Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Commit your way to the LORD,
         Trust also in Him,
         And He shall bring
it to pass."  Psalm 37:5

Over the last few days here in our country, there has been a lot of talking- and not much action.  And all the talking is... well, not much.  No one even wants to listen to it anymore, because neither side is correct. This verse in Psalms?  This is what we need.  Instead of just one side coming up with an idea, we need BOTH sides to agree together to do what is right.  And to do what is right, they need to go back to some of the reasons this country was founded and remember that God is our nations sovereign.  God is the head of the United States of America, and we could be rid of these troubled times if the people would only remember that.

And so I pray this morning for President Obama.  I pray that He will see that everything he does is nothing without God.  I pray that He will turn to God in this hour of need for our nation's finances, and that He will hear from God in a very real way.   I also pray this morning for House Speaker John Boehner.  May he turn to God and seek Godly wisdom for the problems our country is facing.  If both of these men will seek God's will for this country, we will see things turn around.  God knows exactly what needs to be done here, He's just waiting for the right people to seek Him out for the answers.  May God become very, very real in Washington DC right now.

I also want to pray this morning for the people in the country of Norway.  I pray for the families who have been affected by this tragedy- may they find comfort in knowing that their loved ones are now celebrating with Jesus- and may God give that country peace.  May the people have no fear in going about their day to day lives. 

I also pray this morning for the people of South Korea who have been dealing with intense and abundant rain- may that rain not bring any further destruction to the people of that country.  Instead, may it be a sign to them that God wants to pour out his blessings upon that nation.  May the people turn to God with all their hearts and may He give them peace as they deal with the loss of their friends and neighbors due to landslides.

And finally this morning, I want to return to the country of Haiti for some prayer.  I pray for their new president, Michel Martelly, who has been struggling to learn how to BE president.  The people are growing restless as he finds his feet and learns how to govern, and he has been the target of recent protests.  I pray that he would also turn to God for the answers for his impoverished country.  I pray that he will be protected from those who would do him harm, and I pray that he will find a way to give aid to the people who need it most.  May God bless the people of Haiti, and may He give them encouragement when they need it most.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Lose Sleep

"Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:"  Isaiah 26:4 (KJV)

"So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]."  Isaiah 26:4 (AMP)

Surely I'm not the only one who lays awake at night trying to solve problems in my head...  I can't tell you how many times in the past I would literally lose half a night of sleep just because I kept thinking on different situations.  Most recently, one of the very things that I would lose sleep over was a few months ago when I was in a place where I really didn't want to play drums at church.  I would literally lay awake half the night on a Saturday night, worried that no drummers would show up the next day and I would have to play.  Of course, now I look back and I just shake my head.  All that worry for nothing.  All that lost sleep for nothing! With God's help, I've been able to play the drums decently, and so far anyway, I have not embarrassed myself at all- which was one of the things those sleepless nights were about.

When I click on the news pages right now, I'm taken to headlines about the bickering going on at Capitol Hill and if I really thought on it, I could totally see myself worrying about all that is going on there.  I could see many a heated discussion forming with various opinions, but you know what?  As I read about what is going on, all I can really do is pray about it.  Last night the President made an appeal to the American people to let our voices be heard, and I have to tell you, at this point, I don't think it's about having our voices heard at all.  It's about hearing the voice of God- and acting on what God would have us do for this country.

I am certain there are plenty of people losing sleep about what is going on in our country these days.  More than that, every day there are random things that come up and try to rob of us of our precious sleep.  Really- think of all those scenarios and situations that you really have no control over, yet you stay awake thinking on them and worrying about them.   All that does for us is... well, nothing.  We don't get our much needed sleep, and since we can't do anything about the problem anyway, coming up with any kind of solution is really a pointless activity.

So what do we do in those situations? We put our trust in God.  We put our trust in knowing that God knows what is going on- and we tell Him so.  At the end of June we had our family camping trip.  While we were gone on our vacation, we were anticipating an e-mail containing our new schedule for the dance season.  There was one night when we were in the middle of the woods, and I was lying awake fretting about that e-mail.  I was worried that we were going to get scheduled at a time or on a day that wouldn't work for us for a class or two.  And yet, that worry was completely pointless.  I was in the middle of the woods!  It would be days before I would get the e-mail containing our schedule, and THEN I would be able to deal with it.  Worrying about it and ruining our vacation because of it was completely pointless.  I finally realized that, and I had a chat with God.  I told Him that He knew our schedule, and that He wouldn't have allowed our classes to be placed on days when we'd indicated that we weren't available.

When all was said and done, the schedule worked out fine.  It needed a little tweaking, but the major worries I had were completely unfounded and were a non-issue.  That's how we need to approach these sleep-eating issues.  We need to follow the words of Isaiah and place our trust in God.  In all things!  Even better- look at that verse above!  We can trust in God FOREVER.  Not just today, not just about tomorrow or next week.  We can trust in God every single day of our lives. And honestly- for us Americans, anyway, should we need a reminder of that, all we need to do is look at a piece of our currency, and see the words "In God We Trust".  It seems to me that our government needs to be reminded of this and turn to the One who holds all the answers in the palm of His hand.  If we lean on God, HE will be our Rock and our Strength for each and every moment that we need Him to be there for.

Monday, July 25, 2011


"Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:3

God gave us a pretty cool gift when He gave us all families.  Really.  I mean, in what other situation can you not see people for years and years, and then when you do see them again, it's like no time has passed and everything is wonderful.  We just had a delightful weekend getting together with extended family who we truly have not seen for years.  I was kind of reminded of when Jacob returned to his brother Esau, expecting a great trial with his brother, only to be embraced.

