Saturday, December 15, 2018


First off, let me wish each of you a Happy New Year. I pray that 2019 will be filled with many blessings for you from the hand of our Lord!

We each want favor in our lives whether from family members, friends, a boss, pastor, or whomever. The last thing we wish for is to fall into disfavor ever. The last we wish for is to fall into disfavor with those for whom we care deeply or who are in a position of authority over us.

In Psalm 90:17 we read these words written by Moses, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” The last line of the verse in The Message reads, “Oh yes, Affirm the work that we do!”

Friends Needing Friends is an organization made up of widows, women who have lost their spouses to death, and have had their entire lives rearranged for them. Yet, they have made the choice to associate with other widows and together, as a team, they are making a difference in the lives of others. Besides comforting each other, inspiring
each other to keep looking up and not getting stuck in grief’s assault on their emotions, they have a Teddy Bear Ministry to which they donate teddy bears to the sick and/or hospitalized. In addition, they support other widows in India and are a great source of encouragement to them as many have been totally abandoned by their families. It has occurred to me that they could just as easily have allowed their grief to rule centered that no one’s favor was upon them.

There are some widows in the Bible who had that same decision to make, but for different reasons. As we look at three of them, I trust they will serve as an inspiration to each of you to make the choice to soldier on when you face disappointments, setbacks, or experience the death of a loved one. The first women that comes to mind is found in the book of 2 Kings 4:1-7. What we are told in this passage is that she was a
widow with two sons who were in danger of being taken from her as payment for a debt her dead husband had incurred. She turned to Elisha, the prophet with whom her husband had worked, and he devised a plan to help rid her of her debt.  She followed through with his plan (which you can read about in the Scriptures) and God stepped in and performed a miracle, and ultimately the debt was paid and she and her sons went on with their lives. However, this widow could just as easily have wrung her hands, cried her heart out, waited for her husband’s creditors to come and take her boys, lived a life of grief and bitterness until her scant supply of food ran out and then have waited for death to overtake her too. She stepped out of her comfort zone, admitted she needed help, asked the prophet for it and received the favor of God, resulting in life for her sons and herself.

Another woman that comes to mind also remains nameless in the Bible. Her story is recorded in Luke 18:1-8. This is often referred to as the Parable of the Importunate Widow or the Persistent Widow. It is the story of a hard-hearted judge who is repeatedly approached by a poor widow seeking justice. Women had so few rights in those days and widows were especially vulnerable to unscrupulous men. This woman
knew her legal rights, knew they were being violated and refused to be turned down by the judge who repeatedly paid no attention to her because she was just a poor widow. Finally he became so tired of her persistent begging (for what was rightfully hers) and gave in to her pleas. But the Scripture goes on to tell us that God is more than willing to show favor on His people who ask Him for help. This poor widow, just like the previous one, had a hard decision to make when treated unjustly. It would have been easier to just live without making waves, even with the major hardships caused by those mistreating her. She could also have just given up trying to find justice by a hard-hearted judge who ignored her pleas. But she did neither. She kept coming back until she got her justice. And she was once again a full member of her community, able to make a contribution to it with her head held high.

The last woman I want us to consider is Mary, the mother of Jesus. At some point in Jesus’s childhood or early manhood, she became a widow Think about the suffering this woman endured throughout her lifetime. She endured the shame of being regarded as having a bastard son, a son who was thought to be delusional by claiming to be the Messiah, and then she had to endure the horrible heartbreak of seeing her son suffer the excruciating death of crucifixion. She experienced the great joy of seeing Him
after His resurrection only to have Him leave when He ascended to heaven forty days later. But none of this paralyzed Mary into inaction and live out her days in quiet seclusion. No, she made the choice to make a difference in her world. In fact, she was favored to be chosen to be among those gathered in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost. Full of the Holy Spirit, God was able to use her for many years at the beginning of the Christian church.

Ladies, each of these women made the choice to go on after the death of her husband…under the most adverse circumstances. The easy path is to just remain stuck in your sorrow, seeking relief in drink or pills, evading reality and choosing escape in television or movies and seclusion from church and friends.  Philippians 4:6-7 admonishes us this way:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ JesusThis is just one of many promises God has given you in His Word reminding you that He will never leave you, never forsake you, and will enable you to move forward in victory with His blessing and favor on your life. But, the choice is yours.

