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The man standing in front of the group spoke effortless in silken phrases and rehearsed oratory. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to weasel his way out of a mess of his own design… justifying, excusing away, denying even knowing what they spoke of.

In other words, he was lying.

She grabbed her stuff, stood up and left. And yes, slammed open the doors of the sanctuary and walked out. Not only angry, but heartbroken.

He was a pastor, after all, with an obligation to do right and tell the truth. She had seen the signs for too long, but love believes the best and doubts the worst. She prayed he’d seek wisdom and forsake the pursuit of selfish ambition.

Yet, lately she could no longer deny it: something wasn’t right among the leadership of her congregation. So, on this night, she was done. Done listening. Done trusting. Done being used and being lied to.

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Liars are loyal only to themselves, and with conscience seared, can no longer distinguish between truth and error. In response, he turned the blame on her. Accused and slandered to those unsuspecting, to those who only saw the blow up at the end or heard about it second-hand.

And on the following Sunday, there was no warm greeting. No laughter among friends. Only coldness. Backs and faces turned away. Somber whispers in the foyer before church members scattered to various classes.

The enemy had won again.

She and her family left, along with other families who knew, and drove to a nearby church. Praying somehow the Word would penetrate their hearts and minds, numbed after a prized ministry position appeared to go well, but backfired in the end.

It was another summer of the unexpected.

With the pastor close to retiring, many among their church family (including his wife) voiced hope that her husband would be the next man to lead the flock.

You know why God brought you here, don’t you?

And if hopes were fulfilled, her husband promised they could look for a house on the east side of town, closer to the church and closer to friends.

While the desert wasn’t her favorite place to live, she had found contentment in serving, and developed close relationships. Relocating there following another summer of the unexpected in a lifelong series of ministry challenges, to a new city and a new church…

Ironically, this particular summer God’s call once more demanded relocating. Maybe she kept looking back, or held on to threads of hope that things would fall through, and they could stay. She admitted her heart wasn’t in it.

But the unexpected backfire strengthened God’s case, by opening the door wide, shoving them through it, and then slamming it shut behind them.

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There was no doubt as to what He wanted. And in years to come they would look back, certain that God had shown His will to them, even though He preferred to use unexpected trials to shape the path He chose for the couple.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The great woman of Shunem. The Bible doesn’t tell us her name, only that her reputation spoke of wealth, consideration for others, and noble character.

It appears at some point in her life she had learned to be content.

Her husband was old. Her womb, barren. Her life, a disappointment.

But she found purpose and fulfillment in the place God had put her, and in the life God had fashioned for her.

Come, eat with us. We have plenty to share, she told the prophet whenever he visited their town. The diversion was welcomed and fellowship sweet, as tales of God’s goodness—His promises, His warnings, His miracles—filled their conversations.

Then she thought of a guest room.

Hon, could we build an addition, with a bed and table, a lamp and a chair? And I’ll weave a blanket and hang curtains at the window… and he can stay here…

Of course, her husband agreed. And soon the prophet had not only a place to enjoy home cooking, but a bed and a room to relax in after walking miles and miles between ministering in villages of the Middle East.

In gratitude he wondered how he might repay the kindness. After talking it over with his servant, he called her. And told her within a year she would have a baby.

No, please, no!

Not quite the response he expected.

Please, man of God, don’t lie to me!

She could not handle another disappointment. Life hadn’t turned out the way she had hoped, but at least it was uncomplicated. She had resigned herself to her circumstances. And gave up hoping for anything more.

Yet, within a few months, she was pregnant! She would have a baby! A living being grew inside her!

Miracle of miracles!

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The prophet had not lied. And she and her husband would embrace a son. To love and train and become the heir, to carry on the family name. No more disgrace for the couple, who for too long remained childless.

To be continued…

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