A Fine Kettle of Fish

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.—Psalm 27:14 NIV

Have you ever made a mess of things because of your impatience? You prayed and prayed, and, not getting an answer, you decide to take matters into your own hands. Or maybe it wasn’t impatience that got you into trouble, but a lack of faith, a failure to trust God, to believe that He’s got it under control, that He will really keep His promises.

You’re in good company.

Abraham, one of the Bible heroes whose amazing faith is recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, got himself into a mess on more than one occasion by taking matters into his own hands, running ahead of God, and demonstrating a serious lack of faith.

Remember when Sarah, his barren wife, talked him into sleeping with her maid Hagar so she could have a child by her? That was a fine kettle of fish. First when Hagar did indeed get pregnant by Abraham, Sarah complained that Hagar now regarded her with contempt. So Hagar was sent away, only to be rescued by El Roi—“The God Who Sees Me”—and sent back to Sarah (Genesis 16:13).

Fourteen years later Hagar was sent away again, this time with Ishmael, the son she’d borne Abraham. Once again, God rescued her in the desert, promising her that Ishmael “would become a great nation” (Genesis 21:18).

All because Abraham and Sarah couldn’t wait on God, who’d promised a son to the childless couple, who were well past parenting age. 

Then there was “The Lie”—a half-truth, really. You know what I always say: A half-truth equals a whole lie. What was the lie Abraham told? That Sarah was his sister. Well, technically she was. They shared the same father but not the same mother. Back then it was okay to marry your half-sister.

Why didn’t he want to reveal that she was his wife? Because she was beautiful, and there was a distinct possibility when they travelled through foreign territory, where the kings saw beautiful women and took them for themselves, Abraham would be killed so the local ruler could add Sarah to his harem. So Abraham said Sarah was his sister.

Not a total lie. But not the whole truth, either. He conveniently left out the part that she was his wife to save his own skin. And worse, he told her to lie, too. “This is how you can show your love to me,” he told her. “Wherever we go, say that I am your brother” (Genesis 20:13).

As a result, Sarah was taken into the king’s harem on two occasions (Genesis 12:14–20; Genesis 20). Both times God intervened and brought her out unscathed. 

So you see the great man of faith, Abraham, had his character flaws, too. He was, after all, human like the rest of us. And God’s Word doesn’t paint these heroes of faith as perfect. Instead, we see them warts and all so we can learn something from their mistakes.

What do I learn from Abraham’s messes?

That God is faithful. He doesn’t cast us off as useless or hopeless because we make the mistake of running ahead of Him, taking matters into our own hands, and making a mess of things. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful [true to His word and His righteous character], for He cannot deny Himself” (1 Timothy 2:13 AMP).

I learn that God is merciful and will save us from ourselves, if only we let Him. But we do have to live with the consequences of our actions. 

I learn that His grace is sufficient and that He won’t leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) but will walk with us and give us the strength to carry the cross of consequences.

What kettle of fish do you find yourself in?

Why not trust it to the Fisher of Men?

Lord, forgive me when I run ahead of You and muddle things up but good. Help me to listen to You and follow Your plan. Amen.

Read and meditate on Genesis 20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Church on the Hill

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. — Hebrews 10:25 NLT

 When we moved to the country in 1980, we didn’t need to search far for a church home. A small church, of the same denomination we attended in town, perched on a hill only three miles away in the village of Canoe Ridge. With children ages eleven months and four years, the short distance afforded us the needed time to get everyone ready and still be on time for the service.

It was a simple country church, the kind you see in pictures and paintings: white clapboard siding, double-hung windows, and a spire that reached through the pine trees that surrounded it. The basement Sunday school classrooms were damp, but a dehumidifier, along with the energy of children, chased away the chill. 

We soon found ourselves involved in the life of the congregation—teaching Sunday school, helping with Vacation Bible School and holiday programs, and cleaning the church. Several other couples our age attended, and it wasn’t long before we met in our homes for Bible study, food, fellowship, and just plain fun. We raised our children together, shared our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, dreams and disappointments. 

A music lover, I volunteered to direct a choir. We sang once a month and practiced after church on Sundays, since we were all there anyway. This was a much better fit for me than supervising the nursery, where I cuddled one child in my lap while two more played kangaroo in the toy box.

The Christmas Eve candlelight service, which we instituted, became the highlight of the year for me. 

We enjoyed carry-in suppers every holiday, with the men serving the women for Mother’s Day. When we first started attending, the dinners were held at a building in Rochester Mills, a few miles from “The Ridge,” as we often called the church. Over time, we dug out a section for a basement kitchen, fellowship room, and food pantry. 

Every summer we drove to Cook Forest for a church picnic, and every fall we bundled up for a hot dog roast and hayride at a nearby lake. We held white elephant sales to raise money. I still remember the retro purse and matching beige patent leather heels that made an appearance every year—disguised, of course. One year the church pianist won the bid then wore them to church the next day! 

Our pastor was a true man of God. I once told him when I looked at him, I saw Jesus. When my mother died in 1986, he and his wife made the two-hour drive to the funeral home. And this was a man who worked a full-time job and shepherded us “part-time.” He didn’t just preach the Word, he lived it. He set the bar, and we were better, truer Christians for it.

Many of the folks have since passed on; the kids are all grown up and have families of their own. But the bond we shared remains, for we were, are, and always will be family. 

So when I hear someone say, “I don’t do church,” I think, “You don’t know what you’re missing!”

 Thank you, Father, for the love we shared and the friendships we forged at the little church on the hill. Amen.

Read and reflect on Acts 2:42–47.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.