Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Living in Truth

     The truth will set you free.  Free from worry.  Free from a life of stress and discontentment.  Free from anger, jealousy, and hate.  Free from so many of the things that we, as humans, burden ourselves with only because we won’t live in truth.  We have to seek the truth.  Young David did, “Show me how you work, God; school me in your ways.  Take me by the hand:  Lead me down the path of truth.  You are my Savior, aren’t you? 
     Look no further than to God and you will find it.  God is love and love will find you.  Burdened with worry, seek God.  Trouble in a relationship, look to God for the answer.  Not only go to Him, but go to Him with thanksgiving in your heart.  Go to Him and tell Him what you do have, thanks to Him.  He knows your heart, He knows what is wrong, and He already has a plan for your entire life.  Thank Him.  Praise Him and let Him know that you’re aware of how He works for your good.  You know He takes care of you.  A life of gratitude will bring you peace. 
     God never promises that we won’t have painful situations.  I believe we have to, to make us appreciate the calm after the storm.  In order to gain all that we can from this life, we have to suffer.  Shouldn’t we suffer?  Christ suffered ridicule and a painful death, through no fault of his own.  He chose to do it for us.  Why should we have any blessings at all?  We deserve none of it.  Each day holds something for us to throw out our thanks, to cry out to God not in anguish or despair, but in disbelief that He has chosen to give us anything. 
     He’s that good.  Even though we don’t deserve His love and will never completely understand it, He gives.  He undoubtedly has every right to take and He does.  In that instance, a life of gratitude becomes a challenge.  So much so, that all blessings seem as though they have never existed.  We want to cry out, but not in gratitude, but to be rescued from our pain.  What would happen if in the midst of our pain, we cried out “Thank you, Lord, thank you!”  I honestly don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.  Have you?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pressing On...

     If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it.  Isn’t that what we’ve heard?  Why then, do I continue to want and want, but not do the work to get it?  I know the rules and what I have to do.  I have done it before.  I know where to get support, and where to get my strength to persevere.  I know what it feels like to achieve.  What I don’t know is what I’m waiting for.
     I think of Naaman.  He was sick and tired of his body, so fragile and ill.  He was an outcast and living in misery.  A prophet, he heard, could heal him.  So he went.  He was given his instruction, he knew what to do and what it would take for healing, but he doubted and waited.  He tried to reason himself away from the one thing he wanted more than anything.  All of his friends watched him and wondered why he wouldn’t just submit, just try.  They told him how they felt.
     When he was finally convinced to just try, it worked.  He was healed.  He let go of his stubborn will and he did what it took to achieve his goal.  How much time was wasted, isn’t written.  I don’t want to waste any more time.  I’m ready to be healed.  I’m ready to fight for what I want.  Sometimes a few words from someone who loves and cares are all that is needed to convince you.  Thank God for real love, it never fails.
     Starting today, I’m going to follow the rules and obey the spirit that guides me to make my decisions.  I won’t doubt or reason with myself.  I will just keep pressing on toward my goal to gain my prize.  I will seek support from my loving friends.  I will ask for strength from above.  I will do this with my goal always in my mind and knowing that all it takes is hard work and dedication.  I will do this!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Beloved