There may be some reading this that do not know Jesus, the son of God, as your personal savior. I invite you to start 2019 knowing that you are a member of God’s family by asking Jesus into your life and allowing Him to be the Lord of your life. It’s the best choice you’ll ever make.
Message by Shari Hervold

                                       Music by Lynda Randle

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pray, Plan, Prepare

           The holiday season is fast approaching and this is always a difficult time for windows. Since I am not a widow, I began to research the writings of widows, as well as professionals who work with widows. I’m grateful for their insights.
          Often the grieving dread the holiday season. Thoughts of family traditions, social gatherings, and tiring shopping can fill one with anxiety, leaving a widow feeling overwhelmed. Let me say upfront, your holiday season probably won’t be easy; your emotions may ambush you. Let me assure you that this is perfectly normal.
          I looked into God’s Word for examples of strong women to see how they handled difficult, even life or death, situations. (While run-amuck-emotions at the holidays doesn’t equate with death, it may feel like it at the time.) Two women in the Old Testament stood out to me: Abigail and Esther. Let’s briefly look at the incidents in the lives of these two women and how they handled them, as they offer insights into how you can face the dreaded holidays.
Abigail humbling herself before King David.
   The story of Abigail is found in I Samuel 25. She was the wife of Nabal, a surly, self-centered man. King David sent a message to Nabal, asking him to show hospitality to him and his men since his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds. Nabal’s response was rude and insulting to David and his men and wouldn’t give them any provisions. Abigail knew this would not sit well with the King and she feared for the life of her family. Sure enough, David was greatly angered and planned revenge on this arrogant man, taking 400 soldiers with him. Abigail quickly devised a plan to circumvent this. She prepared a veritable feast for David and his men and took it to them personally, humbling herself before King David. David was indeed impressed with her gentle manner and the bounty with which she showered them and he directed his soldiers to retreat and leave her family, including her wicked husband, alone. 
The story of Esther is found in the Old Testament book that bears her name. She was a lovely young Jewish woman who had been chosen to be the queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus.  A high official in the palace devised a plan to kill all of the Jews. Not knowing that his wife was a Jew, the king agreed.  What was Esther to do? With some words of advice from her godly uncle, Esther decided to go to the king to beg for the life of her people; she did so knowing that she could be banished forever or even put to death since the king hadn’t sent for her. The first thing she did was to solicit prayer on her behalf. After much prayer, she did go before the king and was invited into his presence. Then, her plan began to unfold, step by step, where she pleaded for the life of her people and exposed the official who had devised the unthinkable plan to annihilate the Jews. It’s a very interesting story and I encourage you to read it.
 The one strategy that stands out to me in these stories is the ability of these women to devise a plan and prepare for how it would be carried out. Every professional stated the same thing. Plan for how you will celebrate the holidays.  Recognize that you will need support and set out a plan for getting it. Marta Felber in her book, Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies, suggests that you visualize how it might be without your loved one. Play the scene several ways.  Only after you have done this, begin to plan what you can handle and how. Try to have reasonable expectations. There are important ways in which celebrations will not and cannot ever be the same again. So it is okay to plan for them to be different. Be realistic about what you can handle and what you can’t, both emotionally and physically. Be kind to yourself and nurturing. Get plenty of rest and don’t attempt too much. Plan safe times and places to
grieve. Psychologist Dr. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge states “Planning does help you to have a little control, even when you feel totally out of control. A healthy plan involves making decisions in advance about traditions, meals, time spent with others, holiday decorating, gift-giving and commitments.”
          I found the very practical suggestions by Feree Hardy on her Grief Share blog to be most helpful. Among them are these:
·       Be gentle with yourself.  If you’re grieving, you’re in a fragile stage – and that’s okay. You have nothing to prove.
·       Don’t set your expectations too high. Don’t plan to do everything you used to do before your loss. Set mini goals for yourself and take it one hour at a time.
·       Take time to be alone. Journaling may be a helpful and healing exercise during these reflection sessions.

