Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Sin Makes Me Fat

It happened again yesterday.  I was dwelling on a recent failure, a moment when I wigged out because I sensed someone stepping into my "territory," tenuous as it is, and suddenly, chocolate sounded like a good idea.  Not only was it a good idea, it was just up the stairs, beyond anyone's view--chocolate-covered peanut butter balls.  And I knew it would solve my problem.  And make me feel better. And the world would be a better place.  Yeah, right.

Sometimes I eat because of legitimate hunger.  Sometimes because of unabashed indulgence.  Sometimes because of guilt, or fear, or hurt or frustration or....  You've got it.  Perhaps you live it.  And that's the problem.  The problem isn't the food, its tastiness or abundance.  The problem isn't my appetite.  God created both.  The problem is my heart.  Surprise!

How deceived I am to think that more sin is going to counteract initial sin...or continuing sin.  Sure, that little voice says, pile it on.  It's too late to make a difference, but you'll feel better.  You'll be satisfied.  Distracted.  All the bad little thoughts will go away.  Oh, what lies!  Self-indulgence breeds self-indulgence.  If self-control is a practice of discipline, a lack of self-control is a practice in lack of discipline.  Practice becomes performance.  And sin breeds sin.  It grows, takes on the worst of our personality, and we become captive to its desires, and consequences, and guilt, and continued choices of loss.

So, what's the answer?  Bob Newhart says, "Stop it!"  God says much the same thing--but He's in it with us.  If we have repented, believing that Jesus took our sin upon Him and rose again, we have His Spirit and His Word as our help and guide.  Here is a reminder of how to take hold of those thoughts and choices that threaten to overwhelm us:

1) Take every thought captive.  If I'm not aware of my thought life, I cannot control my words or actions.  What I think is what I become. (2 Corinthians 10:5, Proverbs 23:7)
2) Confront lies and deceit with truth.  God's Word is true.  It is living and active.  When I become aware of lies in my thought life, I need to apply the Word of God to the falsehood and "preach reality" to myself.  This happens as I search out appropriate Scripture, read it, meditate on it and memorize it. (Romans 12:2, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 4:17-23)
3) Cast the fear, anger, guilt away.  Jesus died for that sin.  It's forgiven.  Seek forgiveness as needed and move on. (1 Peter 5:6-7, Hebrews 9:13-14)
4)  Make choices as a new creation.  Choose now to do what is right.  Choose now to live apart from sin.  Christ lives in and through you, so live as He would live.  You may suffer for doing right.  That's to be expected.  (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, 2 Timothy 3:12)

Finally, I'm not in it alone.  I have others to help. To pray.  To encourage.  We are called to help one another avoid the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).  But, oh, the smoke in the mirror seems so real.  And so does the chocolate!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Expression of Gratitude

It's Christmas.  Time to say thank you to the many people who care for us and our families.  Here's an easy, one-size-fits-all gift for teachers, mail carriers, waste management workers, Sunday school teachers, etc. (unless it gets devoured first!).



Caramel Chex Mix

1- 17 oz. box Corn Chex
1 c. butter
1/2 c. light corn syrup
2 c. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 c. mixed nuts
4 c. pretzels
1 c. M &M's

Pour cereal into a large microwave-safe bowl and set aside
Combine butter, corn syrup and brown sugar in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heart.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and add baking soda.  Stir until soda is mixed in well.
Immediately pour caramel sauce over cereal.  Stir and put in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high.  Stir and repeat 2 more times.  Stir after each interval.
Let mixture cool and add pretzels, nuts and candy.
Spread out on foil or waxed paper to cool.
(Recipe courtesy of Deb Sauser and Courtney Larson)

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Col. 3:15-17 NASB).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fixing Christmas

In our Christian circles we preach to one another that Christmas is not about glitz, glitter, presents, and busyness.  Christmas is about Jesus.  So we read Scripture, think about Jesus' earthly entrance and light advent candles in anticipation.  Even so, we tend to get caught up in the fun and frolic apart from Jesus or remain stoic, removed from the celebration.
Like Christmas, our ministry efforts tend to warble and wane.  We get easily distracted by meetings,  classes,  fellowships, and rules, both written and invisible.  We lose heart, measuring godliness by human standards, forgetting that other's lives and reflections are nothing less than carnival mirrors, distorted, stretched, and warped by sin and tendencies.  
What funny creatures we are!  No matter what we do, we can't get it right.  A few weeks ago I slumped in the church van and sighed, "I can't be nice one more minute!  I've prayed, I thought I was relying on the Holy Spirit, but I am done.  D-o-n-e. Done."  A young voice chirped, "But you're only human."   The pang of truth!  How right he was.  It's not possible to get it right every time or do it perfectly or achieve success to the same degree as others.  We're only human.
It is not until we come to the end of ourselves that we look to God Himself.  Perhaps we struggle with confused priorities, or a need for humility, or the sidelong glances of others.  Regardless of the excuse, this is the root of our error; the root of disbelief, of tossing to and fro. God is not at the center.  He is unknown, unsought, unheeded.
In our despair, we cry out and draw near, squinting and prodding through Scripture like a blind man seeking shelter, only to discover He is not what we imagined.  He no longer fits the mold of our comfortable beliefs.  The harder we look and the farther we follow, the more different He is. Like Alice in Wonderland, we have entered a new world of spiritual focus and dimension.  But as we gaze upon our Savior, our Lord and King, we are changed.  We have become different from ourselves; different from those around us. 
And, as God sees fit, He blesses us in quiet moments to reveal that we are doing good, seeking justice and reproving the ruthless, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow without realizing it.  Not because of who we are or what we can do, but because of who God is and how He lives through us.  This is the obedience--not the jump-in-the-mold-of-everyone-around-me--that pleases God. 
And Christmas?  Christmas is not about me.  It's not about my family.  It's not about those in need.  Christmas is about God.  It's about Jesus' obedience and love as He left the wonder of worship, took on human form along with its limitations and made Himself our sacrifice.  As we look closer into the person of Christ, Christmas becomes much more...and much less.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.
'When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts?
Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'" (Isaiah 1:11-18)
 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When Joseph Wrapped Jesus

It was work for a coroner--and parts of that intrigue me.  The human body is amazing.  But a dead body.  A dead, beaten body?  Who are these people who wash, manipulate and care for the dead?
Joseph of Arimathea was one.  Nicodemus was another.  And their service to the dead, unrecognizable body of Christ touches me in a way I'm not sure I can communicate.

