Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nope, Not All The Answers Here

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:15

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

Do you ever feel like that? Feel like you are all-knowing and have all the answers for everything? You talk to someone and they tell you about some problems they are having, and you think to yourself "don't they see what the problem is?" Or someone sits down near you in a movie theater with six kids, and first you're thinking "Six kids! What were they thinking!" and shortly after that you're thinking "don't these parents teach their kids to behave in a public setting? They need to be taught some manners!" That is called self-righteousness, and it is something that we need to stay away from.

The truth is we don't have all the answers, and sometimes, maybe what that other person actually needs is some compassion and some love. I think of a person who is insanely busy. They are always running around, doing this and doing that, and it would be easy to think to myself that they need to simply slow down and life would be better. But when that person is telling me about how crazy life is, they're not telling me that so that I can criticize them. They're telling me that because maybe they would just like an extra prayer or two in their direction. Rather than criticizing, I should offer what I can to help. Maybe it is just adding them to my prayer time. But maybe I could make them dinner one night and save them the hassle. Or maybe there is something they are involved in that I could help out with. Self-righteousness does nothing good for anyone.

I like this verse from 1 Corinthians 13 in the King James Version, charity is another word for love.

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up," 1 Corinthians 13:4

Charity is not puffed up. Love is not puffed up, it is not proud, nor is it self-righteous. It's time to shed those moments of self-righteousness and take a good hard look at what it means to love someone. Love means you help someone else without grumbling- and sometimes with no questions asked. Love means that you offer your support and your prayers- love does not think smugly to themselves that they could do better.

It's time to let the love shine and put away the self-righteousness.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Work In Progress

"If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs." Deuteronomy 15:7,8

This is one of those things that I am continuously working on, and have been praying on. I feel like I can really be selfish sometimes. I know I've shared before about being generous with what we have and about giving things away to people who need them. The thing is though, we're not giving away anything we're using at the time. You know, we go through our household every once in a while and get rid of those things that we simply aren't using or don't want anymore. So really, while the things we pass on are perfectly fine and in working order, essentially, we're giving away our junk.

What I have a hard time doing is giving away the good stuff, and that's what I need fixed. We have friends who are the most wonderful example of generosity. They are the type of people who if they are out grocery shopping and if they see that the steaks look good, not only will they pick some up for their family, but they'll add a few extra to their cart and drop them off at a neighbors or a friends for them to enjoy as well. That's the generous spirit that I want. I want a neighbor to walk by and comment on how they love the way a plant looks in my yard, and I immediately dig it up and give it to them. I want to be able to hear about someone going through a rough time, and the first thing I want to do is make them dinner, not think about how making an extra dinner is going to affect the meals I have planned for the week for my family. I want to be able to have company for dinner and send all the leftovers home with them instead of thinking about how I can use all those leftovers throughout the week.

I also want to be more generous with my time. This one is especially hard for me, because I know that time is fleeting. My children are going to be this age only once, and I really hate giving up time with them. Friday evenings and Saturdays have become very precious to us because that is our family time, and when something comes up that takes away from that time,we get really frustrated. I need to be more willing to do- to get out of the house in the evenings and on the weekends to do that which needs to be done.

Lord, please work on my heart and fix what needs fixing. Help me to be more generous- and not just with my money and possessions, but with my time. Help me to have a willing spirit Lord, and not one that's full of grudges. Thank you for the work you've been doing, and will continue to do.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Making Wise Choices...About Diet?

"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" 1 Corinthians 6:9

I am part of a generation, that for the first time ever, has a shorter life expectancy than that of my parents. Shorter. As a result of poor diet and poor exercise, my generation is facing a myriad of health problems that are a direct result of what we eat. What does that say about us? We are more interested in the short term pleasure of food tasting great and tickling the taste buds, than we are worried about what that bit of deliciousness is doing in our bodies. That's horrible, and to be honest, as a Christian, that's a hard pill to swallow. What good does it do to live a Christian life, to do everything "right" and not eat right. We spend our days serving others, reading our Bible, caring for our children or working a job, by all human standards we are a great example of a God-fearing person. But then in the evening we open the fridge and eat whatever is there. We eat a large, fatty steak, smothered in butter, followed by a massive bowl of full-fat ice cream, loaded with caramel, and fudge, and all things bad for you. What does that say about our bodies? It says that we don't care. We know that those things are not healthy and will do our bodies harm in the long run, but we rationalize it, saying that we "deserve it."

The truth is, the only thing that we do deserve is death. We are all sinners, and we deserve to die, but Jesus Christ sacrificed and gave up his life so that I might live. I certainly don't deserve to spend eternity in heaven. Yet the one chance I have here on earth to make a difference could be shortened by years, simply because I must eat that steak and ice cream.

So I truly am coming to feel that diet is important. This isn't to say that a treat now and then isn't okay. Indulging in a nice steak once a month is great, it's every day that's bad. It's reaching for that package of frozen macaroni and cheese every day because it's quick and convenient. It's also loaded with preservatives and chemicals that really aren't good for your health. I have a choice each and every time I'm going to prepare a meal. Am I going to honor God and fill my body with nourishing foods? Am I going to eat what I need to to give me sustenance and energy? Or am I going to reach for convenience or opt for the less healthy choice. God gave us a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables and grains, and he gave us the knowledge to bake bread from those grains, and he gave us the technology to cook those vegetables to perfection every time. He did give us the animals of the earth for our nourishment, but as part of a healthy diet, not to have us eat prime rib every night with maybe a bit of potato on the side.

I want to make it clear and make a point that I'm not talking about "diets" or losing weight. Maybe they're inter-related, but I think that if you first can wrap your mind around the idea of making better choices, that those other things may fall into place. Yesterday at church we talked about the Holy Spirit and how he's always with us to help us. He can help us with this! When you feel that niggling in the back of your mind that you should put the Twinkies back on the shelf, that is the Holy Spirit trying to help you make a wiser choice. When in your gut you know that you should not be eating the meal you are eating, next time, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. It may sound silly, but try praying before you head to the grocery store. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to make wise choices. Why not? I pray when I go grocery shopping that He will help guide me to not spend more than my budget. I pray that he'll keep my from frivolous purchases and help me stay on track. I am living, breathing proof that praying about grocery shopping works, so why not ask for help in being mindful about my choices as well?

