Ministry

In 2010, Mrs. Jane Blackwell developed the Pass-It-On Animal Ministry. Raised on a farm herself, she knew families could be self-sufficient if they owned animals. Through donations, Theresa and the team are able to buy cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. This provides milk, dairy products, and meat, and allows them to sell the products for income as well.

But the ministry doesn’t end there. When the first female animal is born, it is passed on to another family, providing food and income for them. We’re praying for donations to sponsor an animal and help families become self-sufficient.

The Masters Mission Continues

The Masters Mission has mission teams throughout the year, going not only to Ukraine, but also to Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico. They also assist ministries in Kentucky and South Carolina. If you’re interested in donating or being part of a mission team or learning more about The Master’s Mission, please visit the website, www.TheMastersMission.net.

If you’d like to specifically help Theresa’s May 11, 2015 mission trip and ministries, please send a tax-deductible donation to The Master’s Mission, P.O. Box 338, Ware Shoals, SC 29692. Every donation counts, no matter how big or how small!

Go ye therefore and teach all nations. Matthew 28:19

Theresa’s bio: Theresa “Pinky” Garrett is a delight to know. Celebrating her 33rd year in430079_342112782488512_63286453_n clowning, she’s a seasoned performer and an accomplished ventriloquist. She began Pinky’s Gospel Clown School in 1991 to teach new clowns “Excellence in His Name.” Pinky has taught how to do ministry in churches and seminars, and performs with her sidekick “Cilly.” Her Gospel Clown Skit Books are used in fifteen countries and are available in 3 languages. This is her 22nd year to travel to Ukraine where she is a part of The Masters Mission. She has had her International Clown School for five years with over 80 clowns in ministry throughout the Former Soviet Union. She continues to teach and perform for state conferences hosted by the Baptist Convention. You can reach Theresa at tgar676@aol.com.

Teeth of God

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I clipped blue iris,
those little teeth of God,
the day your grandson died.

Like spears in a vase
the cut stems still
take water.

The window light,
filtered by glass,
frames life.

Two weeks on the planet,
we’re too weak, to stand
alone.

Springtime…a Time of Renewal

Springtime.

Green leaves. Budding flowers. Singing birds. Renewal.

Here in my part of Texas our azaleas have bloomed and faded. The trees all have their leaves. Loquat fruit hangs heavy on the bough. The grass is greening up. The Easter Lilies are above ground. Pollen is dreadful.

I love to stare at God’s wonderful creation and notice the subtleties that abound. Especially during the changing of seasons.

One day there are leaves on the trees. Next day they have fallen.

One day the trees are bare. Next day buds are sprouting. One day tiny orbs form. Next day fruit appears.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Each fall it is the same old thing. The azaleas go dormant and look rather pathetic. But then the spring arrives and the bushes are full of gorgeous beauty.

Not long after they bloom, however, the flowers begin to fade.

I’ve often considered uprooting the azaleas and planting something different, but I never do. I enjoy their beauty however briefly they bloom.

Does God look at us the same way, I wonder?

In those seasons of our life when we just aren’t as strong, as healthy, as vibrant as we once were, when things become a bit dormant, does he ever wonder if it’s time to uproot us and plant something else?

Perhaps, like me, there are areas of your life you’ve allowed to become dormant. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally. We mean to do such and such. We intend to complete this or that. We want to be faithful to complete the good work God began in us. We really do…but life gets in the way.

Or we become discouraged.

Or fearful.

Or lazy.

Or…

The Bible says even though our physical being is gradually decaying, a fact we can’t reverse, our spiritual being is renewed day after day.

Every spring God works on the inside of the trees, plants, shrubs, bushes in the yard and renews them to burst forth at just the right time in glorious splendor.

He does the same with us. He works on the inside to renew our spirits to burst forth to display the work of a mighty Creator.

This spring might I suggest each of us take inventory of our spiritual garden and see if there is any dead wood we need to trim to make room for new growth?

I wish you well.

 

Knee Stain

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Drops swell at branch tip
to catch bubble light and, glass like,
wink to the waiting grass.

Even with scrubbing
the new dirt of the strawberry hill
paves the crease in my finger skin.

Between pig pen, and prodigal proof,
I garden with the angel of Eden,
hoping to keep a foot in the gate.

Put down roots, pull up weeds
hoping for another hand
on the wheelbarrow.

Father and Son team,
such a threat to the devil,
such a joy in the spring wet mud.

What God Might Know

list on a paper

What do you know that God doesn’t know?

This may seem like a rhetorical question, but go ahead and answer it anyway. Grab a paper and pen and write at the top, “Things I know that God does not.”

If you’re like me, you’ll come up with a very short list. In fact, my page is blank.

I could try this exercise with any other person, and I could compile a list. Pitch me against the smartest person on the planet and I could find a small fact that I could win. Pitch me against my most intimate friends, and I could list items they don’t know about me.

Not so with God.

Everything I know, God already knows. Everything I think, or feel, or do, God already knows. Psalm 139 begins, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” The Bible tells us God knows when we sit and when we rise (Psalm 139:2). God knows completely what we will say even before we say it (Psalm 139:4). God knows our follies (Psalm 69:5) and our human plans (Psalm 94:11). God wrote in His book the details of all our days (Psalm 139:16).

There is nothing I know that God does not know. Which then begs the question, what does God know that I don’t?