As I read the account of Joseph asking Pilate for Jesus' body (Matthew 27:50-61), I was initially impressed with his means, influence and confidence. God knew hundreds, thousands, even eons, of years in advance about Joseph. He told humankind a few hundred years beforehand (Isaiah 53:9), which I find incredible. In my journal I wrote: Joseph was exactly who God intended Him to be.  He was in the right place at just the right time and he did not miss His calling because God's hand was in it all!  Application:  I will not miss God’s call on my life.  He will provide the means and timing necessary to do exactly what He has for me to do. 

The next day I wondered what it looked like; what was the physical condition of Jesus' body after being scourged, spat upon, struck, beaten and crucified? What would it have taken to lift, transport, even wash it?  According to Jewish tradition, the body would initially be held vertical by one person while another poured water over the head and worked from the top down, cleansing and washing.  This body, unlike most, would have been difficult to piece together and cover.  It would have required great care and tedious wrapping.  As an expression of devotion and generosity, Nicodemus brought seventy five pounds of spices to apply to Jesus' body (John 19:39).

It was a messy job. Dirty. Uncomfortable. Wet. Cold. Uncertain.  Frightening. Was it something they'd done before?  Doubtful.  Certainly no one other than Mary had cared so intimately for the Son of God.  It is not something we dwell on for obvious reasons, but it is there.

And I can't help but wonder if, through His Spirit and by His Word, God has equipped His people to minister to His Body when it is beaten and afflicted and sore and wounded and weeping?  To the persecuted church, the deserted mother, the fallen pastor, the imprisoned brother, the neglected child, the hungry beggar, the discouraged teacher....  May God enable and empower us to be in the right place at just the right time.  And may we be willing to roll up our sleeves and get dirty as we love and minister to the wounded Body of Christ.  It's all about Jesus.

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

"Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:34-46).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Apples of Gold? God Has Bushels!


It's late.  I'm late.  Usually you've heard from me, but not today.  Today was hard.  But good.  Heart rending.  Freeing. As someone who didn't know or own personal preferences a few years ago, I've come a long way.  God continues to free this heart and mind from the approval of others and tie it to His goodness and righteousness.  How grateful I am to serve a Master who accepts the sacrifice of praise in the place of labor, piety or deprecation!
Most recently I was convicted that pride was marring my relationships with others in three distinct areas: 1)  Interrupting, 2) Tardiness, 3) Public eating habits.  Laugh if you must, but I am writing to tell you that God cares! And He is helping me.  God has been feeding me apples of gold in settings of silver.
As I read about Jesus' time in the temple after Palm Sunday, the groups of people that challenged and tested Him rolled, one after another after another.  Have you noticed that Jesus never interrupted?  Not only did He think He knew what they were going to say.  He knew.  He knew what they would say.  He knew what was in their hearts.  He knew the entire plan, play by play.  And never, not once, is Jesus quoted as interrupting His adversaries or those who came for help or His stumbling disciples.  He listened.  Full stop. 
If God desires me to be Christ-like (Romans 8:29), then He is calling me, by grace, to listen--and He will help, because it's His will and desire according to His Word.  The downside is, trying to apply truth in one area often leads to manifestations of self in another--like the blurty burst of babble that spewed with intensity after I'd waited sooo long and tried soooo hard not to interrupt!  Oops.  Humanity spill. 
Today, after reading about Jesus before Caiaphas and the elders, I was struck by the phrase, "But Jesus kept silent" (Matthew 26).  And wouldn't you know it was the day I would give a deposition for the first time.  How good God is.  I went into my day realizing that 1) Interrupting is loving myself more than someone else and 2) Being silent is a means of trusting God with the outcome.
In the end, what was said, not said, implied or otherwise stated is immaterial.  God is actually capable of taking care of things without my words.  Now there's a thought that should last a while.... with practice.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver...." Proverbs 25:11
Now, on to tardiness.
 

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Live Life

Life is meant to be lived.  Ideas are born; desires thwarted.  Parents decline; children depart.  Choices multiply--or disappear altogether.  Opportunities twist and turn.  In each, through each, we are. Emotions rise, exposing rich conflict, deep depravity, illogical hope, tested faith.  Words escape into open meadows of thought, displaying motives, dreams, one's inner self.  Choices land, revealing loves, likes, even preferences, at someone's expense--yours or mine.
In and through it all, God is comfort. Because I am His and He is mine, I believe.  I believe He is light, that in Him there is no darkness, no shadow of turning. His light does not come from behind or beside. It is He. I believe that as the Giver of every good and perfect gift, He knows all, allows all, sees all and can be trusted--with all:  fledgling ideas, thwarted desires, declining parents, departing children, multiplying (or disappearing) choices, twisting and turning opportunities.
Because He is, He indwells, and He empowers, then "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.... For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us... For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1, 5-7, 15 NKJV).
When in doubt, live. Not in fear. Nor despair. Nor resentment or bitterness.  But live by faith, in love, with humility and trust. As others see His grace lavished on us, they cannot help but marvel at His goodness.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, in Whom our heart rejoices. (Martin Rinkart)
(A post-Thanksgiving thought as I made up beds with flannel sheets this windy, wintry night, listening to a daughter work out piano compositions, walking past another reading, and hearing laughter from the remainder of the family: living life!  How blessed we are.)