We live in a wonderful world and a wonderful time where when we feel that maybe God is trying to tell us something or push us in a direction, we have a wealth of resources at our disposal. We can ask our Pastors if there are any great Christian books or magazine articles about nutrition and caring for our bodies in a Godly manner. We can ask our doctor for advice on what's not healthy for us to eat, and what is okay in moderation. We can go online and look up recipe after recipe for delicious food that is low in bad fats, yet quick and easy to prepare. The bottom line is, we need to take care of our bodies, they really are temples. I am certainly not going to rush out and buy sprouts and granola and goat milk. But I am going to pay attention. I am going to think twice. Yes, those vegetables are delicious roasted with a drizzle of melted butter, but that melted butter is full of artery-clogging saturated fat. Maybe next time I'll try that heart healthy olive oil that I don't use enough of. Maybe instead of reaching for that calorie laden pint of slow churned ice cream, I'll think about having a cup of yogurt instead- full of beneficial probiotics to ward of disease. You can bet that this summer my family will be stopping by an ice cream or two to indulge in a treat, but it will be just that, a rare treat, not something to be done every day.

God cares about us, and he cares about our bodies. He wants us to make better choices that will suit us better in the long run. I'll wrap up with this verse today which totally made me chuckle, and I will say that if this is one of those things that you may be struggling with, pray about it. If you'd like me to pray with you about it, let me know, my e-mail is over there to the left.

"A bowl of vegetables with someone you love
is better than steak with someone you hate." Proverbs 15:17 (NLT)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's All About Trust

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:24-27

Oooh. I never, ever looked at this verse this way before. This is one of those verses that I started learning in a young Sunday School class. It was frequently used as an example of doing what is right and listening to instruction. But read these verse again. Do you notice anything? The wise man built his house on the rock. The foolish man built his house on the sand. But they both went through a horrible storm. They both had to experience the hard times.

Being a Christian doesn't give us a free pass out of trouble. We still get to experience the ups and downs of life, the good times and the bad times. The difference we have a God to put our faith and our trust in. We trust that He will help us to get through the difficult times, and we listen to what he has to say to us. When he tells us to build our house on the rock, we listen, so that we can weather the storm to come. And when we get through that storm, usually we are far wiser than before we began, and we can share what we know with others who have yet to experience their own storms. We also come through with a greater sense of the God who is with us. Times of trouble tend to bring us closer to God, which is a great encouragement to think on when we're going through those rough times.

I just pray that that we can remain mindful of the rough times that we've weathered. If we forget them completely, we're liable to repeat bad judgement. And God doesn't want to see us repeatedly build our house on the sand. He wants to see us learn from our mistakes, and the next time, build that house on the rock.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stop Making Excuses!

"Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

7"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."' John 5:1-8

It seems that we're always coming up with excuses and reasons not to do something. There's always something else we could be doing, or we get distracted by tv or computer, and then we're running behind. The man above made excuses, even while talking to Jesus. It's time to stop making excuses and time to start doing. It's time to stop the procrastinating and putting off for tomorrow what could be done today.

Every day as I look at my children they amaze me. It amazes me how quickly they change, and how many ways they change! They are frequently asking me to play with them, or "can we do this together" and my answer is almost always "we'll see, maybe later." And then later sometimes we do what they've asked, sometimes not. It's time to be rid of that. My children are going to be this age only once. One of these days, Abigail is going to stop asking me to play games with her, and I'll have missed it because I thought it more important to have a shiny sink. The shiny sink can wait.

I could say the same about exercise. Quite simply, I don't do it, my excuse being that I don't have time. I am a mom 24/7, I don't have 20 minutes to myself to do some pilates. Surely I can find something for Zander to do for a short while while I do some form of physical activity here in my home.

And how about really getting to spend time with God? My excuse there is similar to exercise. In order to have alone time, I need to get up very early in the morning to be awake before my kids. They wake up as early as 6:00am sometimes. Which means one of two things needs to happen. Either I need to get up even earlier in the morning, or I need to go find a space where I can have some alone time while my children are busy. Excuses aren't going to cut it. What am I going to say when I am face to face with God. "I'm sorry, my kids like to get up early, and well, sleep was just too important to me to get up even earlier." How do you think that will go over?

Instead of procrastinating, we need to hear Jesus' words and obey. We need to "Get up" and do what needs to be done. No more excuses.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why Do We Wait?

"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5

Why do we wait? Every once in a while we have one of those periods in life where it seems like we are simply waiting. We are maybe in between ministries or in between jobs. Maybe we're at a crossroads, trying to decide what to do in the next chapter of our life. Quite often, at least for me, those times of waiting are also filled with learning to be patient.

Yet one of the things that I've noticed about periods of waiting, is that I always find myself closer to God in those times. It makes sense when I think about it, but I suspect I just never thought about it. Those times when we are not really doing anything, because we are unsure what to do- what are we actually doing? Perhaps we're spending more time in our Bible than normal, or more time in prayer. And I find that is true. When I have nothing to do, I spend more of my time focused on God and talking to him than when I'm busy as a bee, moving from task to task. Spring, to me, is the season of waiting. I am itching to plant things in the garden, but I know not to do so, because there is still a chance a frost will take those plants. So I wait. But while I wait, I am starting plants inside, I am reading up on a new growing technique, and I am preparing my soil for rain.

Yesterday I spent some time turning the dirt in one of my beds, and it was so wonderful to see that rich soil, to see all the earthworms making it lush and nutritious for the plants to come. And I got to spend some time with God while I did that. I thanked him several times for giving me the desire to garden, because I'm truly enjoying it. I thanked him for the desire to grow edibles for my family, and to share with others, and I asked him to bless the dirt and I was caring for, and I asked him for a bountiful harvest from my small space. Because this is the time of waiting, I wasn't busy planting seeds and pulling weeds, thinking of the next task, I was focused on the one task- I was focused on the dirt, and preparing it for the seeds and the rains to come.

That is why we wait with God. When we are in a season of waiting, we are focused, we spend more time with him, preparing ourselves for the season to come. We are the dirt in this case, and God is the tender, lovingly and gently preparing us to receive what is to come next.