·       Try serving. While alone time can be useful and helpful, it’s also important to have an outward-looking outlet. Sometimes seeing the situations and needs of others is just what we need to tweak our perspective and see a glimmer of hope in our own story.
·       Be flexible. Prepare your heart and mind in advance for the unexpected and commit to giving yourself grace.

·       PRAY! God is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He is the father of compassion, the One who binds up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). Use this raw period in your life to acknowledge your complete and utter dependency on Him, and He will uphold you and carry you through. He will never leave or forsake you.
 Always remember the words recorded in Psalm 31:3-5:
You are my cave to hide in,
my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps,
I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
You won’t drop me,
you’ll never let me down.

May each of you have a peace-filled holiday season resting in God’s promises to always be your loving heavenly Father.

Message by Shari Hervold

The following are pictures of the ladies from our New Jersey chapter of Friends Needing Friends.  We all will be "Praying, Planning, and Preparing" for the coming holidays.

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Psalm 147:3  He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

The following pictures are of ladies from the Florida chapter of FNF.

Dr. Geni Abraham was our teacher at our October meeting 
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Dotti Ackerman  Founder and Director of FNF
Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has madwe; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

"Through It All" By Lynda Randle


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Lessons in Grieving from Naomi

In the book of Ruth, we read the story of a woman named Naomi who, along with her husband and two sons, had left her home in Bethlehem to live in the country of Moab because Bethlehem was suffering a severe famine.  At some point during their time in Moab, her husband died, her sons married Moabite women and later they too died. So, Naomi found herself in a foreign country with no husband, no sons and two foreign daughters-in-law.  Shortly thereafter, she heard that Bethlehem was free of the famine and she made the choice to return there. Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, decided to return with her and so they made the arduous journey back to Naomi’s hometown, back to her people and culture, her religion, and her friends and relatives.                                                                                                         
Let’s pick up the biblical narrative in Ruth 1:19-21(Message version) When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time?” But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.”                                                                                                                                                                                            
            Many of you are most likely familiar with the legendary work by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in which she writes of death and dying and outlines five basic steps in the grieving process. To be fair, these steps were never meant to be used as a checklist. Your grief is your own and unique to you, but research has shown that most grieving individuals will encounter each of these steps at some point before they reach acceptance and hope. Kubler-Ross’s steps are:  DENIAL,   ANGER,   BARGAINING,   DEPRESSION,   ACCEPTANCE.

Naomi’s loss was incalculable with the death of her husband and her two sons. She found herself bereft of all that was dear to her, living in a foreign country among people who worshiped a different god and whose customs were different. Sure, she had adapted in the more than 10 years she had lived there, but she knew that she would always be a foreigner and this only increased her sense of loss, loneliness and isolation. At some point in her grief after the death of her sons, she heard that rain had fallen on Bethlehem and food was again in abundance.  She began to reflect on her homeland, the town in which she had grown up, where she met and married her husband, birthed her two sons, the feasts and specials observances in the worship of the one true God, the women with whom she shared friendships, and the days of watching their children play and grow up together; a place where happiness had reigned. Just reflecting on all of this must have opened a tiny window of hope in her heart, enough to stiffen her resolve that no matter the inconvenience, the cost or hardship, she would return to Bethlehem, the only place where she would ever truly feel at home.

Naomi’s husband had been dead for several years at this point.  If she ever experienced moments where she couldn't believe that her sons were truly gone, she had only to look at her two solitary and barren daughter-in-law to dispel any fragments of denial. If I were to venture a guess, I would say that Naomi had moved from denial to anger and blame. When we look at the scripture reference above, we see a woman who has finally arrived back in the bosom of familiarity. She can, perhaps for the first time in months, maybe even years, let out her pent-up emotions and express her true feelings. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she chides her friends. “Call me Bitter (or as one version says, “Myra”).” She was angry with God and wasn’t fearful of stating so. Have you been there? Have you felt that it was God who took your happiness away, seemingly on a whim?