One week later:  If you're suffering, struggling with not serving the way you'd like, or feeling inadequate for one reason or another, check out this post by David Whitcher.  You will be blessed!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful? Really?

After reading the post on how comparison robs us of contentment, my cousin commented that travel to third world countries has given her a new sense of gratitude.  The the old saying, "It could always be worse," is supposed to cheer us up when we feel down--it's a simple comparison from the top down (or the outside in).
But isn't there more?  After last week's post, I read Matthew 20 differently, looking for gratitude (or glimpses of it) in Jesus' life.
Interestingly, after addressing the dissatisfaction of the early workers, Jesus' next comments prophesy His mistreatment and crucifixion.  If someone didn't know Jesus, they might think He was applying the "it could always be worse" philosophy, but Jesus is very different than we are.
Next, James and John came with their mother to ask to sit at Jesus' right and left hand.  Jesus warned that they would need to drink the cup He'd been given (a cup of persecution and death).  That, I thought, is another way to feel better about today--"Misery loves company."
Jesus followed up the indignation of the other disciples with the teaching of first being last, and the greatest in His kingdom being the servant of all, just as He would serve by giving His life.  Ahh, a twist in the plot.  We'll come back to that.
Finally, Jesus walked the road from Jericho and was drawn by the cries of blind men.  Feeling compassion, He touched and healed them.  Perhaps this is another lesson we apply when we struggle with gratitude--"Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, help someone less fortunate."
The twist in the plot, however, throws off every cliche. Jesus knew it could be worse--the worst was coming and He would be front and center.  Jesus knew His disciples would experience false accusations, beatings and death, but I doubt the thought brought joy and freedom.  He spent significant time instructing them in how to respond to persecution and hate.  And, yes, Jesus always cared for others--the outcasts, the diseased, the unclean--but it wasn't for His personal benefit and selfish desire to feel better about Himself.
Jesus' antidote to comparison was trust.  Trust in His Father.  That is evident in His teaching about being first and last.  It is echoed in Peter's account of the events leading to Jesus' death (1 Peter 2:21-24).  It could look bad today.  It could be bad.  There were times Jesus was hungry.  God provided.  There were times He was cold and tired, but He endured.  He was falsely accused...tortured and crucified, but when God is in control, the end is taken care of, settled (Hebrews 13:2-3).  If God knows my failure, knows my grief, knows my injustice and has allowed it, then He has a plan--and it's a good plan.  Trust, through prayer and reflection on His promises, leads me to live a life of gratitude and service in spite of daily pressure and discomfort. 
"For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
Believing Jesus paid my sin debt--a price that could never be earned or repaid--leads to a life of believing. A life of contentment and gratitude.  It's all about faith.  In Jesus.  By grace.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Didn't I Get That?!




Today my husband visited a friend who was dissatisfied with his home as compared to another's. "Were you happy with your home when you bought it?" he asked.
"Yes."
"Did you pay a fair price?"
"Yes."
"Did it have the features you asked for?"
"Yes."
"Then why are you unhappy?"
The truth, he realized, was comparison. Comparison robbed him of contentment.
The same is true in ministry. Sometimes I become discontent, not because God has not given me good things, but because I see what someone else has and it changes my expectations. Last Monday Teresa came for our weekly prayer time, and listened to the burdens of my heart.  We shared the weight of personal ministry, Scripture and time in prayer. After she left, I continued my readings in Matthew.  Chapter 20: Laborers in the Vineyard.  Ah, yes, the root of discontent and envy is not the Master, but my expectations.
Here are some thoughts from Matthew 20:1-16:
v. 10-11, 15; “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it they grumbled at the landowner…. But he answered, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’”
Impression: The hired men received what they agreed upon—a denarius for a day's work. They were treated fairly by a generous landowner. They began the day on sound footing, working hour upon hour with a reasonable expectation of payment. At the end of the day, they were not cheated or robbed--they were paid. But when they saw their payment compared to others, dissatisfaction surfaced. Even though they received what was agreed upon, their expectations had changed and they reacted to the expectation instead of reality.
They had been content. Now they were envious. They had been committed workers. Now they were resentful. They had worked alongside one another. Now they were critical. They had jumped at a wonderful opportunity. Now they were ungrateful. Expectations, real or imagined, met or unmet, often make way for sinful thoughts, behaviors and choices. The change in expectation (“Look what he got! Surely I’ll get more.”) led to sinful behavior (envy, criticism, discontent).
Application: How often is my disappointment and discontent a function of comparison? God has given what He promised. He has lavished me with lovingkindness, forgiveness, full access to His throne, peace, hope and joy. God has provided and will provide. He is the God of His Word. Very simply, my unhappiness and discontent is most often a function of what others have, not of what God hasn’t given. Envy breeds discontent, ingratitude, resentment, bitterness, dissension, and anger. It has nothing to do with other people or circumstances. It is, much of the time, a change of my expectations—and the fact that they are not met in my time or my way. It is more about what someone else has, not what I don't have.
Discontent is the result of focus. When I am discontent, the question to ask is, "Where are my eyes? Are they on the Giver or the receiver?" When my eyes are on the Giver, I have all I need and more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