I guess waiting isn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Accepting The Criticism

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24

I think we all hate criticism. We all hate it when someone picks apart something we do and tells us how they would do it better. And unfortunately, we live in a world today where so many people feel that giving their criticism is actually being helpful, when in reality, it can be hurtful sometimes. As a Christian though, I think there are different steps we can take when being the recipient of some elses criticism.

The first thing we need to do is to look at the critique we are being offered. What is this person saying? Listen carefully to what they say, and regardless of whether your initial reaction is that they are wrong or right, thank that person graciously for their words. Simply let them know that you appreciate their thoughts on the matter and will think on it. Then, since we can't be a liar, later on, do think on what that person said. Is there any truth to the criticism? Any truth at all? If there is, this is an opportunity to change what needs to be changed.

Of course, there are also the times where the criticism is completely off base, and we all have experienced that as well. What do we do in those times? Well, I know I get annoyed with that person, maybe even angry sometimes for butting their nose into my business. That's when I need a stern reminder that I am a child of God, and everything I do, ultimately, is between me and him. I need to be reminded that I don't do some of the things I do to please other people, or please myself, I do it to please God, and that's all that matters. Did I do that task with all my heart? Was what I did pleasing to God? If I can answer those questions honestly and truthfully, yes, then I've done what I can, and I should take heart and know that I've done well.

"For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:7-8

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A New You!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Recently I was asked if I was considering working outside the home when Zander goes to school. I would be lying if I said I haven't considered it and wondered about it often. It's interesting how what we do every day sort of defines us. Right now, I'm Mom, first and foremost. When Zander goes to school, am I still considered a stay-at-home Mom? Even though I don't have a child at home to be mom to all day long? Am I considered less of a person then if I don't get myself outside the home and get a job of some kind? I've certainly wondered several times if there is a way for me to use my cooking, but not in the restaurant field. Who knows.

It seems we are always struggling to define who we are. I know I do. Then this morning I read this verse, and I thought to myself, why are we always defined by what we do? Why is it when people ask us about ourselves we talk about our jobs or our hobbies? Instead, I should remember this verse and remember that I am defined by the One who saved me. I am a new person in Christ, the old person doesn't matter anymore. Every day when I wake up I have a new opportunity to use my relationship with God to the fullest.

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8

Even Paul mentions in the Bible that while the physical things that we do here on earth have some merit, it's the matters of the heart and the spirit that are more important. Maybe rather than focusing on what I want to do when Zander goes to school on the physical side, maybe I should be focusing elsewhere. What would God have me do?

For now though, I can take heart and be encouraged, because today is a new day, and I am a new person! I have a whole day ahead of me, and who knows what blessings the Lord will bestow upon me today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Have You Asked?

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:9-11

You know, we all have dreams and hopes and wishes. I like to think that every person has aspirations and ideas for the future, regardless of how old they are or where they are in life. And just like every person is different, no doubt, every hope and dream is different. It's interesting to read this verse, because sometimes I think that we do ask God for what we want. You know those prayers "please God, give so-and-so this job" or "please God, help us to pay our bills this month" or the more frivolous "God, we'd really like to be able to buy that boat" or "Dear God, you know how much we'd love that acerage for a vacation home". When I think about this verse though, I think about the desires of hy heart that I don't ask for. Things that maybe aren't realistic at this point in our lives. I would love to be debt free. Realistically, it's not going to happen for a long time as we have obligations to take care of. But I honestly don't think I've ever actually asked God to help us become debt-free. I don't know why... maybe because we got ourselves into this position, we deserve to bail ourselves out. Yet this verse says right here, that God in heaven will give good gifts to those who ask him.

So the question of the day is- have you asked God for the deisres of your heart? Why not? Or have you, and the answer was clearly a no. That happens sometimes too, so maybe that would be a reason to not ask God, because he could say no. What I like to think of though in that situation is that God is all-knowing. He knows me, he knows my heart, and he knows what lies ahead for me. God knows best, and if he says no, then it's because he has a greater idea for me, something bigger and better, I just need to be patient.

God isn't mean. He's not the mean parent who says no at every corner. He wants us to be happy, and he wants us to be full of joy. Maybe instead of hiding away the things we truly want, maybe it's time we ask God about them and see what he has to say. Maybe, he's just waiting for that. He wants us to ask him. Either way, no matter what the answer is, at the very least, you've gotten in a good talk with God, and how can that ever be a bad thing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I don't have much to say about this verse today, really. It just made me smile. Particularly the sentence that says "In this world you will have trouble". Notice the word "will" trouble will come in many guises and many forms. Sometimes the trouble is minimal, sometimes its big trouble. But it will be there. Thankfully, this verse gives us a way out of trouble too! It gives us peace and courage to make it beyond the trouble, because Jesus has overcome the world and is the way out. There is nothing that we cannot do because Jesus has cleared the way for us.

Jesus himself tells us to "take heart" which is a wonderful thing to think on. Right now, I'm not in a moment of trouble, but I can see it. I can see being in a tight spot and hearing Jesus' words to me to "take heart", I can sense the immediate peace to follow as I take those words to heart.

How wonderful that Jesus came first. How wonderful that we live in a time where he has already taken care of us. Before we were even thought of, he took the necessary steps to ensure our lives are eternal with Him. I thank Him for his sacrifice, and thank him for the comfort in times of trouble, both in the past, and in the trouble to come.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Strings Attached

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Romans 10:9-10

When I read today's verse-of-the-day, my heart literally lept with joy this morning. It's just so simple! Everlasting life and an eternity in heaven is literally a breath away, with no other strings attached to it. This verse says that you need to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and then you need to believe that he died and rose again, and then you will be saved. That's it. There's no contract to sign, no deeds to be photocopied and triplicated, and nothing more that you need to do. No money needs to be paid to any organization, and no good deeds or works need to be done to ensure your entrance to heaven. The fact is, that Jesus paid the only price for us over 2,000 years ago, and all we need to do is recognize that.

If you haven't done that, if you haven't thanked God for sending His Son to die for us, perhaps today is a good day to do so. It only takes a few seconds, and it will literally change your life.

