Author Archives: mkaybaldwin

About mkaybaldwin

I have spent the majority of my life in central Indiana. I am a graduate of North centeral High School. I love to travel to visit family, especially my four nieces and nephews who live in Southeast Asia. I am the youngest of three. My oldest sister has Down Syndrome. After graduating from College, I began working at a church and for over 17 years served as a youth pastor and a caring ministries pastor. Currently, I am a Marriage and Family Therapist continuing in ministry through a different context.

Ezra 8-10; Nehemiah 1

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Throughout the book of Ezra we see this progression of the Israelites being scattered throughout the world to returning home to Jerusalem. It wasn’t a one stop coming home. There were multiple steps that they took to come home. The steps we see in todays reading are confusing and very hard to understand, especially in todays culture.

“After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.

“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.

Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.””

Ezra‬ ‭9:1, 6, 15‬ ‭NIV

The result? The step they took? They abandoned their foreign wives and children. How heartbreaking!! As I sit in my comfortable air conditioning I am appalled that this was the resolution. I don’t get it!

God! How do we reconcile the way towards redemption and right relationship with you that the Israelites had to follow?

People who are way smarter than me will have studied and have a better answer than I. Where I have landed is…our sin is great and requires a great work to restore us into right relationship with God.

In our time…that great work was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live in the grace and mercy of Jesus and therefore do not have to achieve the righteousness in the same way as the Israelites. I am called to recognize by sin but not live in it. I don’t live in a state of shame but a state of gratefulness and grace and mercy. I am so grateful for Jesus work because I am so aware of my desperate need for it!

I don’t know what to do with the abandonment of wives and children. What I will focus on is how desperate I am in need of the saving and restoring work of Jesus and how beautiful and amazing it is!!

Dear God, thank you for being greater and wiser than me. In my confusion I choose to believe that you are good. In my lack of understanding I choose to believe that you are in control. Help me continue to focus on you and my relationship with you. Amen.

Mandy

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1 Chronicles 19:10-23:11

What does preparing look like for you?

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

I went hiking last week at a state park with a lot of steps and hills that were considered rugged. How do you prepare for something you’ve never done before? I had never been to this particular park. Fortunately I was hiking with someone who had been there and helped me know how to prepare.

King David so desperately wanted to build the Temple for God. He asked and planned and God said no. So David did what he could…he prepared. He laid down plans for his son to be able to build a temple that would house the presence of God.

“David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death.”

1 Chronicles‬ ‭22:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

David had done so much for God. He had obeyed and gone to war. Yes, he messed up several times. Both times, when confronted with the truth of his actions he was remorseful and begged God for mercy for the people of Israel. He didn’t want them to suffer for his sin.

With everything King David had given to God, it would have been within the realm of possibility that he would be disappointed and bitter at not given the chance to build a temple for his God. And yet, he didn’t get bogged down in what he couldn’t do but started making preparations for what his son could do.

King David looked at the heart of the temple…God…and kept his focus there instead of on himself. He did what he could…not what he couldn’t. Preparation is a good work.

What preparation is God calling us to do?

Dear God, as we live our lives we seek for more. More opportunities and chances to serve you, to live the abundant life you came to give us. God, show us how to prepare. Show us what to prepare. God, show us who we need to prepare for. Amen.

Mandy

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1 Kings 22:37-53; 2 Kings 1:1-4:28

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”
‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭2:3‬,5 NIV‬‬

Do you know best?

I love how Elisha continues to respond to the prophets with him and Elijah. Elijah kept trying to go off alone and Elisha continued to follow him. The other prophets kept warning Elisha and I chose to believe they wanted to protect him from the fate of Elijah.

His response is to tell them to be quiet. It makes me think of my role in peoples lives. Do I see myself as the one who “knows”? Or do I walk with them? Do I try and tell them what I think is “right” and “correct”? Or do I come alongside?