"But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept."  Genesis 33:4

Not that I expected any kind of fighting or trials this weekend, but there was great joy upon seeing this family gather together just for the purpose of getting together.  What's so cool about family is that we can share with one another all the good things and all the bad things, and it just really doesn't matter.   With family there is a unique kind of love that transcends normal boundaries- it's just always there!

That love that is found in blood-related families is the exact same love that we should be showing to one another in Christ.  We are family- we should love each other no matter what is going on.  And more than that, we should not allow the world around us to dictate how we should love each other. 

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;"  Ephesians 3:14-17

Had my family focused on what the world thought of family reunions, we would have all been anticipating some kind of blow-out or rift to happen.  But we didn't.  Instead, we focused on each other and as a result, we spent a wonderful time together. 

Family is important, and we should take the lessons we learn from our natural families and apply them to our church families.  But more than that... think of the really extended families- those distant cousins that you really only see once or twice in your lifetimes.  They're still family, and there is still love and respect there.  In the exact same way, different churches should behave with one another as those distant cousins- we should not be fighting or arguing between churches or denominations.  As long as we all have Christ as our center- we're related- we're family.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do It With Joy

"Strength and honor are her clothing;
      She shall rejoice in time to come."  Proverbs 31:25

I was thinking this morning on the message our Pastor preached last night.  It was one of those rare messages where I almost felt like I was being picked on.  There are always things that I can pull out of his messages that apply to me directly- always.  But last night was one of those where... I felt a little awkward... He was talking about the ministry of helps, which is what I do right now- I clean the church, and of course, that's one of the easiest helps ministries to use for an example.  I know I wasn't being picked on, but yet, there was a lot that I took home with me from church last night, and I'm still rolling much of it around in my head, thinking on it.

One of the things he talked about was the very reason why I clean the church- and that is because I do it joyfully.  Something that I have always felt impressed upon me when it came time to clean the church was that I would have to prepare myself for it.  I would coach myself to spend the cleaning time in prayer or in praise- to not think about the various messes I would discover, and to not spend any time dwelling on anything negative that came to mind while cleaning.  Most often now, when I clean, I put on my MP3 player and spend all my cleaning time worshiping and praising.  It just has always felt like the right thing to do. 

I went to Proverbs 31 this morning to see how my favorite woman did her work joyfully, and to my surprise, it wasn't mentioned.  It mentions how she is constantly busy, seeing to the needs of everyone, but it doesn't make any mention of her attitude- and the attitude of joy.  The verse I posted is the closest- that she will rejoice in the time to come.  Well, I argue that of course she will rejoice in the time to come- but it's equally important to rejoice in the now- regardless of what is going on.

Did you ever have a bad attitude while doing a task?  Whether it be at a job or doing something within the household, a bad attitude makes that task seem to take so much longer.  Bringing out the joy makes something go much more quickly.  My kids are the perfect example of that.  On a normal day, when I send them to clean their rooms, they do it grudgingly and grumpily, and the cleaning project takes a very long time- usually several hours.  But, when I send them with a mission to clean as fast as they can, as quick as they can, it becomes a game to them.  They're trying to beat the clock and get their rooms cleaned up quickly, and they always manage to do it.  When they clean with joy, it truly does get done much more quickly.

There's more to it than that, and here is the "not-so-secret" secret.   When I do my cleaning with joy- with a song in my heart and on my lips- I'm filling wherever it is I'm cleaning with the goodness of God.  Whether that be at home or at church, when I can do my cleaning with joy, it fills the rooms with joy.  When I spend my time grudgingly cleaning or cleaning crabbily, it fills the space with negativity.  I can tell when I've been crabby during the day at home- because when Andy walks in at night, he instantly picks up on it and then we're all crabby.  But when I can tackle my tasks with joy and cheerfulness, it creates a nice atmosphere for Andy to come home from work to.

Ultimately, that is why I clean the church.  Because I don't mind the tasks of vacuuming, dusting, cleaning toilets- and not only don't I mind, but I can do them with joy- and I can do them while I sing some really great music to praise God with.  It always makes me laugh when people discuss the cleaning, like scrubbing a toilet is the last thing they ever want to do.  And yet, every week, when I'm there doing that very thing, I always think that there is no place I would rather be.  I enjoy my time serving, and I enjoy knowing that when people walk in the doors Sunday morning, they will be greeted by a nice clean building.  Not only that, but they will also walk into a building that has been filled with joy.

Do your work joyfully!  No matter how mundane or boring or disgusting the task it, if you can do it with joy, it will make a world of difference.  Not only to yourself as you do the task- but to those who will come after you.  They will pick up on that joy and not be able to contain themselves. Think of that the next time you do a major housecleaning- clean with joy, and then all who enter will be delighted.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  Luke 6:37

This morning as I was thinking about what to focus on for Warfare Wednesday, I actually had a difficult time honing in on something.  Usually I spend some time reading up on current events, and something always jumps out at me- some situation that could really use some prayer.  Whether that be events in a particular country, weather events, specific people to pray for, etc.  But this morning I kept coming back to various stories that, on the surface, didn't even seem related.  And then I thought about it some more, and something very clear came to me.

As a whole, as a country, we need to stop judging one another.  We need to stop judging on a personal level, on a political level, and on a global level. The thing is, we "Americans" always think that we're right.  About anything and everything.  I was thinking about the recent high-profile murder trial that ended in a not guilty verdict.  Immediately, people all over started crying out about injustice and the news media outlets were full of judgements for this person- even though a jury found them not guilty.  Who are we to judge?  Seriously. 

