Monday, July 28, 2008
"The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14
Even God took a day of rest. We really all do need a break from time to time. We need to take a break from the everyday and just relax for a time. We can use that time of relaxation to re-focus, to re-energize and to re-connect with God and with our families.
That is what we are doing this week. We're heading out in just a short while for our own family break, our time of rest, and we're all really looking forward to it. It will be wonderful to be away from the distractions of life and really pay attention to each other, and to pay attention to God. Perhaps he's been saying a few things to us all this time and we've been too busy to notice it. Our week away will give us an opportunity to just listen and see what he has for us. It's going to be a wonderful week.
While I'm away, I did try to cobble together a few posts, but it just didn't happen. Instead, I'm going to direct you to the ladies over at Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you find yourself with a day this week where you could just use a bit of encouragement, head on over there- they always have wonderful words for us from the Bible. Have a fantastic week, and be blessed!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Everyone has different talents and gifts. It's so interesting to see how the church functions when you look at it from the outside. There are people gifted in handling money, people gifted in teaching, people gifted in tending the youngest ones, people gifted in serving coffee and donuts, people gifted with a singing voice, people gifted with computer knowledge, and on and on and on. Every one's gift is different! What this verse in 1 Timothy reminds me of is that it is important to not neglect your gifts, and to use them when you have an opportunity. Because that gift, that talent, is a gift from God. Something special that He has blessed you with to make you unique and special.
So how do I know what is a gift or talent? Well really, God can use anything. :-) Someone who maybe has a talent for scrap booking would naturally have the talent to be somewhat organized and be good at laying things out on paper- maybe that person would be a natural for putting together each weeks bulletins. Or maybe that same person could put their scrap booking skills to good use and give the church bulletin boards a makeover. Someone with the gift for instruction would make a great teacher or a youth group leader. There are the obvious talents of music, playing an instrument, and preaching. But maybe someone who loves to read and spend time in the library would love to be responsible for a church library. Perhaps someone with a green thumb wants to tackle landscaping. Or maybe there's someone with a gift for throwing parties- yes, that's a gift, maybe that person would be the go-to person for planning showers and lunches.
Absolutely everyone has a talent, and most often the ones that we can use in the church are also the ones we use outside the church. Take a look at yourself and see what you're good at. What kind of hobbies do you have? God can even use someone who knits or someone who has a talent for keeping fish. The next time you find yourselves at a crossroads, wondering where you could serve, ask God for some direction. Ask Him simply to show you what abilities you have and where you could use them to serve Him. He will most certainly show you- sometimes in a subtle way, but sometimes it comes in a not-so-subtle way. Every talent you and I have can be used to bring glory to God, but sometimes we need a little help to see how that could be.
I've been cleaning our church for several years now. Apparently it is a talent... my home isn't particularly immaculate or clutter free- there's always toys and video games all over the place. But it is clean- the bathrooms are scrubbed frequently, and I'm always on the lookout for an errant spider web. I think nothing of pulling out the crevice tool on the vacuum and detailing the entire house. So I guess I was a good fit for the cleaning. The talent that I didn't think I'd be using anytime soon has proven to be one I really enjoy doing- and that's playing in the band. I'll tell you, I didn't particularly want to do it, but one day God brought someone into my day to day tasks who knew me "way back when" and the first thing they asked was if I still played the drums. Well, I still don't care so much for playing the drum set, but God showed me how I can use the talent I have for percussion in the church music setting, and that's been pretty fun. Who knew that you could worship God with drums? You can worship God by dusting, and you can worship God by counting money. God will use every talent you have if you simply offer it up to Him.
I know that someday, my willingness to serve and my talents in the kitchen are going to collide in a big way. God's going to use my knowledge of nutrition and my ability to cook for a purpose. I can't wait to see what it is, but in the meantime, I am going to follow the advice given to Timothy and continue to develop my talents. I will continue to be willing to learn and I will continue honing my skills, so that when the time comes and God wants them, I'll be ready and I will know what to do.
Friday, July 25, 2008
to obey your commands." Psalm 119:60
One of the challenges I find as a parent is getting my children to obey me. Don't get me wrong, my children are wonderful, and are way more well-behaved than I probably deserve. But when it comes time for them to do something for me- like clean their room, I get whining and crying and resistance all the way around. It drives me nuts! And more than anything, just once I would love to have both children look at me and say "okay, Mommy, we'll do it right away" and then off they will go and do their jobs- and do them well. I don't know if we'll ever get there, but I'll keep hoping.
When I think of that, when I think of my children not wanting to be obedient, and then I read this verse, it's one of those moments. Oh. That's exactly what this verse is talking about! As much as I want my children to say "yes, Mommy", God wants the same from me. He wants me to hear what he says and say "yes, Lord." And put those words into action. I love the word hasten used in this verse, to me hasten speaks of urgency, it's hurrying, but with a purpose. the verse says "I will hasten and not delay" that means I'll do it now, I'll do it right away. That doesn't mean I'll do it when I'm not tired, or I'll do it when the kids are a little older. Or I'll do it when I'm more comfortable. It means now.
And while the attitude is not clearly expressed here, I have to think that plays a part. I can't follow God's commands with a heavy heart. As I watch my son trudge up the stairs to his room like he's walking to his death, that's clearly not how we should approach following God's will for us. We should do it with a joyful heart and an open mind, and a "whatever happens is in your hands, Lord". And as each moment comes along, and every time we step out in faith and do as he asks, it gets easier to say yes. The task may not get easier, in fact, it likely will get a little more difficult. Think again of the children. As they're growing we give them the simple chores, the tasks they can do, but as they grow they take on the more challenging tasks in the household. The same may hold true with God. Our tasks may become more challenging, but he will give us the tools we need to get the job done. And it will be easier and easier to say "Yes, Lord" because we'll have that sense of accomplishment after completing a task that has us almost looking forward to the next one.