"Dear God, thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for my sins. I am sorry for the sins that I have done in the past, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe that you sent Jesus Christ to take those sins away from me, and I pray that you take my heart and fill it with joy. I want to live for You Lord, from this day forward. Thank you for loving me."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When DO You Pray?

"The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer." Psalm 6:9

"pray continually;" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Prayer is so important. I think as Christians we always know that we need to pray and spend time with God. But how often do we actually do? How often do we actually set aside that time...or find ourselves with a few extra minutes and we decide to spend it praying. I know that hardly ever happens for me. My mumbled prayer most mornings as I crawl out of bed is along the lines of "Thank you Lord for the coffee waiting downstairs, and thank you for the coming summer break." I do frequently spend time praying at night. I don't fall asleep easily, I never have. So one of the things I do at night as I'm lying there not sleeping is pray. I'll get a good several minutes in with God before the snoozing takes over.

Other times I pray are throughout the day. I pray when I do dishes. I have no idea where that first came from, but since when I do the dishes, I am always left alone by the entire family, that's when I pray every day. On those days I do several loads of dishes- you can tell I get more prayer time in. I also pray in the shower. Andy and I have a running joke that I do my best thinking in the shower. I frequently come out of the shower with a brainstorm or other great idea. Other places where I find myself praying is as I'm sitting in my van waiting for Abigail to come out of school. I also find myself praying often as I'm out walking. This started a few years ago when we did a prayer walk for church. For several weeks, we would get together and walk as a church, praying for our community. It was amazing how things would jump out at you about a particular house. You'd see the broken toys in the back, and the beer bottles on the curb, and you'd say a prayer for the kids in that house. So I find myself praying a lot as I walk.

I also find myself praying more and more prayers of thanks as things happen. The last few times I've pushed Zander on the swing, I've been thanking God earnestly for spring. A week or two ago as I planted my tomato seeds, I thanked God for the miracle of plants. This morning I'm planning more seed planting...I can assure you there will be several words of thanks heading heaven's way.

The point is, you can pray any way that suits you best, but it's important to pray. If you find yourself not praying at all, maybe you're the type of person who needs a structured prayer time. A specific time of day perhaps. As for myself, I prefer to pray all day long. In that way, I keep God at my side and at the forefront of my mind. As things come up, I pray. It's just like having a conversation with a friend, only I bet if I spent all day, every day with a friend, that I would get sick of that friend, and they with me. The beauty is that God will never tire of me and my ramblings. He will always be there for me to talk to, and sometimes, if I am quiet and ready to listen, God talks back, or puts a thought in my mind just for me. Those are the most precious times to me.

Prayer can happen anytime and anywhere. The important thing is that it's time to start talking.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Battling The Shopping Demon

"Honor the LORD with your wealth..." Proverbs 3:9

"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool,
since he has no desire to get wisdom?" Proverbs 17:16

"She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27

Something that I have written about several times over the many months I've been blogging my daily devotions is the matter of finances...and how terrible I've been with them in the past. It's a phenomenally tough lesson to master in this day and age of materialism and gotta have it. I can't tell you how many times in my short adult life already that I've been in the same situation where I find myself with one too many credit cards with maxed out balances and making minimum payments. And then I always reach that point where I regret that credit in the first place...but it's too late, the damage has been done. God's been dealing with me on this one. And it may just be that I am finally listening.

With Andy's last job he took a huge cut in pay, and one of the first things I did was pray fervently for God to help me stretch those few dollars without having to use credit. In addition, I prayed so many times that God would help me when it came time to spend the money we had, that he would help me to not spend it unnecessarily. The whole problem came down to this: I am a shopaholic. I love to shop. Shopping was my escape, a way to have fun. On the rare days that I would get time away from the kids while Andy was at home, I always took that time to go do some shopping. I didn't always spend money while out, but I always had an eye open for a bargain. I finally realized that this habit, this love of shopping was the root of my problem. The thing was, it took me a long time to ask God for help with this one, because I didn't really want it to go away.

But I did. I asked God to help me stop the excessive shopping- and not just physically, because shopping on the Internet is way, way too easy. I basically had to ask him to help me stop spending money needlessly, I asked him to take away that desire to spend. I cautiously say that it's been working. When I think about it, I honestly cannot tell you the last time I was at a mall. I go grocery shopping, and that's really it. Every once in a while I will find myself at Target or Wal-Mart to pick up a few household items, but it's always with blinders on. I get what is on my list and check out right away without wandering around looking for any excuses to spend more than I planned.

Yesterday was the best example I have yet. Andy got paid yesterday for some extra work he did, and even just six months ago, I would have seen that balance in the bank account and quickly hustled Zander into the van. Off we would go for an adventure, just looking for an excuse to spend a little of that extra money. And as I looked at that number yesterday, first, I thanked God for his provision, and then right away I started thinking about the household needs that I could meet with that, and I debated going shopping. I decided that yes, we would go, but really, only because I needed some potting soil and some new pots to plant my tomato seedlings. Surely that was a worthy enough reason to head out? But then God provided a distraction, and before I knew it, my day was actually busy, and I headed from activity to activity, and there was literally no time for Zander and I to make a little run. Thank God! Not only did he keep me at home, he took away that desire to spend, spend, spend. Instead, we went to the library and borrowed some books at no cost, and we spent some time playing outside in the glorious spring weather.

I know I'm far from where I need to be, but I also have clear evidence of God doing a great work on me. He really is helping me to be wise with the money he has blessed us with. It helps me greatly to spend time praying before going anywhere. I also find myself wanting to go shopping less and less. I'll think about doing it, but then something will come up, or the weather will become forbidding and I decide I really don't want to be our running around in it. Or I'll mention to Zander that we need to make a quick run, and he'll complain so heartily that I'll thank God for his complaints and choose to stay home instead.

I continue to pray that God will continue working with me on this. I truly cannot do this alone, and need His help to keep moving forward. I also pray that he will use me as an example for those who need it. Perhaps He can use me as an example to prevent someone else from making the same horrible mistakes. I pray mostly though that he will use my example to help my children from making the same mistakes.

"Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor." Ecclesiastes 7:12

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2

Just over a month ago I did a post on focusing on your responsibilities within the church. After a troubling conversation or two, I just felt like I needed to confirm what I was thinking, and sought my answer within the Bible. Here is that post if you want to check it out, because it is related to today's post.

I was awake for awhile last night thinking about how often we worry about people other than ourselves. Like right now, I am concerned about new neighbors moving in next door sometime soon. I am worried that they are going to be party people or that they're going to store hazardous things in the shared shed. Or even worse yet. There's also the times we spend some time in a prayer group or just chatting with some of our church brothers and sisters, and we hear about their struggles, and then we think to ourselves horrible thoughts about a person. We judge them, thinking that they need more faith, or that they need to pray differently. We may become frustrated, because we try to share some encouragement with that person, but they really don't need the encouragement...what they need is someone to listen without judging and someone to pray with. They don't need our words of judgment, no matter how good the intentions.

That is simply arrogance, and Jesus addressed this very thing in Matthew. In the instance of the new neighbors, before I've even met them, I'm assuming that I'm the better person. I'm assuming that they are not going to have respect for us as people, and I assume we're just not going to get along. That's arrogance to think I'm better than someone I haven't even met. What a horrible attitude to have! The same goes with the church example. In both instances, I need to remember at all times that I am responsible for myself, and myself only. We don't think like other people- we are each unique and independent, and that's what makes people so fantastic! We are all different. But when we look at someone and say "you don't have enough faith" shame on us! It's not my business to judge someone else's level of faith. "If I have faith so that I might remove mountains" is a great thing to say and to live by, but then we become hypocritical when we walk around blubbering about how other people don't have enough faith. In essence, we don't have enough faith then, because a person with a real heart for the Lord would pray for that person who has little faith, and while praying, have faith that God would help that person who is struggling.

It's like watching a movie with a sad moment. (Or joyous, I suppose.) Let's use Old Yeller as an example. Many people watch the movie and when Yeller must be put down, that's a very sad moment, but some people are unaffected by this moment in the movie. Still others become sad, and maybe even shed a tear or two about this boy's companion having to be put to sleep. If I am watching this movie with someone, who am I to judge whether or not someone cries over Old Yeller? It really doesn't matter. All that matters to me is how I feel and how I think about the movie. It is not my place to look at someone and think they are less of a person because they cried when Old Yeller died. It's not my place, and in all honesty, I think it's a little ridiculous.

So. We need to watch ourselves. We need to look within and when we notice that we are passing a moment of judgment, then we need to assess the situation and turn to God in prayer. We need to remember that we are responsible for ourselves and our attitude and no one elses. We need to remember Jesus' words and remove the plank from our own eyes before we turn to our neighbor and try and pick out some sawdust.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:3-5

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Importance of Relationships

"A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12

Every Monday morning when I wake I think about how great the day before was. Granted, there are some Mondays where I am completely exhausted because too much coffee kept me up the night before...but still. Sunday is always great, because we spend the morning at church, worshipping God with our church family, and Sunday evening is awesome, as we spend it fellowshipping with our dearest friends. And while most weeks we try and keep our focus and dig into our study material, sometimes there is a sense of just needing to visit, just needing to spend time together in conversation, sharing life with each other. That's what we did last night, and when everyone left last night, I was still filled with the same fullness that comes from an intense discussion of our study. Fellowship and friendship is important!

I love the verse above in Ecclesiastes, because it addresses this very thing. It says right there in Ecclesiastes that friendship is important. It's these friends who we can turn to in times of need. When the enemy launches and attack, it's most often our closest friends who join us in our fight and help us to defeat him. Without our friends, we would be lambs to the slaughter, without their encouragement and support, we have nothing to hold us up. We have no back-up, no one to help us to defeat the enemy. But with a close friend by our side, nothing is impossible- and Ecclesiastes says more is better, there can probably be no such thing as too many friends.

So this morning I am simply thankful. I am thankful for the wonderful people that God has brought into our lives and I pray that he continues to bless them dearly.

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Getting Rid of Anger

"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11

"The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love." Psalm 145:8

I got angry yesterday. I got really angry for awhile. I went into church yesterday afternoon to do my weekly cleaning and came upon a mess that shouldn't have been. I thought really hard about leaving it for someone else to clean, and I also thought really hard about taking pictures of it to show the "powers that be" because it really was an un-called for mess. Then I thought about what would happen if no one actually cleaned it, as I suspected would be the case. And then I thought about a visitor coming to church and checking out the classrooms their children were going to be in, and I thought about what they would think of this horrendous classroom, and I had to suck it up and clean it up. I just couldn't get over the embarrassment of someone new to our church seeing such a mess. Of course, as I cleaned this room I was angry. I was stewing, and since it took some time to clean it, I was stewing further. I had planned one of my "once-every-couple-of-weeks" cleaning project for this day, and now that wouldn't get done because I needed to focus on this mess.

Finally the classroom was done and I could move on, but then I had to clean some surrounding carry-over mess in other rooms and I got angry all over again. I was mopping up the kitchen floor when I realized that my anger really wasn't called for. Why was I angry? I was most likely angry because I had a lot of extra work tacked on for the day, and then it was as if a light dawned, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I could just hear the voice in my head saying "My child, why are you angry? You are cleaning My House and serving Me." Oh, did I feel bad after that. I did! I stood there with the mop for a second, and I had to say a little prayer. I apologized to God for being angry and asked him to help me finish my cleaning this week with joy. And I did. I immediately started singing the song "Blessed Be" and I finished the rest of my cleaning in no time. I still didn't get to my extra project for the week, but it will still be there next week, so I can always do it then.

Now, there was nothing wrong with becoming angry in the first place. Really, anger in itself isn't a sin, and even Jesus became angry from time to time. But I let that anger take over, I let it consume me, and I was fuming. That was the point where I needed to get some help, and instead of doing so, I just thought in anger and tried to think of ways to prevent this from happening again.