I really think many of our problems our country is facing right now is because we all seem to think we have the right to judge anyone and everyone.  And how could we not?  Every day of the week there are dozens of reality TV shows where people are being judged in one form or another.  We even get opportunities to be a judge at home, and then phone in our conclusions. 

The fact is, we are not to judge one another, and in fact, we are to love on one another.  God created each and every person to be unique and to be the people that they are. Now, we may not agree with someone's actions or ideals, and that's okay, but it's not our place to pass judgment on them and condemn them for what they do or believe in.   If anything, our place is simply to commit the matter to prayer.  We should be praying for one another, not passing judgements and insisting that we are always right.  As our politicians are bickering and fighting and going back and forth on some major budget issues facing our country, every key player is just so insistent that their ideas are the right ones- that their way is the best way, and they've judged all other options and worthless and void.  That is not the way to govern a country- the way to govern is to discuss, to see all sides of the picture and assemble various parts and pieces to come up with the best idea for all.

Most days, I am very thankful to be living in the country I'm living.  I am proud to be an American, and knowing the history of our country, I am so incredibly thankful for the freedoms we have today.  But I do wish that we had less of a critical eye as a whole.  I wish that our friends, neighbors, families, and colleagues could collectively just decide to stop being so judgemental, and to embrace the uniqueness that truly makes up what is best about this country.  I even think about small neighborhood disputes and issues.  There's a woman in Michigan who actually faces jail time because she put a vegetable garden in her front yard, and there are people who think that it isn't pleasing to look at. 

I guess my prayer this morning is that a great big wave of love, compassion, and understanding would sweep across our country.  May our eyes be opened to all the condemnation going on around us, and may we grab those opportunities to minister grace to one another.  May we look upon those things that bother us with fresh, new eyes, and see the potential that God has created and put into the people around us.   I am also praying for a revolution to sweep through the media in our country.  Honestly, I don't know what the answers are for the terrible direction the news media has been heading, but God knows.  I pray that He will put the right men and women in charge of these organizations, and may they be utilized to spread the truth- and to spread God's love all across the country.

May we forgive one another for the behavior of the past, and may we all move forward together, in one accord.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No Fear, No Worries

"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  Matthew 6:34

Wouldn't that be grand?  A day where there is absolutely no fear, and no worries? Often times, those two things combine- especially as parents.  We fear harm coming to our children, and that fear often translates to worry.  And then there are the things that we worry about that we have absolutely no control over.  Last night while I was sitting at the dance school, I overheard a phone conversation a man was having with his neighbor.  The neighbor was away on vacation, and had called because they'd heard about storms passing through and he was worried about hail damage.  My very thoughts were that I felt bad for this person who was going to spend the rest of their vacation worrying about potential storm damage to their home while they were away.  Worrying wasn't going to do a single thing for him.  If there was damage, they'd have to deal with it when they got back home, and in the meantime, that worry could totally ruin their vacation.

The media frenzied world tells us to worry-pretty much daily.  We are constantly told to worry about our health, our diets, our weight, the planet around us... as I think about morning news programs and all the interviews that they have with experts on this and that, it occurs to me that they're trying to sow worry on purpose.  Maybe there's a product that goes with the worry.  Eat better to avoid cancer- and take these special vitamins to boost your health...

That reminds me of going to the pool.  Once upon a time, you could go to the pool and see kids in their swimsuits getting sunscreen put on.  Now it's completely different.  People are told to fear the sun and to worry about skin cancer for their kids.  So the kids start in their swimsuits... then they get the sunscreen slathered on.  Over the top of their swimsuit and slathered skin they get special water clothes to put on- usually a high-necked tee-shirt to cover up most everything they just put sunscreen on.  Then, they get hats on top of that, and when they're not in the pool directly, they are wrapped up in towels to shield them from the sun OR they are sitting under an umbrella or awning.

Why are we so afraid of the sun?  Because we were told to fear it- and we were told to worry about it.

And do you know what one of the results of this sunshine paranoia is?  We have a country full of people who are deficient in Vitamin D- a vitamin that our skin absorbs from the sun.  A vitamin that is vital to overall health and a serious deficiency makes people very susceptible to colds, flus, and also causes muscle and bone troubles.  Hair can fall out without proper vitamin D. Vitamin D also gives us energy, so those who are lacking will feel more tired all the time and lethargic. Unfortunately, while there are supplements, they don't work the same as regular old sunshine.  Our body can't absorb and use them as easily as if we just sat in the sunshine for 20 minutes and soaked up the old-fashioned rays.  Vitamin D deficiency is a very serious and real problem that many people are dealing with right now because they were told to fear and worry.

The real question is- how do we get rid of fear and worry?  The sunshine is just one example of many, many things that we could fear or worry about.  We get rid of fear and worry by diving into our Bible's and reading all the scriptures that tell us "do not fear" or "do not worry".  When we catch ourselves worrying about something in the future, we can recite Matthew 6:34 to ourselves a few times to try and eliminate the worry that's creeping up on us. We can also give our concerns completely to God.  Sometimes that's easier said than done, but when we really spend time talking to Him about our worries, and then tell Him we give them to Him, and want Him to take care of them, we can very well erase the worry that is plaguing us.