Lord, help me to hasten and not delay when you command. Help me to have the strength to jump when You say jump, and give me the tools necessary to take the task to heart and do it in the way you want it done.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It really can be difficult to change your mindset. We live in a society of "give me more" and "give me lots- all for myself." People brag about how they have three months worth of supplies on hand in case of an emergency, and I think for the most part there is a tendency in all of us to hoard- even a little bit. There's always that notion in the back of the mind that says "keep this...just in case." I'm trying really, really hard to get over that. Even though we've done a lot better at giving away our surplus, we could be doing so much better. We could do it without thinking.
What I mean is, when I hear that the food pantry in town is running low on supplies, I always go through my pantry and fill up a grocery bag or two and take it in. But when I should just be thinking about feeding those who need it, at the same time, I'm thinking to myself that I hope we don't need this stuff ourselves, and that I need to do some re-stocking shopping. I would like to not think that way. I think I'm getting there- but I'm not there quite yet. I've been asking God to help me with that. I would love to be more generous with what God has given us and blessed us with. We are over the hoarder mentality- for the most part we do get rid of our excess freely, but what about the stuff that's not excess?
What do you do when someone asks to borrow an expensive piece of equipment or something that is dear to you? I know a lot of the times I will hem and haw over that, and seriously consider whether or not I will get something back. That's one I need to get rid of. My husband does a much better job at this one- he always has. Someone asks if he has a tool- he always loans it to them without another thought- happy that he could help. May God continue to bless him for his eagerness to help others, and may God work on my heart more so that I can do better, so that I can be more generous with what He has given us.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Jesus loved children. Well, he still loves children, but when he was was here on earth as a man, he had a special affinity for the children. The apostles would try to keep the children away from him, and he rebuked them, as he did above. Children were drawn to Jesus, and actually, they still are drawn to him today. Quite often, it is children who first get their parents to attend church. They have a natural curiosity, and children are naturally drawn to a loving God. Think about it. Think about a neighborhood full of children. Where do the children usually end up congregating? At the house with the nicest parents. They don't play in the yard where the mean mom lives, or they're careful to stay out of the yard of that grumpy old man down the street. Children are naturally drawn to fun and loving people.
So it stands to reason that children should naturally be drawn to us as Christians- right? Since we're supposed to be loving people at all times? I suspect we need to work on this one. And by we, I certainly mean me. This has been a struggle with me for forever! Really, ever since we had Abigail. I can remember living in our first apartment with her as a baby, and taking her out on the porch to play for a while, and this annoying little girl- maybe 5 or so- would just come by and start talking my ear off and asking questions, and driving me batty! And then there was the neighbor later on who had real behavioral issues...and he proclaimed his undying love for our then 4-year old girl. I was very glad when he moved away... Last year we had the older boy living next door who was nice... but he was older, and I worried constantly about him sharing things with the kids that they didn't need to know. And most recently, there are the latchkey kids who will literally spend the entire day in our yard playing with our things- breaking some of them, and really driving me crazy.
At first I would let them play, but they got rough a few times, so I started finding things to do. I would decide to just run into town quick because I wanted to look at something- hey it sent them home for a little while, giving me some peace. There have been a few times where they had to be sent home for hurting someone else, and more often than not, I would just hope that they wouldn't come out to play every day. But the more they've been living in the neighborhood, the more I've felt bad about my behavior and my thoughts. While they are naughty a lot, the fact is that they just aren't getting much attention at home. And while I am not willing to risk the safety of my children in any way, lately I've been a little more accommodating at letting them play. They just need some supervision. Now I find that they're going to be moving soon, and while the biggest part of me is jumping for joy- really. There is a part of me that is sad for them. I hope they're moving someplace where they can just be kids like they are here. And I can only hope that maybe we've made some sort of impression on them. But I guess realistically, I doubt it.
Because what would Jesus have done? He would have loved them from the moment they moved in next door. Regardless of their behavior, he would have oozed love for them- and they would have known it. They would have known that they were welcome to play in his yard at anytime- and that they were welcome to everything he had. And I know that I did not follow that example. If this was a test of some kind, I failed it- hook, line and sinker. And while I think ahead that there could be someone else moving in soon I pray for a better heart regarding them- regardless of who they might be. And meanwhile, while the "naughty neighbors" are still living there, I can do better while they're still here. They're not gone yet, and it's never to late to show someone that you care.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I know we are all guilty of wasting time. In fact, I doubt I know anyone who uses every moment of every day to its fullest. I am definitely guilty of time-wasting. I do it most days for at least a little while. There will just be that moment in the day where I'm tired of buzzing around and being busy, so I'll sit and do something that is inconsequential. Most days I'll waste time online- going from site to site, reading up on a few things. Sometimes I'll waste time by flipping through a magazine. On the best days I'll decide to waste some time by curling up with a book for a while- although those moments seem to be fewer and farther between these days. I tell myself it could be worse. I could be sitting and watching TV for hours, or playing computer or video games for hours. But is there really a difference? I do think I had a bit of an "addiction" to television. Thankfully, God presented an alternative to me one day, and after a month of no TV, it no longer is a controlling feature in my life. I do occasionally watch something now- with little or no remorse, but after I'm done watching the program I'm watching, the TV goes off. I don't feel like I have to sit and watch something. It's fantastic to be free of that!