'"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,' Ephesians 4:26

What good was being angry serving, really? It wasn't doing a spot of good, and was making my task un-enjoyable. I had to make a choice. Did I want to finish out my cleaning day stewing and fuming, and having a horrible time? Or did I want to do my job with joy, and serve my Heavenly Father by cleaning His House with care. So I did what I needed to do, and I turned to Him and asked his forgiveness for my anger, and asked for His help. The anger was gone almost instantly and I could smile as I finished. I am so thankful that we have guidance in times such as this! I can turn to the Bible and see all these verses that deal with being angry, and I can also turn my gaze heavenly and seek help and I will receive it.

"Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools." Ecclesiastes 7:9

"Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth;" Exodus 34:6

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Matter of Hoarding

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." 1 Timothy 6:17

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 9:16

This is something that has been on my mind for awhile, and kind of fits in with what I posted about yesterday. We as people in general (myself included) seem to have a predisposition for "stuff". We think we need everything- we need it all, and we need it now. And once we get it, we need to keep it, and even if we replace it, we need to keep the old stuff...just in case. Or we get something that is so nice, so fine, that we don't use it, lest we break it or cause it to be ruined. We have attics, basements, and closets full of stuff. When we don't use this stuff, and we're keeping it for no real reason, this is called hoarding. Hoarding is being stingy with what you have and not sharing it for any reason. As followers of Christ, you would think that we would be less disposed to become hoarders, yet, here we are, with homes full of stuff because we think we should have all this stuff.

It's time to start using that stuff! I will use myself as an example. We have a basement full of stuff that just keeps getting shuffled around. For the longest time, we kept every stitch of clothing our kids had ever wore. Partly, it was frugality speaking to us, we spent a lot of money on most of those clothes, and should we have more kids, we'd need them again. But then these massive piles of clothes started speaking to us, and we knew people younger than our children who could use these clothes. Andy and I both were hesitant at first, keeping them as a "what-if", and then one time someone who had been on my mind literally came up to me and asked if we were ever going to have a rummage sale to get rid of our old clothes. I understood loud and clear, and God spoke through that woman. We went home that day and boxed up some clothes and gave it to that person. And then we gave some to someone else,and we just went on and on. As someone in need presents themselves, we pass along the clothing.

We were hoarding those clothes, plain and simple. Keeping them "just in case". Well, if that "just in case" ever did happen, wouldn't God take care of that? Whether he would provide the income to purchase new clothes, or whether he would place our need on someone else's heart, we would be provided for.

Those clothes were simply the beginning. We've found other opportunities and other things hiding in our house that other people have been more than glad to take off our hands. At the same time, we've also started using some of the stuff that we've been hiding away. Why save that fancy platter for special occasions? I pull it out and use if for dinner one night. If it breaks, it breaks. I have a plethora of seeds I've bought for this year's garden, and I can't wait for some of my plants to start sprouting so that I can share them- I certainly have no need for hundreds of tomato plants in my tiny yard. It will be fun to bless others with beautiful heirloom tomato plants. God wants us to take what we have and share it with others. When we update and upgrade something- say a computer, perhaps there's someone who could use what you no longer need. There's no reason to keep the old as a "back up". Odds are more likely that you'll never pull out that old piece of equipment again.

God has blessed us with so much! It is our choice as to whether or not we share those blessings, or hoard them and keep them for ourselves. I choose not to hoard- I choose to share what we have with those who need it. Perhaps through the act of blessing someone, God's love can be passed onto them. When we die, we can't take any of it with us to heaven, and do we really want to be that person who leaves a house full of "stuff" behind?

"I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:18-20

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sharing The Love

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42

I had the best example growing up of sharing the love. My parents, Mom especially, had a heart for reaching out to people in need. I can't tell you how many friends of me or my siblings were welcomed into her home with hugs and, quite often, food. Someone would need to get away from their parents for a night, and Mom was always there, offering a sofa to sleep on and a warm dinner, and then, there was most certainly quiet conversation, and encouragement to do the right thing. No doubt, there were many prayers as well.

I clearly remember having a little friend named Nicole when I was in 3rd grade. She was the younger sister of one of my classmates, and we found ourselves walking home together from school, and before long a friendship had formed. Her family had it rough, they were kind of nomads, her single mom just moved in with a boyfriend, and was having a difficult time making ends meet. One day we were playing at my house and she casually mentioned to Mom how they didn't have too many things to eat in the house. With barely a seconds pause, my mom headed to the kitchen and dug out some grocery bags. Then she proceeded to go through the fridge and cupboards, filling those grocery bags with food for this family. My friend and I put the bags in a wagon and took them to her house. Her mom started crying when she saw the groceries, and a lesson on love was burned into the mind of a very impressionable third grader.

I am certain that as my mom filled those grocery bags, she had thoughts of how she wished she could do more. She didn't even give a single thought to the family at home that could use those groceries she gave away. Instead, she counted on God providing food for her family when needed, and allowed God to use her to bless someone who truly needed it.

As my children grow, and other children come into their lives, I am certain that I am going to be put to the test as well. Will Abigail have that little friend who doesn't always eat dinner? Will Zander have a friend who needs a place to stay for a few days? I am so thankful to God that I have had such a wonderful example of sharing His love with other's little ones. Not only do I hope that I can respond to the occasion as it comes up, but I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me as to what I need to do. Even as we are looking at all these new neighbors moving in around us, I may not need to wait for my children's friends to need something. Perhaps one of our new neighbors could use a smile and a word of encouragement. Perhaps that loaf of zucchini bread or bowl of fresh-picked green beans gives a burst of kindness that hasn't been seen in such a long time. I pray that God will use me as needed, and will open my eyes to that need. Sometimes I find myself going about my day with my blinders on. I am so focused on my kids and myself and my day that I forget to take a look around. May he open my eyes when they need to be opened.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Finding That Balance

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:12

"in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:12

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

One of the things that has been coming up a bit in our group discussions on Sunday is the idea of serving within the church. It's a common idea that within a church body, usually it is 10% of the congregation that does 100% of the work. We've tried to figure out exactly why that is, and haven't, but I always leave that discussion feeling like I don't do enough...maybe there is more I could do to take away some of the burden from someone else. Then I get busy and my week fills up and I don't take any further action, and I wonder again if I should be doing more.