Job 8:9 declares, “we were born only yesterday and know nothing.” And in the midst of Job’s trials, God pointed out just how much more God knows than us. “Where were you when I laid the earths’ foundation?” God asked. And in a series of rhetorical questions, we sense how great is God’s knowledge compared to ours (Job 38-39):

clouds parting

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? (Photo by Janet Beagle)

  • Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?
  • What is the way to the abode of light?
  • Where does darkness reside?
  • Do you know the laws of the heavens?
  • Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?
  • Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God?
  • Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?

Isaiah (40:14) also challenges us: Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?

The answer, of course, is no one. God himself is all-knowing. And as we begin to grasp this truth, we can cry out like Paul, “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33)

We can barely grasp the fringes of God’s omniscience. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing, Jesus told His disciples. And even the hairs on your head are all numbered (Matthew 10:29-30).

If this is the level of knowledge of our God – if He knows everything about us, and then some – then that means He knows everything about us right now. He knows the situations we’re in and the struggles we face. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to think that we are the only ones who really “get it.” And when the going gets tough, it’s easy for us to get ahead of God on the solution. We may think we know how to fix something, and we may find ourselves repeatedly frustrated as our efforts seem to hit dead ends.

If so, we need to pause and ask ourselves, what might God know that we don’t?

hands holding butterfly

Even amidst our struggles and frustration, we may be in the exact position necessary for God’s plan. (Photo by J. Canino.)

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah:55:9).

Even amidst our struggles and frustration, we may be in the exact position necessary for God’s plan. God’s paths are beyond tracing out. Rather than trying to find a way out, perhaps we should be asking God what He would like us to do right here, right now. Perhaps we should recognize that maybe we lack knowledge of the full picture after all. And perhaps we should follow James’ advice, who suggests that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

After all, it just might be possible that God knows something I don’t.

 

Janet Beagle

Janet Beagle, Ph.D.

Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.

Song Bark

apple tree Morguefile

Wintered leaves rattle
at apple branch end,
the lone music makers
in the life of the tree.

Delayed rendevous
gives me glimpse
of a natural chorus
ignored.

Jesus said, “The very stones
will cry out…”

Bus stop arbor
doing its best.

Stop Comparing

bing images

I have a problem and I don’t believe I’m the only one who has struggled with it. The problem is comparing myself to others and feeling like I don’t measure up. It’s easy to do, but I don’t believe it is an emotionally healthy thing to do.

Each of us has been made by a God who loves to be creative. He doesn’t punch us out of a plastic mold. We are uniquely and wonderfully made. We have different abilities. Different strengths. Different weaknesses. Different purposes for being.

It’s taken me a very long time to understand this truth. I’ve suffered through many years of comparing myself to others and coming up short in my mind more times than not.

bing imagesFor example, there was my friend, Cindy. A married banking professional who had no children.

How insignificant I felt when I compared myself to her. I did not rule the board room like she did. I was just a stay-at-home-mom who spent her days baking cupcakes for my son’s classroom, and corralling his Cub Scout den at our house every Wednesday afternoon.

I didn’t attend exclusive weekend getaways like Cindy did. My Saturdays were spent finding containers to accommodate the various critters Ryan inevitably found which needed a home. Or nursing one more sick hamster back to health. Or trying to convince my son the snake he had backed into the corner of the fence was a water moccasin, not one he should keep as a pet.

I didn’t dress in the latest fashions like Cindy did. More times than not, I was in shorts and bing imagesa tee shirt shooting hoops or tossing a football in the back yard with Ryan, cheering on his sports efforts from the stands, or riding bikes with him through the park.

When conversations with Cindy turned to the world of finance, I felt totally undereducated. Now, if we’d only had a conversation centered around the plastic G.I. Joe figures Duke, Snake Eyes or Scarlet…

I’m a slow learner. That’s a true fact. I take my time cogitating. One thing I’m discovering is we all need to embrace where God has put us at each particular moment in time. We need to stop yearning to be someone or something we aren’t. Stop comparing ourselves to others.

God put the things in us he wants in, and he left the things out he wants out. We should follow where he leads us, however that manifests itself. Boardroom or backyard.

When we feel we don’t measure up, Jesus says we matter to him. A lot. Enough to die for us. When deceiving voices condemn, criticize, say we aren’t enough — whatever enough means — we need to shut them out, and listen to Jesus’ voice of truth. His truth says there is no condemnation to those who love and trust in him. We are precious to him. He calls us his beloved.

Perhaps it’s time we understand we were created by God for a purpose. We are called to do our best to accomplish that purpose. Our purpose. Not someone else’s purpose.

God’s plans and purposes do not call us to compare ourselves with others. His plans and purposes call us to compare our lives with his standard as our measuring rod.

Moccasin Man

Moccasin

Mowed the lawn in moccasins
to make a point about January
being different in the great
and generous Northwest.

My Daddy, frostbit, from chopping ice
off the walk a few decades
and states east of here, would marvel
at anything so green close to his birthday.

Late in life, we might just miss
the things our children notice,
like an upstart of daffodils closer
to the curb than the wild.

Over at the cemetery
the sun shines equal
when it does come out.
Night rain on the graveyard don’t
bother residents, however temporary
the stones.

The shut down engine and smell of simple labor
whispers what God thought
when He said, “Well that’s enough mountains
for now.”

One long string of soft steps,
makes everything we climb, puny.

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