I'll tell you what made the difference for me regarding TV. One day, as I was praying and reading my Bible, and watching a little GodTV online, I just felt a revelation of sorts. As it hit me that what mattered was what I was doing. I thought hard about it, and I thought of eternity. I thought of all the unsaved people around me, and I thought to myself, what if I knew, with absolute certainty that Jesus was going to return for His people during my lifetime. That moment could still be 2000 years away, or 200 years, or simply 20 years. But if I knew, with absolute assurance that Christ would return in my lifetime, would I live differently? Would it change my perspective and what I do from day to day? It really was something to think about. It made me realize that things like keeping up with a TV show really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. When I am standing before the Lord on the day of judgement, he's not going to say "I'm so glad you kept up with 14 seasons of Survivor. Well done." He's going to say "You watched 14 seasons of Survivor...that's 17 hours of reality television per season, which makes 238 hours that you could have been doing something for Me." Yikes.
That's not to say that moments of leisure and relaxation aren't important. They are, and every person has their different ways to relax. But when those moments of relaxation are controlling you...and causing you to waste away entire chunks of your time, you need to re-think your moments I think. I think of simple internet games like solitaire and such, and how many people play those during their days at work. When the boss comes into the room, you quickly turn them off, so you're not caught wasting your time during the work day. Shouldn't it be the same with our everyday life? We should be living as many moments as possible for Him, not living our moments for just one more round of online poker.
It's definitely something to think about, and something to reflect on. I can't pick your moments for you any more than you could pick my moments. God helped me take care of the TV control, now maybe it's time to identify another time waster and eliminate it. It's something to pray on, and something to ask God to show you- to show you where you are wasting your time, and how you could better use it for His Glory.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I love David's simplicity sometimes. I just love how he states the obvious and the facts. It doesn't get much plainer or more basic than this. There are two ways that we can choose with life. We can take the path of the enemy- the path that appears easy, usually fun, but is actually the way of death. Or we can choose God's Way- the way of truth. It may not always be easy down this path, but we know that when we encounter an unexpected turn or an obstacle in the road, that we have a Great God to help us through. David states it plain and simply and I certainly couldn't agree more. Because the destination at the end of this way- the way of truth is priceless and worth every ounce of hardship along the way.
In addition to choosing this path, we also see that "I have set my heart on your laws". It's those laws that keep us on the path we have chosen. And when your heart is set on them- when you have made the choice to keep God's commands, and you hold them dear to your heart, they don't leave you. They serve as your compass, to help keep you on the path you have chosen. When temptation tries to stir you and distract you, God's Laws, placed deep within your heart will let you know when the enemy is stirring. God's Word in your heart will keep you from straying and will help you remain steadfast in your journey to the end.
"I have chosen the way of truth; I have my heart set on your laws."
I think that's an excellent motto to live by.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Bible states 365 times "do not fear". I love thinking about that. That's a lot of times God says "do not fear" and I figure if he says something so many times, He must mean it. Does it mean I don't fear ever? Hardly, but it is a comfort, and I can think on it anytime I feel afraid.
I think it applies with all forms of fear as well. The irrational fear when I go to bed at night and hear a strange noise in the night. The fear I experience sometimes when I'm driving and see a near-miss. The fear I may have in my heart of stepping out in faith. The fear I also have of getting to know God better- the fear of experiencing something new. The very real fear of death should such a moment come upon us. IN every single one of those situations, we can cry out to our Lord in Heaven and He will see us. He will strengthen us to make it through the challenge and will help us to defeat the enemy.
"Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." Exodus 20:20
"I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side." Psalm 3:6
"say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Isaiah 35:4
"You came near when I called you, and you said, "Do not fear." Lamentations 3:57
Friday, July 18, 2008
Do you pray when people ask you to? No doubt we all say we do. Someone tells us about something that's going on in their life that needs prayer, and we always say "we'll be praying about that." And then the week goes on and we go about our business, and before you know it, you're seeing that person again, asking how their week is going, and you fill this twinge of guilt. Sure, maybe once or twice during the week while being busy, you thought of this person and their trial and shot a quick murmur to heaven for them. But did you truly pray for them?
I used to be so horrible at this! Of course, I didn't always have a real prayer time either, and that contributed, I'm sure. I used to be on the prayer chain at our church, and when a call would come in, I would always pray about it immediately, but then as time passed, I wouldn't pray again for that request. I would think about it, and think that "oh, I need to pray for that!" but then I never got around to it. It's verses like today's verse that gives me encouragement to do a better job with prayer. Prayer is such a beautiful thing!
One of the times that I pray is when I'm doing my church cleaning. I've been cleaning for so long now, that I do it pretty much without thinking. So while I clean, I pray for those who come to mind. There are some people who sit in the same seats every week, so those people get prayed for as I'm running the vacuum past their seats. They come to mind, so I pray for them. We have several handy-men in church, and they get prayed for as I'm cleaning near their handiwork. All the members of the music team get prayed for individually when I clean the stage and dust. I pray for the Pastor, secretary and our church leaders when I clean the office. I pray for the children as I clean their classrooms- with an extra prayer for the teachers. And every once in a while, while I'm at church in prayer mode, I'll feel like I'm missing someone, so I'll track down the church directory, and make sure I do some praying for anyone that I have missed.
The point being, the Bible tells us to pray continuously. The more you do it, the more naturally it happens. Two times where I find myself praying a lot are when I do the dishes and when I take a shower. As a busy mom, I need to find that quiet time for myself, and those are the two that I have found. Lately it seems I can add tending the garden to that list, but notice that I'm not specifically stopping what I'm doing to pray. There are times where I feel the need to close myself into my bedroom and simply pray, but for the most part, I do the bulk of my praying when I'm busy with my hands, but not so much my mind. It works better than you would think, and if you're struggling with finding the time to pray, I have to encourage you to try it sometime. Sometime when you are doing a task that you don't really have to think about- whether you are doing housework, a craft project, or something at your job, just give prayer a shot. You'll be amazed at how easily it comes, and even better- it makes the mundane task fly by very quickly. As people come to mind, pray for them. As upcoming events are looming, pray for them. Pray for your community, your state, your country. Pray for the government and our leaders- you think they couldn't use a few prayers? There is always someone or something to pray for, and the more practice you get doing it, the easier it gets.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I know we all walk around questioning life sometimes. We wonder why things happen, we wonder why things don't happen. We wonder why it seems some people are always displaying the good fortune in life, while others spend every day in despair, crying out for change. Do you ever wonder if the answers are more simple than what we make them out to be? We ask why we get sick with a disease, why, oh why does God want us to suffer- and we think that there is some great, hidden purpose or some complex reason behind it. But maybe it's just so much more simple than that. What if we don't have the things that we desire because we simply do not ask?