     I’ll bet you think I don’t feel anything anymore.  I often wonder if I’ll ever live down my title of being a pragmatist.  I want to.  I want to dig down deep inside myself and find the “me” that used to have time to sit and think about the aches in my heart, or the longing desires to get up and DO!!  I think about the person from long ago that would hurt so much, sleeping or eating was impossible.  The person that would lose herself in the expectations of an event; even if it meant being disappointed in the end.  I want to dream more, laugh more, live more, love more!
     Somewhere along the way, feelings were pushed back so priorities could move to the head of the line.  Relaxation and time for taking life in, was lost to running.  Always running.  A relentless river, ever running with no real destination.  Just to get there, to get it done and get on to the next thing.  Instead of running to the ocean, a vast and beautiful refuge to get lost in and appreciate; I was running to the swamp, achieving life but at a standstill with no variety, and all of the beauty hidden in the marsh of responsibilities.
     I want to be the person you asked to marry.  Love was at the forefront of my heart and mind.  You didn’t have any faults, you were everything.  You still are.  Your kindness astounds, your tender heart always softens mine.  Though I may not always show it, I need you.  I have dared to ponder what life would be like if you were suddenly gone.  I have to stop, because I can’t fathom the pain and wonder how I will ever be able to do that.  Only God and He alone could rescue me from that kind of heartache. 
     You are the love of my life, so good to me and to your children.  Your sacrifices are surely being recorded in that book of life we know is awaiting us someday.  God tells us to keep no record of wrongs, but it is never written that we should not remember the good that someone has done for us.  I do, and there are no words to express how grateful I am to you that you love me like Christ loved his church.  I only wish that I had written this love letter in February for our 15th Anniversary, but here it is, in it’s own time.  Please receive it with all the love in my heart.  I love you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

For One More Day...

     Squeals of delight ebb and flow from my bedroom window, as I iron the same clothes from last week.  I listen to my children, so full of joy in a world with so much turmoil.  I want them to stay that way forever.  I would sacrifice my most prized possession if I could shelter them from pain, but I know also that they need pain to grow.  Just last week I had a wake-up call, a real epiphany showing me how much they still don’t know about the ways of the world.  Part of me was very happy that I had done my job to protect, yet the other half was full of grief.
     My daughter had a minor surgery to remove a benign fatty tumor located on her left middle finger.  It had been there, growing, for a year and as much as she protested that it didn’t bother her, I knew it was time for it to go.  Surgery was done and a bandage was applied.  In her still groggy state in the recovery room, a nurse came to check her vitals.  She made a comment about her bandage, an off-hand joke about the many other comments she would probably be receiving for the next week.  I looked at my baby’s sweet fragile hand and saw what the nurse meant, kind of smiled and got on to more important matters, like waking her up.
     Later, my mother also pointed out the now obvious problem.  It didn’t really affect me until about three days later, while browsing at the grocery store, a young worker began talking with us.  After a few social niceties, he did it.  He looked right at my twelve year old, so young and child-like and told her what message it looked like she was sending -- in a vague form.  Thank the Lord.  I hurried her on and we left, but I was hurt. 
     I wasn’t hurt because he offended me necessarily.  I’ve been around the block and know this world pretty well.  I know the absurdities and all the foul words.  I used to say them.  I now wanted to just protect her from knowing what they meant, if only I could for at least ten days.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like being twelve and knowing what people might be thinking about my finger everywhere I went.  The remarks didn’t stop there, they continued throughout the ten days, and she never did ask me what they meant. 
     So now the bandage is off and the healing is nearly complete.  My beautiful girl has a skinny finger and is glad that she went through with the procedure.  She is safe from any more crude questions and remarks, but is she really?  Our children are safe in God’s hands because we pray for them, but that doesn’t keep them from having to learn the harsh evils of the world.  They will learn.  I still haven’t decided if I should bring up all of that, since she has never asked.  I have always had the philosophy that I would rather they learn something from me than from someone else, especially a peer lacking the maturity to explain it.  But for tonight I will revel in the fact that she doesn’t have to be burdened with it for one more day, because the time of innocence is so short.  Once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.

A Life of Gratitude….Starting Now!