I can’t begin to imagine how Elisha must have been feeling. The unknown of how Elijah would leave and leave him in charge had to be overwhelming. And…he knew his calling from the Lord. He was confident and steadfast. I wonder if the questioning by the other prophets felt like a they were pulling him away from his calling.

I want to be someone who asks good questions but doesn’t give the impression that I know best. I think I have done that too many times in my life. I wonder how I have hurt others from taking that stance.

Dear God, as we live in close community with others we lean in and ask questions. We challenge each other to grow and continue to follow your calling. Me we always remember that You know best. That we are to follow your lead and first and foremost love as you taught us to love. Amen.

Mandy

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2 Samuel 11-13

Washington, DC
Photo by Becky Conway

Lust, infidelity, murder, rape, incest…All of this is a part of our reading today. None of it is easy to read. Most of it is descriptive of what was happening in the lives of the people of God. The events of our reading today broke the heart of God then…and they continue to break the heart of God now.

As humans, we have the capacity for so much love and compassion and comfort. At the same time we have the same capacity for heartache, hurt and damaging actions. The same David who beat Goliath out of a heart for God is the same David who lusted after Bathsheba, took advantage of her and cowardly killed her husband.

In recent years, as I have read scripture, I have started asking myself 2 questions.

  • What does this passage reveal about me and my character?
  • What does this passage reveal about the character of God.

I can honestly say that I have not had an affair nor have I murdered anyone. Being a follower of Jesus, however, does not mean that I am immune to the sins of those we see in others. Comparing myself to David and thinking, “hey! At least I’m not that bad!” Is missing the point. I am no better than David. I have sinned and continue to sin in ways that cause hurt and damage to others. I have to allow God to reveal in me what needs changing and confessing. The specific sin is not the point here (although it was a big deal and reveals the pride that David had allowed to take root in his heart). The point is that sin is in all of us and we must take stock before the Lord and with His guidance, confess and make amends.

What this passage reveals about God is His miraculous ability to love in the midst of the hurt and pain and forgive what to us would feel like the unforgivable sin. Our God is for us. He created us on purpose and for a purpose. His heart is for a renewed connection with us. Sometimes that looks like confronting us about our behavior. Other times it looks like being extra near and compassionate. God is forgiving (a characteristic we cherish for ourselves and sometimes are bitter about when it is for someone else).

I don’t know about you, but this confrontational and compassionate God is what I need. I need a God who is different than me. A God who is not trapped in human frailty and pride but stands outside it always seeking for connection with us. David continued to suffer the consequences of his actions even after he was forgiven and restored by God. His children suffered. We will continue to suffer…because we are broken people living in a broken world.

Our God is NOT broken. His love is pure and His ways are good. That’s what I read in this passage today. Praise God!!

Dear God, thank you for being a God that stands outside our brokenness but loves us so much willingly enters in the bring healing through confrontation and comfort and love. May we take stock of our lives with the help of your spirit to discern any ways you desire for us to go. Convict us of sin that hurts ourselves, others and you. With your compassion and love, lead us in a new way of living. Amen.

Mandy

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Judges 20:12-21:25; Ruth 1:1-2:13

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

What would make you stay?

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We all have different motivations for what we do. For some, it’s a fear of disconnection, for others it’s a fear of being perceived as weak. For as many people as are in the world there are that many motivations for doing what we do.

I would love to say that I am purely motivated out of a Love for God and others. Unfortunately too often, my motivation is people pleasing not God honoring. I can too often respond in a way that I hope makes me look good.

Ruth had pure motivations that compelled her to stay with Naomi. She vowed to love her husband and she did until his death. She then vowed to stay with a defenseless woman who needed the family ties to make it in the world. It’s hard for us to imagine today, but Naomi had very few choices and Ruth knew that.

Even though she was a foreigner, she also loved the God of her husband and mother-in-law. She chose the harder path because that was what she felt called to.

What do you feel called to? What motivates you as you live out that calling.

Dear Father, may you continue to refine my calling and motivation. May I learn from the example of Ruth. Amen.

Mandy

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