James 4 says right there at the end of verse two, "You do not have, because you do not ask God." What if all this time we've been agonizing over meaning and direction, and being patient, wondering when God will reveal himself to us, and really, all we needed to do was ask Him? It changes my perspective to think in this manner. For years Andy and I have been keeping an eye out for a sign, for direction, anything, that would give us some clue as to where and how we are to serve our God. And sure, we've asked God for direction- but for what purpose? Honestly, for selfish reasons. We want to know where God's going to want us for security purposes, we want to know that our children are going to be taken care of- that their needs will be met. We want to know what God has in store for us because we're selfish, and tired of being patient.
Perhaps though, it's in the how we ask as well. We do not have because we don't ask, but we ask for selfish reasons, and that is not a good reason to approach the mighty throne of God. Check out the first part of James 4:3
"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives"
And then look at verses 13-15:
"Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
We should ask for direction from God according to His will and His timing. When we seek His face and come before Him with an earnest heart- one that truly desires to serve Him, then He will answer. My life is nothing without God, it is void and without meaning. But with my life, I desire to serve Him in whatever way He needs me to serve. I don't deserve to have the opportunity to serve, really. None of us do. But it's quite the thought that when I truly want to seek God's direction for my life, that there is a correct way to do it. Moaning about, desiring revelation isn't enough. I also need to humble myself, I need to come to God with the correct attitude, with my sins repented of, and turned away from, and then, only then, may I present my requests to The King. And I know He will answer. Sometimes He will answer with direction, sometimes He will answer with a resounding yes. Sometimes, the answer will be a resounding no- or as the case often is, the answer will be "not yet" or "wait". But God always answers. Always, and as His servant, I will accept whatever the answer is and follow it accordingly, for my heart, soul, and life is secure in His Hands.
Yet I can also think before I ask. Why am I asking God for this? I have asked God in the past for the ugly varicose veins on my legs to be removed. They seem to get worse all the time, and as I get older they get uglier and more pronounced. Wearing shorts has become an embarrassment to me, they've become so bad. Yet, why am I asking for God to take these veins away? Honestly, I am embarrassed by them, they are ugly and unbecoming. Sure, they make me uncomfortable from time to time, but ultimately, I think I have been asking for selfish reasons. I want to look better, I want to feel better about myself. That is selfish reasoning, and I should be asking, what would it mean for God if these veins went away? I don't know the answer to that. I do know that a healing or a miracle should show the caring and loving nature of God. I also know that such a thing should bring glory to God. Now I can pray and say "for your glory God, heal the veins on my legs" but really... in my heart I selfishly just want them gone for aesthetic reasons. So I've stopped asking for God to take away my varicose veins. In His timing, if it were to serve His purpose, and reveal His glory and nature, I do believe that the veins could simply disappear. But I don't deserve to be asking for something superficial for selfish reasons.
I need to remember that. Before I take a petition before My Lord, I need to pray on the petition itself, and really give thought behind my request. Why am I asking this of God? Why? What purpose does it serve? I do not receive, because I do not ask. Yet when I ask, I ask selfishly. Instead I need to remember this:
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," Philippians 3:20
This is such an exciting thought to me this morning. Think about immigrants moving to America. They have a procedure they mist go through to become citizens, and then once they are, they are given the appropriate documentation and then they are pronounced citizens. That's usually a very exciting time for the immigrants and their families. We begin the process of becoming Heaven's citizens by inquiring about Jesus. We ask about Him, learn about what He has done for us, and when we feel we are properly ready, we take the test, and we ask Him to enter our hearts and change us into a new person. At that moment, we are given our "papers" or our new heart in Christ Jesus. That new heart is our proof that we are now citizens of heaven.
And someday, when our earthly bodies are worn out and tired of living, we'll be given a new body, and go to the place where we are now officially a citizen. We get to go to our new home- our eternal home, and take our place in that society. Until then though, we are to be ambassadors for heaven and try to take as many souls with us to heaven as possible. While we are here on earth we also will learn the traits needed to live in heaven- compassion, love, faith and trust. And we will also spend a lifetime learning to praise and worship our God in the way in which he deserves.
So are you a citizen of Heaven? Are you my fellow heavenly citizen? It's pretty exciting to think in those terms. If you're not a citizen of heaven, perhaps it's time. Perhaps its time for you to take that leap of faith and trust in Jesus to carry your sins and hurts away. This post here will help you to take that leap- and then let me know about it. I'd love to pray with you about your new decision. This is an exciting moment in your life- don't let it pass you by without grabbing on.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I had a dream last night. A very visceral and vibrant dream, and I remember it so well, as if it were real.