When Busy is Too Busy

Two comments made on call-in radio shows yesterday stuck in my head.  A woman cooed, "Jesus never turned away anybody."  And a centenarian declared, "Everything you do is a choice."
So, I can serve everybody and be like Jesus.  That is a choice.  But is it the best choice?  And is that really true?  This morning I realized that being like Jesus is about more than people.  It's about more than service.  It's about managing my life in a way that honors and pleases Him; being a vessel fitted for His use.
Miles J. Stanford gives new perspective to the this concept when he writes:
"Our Father is not seeking to abolish us as human beings and have the Lord Jesus replace us.  He is seeking to restore us as human personalities so that we may be the vehicle through which Christ will express Himself.  Therefore you find that whenever God gets hold of a man, instead of abolishing his personality, He makes it what He intended it to be.
"Redemption is the recovery of the man, Not the destruction of the man.  And when the Lord Jesus in us is brought to the place He is aiming for, there will not be an atom of the old life left, but the man will be left--glorified in union with the Lord Jesus Christ."  (The Complete Green Letters, p. 180).
Then, this morning after reading in Matthew, as I blended pumpkin bread ingredients for our ladies' workday at church, I remembered my own checkpoint for being too busy.  I am too busy when my weaknesses bite me in the behind.
My priority relationship is with God.  When that time is pushed aside, when I don't have control of my thoughts or the desire to invest in Him each morning and throughout the day, I'm too busy.
My next priority is my husband.  When I am unable to serve him and put him ahead of my schedule and other demands, I'm too busy. (This is my gotcha! and, at the moment, I'm too busy....)
Weight has always been a struggle.  When I fail to eat right and exercise because "I don't have time," I'm too busy.
Each child has a full, one-hundred-percent-experience of life.  When I don't hear or register what is important to them and what is happening in their hearts and minds, I'm too busy.
And our home.  I enjoy having a clean, orderly home.  And I don't even mind the work.  It's just that other things seems more important....  When I'm too busy to manage our home with cleanliness and excellence, I'm too busy.
Now for the hard part:  saying "no."  I think that was in Jesus' vocabulary, too.  It all comes down to deciding who is most important.  When I fill my life with things that make me feel good, with people who pat me on the back, with activities that tickle my fancy, I am pleasing myself.  When I allow Christ to control those areas where I am lacking, my life reflects His approval and design as most important and I am pleasing Him.  How does that ditty go?  "Just two choices on the shelf, choosing God or choosing self" (Ken Collier).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Gift of Gratitude

All four children and I traveled to Wyoming last weekend to see my family, especially my ailing grandmother.  While there, my dad thanked me for tools we've given him that travel in his to-the-hills vehicle.  My heart filled, knowing that he not only remembers what we gave, but continues to be reminded of us.  I was touched by his acknowledgment and remembrance of our gifts.
And just as quickly, I was convicted of my own ingratitude.  How often do I thank God and others?  For gifts of each day? For surroundings, family and friends?  My ingratitude is a measure of self-focus.  I am more concerned with myself, my agenda and my own musings than others.  Or God.  I do not give thanks.  I do not remember His goodness.  I do not acknowledge the gifts or the Giver.  As a result, life is strained, stressful and surprisingly empty.
The experience with my dad reminded me of a discussion I had with a biblical counselor the day we left.  He said, "What do we get when God is glorified?  We get joy."  The beauty of creation or the working out of redemption is an indescribable blessing.  In the moment we see it, we are full.  Fulfilled.  Content.  Complete.  The revelation of God's goodness, majesty and power speaks.  His Spirit within convicts.  And we experience the kingdom of God.  Heaven.  Joy. 
Even as Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, his disciples saw a glimpse of His glory and fell on their faces in worship.  He is worth the praise, worth the thanks, worth the glory and honor.  And in that moment, we understand the small part we play.  His who He is apart from my existence.  He does not need my worship, but His greatness and holiness demand it.  My heart bows in reverence, not because it is mine to give, but because it is His due.  Praise is given when we have seen the Lord.  We know He that is--He that is hidden, behind the veil--and we are blessed.
In the difficult days of life, in the moments of despair, I am blessed to look upon the Lord.  To see Him high and lifted up, to see Him exalted, to visit His glory is to have joy inexpressible.  And as my grandmother struggles to manage pain and loneliness, we redirected her to that very God--the One who blesses us through our praise, the One who gives as He receives (read Psalm 71 to encourage the aged saints).  He gives grace...and joy...and hope.  He is.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Satisfaction

We set up Good News Club at the elementary school as they announced the results of the student council election.  And there were cheers.  And tears.  Accolades and best wishes.  Condolences and hugs.  It's great to win.  And it's rough to lose.
We had at least two defeated candidates in club and God had planned the perfect verse, "Be content with what you have, for God has said, 'I will never leave you.'"  It was hard to speak in the face of pain, tears and disappointment, but the gospel is always good news. 
The gospel says, "God loved me so much He gave His best, His only, as a sacrifice for me."  And as we learned the verse together and prayed, asking God to give us contentment, I had to admit that there are some things in my life that cause me to think, "If only I had (     ), my life would be better."
The kids shared their if-only's: the DX-MX454 (or whatever the newest gadget is), an ipad, an ipod, an iphone, a better friend, a bigger family, and the list went on.  But when we looked at the life of King Ahab, we saw the path of wanting what God has not given: death and destruction. 
If I really, truly believe God is God and He loves me, I will trust Him to provide what is best.  I can trust Him to provide what I need.  And I will be content--satisfied with my job, my home, my car, my body, my children, my church....  When I have a need, I will ask God and wait. And I will wait with hope and anticipation, knowing that whatever He chooses is best.
This morning that message still rang in my head as David and I read from Psalms. When it was my turn to pray, I asked God to make me more grateful.  My stinky self is never grateful, never satisfied, but God....  God is within, doing His supernatural work.  Then, as I sorted clothes for the washing machine, I was surprised to hear myself say, "Thank you, God, for the children that wear these clothes.  Thank you for the privilege of knowing them and being part of their lives.  Thank you for the gifts you've given them and the gifts they are to me."  And I knew God had answered my prayer.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Un-Bucket List