The thing is, my job, my role in life at this moment is not about church. Yes, I do plenty to serve, and I help where I can, but sometimes I need to refocus, and look to God and seek confirmation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Something will come to mind, a verse or passage in the Bible, or a book that I've read, and I'll just know that it's a message for me from God that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. For the time being anyways, my number one role is as a mother and a wife. My job is to care for my children and take care of my husband, and sometimes I lose that focus. Sometimes I get caught up thinking there is more I could do- whether it be doing more at church or volunteering elsewhere in the community. And sometimes that "I can do more" mentality gets me in trouble. I put things on my plate that maybe don't belong there and I end up busy, and my children and husband are the ones who suffer.

God has shown me this. He has helped me to realize that I don't need to do everything- that being "that person" who does everything doesn't have to be me, and would you believe, I've actually said no to a few things? It's all about finding that perfect balance, and it's so different for each person. A problem that I've noticed lately is people who are struggling to find a place to serve within the church to begin with. They're just not sure where they can best serve, and since they feel like they need to contribute somewhere, they offer their services somewhere that isn't a good fit for them, but it at least helps them feel like the contribute. I know what that's like-I've been there before! What I've come to think though about such times as those is that sometimes, we just need to focus on God. Maybe there are times where there is no place to serve so that we can focus on God and what he has to say to us. Maybe by focusing on God and on the people around us, we can see a need that isn't being fulfilled by anyone. But if we fill that space with being busy, we can't fully see what God is trying to say to us.

The important thing to note and to pay attention to is that God has a plan for us at all times. Sometimes that plan is to do nothing, and sometimes that plan is for us to get involved and take some action. Yet we can't do it all. When we're feeling harried or overspent, we need to take a step back and look at the balance in our life. We need to remind ourselves that our focus should be on God first and foremost, and then we need to identify what we need to be doing versus what we feel like we should be doing. So in those moments when you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and turn your eyes towards heaven. Let Him guide you, and know that it is okay to say no sometimes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


"Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity." 1 Timothy 5:1-2

We often call our friends in Christ our brothers and sisters. The subject comes up in conversations or Bible studies about how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. But really think on that one for a minute. Think about sitting in church on Sunday morning...everyone in that room shares the same blood- the blood of Christ that saved us all. And that makes all of us brothers and sisters. And how do we treat those brothers and sisters? Do we rush by them every Sunday, busy with this and that, or do we stop and greet our sister, ask how she's doing. Or do we offer a word of encouragement to our brother who may be having a rough time at work.

We treat our families with a bit of reverence sometimes. I know Andy and I both have talked about how precious the time is with our family. We make a big deal about Saturday's being our family day that we all do something together. So why don't we make a bigger deal about Sunday, when we're surrounded by even more family? The love for a family, and love of a family is so huge, in most cases, it's a bond that can never be broken. You can get angry with a family member, but you don't just stop being brother and sister. The same holds true in God's family, and it's definitely something to think on. We have family reunions every once in a while, and we make such a big deal about them, it's time that we start making a bigger deal about our church family- God's family.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Set Apart

"You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.

30 "Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. 31 Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. 32 Do not pour it on men's bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. 33 Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.' "

I was reading in Exodus this morning, and I was reading about Moses, as he spent time with God on the mountain, and received all sorts of instructions. This really was a time of preparation for the Israelites. They had been slaves for hundreds of years, and then they were wandering in the desert for 40 years, and the time had come for them to put down their roots and become civilized. God gave Moses specific instructions as to how things were going to be with everything regarding their place of worship. God wanted it just so, right down to the anointing oil.

So let's talk about this oil today, it's actually very interesting to look at it and think about what it signifies. God gave Moses the specific recipe for this oil, which was to be used by the priests to anoint the Holy people of Israel. This oil contained myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, sweet cane, and olive oil. Just knowing that it contained both cassia and cinnamon, I know that this anointing oil was very fragrant and wonderful to smell. Imagine walking around smelling like a giant cookie! This was a unique scent- and anyone who was anointed with this oil would likely smell for days at a time. Everyone around that person would know that they had been anointed by the Holy oil, and that is one of the points.

Imagine something like this today. You become a leader of some fashion within your church, and you are anointed with this oil, to signify your relationship with God and your willingness to serve. This oil is fragrant- like the most luscious of perfumes, and as you go about your day, your business, whether working or running around doing errands, everywhere you go, that smell is with you. Everyone you walk by will smell that lovely scent and know instantly that the scent coming from you signifies your relationship with God. Now imagine the opportunities that could arise from this.

It makes me think. Today we don't participate in such rituals, and people wouldn't know what a particular scent would mean anyway, but we can still take an example from this passage and do what we can to show our devotion to God. Andy and I have a unique opportunity right now as over the winter, three of our neighbors have moved out. This means new neighbors and plenty of new opportunities to show God's love. And while before we may have been very casual about our relationship with Christ, we almost feel more of a sense of...showing off maybe? I'm not sure the words I'm looking for. But Andy met one of our new neighbors this weekend, and right away in conversation let them know where we stand. Who knows what could come of that. Instead of hiding ourselves away, we're choosing to stand out. We're choosing to let God's anointing oil emanate and share with those around us who we belong to. We're choosing to be set apart and to let it show. We think He's worth it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How Do You Live?

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:15

When I was 19 years old I sought freedom. I thought that life would be better living for myself than for my God, as I was raised to believe. I wanted to find life for myself and chase the American dream all by myself. I didn't want to go to church, and I didn't want the constant reminders from family that I was behaving badly. So I moved out on my own, and not just across town, but across the country. Far, far away from those who loved me so that I could find myself by myself.

And you know what I found? That living for myself was truly lonely. Sure, I had a boyfriend and co-workers, and a great job and a great apartment, but it was lonely. I was missing something. And then I started to make some friends, and I thought that was what I was missing. Except that some of those new friends turned out to be Christians themselves. And what kind of a good Christian would they be if they didn't befriend me and try to encourage me to do what I knew was right. It was maddening at first. But as time went on, and that loneliness didn't go away, I knew that I was doing wrong. I'd made all the wrong decisions,and I'd decided that life by myself wasn't worth it. I was sitting on the lawn at the Smithsonian in Washington DC when I decided that I truly did want God in my life, and that I needed his help to make things right. It was spring, and I was basking in the beauty of the cherry blossoms, and I asked God to help me live for him instead of for myself.