Like most people in the throes of grief and anger, she isn’t entirely honest about the situation. Look at her words, “I left here full of life.” While it’s true that her husband and two boys were alive, it is likely they would have starved had they stayed. It was a severe famine that prompted her husband to uproot them. He was a potter, a tradesman who had to purchase his grain from the local farmers. When the famine struck, his business died and the farmers had to take from their own stored resources to sustain life for themselves.  So he moved to Moab where he could build up a successful business and support his family. Of course, it’s easier to blame God than to blame the deceased loved one. But, aren’t you glad that Naomi felt secure and loved enough back in her hometown among her lifelong friends to vent her grief and anger? She was able to release those normal emotions and get them out in the open so that she could move on toward total healing.  In fact Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt in his book, Understanding Grief/Helping Yourself Heal, encourages you to talk about your grief. “Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging. Seek out those persons who will ‘walk with’ and not ‘in front of’ or ‘behind’ you,” he states.      

We do know that not long after this Naomi was already moving forward in her grief process because she began to think rationally about how to help her young daughter-in-law and teach her some of the finer nuances of their culture and religion.  In fact, I believe that it was through Ruth’s presence that Naomi was able to find a purpose for living again. Marta Felter, herself a widow, reminds other widows that in giving of yourself to a cause or an individual in need will help you find happiness and healing even in your time of grief. Certainly, some of Naomi’s motivation in helping Ruth was simply survival, but we can see from Scripture that Naomi’s heart was healing from anger and blame. When Ruth shared with her that she was gleaning wheat in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s, Naomi exclaimed, “Why God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all. He still loves us in bad times as well as good!” A seed of hope was placed in Naomi’s heart and before long she saw that this was indeed a “God thing.” I don’t know, but again I surmise that there were days of dark depression for Naomi. After all, the deaths of three close loved ones are a lot to process and accept for anyone. Upon learning that Ruth had indeed landed in the field of Boaz, her faith in God’s ability to hear and answer prayer was renewed. Hope sprang anew in her heart.
Naomi’s grief story is tied up in the story of her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Even so, we can see how Naomi was able to move from abject despair to renewed hope and trust in God. It also gave her something beyond herself in which to become involved. Ruth, coming from another culture would not have been able to navigate the rules of courtship in that Jewish culture. Naomi lovingly taught her everything she needed to know to spare her the humiliation that would result from her ignorance. I can just imagine that Naomi is not just hopeful but filled with anticipation at how her “matchmaking” is going to play out. I think it was more than just wishful thinking though. She surely reasoned that if it was God who led Ruth to Boaz’s field, if it was God who had given Ruth favor with him resulting in his extra kind treatment of her, then it has to be God who is going to allow this relationship to culminate in the covenant of marriage.  And that is exactly what did happen. Grief stories, thankfully, most often come to a successful ending. God has so designed us that Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning, Psalm 30: 5b. It isn’t his plan that we drown in our sorrow any more than it is his plan that we stuff our grief, fight our tears, and remain in emotional limbo for the rest of our lives. Naomi’s story is one of successful navigation through the hard and difficult steps of grief to recovery. We get glimpses of them through her words and actions in the book of Ruth. Just as you do, Naomi had choices to make, difficult choices many of them.

How did her life end? Well, again the book of Ruth tells us that after her firstBlessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on with your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel,” Ruth 4:14. Famous indeed! Little Obed grew up to be the grandfather of King David and is in the lineage of our Savior, Christ Jesus!
grandson was born to Ruth and Boaz, the town women said to her, “
Dear women, wherever you are on your journey through grief, remember that you are not, for even one moment, alone. God is right there with you, guiding your every step, holding your hand, calming your fears, and encouraging you at every turn. His Word is full of many promises to the widow. I came across the following written by the well-known pastor and author, Max Lucado. I’d like to leave you with his thoughts to ponder as you continue on your road to eternal recovery.

When you stand in the cemetery and stare down at the soft, freshly turned earth, and promise, “I’ll see you soon,” you speak the truth. Reunion is the splinter of an eternal moment away. There is no need for you to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV). So, go ahead, face your grief. Give yourself time. Permit yourself tears. God understands. He knows the sorrow of a grave. He buried his son. But he also knows the joy of resurrection. And by his power, you will too.

Message by Shari Hervold

Music by Lynda Randle

Here's how:
Admit your sins have separated you from God. (Psalm 14:1-3: Rom 3:23)
Believe that God did something about your sins through Jesus Christ. (The final Pascal Lamb/Messiah.) (Lev. 17:10: Heb 9:19-22)
Commit - yourself to His righteous by confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Isa 53:5; Col. 1:22) and do it today! (Isa 49:8; 2 Cor 6:2).