Going back to the sunshine and the pool example, do you really think those kids are enjoying their time in the pool?  How can they, when they have to worry about keeping all the excess clothing on, and having sunscreen reapplied every 30  minutes.  God wants us to enjoy life- He wants us to experience great joy and to have fun when the time is appropriate for fun.

He doesn't want us to worry- and He certainly doesn't want us to fear.  Give God your fears and worries, and open up to all the wonderful possibilities around you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Wonderful Timely Word

"A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
      And a word
spoken in due season, how good it is!" Proverbs 15:23 (NKJV)

"A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment--how good it is!"  Proverbs 15:23 (AMP)

This verse popped straight into my head this morning.  Last night at church, in a seemingly normal conversation, I was given a wonderful, timely word that was exactly what I needed to hear.

I've been a little concerned over the last month or so about schooling for the kids.  The finances simply have not been there to do any purchasing of our materials for the coming year, and I've been worried about that.  My original plan had been to start school very early in August, because I knew that the coming school year was going to be a full one.  But in order to start school, we need materials, and it's taking me much longer to save the necessary funds than I expected.   So over the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time talking to God about this very thing.  I've pointed out that my Bible says that He shall supply all my needs- and for us, that includes school materials.  I've been trusting that the finances would come in, but I've been feeling more urgent as time goes by and nothing has been ordered yet.

And then last night, I was having a normal conversation with our Pastor when she asked me a little bit about school.  She's a homeschool veteran, having successfully educated and graduated her whole brood, and out of nowhere she simply encouraged me to enjoy it, and to just relax because we had plenty of time.  At the time, I didn't realize it was the timely word that it was- it wasn't until a few minutes later when we were driving home that it really dawned on me what she had said.  It was such an encouragement to me- because I know those words were right from the Father for me- that I should relax and enjoy my children. 

I really have been stressing a bit about the coming school year!  Abigail is a sixth grader- which is middle school- which is more intense than grade school.  I already have her educational plan for the next six years all drawn up, and I know what we need to get done when- and that includes starting school for her in just a few weeks. Except this morning I woke up with such a peace about our coming school year.  I will eventually get to order our materials- I know that- but more than that, I do need to remember that our homeschooling is not just about getting the proper education- it's also about enjoying each other and spending that time together as a family.  And I truly do have all the time in the world!  We can relax and anticipate the school year to come, but if we don't get to start it when we'd originally planned, that's more than okay! We'll start it when we can, and we'll finish it when we can- even if it takes a little longer than expected.  We can make adjustments down the road if necessary.

What matters is right now.  I can look at my plan for middle school and high school and see that it's a good one, but if I make school all about the educational aspect of it- and rushing through it to get it all in, I'm kind of negating a big part of our purpose in homeschooling in the first place.  One of our biggest reasons for homeschooling is to foster the family dynamic- to build relationships and spend quality time together. 

I just love how God will use an everyday, normal conversation to bring such wonderful encouragement and relieve stress.  It just shows that (like I posted last week) He does care about the smaller things.  When something is important to me, it's important to Him.  I love that. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Little Things

"So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”
6 So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw
it in there; and he made the iron float. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it."  2 Kings 6:4-7

I read this passage a few days ago in my daily Bible reading- I had to read it a few times, because honestly, I was wondering why this really was in my Bible.  I even came back to it a few days later, because I couldn't stop thinking about this ax head.  I mean, it was such a small and trivial thing, I was wondering if there was symbolism here with the iron floating or cutting down trees or something.  But when I went back to it I actually started thinking on the man who lost the ax head.

I thought about this man, who obviously was a poor man, because he didn't even have his own ax- he had to borrow one.  He was a poor man who was traveling with the man of God, and in this passage, he is using this borrowed ax to build shelter for himself and his comrades.  Think about how exciting this must have been for this man- they've been traveling with this man of God, and now they are going to build a place to dwell for a time- it had to have been truly exciting- like a church breaking ground for a new building project.  Only, a short while into this project, the man's ax head falls off the handle and into the water.

Have you ever tried to find an item dropped into a river?  It's tough to do! A river constantly is swirling with different currents, and if you drop a heavy item it can still be carried quite far away via the current at the time.  That ax head could have been anywhere in the river- and on top of that, depending on the flow of the river, it actually may have been hazardous for this man to attempt to retrieve the ax head.  A river can be a dangerous place to go for a swim.  So his ax head falls off, and I'm sure there are a few things running through his mind. One, this ax head was borrowed.  Not only that, but since the ax head fell off the handle, I am also inclined to believe that the person he borrowed the ax from also was poor- but just happened to have an ax.  For the man who loaned the ax, that ax may have been a precious item from his household.  So here we have our man who dropped the head into the water, upset that he will now have to go back to his friend and figure out how to replace the ax head.  But I also think that there was something else there that he was even more upset about.

Without an ax, how was this man going to help build the dwelling place for the man of God?   All the excitement of the day was for nothing if he couldn't help build this shelter- I am certain he was full of zeal for the activity at hand, and to have it all brought to a sudden halt had to have been devastating to him. For us on the outside, this seems like such a small trivial thing, but for this man, this act of chopping down trees and building the shelter was very important.  It was so important that he borrowed someone else's valuable ax to do the job in the first place.  And now that ax was at the bottom of a raging river.  I can clearly imagine the despair running through this man's mind.

And then God comes to the rescue.  When this man shares with Elisha what happened to the ax head, God shows Elisha how to bring the ax head to the surface of the water. I can see the joy in this man's face.  I can see his excitement and his fervor at getting the ax head back and being able to continue serving the man of God.  And I can even see his face as he tells his comrades what happened, because it's such a big deal to him.  But then I can also see the response of his comrades as they tell him that's great, but then dismiss him to get back to work, and I can see how disappointed this man is when his friends do not share in his great excitement.