I stopped in my tracks as I read, "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  It was the verse of the day above my kitchen sink, but it stayed there more than a week.
The context wasn't new.  The verse wasn't new.  But I wondered how many weaknesses or infirmities I could list in thirty seconds.  Even a minute.  I wanted to, but knew I would come up lacking.  If my weakness is truly my boast and pleasure, it should be at the forefront of my mind.  I should be able share a fifteen-minute discourse.  What I needed was an here-I-am-after-kicking-the-bucket list.  You laugh because you know that, by now, God has given me the privilege. 
A few days into my brewing weakness inventory, the morning was dreary and I wanted to sit back and do nothing. I had a couple of hours and knew I could hunker down with hot chocolate, animal crackers, and a chick flick.  The house was empty.  But thoughts of the manuscript I wanted to edit, the emails that needed to be sent, the laundry, cleaning and cooking hammered in my head.  "God, if you want me to get it done, you're going to have to move me.  I don't want to do any of it."  It wouldn't have gotten done, but it did.  I am weak.  God is strong.
To make more sense of the verse, I studied "weakness" in other Scripture passages.  In Romans, Paul wrote, "I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh."  That rattled in my head for a day or two.  "The weakness of your flesh...."  And I remembered the Roman death penalty that involved tying a murder victim to the murderer's body, limb to limb, until the murderer succumbed to infection and decay. Our spiritual, "new man," indwelt by the Spirit, is incorruptible and can't be decayed, but I pictured the hand of my new man reaching out to offer compassion or care, bound to the old man's hand.  Both are visible and present. Thus the struggle with sparring motivations. When the foot of my new, Christ-filled self steps out in faith, it is accompanied by a rotting foot that seeks to go it's own way.  Moving forward requires determination, prayer and dependence on God.  This is the weakness of my flesh (and gives life to Romans 7-8).
Friday I emailed a dear friend who lived 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 the last two years.  After reading her response and enjoying the wonderful turnout we had for a bonfire with international students at our home, the light came on.  We appreciate, acknowledge and praise people for the outcome of a successful event, project or activity.  But the praise and thanks does not belong to us.  It is the "power of Christ."  Mine is the weakness; the inability to reach the goal; the incapacity to control the variables, the infirmity and ignorance that precede and intersect each interaction, each moment.  My glory, my boast, is in what I cannot do.  Why? Because as God works, He is magnified.  My inability is a directional device that points others to Him.  The results build His reputation as a powerful, loving, amazing God who works marvelously through objects that were once dead, but walk in newness of life--breathing His breath, using His eyes, thinking His thoughts, functioning as His Body. 
What a gracious, loving God to use empty vessels!  Empty.  For if we are not empty, how will He fill us?
Which begs the questions:  How empty am I?  How weak?  How aware of my pain and sorrow and brokenness?  If God is glorified in my weakness, do I know it?  Walk in it?  Glory in it?  I've started a yes-I've-kicked-the-bucket-and-this-is-how-you-know-it list.  I hope you'll join me.

 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Gift of Personal Worship in a Corporate Setting

Worship is a lot like eating.  It's personal.  What goes in is who we become.  What's been ingested is evident to others, lacking the details.  Worship and eating are both private and corporate practices.

After a piano offertory last week, a gentleman approached wanting to ask a "personal question." 
Knowing this grandpa has a great sense of humor I said, "Sure,"with a laugh .
"Do you ever play for just you?"
"Of course.  When I'm stressed, or need time to think or just worship. I leave whatever I'm doing and play."
"I thought so," he said with a smile.

When each of worships God personally, our corporate worship becomes richer, fuller, deeper.  One of my friends has the ability to pray Scripture, especially the Psalms.  She speaks with passion and heartfelt humility, her voice rising, falling, tapering to silence.  Before she completes a petition, every eye in the room is moist and every nose sniffles.  Our hearts are satisfied; we have experienced God differently through her experience and expression than we have through our own.

Regardless of how we minister in our local churches, we must come setting aside self and revealing God as we know Him through His Word. What thoughts or Scriptures aid you in corporate worship and ministry?  I'd love to hear your answers.  Would you leave one here, even if it's brief?

"Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.... As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:1, 9-11 NKJV)
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 NKJV) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

People Who Ruin My Life

I have been thinking about you lately.  Yes, you.  And wishing I knew you better, or knew more about you.  Some of you I've met in brief comments here at Heart Quencher.  Others of you share encouragement over the phone or in passing.  Each response is precious.  Each response represents one of you seeking the Lord, desiring to serve Him, striving to live the gospel in a world that is very much against it.  If there is a topic that would be helpful to see here, or if you'd like to see more practical tips, or have ideas to share, please don't hesitate to comment or send me a personal note. I'd love to hear from you!

This last week I've spent time with a couple of friends whose lives are being ravaged and torn apart by someone else's choices.  Perhaps you've been there.  Someone you love is making a series of choices that not only create tension and inconvenience, but tear your heart from your chest, expose it to the world, and leave you feeling used and confused.  We talked about sin--that is our natural bent, that is what we choose.  Too often we are surprised that people do wrong when it should be the opposite.  We should be amazed, praising God when people (including ourselves!) trust Him and obey, regardless of the circumstances.
"I don't know if _________ is saved," each woman said, and I heard the desire of her heart, having asked it of myself and others.   
"Jesus said to look at the fruit (Matthew 7:16-23)."
Knowing the right answers, claiming to do work in Jesus' name, and participating in church activities are not the fruit--but that is often what we look for.  And it's not so much about examining the fruit in others as it is about examining the fruit in our own lives.
In his book, Changed Into His Image, Jim Berg challenges us to look at our response to difficult situations as a way to determine spiritual fruit.  When hardship comes, do I respond with jealousy, anger, disputes, drunkenness, immorality, or striving?  Or do I find myself showing love, kindness, patience, peace and gentleness?  The overflow of my heart, in my words and actions, is the fruit of my life.  It is the difference between who I am naturally and who I am when God's Spirit resides within. 
When difficulty, pain or rejection come into my life I have a choice between my way and God's way.  The trials are meant to build up my patience and steadfastness, allowing God to work our Jesus' character in both big and little things (James 1:3).  My hunch is that Noah's first assignment from God wasn't building an ark for 120 years.  He was faithful in the little things and then the big things, as God presented them (Luke 16:19, Matthew 25:29).
And that is where the difficult people come into our lives.  God uses them.  He grows us in Christlikeness as a result of their sinful tendencies.  He may actually use them to protect us in a mysterious way we cannot understand.  But we can trust His faithfulness, His wisdom, and His love and praise Him through the process!

"Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
"And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.!" (Matthew 7:24-30, 37-43). 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Journal from a Farm Wife

Yesterday I struggled with godliness.  Instead of my chirpy, cheerful self I found myself withdrawn and grumpy.  It might have been the offer to drive the grain cart for my husband, but I had given up my agenda willingly; I didn't feel cheated or obligated.  It might have been the unwieldy cart, full of grain, that wiggled and jiggled and rocked, making me nervous.  Or it might have been the dust and traffic on the gravel roads as I drove back and forth from the field to the grain bins.  The stress of it all stole my joy.  I know the time I nearly lost control on a downhill slope with a ton of beans attached behind didn't help.  That was simply terrifying.

I tried to cheerful, and helpful, and kind.  But I just couldn't get there.  I wanted to be happy.  And I wasn't unhappy.  But I just couldn't put a smile in my voice on the two-way radio.  And I just couldn't wave in excitement as David passed me in the field, chugging from one end to the other with the combine.

I guess it's life.  A bump in the road.  It happens sometimes.  That's what grace is for.
(Finished a week after the fact....)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Effective Ministry

 
When we spend time serving others, we often find ourselves looking for the most productive, efficient, cost-effective means.  We want a powerful program that requires as little effort as possible--because time is precious and the demands of life are great.  My guess is that the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' day felt much the same way.  The people were many, the sacrifices, rules and demands were great (although many were the result of their own making--ahem!).
When Jesus called their bluff and rebuked them, these leaders wanted a sign--a way to judge His validity.  Perhaps, greedily, they were looking for a new technique or program that would improve their ministry.  What Jesus offered was not some thing, but some One.

 
 
 

In so many ways, we want to be the someone of our lives.  We pray, asking God to fix what doesn't suit us, or change it altogether.  What God has in mind, however, is to clean the clutter of our useless desires and replace them with His own.  His desires, His perspective, His way of thinking.  We can't fabricate God.  But we can, through His indwelling Spirit, know and become like Him, if we trust  His Son, Jesus.  Without repenting of love for myself and and asking Him to take His rightful place, the home of my heart will not change.  I can dress it up with church attendance, generosity, baptism, or any number of religious activities.  But without Jesus, there will be no lasting effect: no effortless love or peace or joy.  No inherent goodness or kindness.  Each thought, each act will be polluted with self: self-exaltation, manipulation and my own personal agenda.  This is what the Pharisees wanted--power to remain the same with an appearance of godliness.
 
But life with Jesus may not be what we expect: a pretty, come-to-church-smelling-good-and-everyone-will-adore-me life.  We may actually lose the appearance of godliness for a time (the mess tends to gets worse before it gets better). And the somethings of our life, the circumstances and outer array, may not change.  But once the Someone in charge does, life is very different.  The inside of my house is clean.  I can serve Jesus and go about my business with a song regardless of the circumstances.  I can kneel at His feet and weep.  I can cry in His lap and be comforted.  He is there.  Will always be there.  I may not look as "put together" as some.  I may not be as efficient as some.  My methods may even lack snaz and pizzaz.  But He is there.  And I have joy. And love for others.  And I become more and more like Him from the inside out.
 
If you are serving the people of God instead of the God of people, stop looking for what God can do.  Look at Who He is.  To follow Jesus is to be quiet, humble, gentle, loving, kind, and good, valuing the will of the Father above the will of myself. And that is so very opposite of who I am on my own.  "Oh, to be like Jesus."
 
“Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
And in His name Gentiles will trust.” (Matthew 12:18-21)

(Thoughts after reading Matthew 12.)
 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

As You Go (Don't Forget to share Your Gospel Fuzzy!)

We're getting ready to start hosting Good News Club in the public elementary school this week.  Last Saturday we set up a booth at the local Children's Festival and made around 200 Gospel Fuzzies"  Even Mrs. Hinky Dink, the clown, sported a gospel fuzzy strolling up and down the street!


Sharing the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is exactly what His earthly ministry was about.  I was thinking of the opportunity to share the good news of God's forgiveness with children when I read Matthew 4. 
Matthew 4:23  says, "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease, and every kind of sickness among the people."
When Jesus commands us to go (Mt. 28:18), He asks no less of us than He did of Himself. And the question isn’t will I go.  I already go somewhere everyday.  Each week I go countless places and see many different people.  The real question is how will I go?  Will I go in obedience, making disciples, or will I go in disobedience, seeking my own pleasure and desires?

And you?  How will you go today?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What I Don't Deserve

Guess what?  Doing what's right doesn't earn me good things.  You know that.  I know that.  Then why was I bummedwhen I returned from helping a friend to find a parking ticket on my windshield?  Why was my only detention in Middle School due to a good deed?
One might argue that we have a sense of justice--instilled by our Creator--that expects tit for tat.  The truth, however, is that most of the time I tat. I wouldn't admit it.  I try not to think about it.  You don't want to hear it because maybe you're the same, but if I'm honest, I take and don't return.  I inconvenience, manipulate and disservice others without noticeable consequences.  I sin against God and choose to think maybe He didn't see.  Or didn't care.  Or my actions were justified.
But God... Does He really use eternal scales, good vs. bad?
Not according to Scripture--and that's a good thing.  If He were to truly weigh my heart (good intentions and otherwise) and actions, each of us would come up short.  When we see reality for what it is, we are  helpless.  Hopeless.  Dead.  Each of us is disobedient and rebellious, wanting my own way all the time; totally, completely deserving of eternal punishment.  The only time I do good is when it benefits me in some way, shape or form. Period.
But God... who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:5-10, NKJV).
Have you ever used that passage to compare yourself and God?  I hadn't until now.  Here's the breakdown:
Me:
dead (verse 1)
walking in trespasses and sin (verse 2)
following my desires and wants (verse 3)
deserving of wrath (verse 4)
needing rescue (verse 5)
unable to do enough good (v. 9)
God:
rich in mercy (v. 5)
full of love (v. 5)
exercises love (v. 5)
gives life (v. 5)
raises me up (v. 6)
makes me sit in heavenly places (v. 6)
lavishes exceeding riches on me (v. 7)
demonstrates undeserved kindness toward me (v. 8)
rescues me out of His goodwill, as a gift (v. 9)
makes me His workmanship (v. 10)
recreates me in Christ Jesus (v. 10)
prepares good works for me to walk in (v. 10)