Andy and I had another baby in this dream. I was going through the process of labor and delivery, and then we had a beautiful baby boy. He was gorgeous and perfect, and I remember holding him and smelling him and how wonderful and perfect he was. But we hadn't been prepared for that baby to be there. We didn't have anything for him to eat, so we had to scramble and miraculously we came up with a bottle for him-it just kind of showed up. We were enamored with this baby- we loved him so much. Zander was dancing around, he was so excited to have a baby brother. Abigail was so excited too- except she crawled into my lap for one of her extraordinary Abigail hugs and asked me if I was going to ever get to spend time with her now that there was a baby in the house. Andy and I decided to name this baby Simon- but we could not agree on a middle name at all. We began fighting over the middle name- I remember he wanted Scott, but I thought that sounded terrible. So we began hunting through the house, looking for a baby name book, because I wanted something kingly for my new son. While we were busy being distracted and fighting over the middle name for our child, he disappeared. Simply vanished. And all the sudden we didn't have a third child anymore, and we were so distraught. I felt as if something had been ripped away from me, and I was filled with the biggest sadness I had ever felt, and I was also filled with emptiness, something was missing in my life.
I woke up from this dream very suddenly, and I knew it meant something. What- I had no idea. I instantly wondered if it meant that we were supposed to have another child- that God wanted us to have more children. I had to pray about this. This dream was so real and so bothersome, that I prayed this morning that if it meant something, that God would tell me, because it was one of those haunting dreams that nightmares are made of. I still... when I think about that dream and that gorgeous little boy who was mine for a short while, I miss him! A fictional character in a dream!
But I don't think this dream is about having a real baby. I think this dream is tied to the verse I posted above, because I was dwelling on it last night before going to bed. I think the baby in this dream- this beautiful and perfect baby is representative of a work that God is going to do in our lives. It was a baby- which is created by two people, it's impossible for a woman to conceive a child on her own, but when a husband and wife come together- baby can happen. I think just such a thing is out there for Andy and I. God is going to do a work in our lives that brings us together and produce something wonderful. And just like we weren't prepared with food for the baby, we may be caught unawares with this new and wondrous work, but God will provide what we need when we need it. Our children will be blessed and filled with joy when this newness enters our lives. At the same time, I will need to be mindful that we love our children and give them the attention they need as my precious little ones from God.
I think the fight that Andy and I were having over the middle name is very important to pay attention to. What is a middle name? Well, it's not really necessary for a child. We need a first name and a last name, and the middle name is just kind of there. Sometimes it has meaning for some people, but in reality it's trivial. And that's what was going on in this dream. We were fighting horrendously and being distracted by something trivial. This distracted us so much that we lost our focus on the beautiful baby, and we lost him as a result of our distraction. This could be a warning for us, a warning that something trivial is going to try and distract us and separate us from the great thing that God is doing in us. We need to watch out for those little details that we could get hung up on and pay attention to the bigger picture- pay attention to the baby in the room. Because if we let this thing come between us, the baby will be gone- the great work, the wondrous thing God is doing, will be removed from us, and we will be filled with that emptiness and hollowness that is very much like losing a child.
I'm a little overwhelmed. First of all, I'm overwhelmed that I had such a vibrant dream. I know that sometimes God speaks to people through dreams, but that he would speak to me...that's beyond humbling. Very humbling indeed. Even more so though, is the thought that He gave me a clue as to the meaning of this dream. It was as I sat here and typed, the meaning just flowed through my fingers. That's kind of scary to me- and new. Very new. And did I mention kind of scary? But God frequently works in mysterious ways, and while this does not surprise me... it surprises me a bit that he would choose me, to talk to me in my dreams. There's nothing special about me- I'm a plain jane mom and wife- but I have a heart for Jesus. And last night as I went to bed dwelling on the verse above I thought about how true it was. How in the past I've been guilty of hiding my light under a basket because I was afraid of what people would think. How I would hide my faith because I was worried it might upset those around me. And as I went to bed last night I said to God "not anymore. I'm done dimming my light". So may God use me in whatever way he sees fit, and may he continue to do this great work in our lives. Because I now know that I need not fear it. It will bring us great joy- and it will bring my children great joy. To me, that's the best part. A work in our lives that will affect our whole family for the better. Wow. How great IS our God?!
Monday, July 14, 2008
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6
I have decided that God brings people into my life when they need to be there. He brings dreams and books that I read into my life at just the right time. He places a strange new desire or want into my heart at just the right time. Have you ever gone through a rough patch- you've been going through a rough time and then out of the blue, here comes someone who has already been there? I remember when I was twenty I had been living a life of sin for a few years, and thought I was having a good time. And then a letter came to me. A letter from someone whom I respected and admired, and who I never would have expected would write such things on paper. It was such a personal letter, a story that someone wanted to tell me of their own trials as a young adult. That was a changing point for me. After reading that and seeing the encouragement in the words written by this woman, I began to look at things in a different light and I tried to change a few things. I didn't turn into a perfect person overnight, but I think about how many dangers and disasters I may have avoided thanks to that woman's letter and honesty. I haven't seen that person in so long, and I imagine if I were to bump into her at some point, I would thank her- and all I would have to do is say the words thank you, and she would know what I meant- even though 10 years have gone by. It wasn't a coincidence that this woman knew me, and knew some of my struggles. God placed her in my life at the exact time she was needed.
I often wonder if some day I will be able to pay it forward. I wonder if God will place someone in my life who needs to hear my story. I can honestly say that I wish not, for I wish that no one would have to experience the things I experienced... yet I imagine most people say that about their trials in life. The other day I watched the movie "BIG"- an oldie but a goodie. In the movie, one of the characters is asked if she would like to go back- if she would like to start over as a kid and get a do-over. She didn't even have to think about it- she turned the offer down, knowing full well the past. I suspect that there are very people who would say "hey, I'd love to live that portion of my life over again".
Yet here we are. Created in God's Workmanship. He created us to be just who we are. And we may never really know the hows and whys, but somehow we muddle through. Sometimes when we're on the other end of a trial we can look back and see why we went through it. Sometimes, it could be years and years later, and then our turn comes up to help someone else through it, and only then do we understand. We talked about Job yesterday at church, and about all the suffering that he went through. He probably never did learn why he went through what he did- but the absolute best part of his story can be found in Job 42, verse 12.