This little story here in 2 Kings is chock full of notes for us as Christians.  How many little things have we dismissed?  I talked the other day about praying for small cuts and bruises- you know, when God heals those small things, it's a really big deal to the people who had the healing.  Yet we dismiss them because, well, they're just cuts and bruises, they're not life-threatening diseases or debilitation's. 

This is a cautionary tale with several different dimensions.  The biggest thing I think we can take away from this story is that God truly does care about the small things.  If they are important to us- they are important to Him.  I think about my vegetable gardens and the trials I've had in getting them properly going.  To many people, my gardening seems trivial and not particularly important.  But to me it is, it's a source of food for my family, and hopefully for others.  And God cares about how I care about my garden, so He's provided answers and finances to get it going like it should be going.  God cares about me!  And if my garden is important to me- it's important to Him. When my daughter cares about how well her swimming lessons go, God cares, and gives her the determination to see them through.  God cares about all His children, and the things that may seem little to everyone else are not considered little in God's eyes.  And that's the second thing to take away from this story.

To that man, that ax head was everything, and God saw that.  When someone shares with us a story about how God did something- no matter how small, we should rejoice with them, because that tiny little thing may have been absolutely huge in their eyes.  Sometimes, it's those very little things that God uses to bring someone to Him in the first place- which makes them just as important as the great big major things.  We should not measure God's goodness with human eyes.  In fact, we shouldn't measure God's goodness at all- we should simply rejoice in it, because His goodness is everlasting and may be different for each and every person He pours it out upon.

So I am going to remember this story of the ax head and rejoice in the little things.  Whether they be for me or someone else, I am going to remember that God is a God who cares- no matter how small the matter may be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2:9-11

America is in a debt crisis.  Not only are thousands of Americans struggling on their own financially, now we are seeing that the country as a whole- literally- is in more debt than ever.  As President Obama and other members of leadership are trying to decide what to do about it, all we can really do physically is wait and see what decisions get made.  But of course, we also have something else we can do:  we can pray.

Once upon a time, the "American Dream" was simply of freedom.  People came to our shores from other countries where they were persecuted for many reasons.  Thousands upon thousands of people fled their homes to come to America, where they could worship God in whatever way they wanted.  The American Dream was God- to be able to worship Him, and to be able to read His precious words in the Bible without fear of being thrown in prison or losing a life.

But as the years have gone by, the real American Dream has shifted in favor of the fake American Dream- one of wealth and financial riches.  While people obviously need money to meet needs and make purchases and pay bills and such, money is not everything.  And yet media tells us it is.  While the whole country is focused on this debt debacle, so many are focusing on the worrying parts- and they are allowing that worry to affect them.  We shouldn't worry.  We really shouldn't- God knows the problems our country faces, and instead of worrying and speculating the possibilities, we should be praying and interceding for our country.  We should be praying that instead of focusing on money as everything, we, as a country, should focus on God as our everything.

We need to return to our roots in this country.  We need to remember those who came here because they were persecuted in their homelands for loving and worshiping God.  Most importantly, WE need to love and worship God, and thank Him for this beautiful land we live in.  And we need to pray for this country that is in trouble.  God knows the solution- God knows the answers that are needed to fix our troubles.  I pray that our leaders would turn to God for guidance in these troubled times, and that the people would see the need to pray.  Both for the troubled times- AND for the leaders who need to make decisions.  God knows best- we just need to ask Him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Try Again

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."  Ecclesiastes 9:10

Yes, you are seeing the exact same verse I posted yesterday.  There were some thoughts I had about this verse, and I had been thinking on it, and then my posting went in a completely different direction than intended.  That was certainly just fine, I rather like it when the Holy Spirit takes over.

But what I actually had been thinking about with this verse was how often we tackle something- anything- just partway.  We do a task, and we do it half-heartedly, just enough to get the task done.  Think of a child with music lessons.  At the weekly lessons they are usually assigned a certain amount of practice time to practice at home, and most kids will practice that amount of time precisely- without a minute over.  I know when I was in that situation, I would start the timer, and THEN I would get out my music book, tune my instrument, and by the time I actually started practicing, five minutes of my practice time had amazingly elapsed.  I certainly never went even a second over my scheduled time.

And yet, I would look over at the girls who were playing beautifully and be disgusted that I wasn't playing more like them.  I was certain that I could just pick up this instrument without much practice and play like a virtuoso.  Obviously, it just doesn't work that way. (Except in rare cases where someone actually is a virtuoso or a prodigy, but that's not at all related to today's post.)

This verse reminded me of prayer, actually.  We have a lot of speakers who come to our church and share what God has been doing with them and their ministries.  So many of them talk about how they pray for someone to be healed of one thing or another, and they are healed.  We even had one speaker last year whose ministry has raised over 400 people from the dead!  It's always phenomenal to hear these speakers, and usually I leave these weekends feeling encouraged and like I can take on the world.  I feel empowered, and ready to pray for someone to be healed of cancer, or ready to swoop in and pray for someone to come back to life after a tragedy.  But then reality sets in.  Usually shortly after one of these weekends, I'll have a conversation with someone who has a cold or allergies, or I'll run into someone with a basic broken bone, and while there may be a part of me who thinks that maybe I should pray for them.  I don't.  Later on I always think of that and regret that I didn't even try.  Because the fact is, if I'm not willing to put in my practice times and pray for the smaller things- like colds and headaches and broken bones- how on earth am I going to know how to pray when it comes to the big things?