There is none like our God.  We cannot, will not come before Him apart from His grace and mercy; His lovingly kind touch.  So what's a parking ticket?  An opportunity to show His grace and mercy instead of the stinky, rotting response that comes naturally.  And it's all good.  Because He has been so good to me.
 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Love or Not to Love: That is the Question

Birthday cards.  They're almost out of style, especially with facebook at our fingertips.  This morning our daughter, Laura, and I picked out and addressed birthday cards, laughing at pictures and words as we considered each name and whether they would appreciate being an "inspiration" or laugh at a gloppy picture of gummy bears.  Last Saturday we purchased the cards at a nearby Amish store (which is an adventure in itself) and, referring to our simple spreadsheet, we addressed and dated cards for those on my husband's deacon care list and in our Sunday school class.
Why? Each photo, each message, is an expression of love, a remembrance of times together, a tribute to life.  To love--to have compassion--is to act, to reach out, to see and feel another's experience.  And respond.  A birthday card is simple way to knock on the door of someone's life. But our calling is so much greater.  When I walk as one who bears Jesus' name, my heart sees the needs of others and, as Jesus works through me, my agenda dissipates.  His prevails.
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’"
"...when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:13, 36-38).
To follow Jesus is to love, to have mercy, to be and to pray for laborers of His harvest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Want Change?

Limp, hobble, stop.  Limp, hobble, stop. "Unclean! Make room!" A sharp stone cut his foot and blood flowed, but he didn't feel it.  He scratched scaly skin on his face with scabbed, stubby digits.
"Jesus?  Lord?"  And Jesus drew near. 
For the leper, life was difficult, painful, long.  Each day, each meal, was uncertain. People were impossible.  Those who could help didn't.  Those who wanted to, couldn't.  Each agonizing step led to death, one foot in front of the other.  Until Jesus came.  Compared to leper two thousand years ago, no one was more poor in spirit than he, no one more hungry, thirsty or persecuted; no one more anxious and worried, no one more judged and condemned. No one longed more for the Golden Rule, no one saw more clearly the hypocrisy of its spiritual leaders.
So he came.  He came to Jesus and asked to be cleansed.  Not healed.  Cleansed.  The words, the power and authority of Jesus' teaching spoke to his heart; changed his thinking.  As he sat, perhaps hour after hour, he wanted something more.  He didn't approach Jesus for physical healing, but for the opportunity to enter the courts of the temple once more, to be right with God, to have his heart renewed--and physical healing was the vehicle, the ticket, to restoration.  Physical healing made it possible for him to worship and be one with God's people.
Jesus heard.  He inquired.  He touched.  He healed.  He restored.
Jesus' goal was not to heal broken, wounded bodies.  He is the Ruler of heaven's kingdom.  Reigning deity in the peasant garb (Philippians 2).  A walking, talking sacrifice--dead man walking--that would lead us to God (1 Peter 3:18).  It is only as we listen that we desire Him, that our eyes move from the immediate to the eternal, from the story to the Author.  Isn't that what Jesus taught on the mount?  "...if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.... seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness....he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
Want change?  Need change?  Long for change?  You will not find it apart from God's Word.  Read it.  Bathe in it.  Meditate on it.  Think it.  Read it again.  Then ask.  You'll be amazed at what God is already doing, and will continue to do.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What I Need

I desperately need to read my Bible. 
Sometimes I don't think so.
Sometimes I don't want to.
Sometimes I put other things first.
But I need it.

Why?

Because it's different than who I am.
It's different than what I think.
It's different than what I do.
It's different than what I say.
It's the opposite of my natural tendencies.

On my own, I flatter, gossip, lie.
On my own, I overindulge and wallow.
On my own I malign and protect myself.
On my own I manipulate and scheme.
On my own I meddle and whine.

God says speak the truth in love.
God says put others first.
God says don't worry.
God says trust.

And I can't.
But He can.
And He will.
What I need...is Jesus.  Jesus from within; Jesus from without.

Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth" (John 17:17 NASB).
"Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Little Boys Grow Up

I am sad this morning.  If you are one of my close friends, you may be tempted to call or email, but honestly, that would make me feel worse.  Just say a prayer and let me write and God will continue His good work.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting a new mom.  There were diaper bags by the door, toys on the floor.  There was an army-crawling baby and fresh banana bread.  It was a wonderful time, a time of reflection for me and new experiences for her.  Her little guy grunted and squawked.  He squirmed and wiggled.  Oh, those were hard days.  Longs days.  Days of isolation, exhaustion, and few rewards.  And I thought of my little wiggling, grunting boy who is away at his first year of college.  There was a burst of joy and sadness.  And gratitude.  God has been so good.  This new mother, with her eyes on Jesus, is already praying for and with her son.  Her husband is man of faith. What a joyous, blessed future they have!