"The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first."
After all the suffering and anguish Job went through, God made it right. And not only did Job get his wonderful life back- he was blessed even more than he had been before. God restored his favor upon Job's life- and that is something that we can surely rely on and take from the story of Job. First of all, our trials and our encounters are not coincidences- each and every one has a purpose. And secondly, God loves us, and if we stay true to Him, He will bless us even more than we thought possible. He loves us and wants us to be happy and full of joy. Our God is truly a great God, and it is through our faith that we can seek to please God with our actions and our hearts.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I love this verse, because it's literal and spiritual all at the same time. First of all, Jesus is telling us a truth here- man doesn't live by bread alone. We don't simply eat bread, if we just ate bread we would be missing all kinds of vital nutrients and vitamins that we need to live. If we chose a diet based solely on bread, it wouldn't take long before our body started having problems from the deficiencies.
In the same way that we need a varied diet to keep our bodies going, we also need God's Word to keep us going. We can think of a new Christian in this. A brand-new Christian usually has their eyes wide open- God is fascinating to them, and they can't wait to read their Bible every day. They love going to church and they're exuberant about sharing their faith- and telling everyone they know that they've found Jesus. It's because giving your heart to Jesus fills you with something you've never had before. It fills you with love, peace, knowledge and understanding that you're going to spend eternity in Heaven, and your spirit finds a fullness it's never known before.
And then we become a "seasoned" Christian. We've been saved for awhile, and we know what the Bible says. We still go to church, but we tend to make more excuses for why we don't go. We set the Bible aside for other things, and though we are still saved, we begin to feel like something is missing. And that is our daily infusion of God. Just as our bodies need to be filled with fuel in the form of food, our spirits need to be filled in the form of scripture.
Using the same parallel, you also usually know your body. I know that I, at least, can tell when I need to be eating more iron-rich foods, or when I need to eat a banana for it's rich muscle-enhancing potassium. I know when I've eaten too many sweets, too much coffee, or not enough vegetables. I can also pay attention to my spirit. When I'm feeling down and listless, and maybe I'm feeling like there's something missing, that's when I know that I need to dig back into God's Word. I always feel better in my spirit when I am digging into the Bible daily.
Man does not live by bread alone... so why do we try?
Friday, July 11, 2008
It occured to me that a fun little study to do with myself would be The 10 Commandments themselves. Our Exodus study for our small group ended with these laws, and we never really talked about them. And rather than go straight in order, I thought it would also be fun to just do one here and there- and the first one that spoke to me was the ninth one. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." What is this saying to us? Is it simply saying that we shouldn't tell lies about our neighbors? And who are our neighbors?
Let's start with that. Our neighbors are pretty much everyone but ourselves. I shall not give false testimony about my actual next-door neighbor, and also some little old lady living in Latvia that I've never met. In this context, my neighbor is my fellow human being- if they walk on two legs and consider themselves a person, than I shall not speak poorly of them. Think about that.
When I look at this commandment, it means more to me than simply not telling untruths about a person, it also encompasses the struggles we all deal with from time to time about gossip. Gossip is usually something that we shouldn't be hearing, or we shouldn't be saying. Yet when we get gossipy, or share something about someone... lying is still almost always involved. Maybe we're lying to ourself- that it's okay to share this one story this one time. Or maybe we're lying to find out more information. "I just would like to know more details so I know how better to pray" is a good one I've heard from time to time. And maybe we're not lying entirely, we still intend to pray, but bending the truth a bit is just as untruthful as an outright lie.
I really and truly think that if God were to re-write the commandments today, the ninth one would read more like "you shall not give false testimony about your neighbor, nor shall you engage in gossip of any kind." Gossip serves no purpose. It is almost always hurtful in nature, and it's usually about a third party. Next time you find yourself about to share a story about a third person think about it. Would you say what you are about to say to the person it's about? Would you really tell that person that you think they are a terrible parent? Really? There is no quicker way to bring someone down than to have them hear that they are being talked about. I know, I've been there once or twice in my lifetime.
It's hurtful, plain and simple, and it really is something to think that gossip could be wrapped up in the package that we know as the ninth commandment. As I think about it, I do think that most Christians tend to keep the 10 Commandments. We don't run around murdering and stealing and committing adultery, so why do we gossip? Why do we share these stories that will only bring hurt in the long run. If we think of gossip in the same light as the rest of God's Commandments, maybe we'd do a better job at staying away from it.
"The tongue has the power of life and death," Proverbs 18:21
This is so true. One statement from you overheard by the wrong person could mean the difference between someone choosing a life with Christ, and a life without Christ. Would you like that on your hands? Many a person has left the church because of something someone said. I think it's time to stop that and start speaking kindly to each other. Speak positive words and uplifting words and do what you can to encourage someone. Until we start lifting each other up with our words, the church will always have struggles. And by the church, I don't mean my church where I attend worship, I mean The Church- all Christian people worldwide. We need to love each other as Christ loved us, and I know that He never, ever engaged in gossip.
I would like to remember this one. I pray that I am reminded of the ninth commandment any time a bit of gossip comes to my attention. And I pray that I still my tongue when tempted, and that I have the boldness to express my displeasure when other people try to share a bit of gossip.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This verse can be such an encouragement! It tells us straight up that God will continue to work in us for pretty much our entire lifetimes. We don't need to be afraid or worried that one day we're going to wake up and God is going to decide to be done with us. He isn't. He isn't going to decide that we've messed up too much and we're not worth the work. We're always worth the work. He will never give up on us, and we can be confident in the love God has for us. He is a God of Love and he will see us completely through to the end.