I think way, way back to my young Sunday School days.  I remember how we would go around the room and share prayer requests, and the littlest ones would have a request for a small cut on a finger, or for their mommy who was home with the flu, or for their cat who had a cold in its eye.  We would smile and pray for these things, not really expecting any kind of response from God towards these requests.  Of course, now I can look back and wonder why we didn't have faith for these small things.  What was wrong with us?  To that child, their cat is everything to them, why wouldn't God heal their precious kitty and make the child happy again.  Why wouldn't God heal little Katie's paper cut- He loves her so much, and that small owie is obviously causing great distress.

We get so excited when we hear about healings of the big things- the cancers, the arthritis, the metal dissolving in people's bodies (from pins and such for bones), but we don't take to the time to practice by seeking God for the little things.  And you know what the biggest shame of it is?  When God heals a paper cut, he's pouring out the exact same love that he's pouring out on someone who He is healing of brain cancer.  We should rejoice in asking God to heal the smallest things, and we should rejoice when He does do it.  Because the more we pray for the small things, the more we're building our faith for the bigger things.

Just like the child sitting in that music lesson chair.  First, they have to learn how to play the nursery rhymes correctly, and THEN they can take a stab at that concerto.  They don't give a first time student a score from a symphony and tell them to play it perfectly.  They start with the basics, and work their way up as the students improve.  And they way they improve?  Practice.

Practice makes perfect.  Although, to be honest, I am kind of in the mindset right now that there is no such thing as perfect. Really, there should be a mindset that we will never really arrive- that we will not reach perfection, yet we should constantly be striving to get there.  When we pray for someone and they are not healed, we should be thinking "that's not good enough" and then pray again.

And this can really apply in all areas of life.  I think of school teachers who have their degrees and are teaching- and yet they are still constantly taking classes, trying to improve themselves.  I think of the growing trend right now of running marathons.  People don't start training for small half-marathons and then think they've done good enough- they keep going, they keep pushing themselves to get to the next level.

That's how our Christian walk should be.  We should never, ever be happy with where we are- we should always be striving for more, for forward progress.  Because stopping and staying put right where we are is just never going to be good enough.  And I don't want to be "just good enough"- I am after excellence in all areas of life. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just DO It

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."  Ecclesiastes 9:10

When is the last time you made a half-hearted attempt at something?  I know I do it often. For quite a long while there I was feeling like I really had lost the desire to do much cooking for my family- so I was going it with a half-hearted attitude.  I was cooking because food was essential, but I wasn't going the extra mile to see that it tasted wonderful or was particularly healthful.  Thank God He got me over that feeling.  He really did, because after probably six months or so of my poor attitude in the kitchen, I've been enjoying having that spark again.  Now, when I purpose to feed my family, I am doing so with all my might.  I am using my mind and my hands with my best possible effort to create delicious food to feed my family with.  That's so important.

Really, it's more important than I was giving it credit for. As a mom, I am responsible for the well-being of my children- for their health and their overall care.  When I feed them garbage, it actually can have lifelong repercussions, and that's just not acceptable to me- and according to the scriptures I've found, it's not acceptable to God either.  

"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s."  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

When I dump a package loaded with chemicals and preservatives in a pot and call it dinner, I'm feeding my children things that are toxic to their bodies.  When I decide I don't feel like cooking at all and head for a drive through or the pizza place, I'm filling their bodies with filler- not the important nutrients and vitamins they need.  As the parent, I am responsible for what my children eat, and when they eat garbage, that's my responsibility.   No matter what.  I can just imagine the conversations in heaven when God asks why I fed my children all that garbage that shortened their life span.  And I say that I just was feeling lazy, or that they simply wouldn't eat the fresh fruits and vegetables, so I just kept making them chicken nuggets and hot dogs.  I suspect lightning would strike me right then and there.  As adults we spend so much of our life scrutinizing our diets, trying to eat better and more wisely, but while we are making ourselves a big salad for dinner, we're serving up the kids neon orange mac-n-cheese and pretending it's healthy because there are some ground up dehydrated vegetables in the pasta noodles. 

As I read the verses here in 1 Corinthians, I also see the second verse there, "I was bought with a price, so glorify God".  We were bought with a great, great price.  Jesus died so that we might live an abundant life.  That abundance is not supposed to include a horrendous diet full of excuses.  I've been saying since January that food issues have greatly been on my mind, and that feeling is just not going away.  When I think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for me, and for my children, I am not honoring His sacrifice when I feed them garbage.  It's really that simple. I know lots of people say "it's just food".  But it isn't.  Every person on the planet needs food to sustain them and to give them health.  It's not just food- it's life.  And when we purposely eat foods over and over that will affect our health adversely, we're dishonoring the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and we're definitely not honoring our temple.

Wow.  That's SO not where I was going today at all with that verse in Ecclesiastes.  But I guess that's where the Holy Spirit wanted me to go.  I have been much more mindful of what I've been feeding my kids as of late.  We got a little sidetracked on our camping vacation- because when you're in the middle of the woods, you eat what's convenient, no necessarily the best for you.  And I don't think that including a convenience food every once in a while, or hitting a drive through every once in a while is a bad thing- the bad thing is that those have become every day.  A fast food restaurant is a great savior when you're traveling and don't have the time to pack a lunch.  But it should not be a replacement for real food four nights a week- or in many cases, it's become a daily event for people.  And that's how it's become in our society.  It's terribly sad, and I do wish that there were more that I could do on a personal level to help those people that I know to do better with food.  Every time we're at the dance school for mealtimes, I cringe when I see all the microwave meals that are convenient, but loaded with sodium and preservatives, and the only nutritional value they have is that they stop a grumbling stomach for a time.  Cardboard would do that if you ate enough of it.