     Do you ever have one of those weeks where every time you turn around you keep hearing or reading about the same spiritual subject?  I’m having one.  I’m a secretary for our church and sometimes get Power Points ready for our minister.  He emails me the bible verses and I pick out a shell and plug in the scripture.  He sent me one out of Exodus the other day, about when the Israelites were receiving the manna from heaven and decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  They started whining with ungrateful hearts and God got angry and taught them a lesson.
    I also just started reading a wonderful book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts.  I haven’t read very much of it yet, but the part I’m reading now is just getting into why she wrote the book and some revelations that she had about being thankful.  The part I read this morning really captured my thoughts.  It said, “The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life, in a noneucharistic world.  That was the fall!  Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall—humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives.  That is what scraped me raw:  ungratefulness.”  When she put it that way and with the other message I was getting while working on that Power Point, I was standing at attention.
     That’s what always happens when I get these recurring messages.  After two or sometimes three, I see that maybe God is trying to tell me something.  So here I sat this morning thinking about me and my ungrateful heart.  Feeling sad and sorry, I began to regret the last thirty-nine years of my life.  I was wishing I was a different sort of person with a more positive outlook on life.  I was wishing that I had brought my kids up to see a nicer, sweeter, more gracious mom.  I was lamenting that my husband has seen me at my most negative moments and desiring the magic time machine to come so I could hop in and start all over again.  But that’s not the way life works, is it?
     I can start over right now though.  I can be thankful starting today.  I can strive to live a life with more joy and gratitude.  There will probably be times when I take a step back, but I have to just ask God to forgive me and praise Him with thanksgiving and go right back to a life of gratitude.  There are times when I may not feel thankful, but that’s the best time to try this new approach.  Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”  Sometimes it takes real effort to do this, but have you ever tried it when things were going really bad?  It really does help and save you from despair to focus on your blessings.  In One Thousand Gifts, the author goes as far as to say that it is the gratitude in our faith that saves us.  She refers to the ten leper story where the one came back to thank Jesus, and what was said to him afterward.  Jesus said, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”  Not healed, he had already been healed, but well.  In Young’s Literal translation she read that it said, “thy faith has saved thee.”  Wow!
     There are too many advantages to living a life of gratitude to not do it.  Not only is it very important to God and I’m beginning to believe more and more, for our salvation.  Also, it just makes life better.  Don’t you feel better when you have joy in your heart?  Don’t you love to be around others that exude this kind of attitude?  I do too.  I’m listening God, and I will thank Thee.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Birds Don't Worry

     I’m not a huge worrier.  I don’t create things to worry about, and most days I’m a reasonably calm person dealing with my daily chores and sometimes problems.  When I have things that do concern me, I really do pray and give them to God.  Mostly because I know there is nothing I can really do about them.  They are the huge life problems that I have no control over so I go to the One who does.  The bible tells me to cast all of my anxiety on him because he cares for me.  What a comfort that is!
     So here’s the meat of the story, and what’s wrong with me.  I do let the “little things” get to me.  Things like when the kids can’t find their shoes, AGAIN!  Or, when I over-schedule my day, or when my husband forgets what I say to him.  These are things that should be simple to let go.  For one, I can just stop and pray anytime, anywhere.  I can ask God to help me right there in that situation.  I can at least ask Him to help take away my anxiety.  Even more, I can ask Him to change the situation. 
     The more I sat and pondered these examples of “little things” that bother me so much, the more I realize that they bother me because they happen over and over again.  I think the reason that I don’t pray for them is that I don’t think God really cares if the kids can’t find their shoes.  I feel like praying for these kinds of things would be almost disrespectful to Him.  However, the verse above says He cares for me.  He CARES!!  It also says to cast ALL of my anxiety on Him.  ALL of it!!!!
     He knows me.  He knows that I already go to Him with the big stuff.  So, for me to pray for the small things, would be a big deal to God.  He would see me trusting Him with every aspect of my life.  It’s not so much about what I’m praying for, it’s more about walking with God daily and letting Him lead me.  Like the birds in the air who do not worry.  They know they will eat and have a place to sleep and find shelter in a storm.  Those are their big things.  As far as I can tell, they don’t have little things.  Their creator provides and they trust and that’s all there is to it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Uncharted Waters