There really isn't any stunning revelation to share, other than when I was living for myself during that brief time, I was simply filled with a sense of loneliness and longing. I thought that could be filled with people- friends, boyfriends, and a great job. But it simply wasn't enough, and I knew that I was making the wrong choice. So I chose to move back home to the family who I knew would help steer me in the right direction. It took a few more years for me to fully say "Okay God, have your way." But I do know this, life is wonderful with God in the driver's seat. It's easier too, in a way. When I have a decision to make, I pray about it, I turn it over to God and ask for his help, instead of relying on friends and my own counsel to make those decisions. I also know that when things aren't going quite right, that I have a God to keep me company and help me through those times.

I made the conscious choice to live for God instead of living for myself. It was, quite simply, the best choice I ever made. He's worth it in every way, and I look forward to the next challenge and the next phase of our relationship.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Song In Your Heart

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:15-17

We were talking at our group on Sunday about the "no complaining" phenomenon. Someone as started a trend where you where a bracelet specifically to remind yourself not to complain. At first I thought it may be a little strange, but then the more I thought about it, it's not such a terrible idea. In general, I'm sure we all complain way more than we should.

Why do we complain so much? Why is it that even though it's a beautiful spring day outside, the temperatures are warming everything up, buds are beginning to blossom, birds are chirping, yet we complain that the grass is still brown. Why can't we just enjoy what is good! These verses in Colossians talk about that very thing. The very thing that we choose to complain. It is our choice to decide to complain about a situation instead of seeing the beauty it holds. Even in the worst of situations, there is always a silver lining.

So instead of complaining, instead of pointing out the bad in everything, maybe it's time we all spent some time being Pollyanna. Remember that movie? The little girl always looked for the good in every situation. We need to do the same. Because no matter what, in every situation, in every position we find ourselves in, we always have a God who loves us and wants to encourage us. He wants us to feel encouraged each and every day, and not pulled down by what's wrong or not quite right about every situation.

We should always be thankful, and by changing the outlook on life and making the conscious choice to walk around with a song in our heart instead of being a pessimist, we may find ourselves with even more opportunities to share God's love with others. How great would that be!?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Power of Prayer

"They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him." 1 Chronicles 5:20

We had quite the day yesterday. There was a major accident at Andy's job site yesterday, and amazingly, every single person came away with their life-including Andy. It's kind of...well, crawl into bed with your husband at night and realize just how close you came to not having a husband to crawl into with. I can't tell you how many times last night and yesterday afternoon I thanked God for following through and protecting my husband.

Every morning, Andy puts complete trust in God and prays for safety on the job site. Every morning. And yesterday, Andy saw God's work firsthand. Andy afterwards he also had many an opportunity to share a few words about the power of God. I know for a fact that those words yesterday that he shared did not fall on deaf ears.

" The righteous cry, and the LORD hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles." Psalms 34:17

"The LORD is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous." Proverbs 15:29

I imagine that for a few days Andy will come across with a few opportunities to share God at work. I pray that those opportunities make themselves known and that God gives Andy the right words to share.

And of course, just two days after mentioning that I should be praying for more than just physical safety, I am oh-so thankful for God's physical protection, and I pray that it continues.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Getting Rid of Criticism

"Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
you who do what he commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility;
perhaps you will be sheltered
on the day of the LORD's anger." Zephaniah 2:3

One of the things we do way too much is criticize. These days we are taught that it's okay to look at the world with a critical eye, because we deserve to be surrounded by the very best of everything. We deserve to have perfect people around us, and we deserve perfection. Except that we don't and we shouldn't. We are far from perfect- each and every one of us. We fail in perfection each and every day of our lives. Thankfully, we have a God who is full of grace and love for us. He doesn't mind our imperfections, and in fact, he planned for them by sending his son to die for us and cover those imperfections with his blood.

So why do we take it upon ourselves to criticize anything and everything. We critique work we do ourselves and say "it's just not quite right" or "it's not as good as I'd hoped." Since when do we need perfection at all times? And then that carries over to other people. We criticize other's works, because we think we can do better, or we think they're just not trying hard enough.

It's simply a terrible spot to be in. It's terrible to have a critical eye towards other people. Instead, we need to take a page from the Bible and start noticing what is right around us. Instead of looking at our friends and pointing out all the bad, we need to point out the good. Instead of complaining about the wrongs in our marriages and relationships, we need to focus on the good. As Zephaniah 2:3 says, we need to seek humility and righteousness, and we cannot do that while we are looking upon the world with a critical eye.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Praying for our Children

"So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer." Ezra 8:23

One of the things that we talked about this past week with our group is our children. We were all challenged to spend more time talking with our children about being saved and loving God, instead of simply showing them. The point was brought up that we spend so much time telling our kids the do's and don'ts, but we don't tell they the why. We don't tell them why we don't do something. It was a really good point, and I don't think anyone left without thinking on this thought- even those without children!

Then today as I was reading my Bible and study point, the subject came up about praying for our children. That is one thing that I think most parents can excel at- I am constantly praying for my beauties. The point being made though was the focus of our prayer. What do we ask God to do regarding our kids? I'll be honest and say that most often, I spend time praying for safety- especially for Abigail while she is at school during the day. I pray for physical safety, that no harm will come to her while she is away from my care. What I don't do often is pray for her spiritual safety. Shame on me. I was her age when I met friends who taught me how to shoplift and led me down a path that could have become something terrible had my parents not intervened. It just takes one person, one little friend to make a suggestion to her at this age, and she could be headed for trouble.

As long as I'm confessing, the same could be applied to my husband. I am constantly praying for him to be safe at work. Construction can be a hazardous field, and I am frequently finding myself praying to God to keep him safe and bring him back home at the end of the day. But what I don't do- and I should do, is pray for his spiritual safety. Pray that he resists those temptations that come his way, and pray that he has the courage to share his faith when those moments arise.

This is an excellent reminder to me today. Spiritual safety is something we should be praying for each and every day- and as a parent, that job will never end. As I'm sure my parents spend time praying for us each and every day, so to should we pray every day for our children's continued safety. I thank God this morning for this reminder.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 24-25