"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deuteronomy 7:9
Our God is a loving and just God. All we need to do is love Him in return, and He will be faithful to us until the end of time.
"He said: "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way." 2 Chronicles 6:14
We can rejoice daily in the knowledge that God is love and He loves us. He loves me. He loves you. He will never, ever abandon us and leave us to our own devices. This is such a wonderful thought to begin the day with. God is with us when we wake, and He is with us when we sleep. He sees our hearts and our desires and every day He loves us. What could be a better thought than that- that every single day I can bask in His love. Those days when I am struggling and wish I could do better I can rest in the assurance that God loves me, and He will never leave me.
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
All these things listed here, the hardships and weaknesses, are usually things we fear, things we hate to see come along in our lives. But we need to remember, it's these things that make us stronger, and I need to remember this. I need to remember this because, at least in my mind, we are in between rough patches. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I need to remember the bad, I need to remember that it wasn't all that long ago that we were struggling big time. That we were feeling like doormats, and like there was no place to go. I need to remember the bad times, because we need to remember where we've come from. It's those struggles, those times of change that make us stronger, and if we don't learn from those hard times, eventually we'll just find ourselves repeating them over and over.
Something that's interesting to think about with this verse is that last line, "for when I am weak, then I am strong". What are you weak at? What am I weak at? What don't I do so well? Well, I don't speak out, for one. I tend to stay quiet and keep to myself, and to me, in my mind anyways, that's a weakness at times. It's a weakness because I'd like to be a little bolder for Christ. I'd like to have the courage to stop someone from talking and suggest we pray about that instead of continuing to speculate. I have been challenged at this a few times as of late, and of course, I'm still failing every single time. But one of these times...one of these days I am going to overcome that fear and step out in boldness and pray for someone and I will have conquered that fear. I will be instantly stronger because I have overcome, and the time after that, it will be easier. I'm really struggling with this one, but I'm thanking God constantly for that, because I know that it's helping me to grow. Each time I feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray for someone, it gets easier for me to understand what I'm hearing, so I'm learning. It's only a matter of time before the Spirit fills me to the brim with boldness and I am able to act as He wishes.
My weakness is making me so much stronger- and I even see it as it is happening. Now imagine what God is doing with those weaknesses I don't see.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
In church we sing a song called "Hungry" which has a line that goes like this: "I'm falling on my knees, offering all of me, Jesus, you're all this heart is living for."
In both the song, as well as scripture, we see examples of falling before the Lord. Jesus, at his most desperate hour, fell on his face, he fell prone before His Father and asked for intervention. We don't see it so much in America, but in other cultures, bowing, prostrating, and kneeling are all signs of respect- they are actions given to an elder, superior, or a member of royalty. Why shouldn't we do the same for our God? When we go before him with our petitions- with our requests and our needs, why wouldn't we show Him respect and fall before Him? Well, I'll tell you why, because we are proud people. Most often, we have a hard time letting go of ourselves and giving our all to God.
I will tell you, in my most intimate times with God, there is always a piece of me that doesn't want to let go. I will have my eyes closed, and I'll be spending time in prayer and reflection, and every once in a while, I'll just open my eyes and peek around, really and truthfully, checking to make sure that I'm not falling asleep. I just feel a sense of peace and tranquility when I'm having my quiet time, yet, because it's at the end of the day, and I am tired from being busy, I worry about falling asleep on God. But really, that's rationalization for not completely letting go. Even the most intense experience I ever had...I was peeking my eyes open and making sure I was still me and where I wanted to be.
I guess there's that part of me that wants to be in control yet. I can talk all I want about quiet time with God and doing what He wants from me, but am I really? Am I really if I can't fall before him? I often think to myself that I need to keep that one piece of my mind focused on home, because I have babes sleeping upstairs, and what if they should wake and need their mom. Yet... if I truly was focusing on God and spending time in His presence, wouldn't they just continue to sleep through the night? There's just that little piece of me that is having a hard time letting go. I really think that I've come so far...but I'm still not where I need to be. I wonder if that is the essence of the Christian walk. There's always another level to get to, another step of intimacy to be reached, and if we ever feel content and complacent, that should be the red flag that we've stalled. We should never be satisfied with where we are in our walk, we should always want more.
And that's where I am. I should want more. I know what that more is. But it's another step, another leap of faith, and am I really there already?
Jesus was a man while He was on this earth, and even He fell before the Lord. He knew he was the Son of God, and knew His father well, and even Jesus fell down and humbled himself, and worshipped the Lord from the lowest position he could get to. Jesus is always an example that we can turn to and learn from. I just need the courage to take that step. To truly fall before the Lord and give Him my all.
Monday, July 07, 2008
God is perfect AND flawless. Just think about that simple statement for a second. Absolute perfection... that's hard to come by. I can't even bake a cake that's perfect and flawless. An expensive shirt that I buy at the store almost always has a thread dangling or a loose seam. Even the spinach I pick from the garden has a spot on it, or has been nibbled on by critters or bugs. I am certainly not perfect- physically I'm full of flaws and marks and split ends, and on the inside, there is always something to be worked on. Always.
Yet God is complete perfection in every way, and His Word is always flawless- it's true and truthful. One of the best things about reading the Bible is that there is always something in it for us. We can always turn to the scriptures for guidance and to see what God has to say about a particular subject, we can find words of wisdom and words of encouragement, and sometimes words of rebuke and conviction. That's what is so wonderful about the Bible- is that it is timeless. It applied to nations of people hundreds of years ago, and it applies to us still today. Talk about a book you wish you had helped write! (Well, maybe not really.)