     I’ve finally made up my mind to do this blog thing.  I’ve toyed with the idea numerous times, only to dismiss it with excuses like, “I’m too busy.”  Or “No one will want to read about my life.” Or “I don’t know how to set it up.”  It just got me thinking about how new things are so scary sometimes, and how most of us fight change.  This is nothing new.  I can think of two bible characters from the Old Testament with very different reactions.  One was afraid of the unknown and made many excuses to get out of doing his duty, the other embraced the change and trusted God.
     When the Lord thought it was time to help the Israelites leave Egypt, he already had someone in mind to help them.  So he went to Moses and told him so, but this is what Moses had to say:
 “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
     And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  Immediately he wants to reason with God and let Him know that He’s picked the wrong man for the job.
     This wasn’t the first time Moses did this either.  There were several times when Moses said, “But God…”  and God told him what to say to the people.  Then Moses replies with his final excuse…
      “Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
     The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
      But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”
     What baffles me is that Moses continued to doubt after God assured him that he would not fail.  Doesn’t He promise us good when we go about doing good for Him.  So why do we doubt?  I love to write, especially about God and what He shows me in my life, so why would He allow me to fail?  The other bible character I was thinking of this morning was Abraham.  God also asked him to obey and leave everything he’d ever known and go to a strange land.
     The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
     So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
     It doesn’t say anything about Abraham making excuses about why he couldn’t go, it says he WENT!  So today, I have decided that I will not fear the unknown.  I’m going to go into this with an attitude of learning.  I think that pride was stopping me mostly because I didn’t want to have a blog that wasn’t good enough.  That’s not what this is about; this is about writing and sharing what I learn about God and life.  I never claimed to be a technological genius or an excellent writer, but I am pretty good at talking.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reaping the Benefits

     The other day I was discussing the task of teaching the kids to read with my sister-in-law.  I was pondering the difference between my two children.  My daughter, the guinea pig, was not an eager student and never has been, but she always seemed to have quite a bit of patience.  She didn’t care if she ever learned to read a story on her own.  I can remember rejoicing and wanting to get up and shout to the Lord when she came to me one night after bedtime and wanted to share a book that she had been reading with me.  Even though it was past her bedtime I let her read me the whole book.  I was elated that she CHOSE to read on her own.
     My son, James, who is 3 ½ years younger has always wanted to read a book.  Not just any book, though, a REAL book.  Not a book with silly pictures all over it, but a novel with lots and lots of words.  He is eight years old and this school year we went to the Civil War Museum close to our home.  While browsing the gift shop, he said he wanted a book.  I was glad to buy him a book so I told him to pick one out.  Trying to help, I kept picking up books that I thought were age-appropriate (the kind with pictures) and he would insist that he did not want them.  When he finally picked the perfect book, he came and handed it to me.  I looked down and read, “The Red Badge of Courage” on the cover.   I started to try to talk some sense into him, but then I decided I knew him and it was no use.   So I bought the book.  He still hasn’t read it, but he will.
     So something Susan said got me thinking the other day when we  were talking and I was telling her that James wanted to read, but didn’t want to learn “how to read”, he just wanted to be able to do it.  In the beginning he could never understand what all of the phonics and workbooks were about and why he had to waste his time with all of that.  He inherited his Mom’s patience (none) and wanted to get the reward without the pain.  She said that sounded like a good life-lesson analogy.  Boy, did it! 
     How many times have I just wished I could get through a trial and not have to suffer anymore?  Or how many times have I tried to rush right through a trial to avoid the pain, only to realize that God can’t be rushed and the lesson will be learned when I’m ready and not a minute before.  The bible tells us this in James 1:2-5, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  This means that I have to stop and look at each trial as part of the reward.  I physically can’t reap the benefits of the reward if I don’t go through the trial.  What is the reward after all?  It is wisdom, and how can I possibly gain the wisdom and knowledge if I don’t have the experience? 
     Sometimes the trial can be physical work or mental labor.  Other times it might be grief or relational hardships.  A great many of my trials have been the anguish of letting go of some sin in my life that has become comfortable to me or a bad habit.  Maybe it’s dealing with a difficult person in our lives and learning to do it in a more Christ-like manner than a previous time.  Whatever our trials are, we have them for a reason and the reason is to benefit us.  We have to remember that so that we can look at all of life with joy; not just the good times.