So I'm praying this morning for divine inspiration.  I don't know.  Is it possible that I am so driven about food simply for the benefit of my children and my husband?  I just don't think so, but I also don't see how I'm supposed to take how I feel and what I know to a broader level.  At the very least though, I can pray.  I can pray that the truth will be revealed about a lot of the foods that people eat every day, that there will be honesty and truth in food packaging, and that those I love dearly will also see the light and be aware of the horrible things they are doing to their bodies- and their children's bodies.   May God help us to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us by helping us to be better aware of the things we put into our bodies. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Shunammite Says

"When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.”
23 So he said, “Why are you going to him today?
It is neither the New Moon nor the Sabbath.”
And she said, “
It is well.” 2 Kings 4:20-23

As I read this passage yesterday about the Shunammite woman, I was captured by her responses through the whole situation.  In the verses I just shared, her son has just died.  On her lap.  And when she asked her husband for the donkey to go see Elisha, she didn't even tell him about their son's death.  She simply said "it is well."  Then she got on her donkey and went to meet Elisha.  As she came upon Elisha, she did the same thing again.  Elisha sent his servant to meet her and ask if everything was well, and she replied with the exact same thing.

"So it was, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to his servant Gehazi, “Look, the Shunammite woman! 26 Please run now to meet her, and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’”
And she answered, “
It is well.”  2 Kings 4:25-26

This is supposed to be our response in the midst of trials and tragedy.  But it's not.  The Shunammite woman watched her son die in her arms, and instead of grieving and crying and getting all upset, she very matter-of-factly went to find the man of God to bring her son back to life.  Her responses of "it is well" tell me that she fully expected that he would do that very thing- that her son would be alive and well again.  That is some incredible faith.

And how do we do with that?  When something bad is going on in our life, we tend to broadcast it to whomever will listen.  Technology like Facebook and Twitter make this even easier.  Something bad comes up and we tell anyone and everyone.  In our standard face-to-face conversations we are asked "how are you" and often times we take that as an opening to unload and share all the bad stuff going on.  Instead, we are to be like the Shunammite woman and have faith.  Our response should be that it is well, and then we should expect that God will intervene on our behalf with the trial facing us. 

A common saying here is "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade", and while it's a nice saying, it should be something more like,  "when life hands you lemons, expect them to become apples".  It's the expectation that's the hard part- the faith.  Oh, I have faith that God can move mountains all right, but sometimes, when you look at those mountains, and you KNOW that you're responsible for that mountain being there in the first place, that we don't feel right asking God to move it.  And yet, we can.  We can ask our Daddy for anything, and we can have faith that he will answer us.  Sometimes we need to go through something difficult to learn something, but we can most definitely have faith and know that God is holding our hand through the whole thing.

Our response to all trouble should be "it is well".  Sometimes, in an extreme situation, our response may be along the lines of panic or worry.  Over the last week, dear friends of ours have dealt with a family tragedy, and one of them shared this word with everyone in asking for prayer "don't worry, just pray", and I thought it was such a wonderful way to put it.  Don't worry, pray.  And when someone asks, say "it is well".  With God, all things are possible, and I like to think that it will ALWAYS be well.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Perfect Word

"As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."  Psalm 18:30

I post a lot about the importance of reading your Bible and staying in the Word as much as possible.  Honestly, I post that because I need the reminder.  Often.  It's just entirely too easy to slide that Bible reading to the side in favor of other things.  I think that's normal.  Even when I have an established routine, all it takes is one slide to turn into a big slide, and a few weeks go by without opening up my Bible. It happens. But the great thing is that it is always there- it's like "old reliable".  When I realize that it's been too long, I can pick it up, and like an old friend, I am instantly wrapped up in the Words of the Lord, and it makes my spirit incredibly happy.

I think that all too often we get wrapped up in the importance of staying in our Bibles, and we spend too much time focusing on the actual act of reading, versus just letting the words speak to us.  For years I would feel awful because I didn't have a set time during the day when I would sit and read my Bible.  It seemed like everyone who talked about that time had a specific time- and a specific amount of time- set aside just for Bible reading and prayer.  I didn't have that.  I've never had that.  The closest I get to a regular time for Bible reading is lunch time.  I like to sit down at the table when I eat lunch and spend that time reading.  There are some days that I will just read and read, I'll get engrossed, and a whole hour will go by before I know it.  But there are some days where I will open up my Bible and just read a verse or two.  One lone verse can have such a huge impact and make me really think about it, that it is enough.  I feel like I've spent time in my Bible, and I can spend the rest of the day meditating on what that one verse is saying to me.

I love that.  Did you ever notice that there are no Bible reading guidelines actually within the Bible?  Oh, it says to read it all right, but no one gives any kind of timeline.  The closest I think we get is the daily bread, which indicates that we should be in our Bibles daily.  But it doesn't say how much we should read or how long we should read.  This means great freedom for people who may beat themselves up over something like Bible reading.  A busy mom with little ones running around does not need to feel bad about having so little time to devote to The Word.  God gets that, God knows that, and He certainly knows our hearts.  When we have those days where all we can do is quickly read just one verse taped to the fridge- instead of feeling badly about only being able to do that much, we should rejoice in that opportunity- no matter how small. Just one verse can give us more than enough daily bread to chew on for a full 24 hours.