You know what I love about God's perfection? Is that he likes to share it with us. We truly had a perfect weekend. We spent it with family, and not once did we feel like we didn't want to be where we were. Family was wonderful the entire time, our children were wonderful- and it was such a joy to watch them have such a great time. Saturday morning I got up really early to go fishing, and it was the most perfect morning. It wasn't hot- it wasn't cold, there was a perfect breeze off the river and the sun was shining. Sitting in the boat we would watch birds fly by and fish leap out of the water, and while the fish weren't biting, it was still wonderful and peaceful. It was one of those moments that a mother doesn't get very often- peace and quiet and the knowledge that my kids were safe and sound in the care of someone else for a few hours. I couldn't have asked for better.
And I wonder, during those times of bliss, those times like today where I just feel like everything is great, that God is love and that everything is just perfect and wonderful, if that is what the second half of this verse today is talking about. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him. A shield is a barrier, a means of protection. So when the enemy is firing from this way and that, his hits are missing, they are bouncing off the protection of the Lord and all is well. Life really is wonderful right now, and I know it's because God is our refuge and our strength. And when the time comes where trouble comes along, we will be ready to tackle it.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
We truly are blessed to live in this land of freedom. Quite often I find myself reading a book that is set in another country or another time, and I am just amazed at how fortunate I am to live in the country I live in. When I read about women who live in muslim nations, and how they spend their lives wrapped in cloth, my heart breaks for them. For women in India who live in a state called "purdah", where once they marry their muslim husbands, they spend the rest of their lives in hiding. No one sees them except family- they have their own part of the house that they dwell in, and in the rare chance that they may come out to travel or go to the market or something, they where so many layers of clothing- called a burqa- to keep anyone from catching a glimpse of their face.
Yet I was born here, in a country that was founded on God. It was founded by people who were seeking freedom from religious persecution elsewhere. And we still are permitted to worship God in any way we choose, several hundred years later. So while we celebrate this weekend, I think we need to be mindful and remember how blessed we truly are. I am fortunate enough this weekend to be able to celebrate with family, and that in itself is a blessing, as we weren't sure we were going to be able to do that this year. We live in a wonderful place, in a wonderful time, and God is truly wonderful. I'm going to take that thought with me into this weekend.
And here's why. If I wake up each morning and worry that I'm going to have a bad day, the bad day is sure to follow. If something bad does happen, it doesn't take long before that carries over into the rest of the day, and before I know it, I've had a bad day through and through. Instead, I choose to wake each morning and count my blessings. I choose to be thankful for another day. Yesterday I was oh-so thankful for the beautiful thunderstorms that turned the lawn a vibrant green again, and gave my gardens a much needed drink. This morning I choose to be thankful for the sunshine- it will be wonderful to send the children out to play while I ready the house for a few days away and do some packing. By filling my mind with joy each and every morning, I am prepared to try and keep the bad out. So that when I do have something bad happen, it happens, I process it, and then I move on. So I choose to go into this weekend with the joy of the Lord in my heart and in my head.
Happy Independance Day everyone! Be blessed- and I'll be back on Monday. :-)
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook." 1 Kings 17:2-6
It's passages like this in the Bible that really inspire me. They cause me to examine my own faith and question where it stands. Here we see God telling Elijah to basically go live in the wilderness. Go live beside a river, where you can drink from, and I will have birds bring you food. Really? I think I would be asking God a few questions before marching off to do such a thing. I would want to know, how often will the ravens bring me food? What am I to do here in the wilderness? What is the purpose of this? Questions, questions, questions. Yet Elijah simply follows the instructions of the Lord. "He did what the Lord told him." Could I even come close to that kind of faith? I don't know about that...
This also brings up another interesting thought. In today's day and age so many people are so cautious. I've heard so many people say that we need to really double check where our instructions are coming from. We need to double check and triple check to make sure that the idea we are following is from God and not from the Devil. And while I can applaud that desire to make sure it is truly the will of God being followed, there is also something to be said for Elijah's position. Elijah knew God. He knew the voice of God and he knew what God was telling him. He didn't pause to reflect and make sure it was God's voice and not the enemies. He knew with absolute certainty that his instructions came from His God. That's a relationship worth striving for! To know with 100% certainty that you are following God's instructions, to hear that Voice and be confident that you are going where He wants you to go- regardless of how strange it may seem at the time.
Elijah was certainly a man after God's own heart, and while he may be a lofty benchmark to strive for, I still think it's worth it. To even have a fraction of the faith and confidence that he had would be amazing. I just love how each and every day I can dig into God's Word and find something completely new and awe-inspiring. What a wonderful book!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks." Proverbs 31:16-17
Yesterday I took the kids to the strawberry patch to pick berries for jam-making. It was a wonderful experience, the patch was bursting with fruit, and there were so many people there- all with smiles on their faces as they delighted in the harvest of deliciousness. As I sat in that field picking strawberries, watching my children delight with each and every berry they picked, I just had to say a few words of thanks to God for such treasure. That something as simple and wonderful as a strawberry can bring joy to so many is wonderful. And then as we arrived back home and we set to work transforming these fresh juicy berries into something that would last well into next year, I thought about how wonderful it was that we had technology like freezers, to hide away fresh produce for other days.
I had so much fun making jam yesterday. When I woke yesterday morning, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go strawberry picking! And then late afternoon as I gazed at the sealed jars of freshly made jam, there was such a sense of satisfaction, and a realization that I'd actually enjoyed the work I did. It doesn't happen to often that I actually enjoy doing my household work. It needs to be done, so I do it, but so many times I'll just look around and sigh and wish wholeheartedly that the mess would simply disappear. I am hopeful that this means I'm experiencing an attitude shift of sorts, I've been praying for help on that, that I wouldn't look at my household tasks as chores or work I don't want to do. Rather, I want the attitude that it is a joy to serve my family and those who are in our home.