Father in Heaven, I'm sorry for the things I've done that are wrong: I am a sinner; forgive me. Thank you for living me and sending your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sin. Holy Spirit, come into my heart; Jesus be my Lord and Savior. I give You my life. Amen

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

This is Cause for Celebration

 In the late sixties and early seventies anyone over 30 was considered “over the hill” and was suspect. Of course, this designation was made by those under thirty and we know how much wisdom they usually display (smile). However, in business as well as in Christian ministry, the older the establishment, the more likely it is seen as trustworthy.

Perhaps you weren’t aware of it, but Friends Needing Friends is celebrating 30 years of ministry to widows, and that’s cause for celebration. However, it’s not just thirty years of existence that we’re celebrating, but after thirty years of disappointments, setbacks, discouragement, sicknesses and deaths, FNF remains a beautiful, vibrant ministry offering hope, friendship, restoration, and Christian fellowship to widows. In a real sense, we’re celebrating God’s love and faithfulness to Dotti Ackerman, the founder, and to all the women whom this ministry has touched.

 Two sections of Scripture come to my mind that demonstrates celebration after great hardship. The first is Genesis 41:52 which states that Joseph, in naming his second son, stated that “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.” He could celebrate the birth of two sons and forget his great suffering prior to his high government position. In the book of Nehemiah we read of the events leading up to and during the rebuilding of the wall - the mistreatment of the Jews, and the terrible hardships they suffered – after which the Levites declared a sacred day to the Lord and instructed the people to prepare a great feast.  Nehemiah 8:12 tells us, “So the people went off to feast, eating and drinking and including the poor in a great celebration.”  I love that this verse specifically mentioned that the poor were invited, as this would have included widows who were the poorest of the poor in those days.

I have been associated with FNF for 28 years of its existence and during that time I have spoken or written about almost every widow mentioned in the Bible. In reflecting
on the past 30 years of FNF and comparing it to the lives of many of the biblical widows, I see comparisons from which we can learn a valuable lesson. I don’t have space to enumerate all of them, but the first one that comes to mind is Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah who was cheated out of her right to bear children (childlessness was seen as a disgrace) by the deception of Judah. It was a cruel deceit, yet Tamar, in the depth of despair, outwitted Judah and became pregnant by him. She bore not one, but two sons. Not only was her disgrace of childlessness removed, giving her cause enough for celebration, but her sons were in the lineage of the Messiah. Now, that’s truly something to celebrate.  (The whole story is recorded in Genesis 38.)
Bathsheba, the beautiful, but married, woman for whom King David lusted and bedded resulting in a pregnancy. She became a widow after David had her husband killed so he could marry her and forgo a scandal. From all accounts, Bathsheba had a good marriage and was forced by David into these circumstances. The baby born of this liaison died, leaving her grief-stricken twice. But, if we follow her life, we see that her son Solomon becomes king after King David dies, and he has such great love and respect for his mother that he orders a throne brought in so she could sit at his right hand. Her son is also in the lineage of Christ. 

These women lived to celebrate life again after great heartache.  I also think of Ruth, Naomi, the widow of Zarephath, and the widow of Nain along with others whose stories are a testament that with God’s grace we are able to rise above the vicissitudes of life and celebrate life.

The last widows that I think of as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of FNF are you. Many of you, though you’ve been subject to great sorrow, severe hardship and painful adjustments, have faithfully ministered Christ’s love and encouragement to fellow widows month after month for years. You have chosen to persevere through your own pain, experience God’s grace and healing, and then selflessly minister to others. There were those who thought that Friends Needing Friends would not last, there were those who thought Joseph was dead, there were those who thought the wall would never be rebuilt, there were those who thought that Tamar would die childless, there were those who thought Bathsheba would be just another “notch on David’s belt” once his lust was satisfied, and there were times when each of you thought your life was over after the devastation of losing your spouse, but God in His faithfulness has brought you to a place of celebration.