The Bible is perfect every time we pick it up.  When we only have a moment, God can still show us something wonderful hiding inside. The last thing He wants is for us to feel badly about only having a moment.  Sometimes, it's those moments that can make the most profound difference in our lives.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Praise the LORD from the earth,
         You great sea creatures and all the depths;
 8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
         Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;"  Psalm 148:7-8

The weather is at it again!  I woke up this morning to find headlines of a crazy dust storm that enveloped the Phoenix, Arizona region.  Dust storms are something I can't even imagine- maybe it's like experiencing a white-out snowstorm, only there is dirt flying everywhere instead of snow.  Regardless, it had to be a little scary to experience first-hand.  With severe thunderstorms in the forecast for much of the country today, I just felt like it was right to focus on the weather again for today's Warfare Wednesday post.  Tornadic activity has been so commonplace this year, that every time the wind picks up a bit outside, and the clouds roll in, we're heading to various websites to watch the weather and stay informed.

I pray for peace for our weather.  I pray that whatever it is that's causing all these storms to form relaxes its grip on our country and becomes peaceful.  And I pray that the weather will also balance out.  We have parts of the country that are in severe drought- its like another dust bowl.  And then we have parts of the country where the rivers are flooding like never before.   I pray that those who are dry will receive the quenching rain they need, and that those who are wet will have the winds blow to help dry up that excess moisture.

God knows what's going on, and that gives me great comfort with all the crazy weather going on.  God owns the winds, the snow, the rain, and the clouds, and He can do whatever He desires with them.  Maybe, what He's waiting for, is for His children, all across the country to come together in unity and pray for the weather patterns to correct.  Perhaps if we all took the time to agree as one that we've had enough of the bad weather, God will hear our hearts and our prayers- and see our tears, and show his mercy to the people of our country.

And wouldn't it be wonderful if those prayers for the weather started right at the top?  I pray that President Obama would see the wisdom in turning to prayer in this great time of need.  I pray that he will bend his knee and turn to the Lord God for answers and for peace for this great country.  As we celebrated our nations birthday this week, I couldn't help but think about all the miraculous events that God put into place to make this country what it was all those years ago.  God loved America then, and He still loves America today.  God loves President Obama, and He would very much love to counsel him in the right way to take this country.

May God Bless America, and may the winds of change blow across every state, and may it bring good change that will bless the people, and will glorify God in all things.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


"And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before."  Job 42:10

As I read this verse this morning, I had one predominant thought rolling through my mind.  I wondered about Job's prayer for his friends.  What exactly did he pray?  What did he say in his prayer that found such favor with God?  Unfortunately, we have no idea, as it's not written in the Bible what Job prayed.  But we do know that these friends of Job had just finished spending days berating Job.  Literally, one after the other, they spent time telling Job how worthless he was- and also time trying to convince Job to blame God for his troubles. Really, by the time the book of Job is drawing to a close, these friends really aren't seeming much like friends.  They're really behaving more like enemies.

And yet, Job obviously prays for them.  We may not know exactly what he prayed, but when he did pray for them, he did something that pleased God immensely, and it says right here that when he prayed, God restored Job's losses. His prayer unlocked something and opened up the doors for God to bless him.

So what do we do when confronted with one of these friendly enemies?  I know we all have them.  We all have people in our lives who exasperate us in one way or another.  We all have those people, who, no matter how hard we may try, we just don't see eye-to-eye with, and they trouble us. What do we do about these people, other than just try to learn to deal with the exasperation that comes from them?  We take a lesson from Job, here, and pray for them.  Simple as that.  Of all people, Job certainly could have just walked away from these friends.  He could have sent them away and told them never to return for all the awful things they said, and yet, Job chose otherwise.  Job prayed for them, and because Job prayed for the people who were causing him grief, God blessed him- and blessed him abundantly.

"Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before."

Prior to Satan's meddling in Job's life, Job was a very well-to-do man.  He had an abundance of riches, livestock, land, servants, family, and overall well-being.  Job had a great life that Satan stirred up and stole.  But in the end, when all was said and done, not only did God give back that which the enemy stole from Job, God doubled what Job originally had.  

There's a lesson here.  A simple one, but one that is probably difficult to learn and activate in reality.  When someone really offends us or causes us grief, our response should simply be to pray for them.  Our response should not be to confront them or debate them or talk about them with other people- our response should be to simply pray for them, and ask God to bless them and forgive them for their errors.  It sure sounds simple, but actually putting this into play can be so incredibly difficult. But think about the larger implications here.  Think about the church as a whole, and how frequently church splits or divides have come.  These splits come as a result of disagreement between people- and also as a result of gossip, which is usually disguised as a discussion.  The church as a whole could see healing and forward progress if each and every one of us would stop and simply pray for those who are against us.  Truly.  Think about the difference we could make if we started praying for each other instead of talking about each other.

Simply put, we need to pray.  We need to pray for those who trouble us.  Whether that be an annoying neighbor who mows their lawn at an insanely early hour, or that person at work who is always in your face and criticizing you.  Instead of any other action, we should simply pray for them.  And in the grand scheme of things- isn't prayer the easiest option anyway?  I mean, really, how long does it take to really pray for someone- a few minutes maybe. So much easier and efficient than letting their actions or words stew in us all day long.  Let's just pray for one another and start a whole new kind of revolution.  The Prayer Revolution.