Then last night I watched from a distance as a father brought his boys to church.  He won't stay.  Hasn't stayed.  He brings the boys and disappears.  He moved out on his family.  Church is not a comfortable place. Ah, what heartache.  And I thought of all that father has given up.  Of the brokenness, pain, tears, and struggle those little boys experience and will continue to experience.  I couldn't smile.  I couldn't wave.  I couldn't bring myself to welcome him.  I was angry and disappointed seeing what he doesn't, or chooses not to.

And when my husband returned from an afternoon at the farm show with our son and his new roommates, I was jealous and upset and I didn't know why.  And I missed our little boy and I was angry at that father and I wanted to encourage that new mother.  And saw the wonderful, incredible privilege of the long nights, the short nights, the frustration, the exhaustion, the tiredness of picking up after everyone and the countless piles of laundry and floor silt.  And I am seeing more and more how good God is and how frail I am and how many times I depended on Him without realizing it.

I've added a new page to this blog, "Praying Hands."  It's the prayer pattern we taught our children when they were little.  Use it, personalize it.  If you have children at home, revel in their prayers.  You will never regret the time spent loving your children as God does, teaching them as Christ would, living with them in the same way the Spirit lives within you.

Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:10-12)
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17)
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Value of Knowing One's Self

Awhile back I shared how God chose to use my area of weakness (keeping house) to minister to others ("God in my Weakness").  In the space of two days, I visited three of my friend's homes and helped them clean and organize: one who is entering full-time missions with four young children and needs to down-size big time, one who moved into a new home with no built-in storage and brought  children and furnishings from Africa, the U.K., Germany and Kenya, and a family from the Congo who purchased their first American home.

What a privilege and humbling opportunity!  Being asked was a compliment.  Spending time with them and seeing their hearts in their homes was a blessing.

Our time was not so much about my expertise (ha!) as it was for each mom and family to understand and know themselves and their needs.  I simply entered their homes and asked, "How can I help?"  Followed by, "What do you need here?  What have you done in the past?  What is do-able for your family?" etc.  They needed to discover themselves and think through a new situation.  After talking about who they are and how their family works, we considered options and possibilities.

When Christ moves into our lives through faith, He knows it all--but we will miss much of the blessing and fullness if we don't study ourselves as we learn of Him and His ways.

That came to mind as I read between books yesterday:

"As a parent, my goal is not only that my children come to know God, but that in so doing, they also come to know themselves.  It's only when a person knows God that he can truly know himself, and as this happens, his hunger for God increases.  This critical interplay of the spiritual life is what we want to see produced in our teenagers, a deep personal knowledge of God and an every-growing knowledge of self."  Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp, p.

"The oft-quoted words, 'not I, but Christ,' tend to give the believer the impression that he as a person is crucified, and out of the picture, and now there is only Christ as his new life.  He is wont to feel that he must somehow get himself out of the way, that Christ may be all.  Granted, the old self must go down--but the new self must grow up.
"It is true that He is our risen life, but it is also true that His is the life and nature of our newly created life, 'For to me to live is Christ,' 'Christ, who is our life; (Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4, italics mine).  We are not to become lost in Him, but He is to be found in us. 'That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh' (2 Cor. 4:11).  He lives in me, not instead of me; He is the source and motivation of my Christian life.
"I am to realize and rest in the fact that it is my being, my personality, which is enlifed by the human-divine life and nature of the Lord Jesus.  I am the same person, but with a new life in union with His life.  By the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit I will grow in grace and increasingly be conformed to His image."  The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford, p. 146.

How well do I know myself, my habits, my abilities, my weaknesses?  Each is intended for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ.  As I look into His Word, I need to ask, "How would Jesus live and look in my being?"  That's worth thinking and praying about!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Life at Home

This time of year the controversy between home school, public school, private school, and fill-in-the-blank school comes to a head.  Today's blog is different than some.  We shared a challenge at our home last night  and I wanted to encourage parents and students that God is working in and through us, that life is ministry, no matter where we are.

My husband and I are intentional about sending our children to public school (you can read more in the page on this blog, "To Tango with a Teacher").  However, we do not oppose the idea or practice of homeschooling.  As a certified teacher, I have supervised homeschooling families for the last 15 years.

That said, let me share some of what God is doing in our youngest daughter's life in public school. 

Yesterday was the first day of the year.  She came home from fifth grade happy and excited.  She'd even finished her homework on the bus.  Yay, God!  But around suppertime there was conflict which led to a complete meltdown.  Remember Elijah?  The root of her reaction was that she felt left out and unfriended at school.  I'm sure there are real reasons (we all struggle with a sinful nature) and spiritual reasons.

What began in tears opened an opportunity to visit with her about God's view of friendship.  Those of us who belong to God don't "need" people.  We love them.  When we realize how much God loves and values and treasures us, we don't live or die based on the approval of others.  We are already approved.  So instead of living to be noticed and liked by others, we live knowing we are noticed and loved by God and we can love people.  No strings attached.  (Thank you, Ed Welch, author of When God is Big and People are Small and Lou Priolo, author of Pleasing People).

It's something she and I worked on this summer with her sisters, but now she's in a different playing field and is learning to think about loving others the way God does.

It wasn't until we were on our way home from church that the "Elijah" piece came together.
She was nearly jumping in the backseat after leaving church, "Mom!  I got two tracts at church tonight.  Now I can give one to Chloe at school tomorrow!"
"Why Chloe?"
"Because yesterday in line she said her grandma died and she wondered where she went.  She said she wants to go to heaven, but doesn't know if she will.  I told her I know I'm going. And I told her how she can know, too!"
So that was it!  Spiritual victory often gives way to emotional and physical fatigue.  Perhaps that is why other pieces of the day hit hard and left her feeling blue.  And that's okay.  God is at work and she is laying up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  Once again, God has blessed us and we are grateful.
What a wonderful picture of God working in our childrens' lives--and ours.

Please leave a story of your own to encourage others or thoughts about your child's growth in their school environment.  I'd love to hear you brag on God!