FNF celebrating their 30th Anniversary. The gentleman in the center of the picture is Pastor Bruce Sofia from the Gloucester Cty Comm. Church.  Pastor Bruce and the GCCC has supported this ministry for thirty years.
 You are the reason for this ministry and you are the ones whom God uses to make it what it is today. Dotti and each of you has a reason to celebrate this God-ordained occasion.  Happy 30th Anniversary, Friends Needing Friends, and may God grant you many more years of being His ambassadors to widows.
Message by Shari Hervold

Introducing the Boynton Beach, Florida's chapter, celebrating altogether their birthdays! Boynton Beach chapter celebrated their 6th Anniversary in February 2018.

Brunch for the ladies. 

Opening our meeting singing "This is the Day that the Lord hath made."

Exchanging Birthday Gifts

Games!  Yea....Bingo. 

One of the winners!

We have many members of FNF Internationally, and we all know it is very important to have Jesus in our hearts and to ask Him daily to help us to take one day at a time.   Wherever this message travels internationally - click on below and enjoy the video by Lynda Randle singing this very important message. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What We Can Learn From the HIGHLY FAVORED ONE

What We Can Learn From the HIGHLY FAVORED ONE
Lessons from Mary, the mother of Jesus

It is easy to read the Christmas story and forget about Mary after the holidays end. We exclaim over her humility and willingness to be chosen to be the mother of Christ and we love to recite her Magnificat. But Mary was much more than the new mother we honor each December and she has life lessons from which we can glean during the other eleven months of the year.

Before we go into the Scriptures to see what they tell us about Mary, let’s look first at the cultural setting for her story as well as do a little reflection. In first century Galilee it was customary for a young woman to marry once she had started her menses. As soon as she could bear children, she was considered a woman. Some scholars put Mary’s age as low as 12 but she was more likely to have been 13. Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, was between 16 and 22 years of age. It is likely that their marriage had been arranged. Once their engagement was announced, they were considered “married.” Joseph would have paid his prospective father-in-law a sum of money for Mary and Mary would have been considered the property of Joseph. In fact if Joseph died before the marriage was consummated, Mary would have been considered a widow in every respect. Traditionally, it was a year from the date that the couple had signed their agreement that they consummated their marriage and this would be followed by a celebration.

Now, consider with me what type of woman you would have chosen to be the mother of God. Perhaps you, like I, would think like this:
·       Happily married to a godly man
·       Settled into a comfortable home
·       Older with some years of wisdom
·       Coming from a family respected in the community
·       Family be a member of the religious community
Yet, Mary was none of these. Elizabeth George described her this way: Mary was young – unseasoned, inexperienced, unaccomplished, and unmarried. She had never been a mother. Mary was poor – possessing no fortune, no wealth, and no family inheritance. Mary was unknown – boasting no fame or social status. No one had heard of her father or mother…or her. Furthermore, nothing is said about her physical appearance or beauty. Clearly no one would choose Mary to be the mother of God’s Son…except God. Despite what she lacked in the world’s eyes, God sent His angel Gabriel to this poor, humble teen-age girl.  

      In the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words, and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But, the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. “ “How can this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the one to be born will be called the Son of God. …There is nothing impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant. “ Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:26-38)

  Since God didn’t look on Mary’s lack, but rather on what it was she possessed, Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement gives us some insight into her soul, her true self and what God saw.

            Mary listened to the Gabriel’s pronouncement and then simply asked, “How can this be since I’m a virgin?” She wasn’t questioning what God was asking her to do, but rather asking for clarification as to how it would be possible. Perhaps she’s thinking it will take place after the consummation of her marriage to Joseph so that it would appear “proper.” But, Gabriel lets her know that God would be the father of this child in a way totally contrary to biology, after which Mary responds,  “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) It didn’t matter whether she understood all Gabriel was saying or not, she believed that God could do anything and that was enough. Mary’s response was one of absolute submission to God’s will.

Some versions use the word handmaiden rather than a servant. Both show that Mary was so devoted to God and lived in respect and awe of his holiness and power that, even though she was granted the honor of being the mother of the Messiah, the desire of every mother’s heart for her daughter, she still saw herself as just a maidservant or handmaiden. These are terms that refer to a female slave who was obligated to perform her master’s will without question or delay.  Her heart was prepared for this moment by a lifetime of devotion to God, and obedience to the Jewish laws and scriptures. Perhaps it was this servant-heartedness that caused God to select her from all the young Jewish virgins of her day to be the “highly favored among women.”    
Scripture is silent on the reaction of Mary’s parents to this news. I can only imagine that they were somewhat skeptical of her story, perhaps even ashamed and embarrassed by it. I’m sure all of those close to Mary had conflicting emotions just as we would in the same situation.  We do know that Joseph was ashamed and hurt by her pregnancy and planned to break their engagement. I can only imagine how much it hurt Mary to know that Joseph doubted her. Her heart must have been breaking to realize that Joseph was thinking her guilty of the worst thing a virtuous woman could accused of.  As Scripture tells us, he too had a visit from an angel who verified Mary’s Mary learned early on that being a maidservant of God would come with a price. She was viewed as a fornicator and even Jesus would have his “illegitimacy” thrown up to him by the Pharisees when he was a grown man. (John 8:41) It was a shadow over her character all of her life. In addition, Mark 6:3 references Mary’s other sons by name as well as stating that Jesus had sisters and they didn’t believe in him as the Messiah.  Sibling rivalry will always exist, but to doubt the integrity of one another as adults and even undermine another sibling is a hard blow to a mother’s heart. Yet, it was only after Jesus’ resurrection that his siblings recognized his deity. But recognizing Jesus’ deity couldn’t stop the agony in Mary’s heart as she had to observe the cynicism of the religious community toward his ministry, and ultimately to suffer the cruelest of deaths. The Romans wouldn’t even allow any of their own citizens to be crucified, as it was so brutal and painful. They inflicted it on criminals of the people they ruled. And Mary had to stand by, powerless,
as her first-born son was given a sham trial and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was brutally beaten and mocked and then nailed to the cross. Mary and other of Jesus’ loyal women followers stayed at the cross where he could see them and know that they loved him. I wonder if she recalled the words of Simeon who, upon seeing the infant Jesus in the temple, foretold that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul.  Did she think, “It’s coming true.” As all mothers know, when their child suffers, they suffer. But Mary suffered more than anyone has ever had to suffer.   
 Obedience to God and His call on our lives is not always going to be easy. Although Mary found favor with God, her life was not without suffering. None of us will be favored in the way that Mary was, but each of us has been given gifts and talents and God calls each of us to be His ambassadors in the place where we are, using those gifts. We too may be asked to endure false accusations, family problems, misunderstandings, widowhood, and sorrow even though we are a deeply loved daughter of God. Mary’s response was to ponder or reflect upon what was happening and trust in God’s wisdom and humbly be obedient to His plan.

Think of the absolute rapture Mary felt when Jesus rose from the dead. Her darkest moment turned into unbelievable joy upon learning that her son, who was her Lord, was alive!

We last see Mary gathered with the apostles as well as his brothers in Jerusalem where a replacement for Judas was chosen and ultimately the Holy Spirit was given.  She was allowed to see the beginning of the Christian church and most likely was a vocal witness to the veracity of Christ as the Son of God.

John D. Barry stated that, “The underlying theme of Mary’s story isn’t that different from ours. Her story teaches us a profound lesson: the life of faith is made up of a series of steps that bring us closer to the fulfillment of God’s will, but not necessarily farther from the challenges and struggles involved with moving ahead.”

Life’s pain must never keep you from being obedient to Christ and his claims on your life nor ever doubt his total love and care for you.

  The woman who is a woman after God’s own heart is one who, like Mary, is humbly obedient to God, faithful to God’s call on her life, and willing to endure suffering and scorn to experience the joy of eternal life.

Message by Shari Hervold

Here's how:
Admit your sins have separated you from God. (Psalm 14:1-3: Rom 3:23)
Believe that God did something about your sins through Jesus Christ. (The final Pascal Lamb/Messiah.) (Lev. 17:10: Heb 9:19-22)
Commit - yourself to His righteous by confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Isa 53:5; Col. 1:22) and do it today! (Isa 49:8; 2 Cor 6:2).

Father in Heaven, I'm sorry for the things I've done that are wrong: I am a sinner; forgive me. Thank you for living me and sending your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sin. Holy Spirit, come into my heart; Jesus be my Lord and Savior. I give You my life. Amen

"Mary Did You Know" by
Mark Lowery & Buddy Green