Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.     Colossians 3:1-2 MSG

     Just a couple of weeks ago I was gung-ho into another endeavor to lose some weight.  The 17 Day Diet was going to be my miracle and once and for all I was going to be free of this burden.  I did my 22 days, lost 4 pounds and put my eyes to the ground.  I got distracted with what was right in front of me and gave in.  One little slip up, then another slightly bigger until a few days later I was right back where I started, with a plate full of carbs and a guilty conscience.
     I’d like to say that I forgot, or I knew what I was doing and had a plan of action for staying on course, but I would be lying to you and more importantly to myself.  I did know exactly what I was doing, I was giving into temptation because I allowed myself to be discouraged and I gave in to the enemy.  He knows my weaknesses and if I allow him to, he will use them.  I read this, “And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death:  sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy.  That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.”  Now eating some carbs isn’t in that list, but going against my conscience is and giving into the flesh is.
     “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  I know this verse by heart, but when I am being devoured why don’t I fight?  I imagine a lion actually trying to devour me.  Wouldn’t I fight for my life?  I would kick and scream and pound and run with everything I had.  Sometimes I feel that when it is really happening I look back at myself and shake my head.  How pathetic I am.  I just sit there and let him pick at my flesh, nibble by nibble.  NO!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. “ 
     Be alert!  My lesson for the day.  Don’t walk around with my focus on worldly things and let busyness and excuses distract me.  Live with purpose and pay attention.  Don’t get too comfortable and be ready to pick up my shield.  Put my helmet on every day and fasten my belt.  I know that I will win.  All I have to do is open my eyes and call on Him who saves.  He promises a way out when temptation strikes, but I have to admit I’m being tempted first.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Watch What God Does

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.  Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.  Love like that.      Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG

I was feeling frustrated this morning and looking for some answers in God’s word about obedience.  As of late, it seems my kids’ brains have taken a summer break and they have forgotten how to use their instruction following skills.  I thought that by praying and seeking God would share a jewel with me this morning.  I think I found more than I wanted to find, but just what I needed to find.  Know what I mean?
     Last night we were sitting at church, we had just finished singing our praises to the Lord and Brother Bob had just gotten up and started to preach, when my lovely daughter leaned over to inform me that she thought she left home with poor Wilbur, her guinea pig, sitting on her bed.  Talk about Daniel in the lion’s den….remember Betty Betty Birddog?  So I sighed and got up and left to go home to a possible massacre in my living room.  I do care about Wilbur, but I care about my carpet and couches more.  Is that bad?

     We arrived home and everything was fine.  Betty was still in the exact same position she was in when we left, lazily loafing on the couch.  She acted like we were disturbing her nap when we came in frantically rushing around.  How dare us!  We put Wilbur away and went back to church.  We talked on the way back.  Abbey asked me how I remember to do everything I do, and was beating herself up for not thinking.  I told her some helpful tips, but also talked with her about the obedience part of the problem too.  When something means a lot to us we tend to remember to do it.  Basically I threw a small lecture in while I had the chance.
      It’s not the first time she or James has “forgotten” to obey the rules, so I was seeking something that I could share with their hearts, not a lecture.  Then I found the verse above.  Wow, talk about a slap in the face.  My lecture from the night before, all of my words I had so freely doled out, came back in a flash.  Do I do what I have watched God do?  Do I model the proper behavior for my children all the time?  Do I love like that?  I can now share with them the lecture that I got this morning.  I was seeking an answer for them and got one for myself.  We have to depend on God’s grace to live this life effectively.  We have to keep watching God, so we can keep trying to emulate what he shows us.  If we take our eyes off of our Father for too long, we forget what is important in life.  We complain and become complacent and forget what he did for us and how much he loves us.  He never forgets to care about us.  He gave his all.  So then, should I.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Taste of Heaven

     How can anyone think that God doesn’t have His hand in life?  Just three years ago I was on another endeavor to lose a few pounds when I decided through prayer and supplication to reach out to others who were doing the same.  I tried a general thread on Nutrisystem’s website and got little response.  The next day I logged on and saw that there was a Christian Support Group, so I entered and introduced myself.  That was my answer to those prayers.  Here, three years later and tons of laughs, tears and prayers have been shared between us and we are still talking daily.  We use Facebook now, a private group, but not much else has changed except for maybe a stronger bond.
     Within this wonderful group, I have even gotten the opportunity to meet a few of them in person.  Theresa, my closest neighbor, who lives in a small coastal town near Houston was first.  She drove to my house to have dinner and stay the night.  That same day I got the opportunity to meet Charlyn from Oregon.  She had come into town to meet a half brother she had never known who Theresa had helped her to find.  Amazingly he lived only 20 minutes from me.  That’s really who my story is about tonight.  I’m just thinking about God and how he brings people into our lives and what a blessing it is.

     Jack passed away just two days ago.  The night I first met him when he came to my house with Charlyn, he was in relatively good health.  Theresa came into town so that he could meet the woman who had helped brother and sister reunite on this side of heaven.  Vibrant and so very kind, I could tell why Charlyn was so happy to have found her brother.  He had rosy cheeks and kind eyes and smiled constantly.  He loved our kids, loved our dog, and even loved us.  All of them being here felt so comfortable and right, even though I had never met (in person) anyone that was here that night. 
     After that night I had several other opportunities to meet up with Jack when Charlyn was here to see him.  Once was when their sister passed away and I went to the funeral.  I never knew her either, but I just wanted to go for my friend to offer her some support.  Another, happier visit, we all went to the Stockyards and had some Bar-B-Q together.  Jack insisted on treating us that night, and he also treated Abbey to a mechanical bull ride just so he could watch and laugh.  That makes me smile.  I just never felt like a stranger with them, or that I didn’t belong there.
     Heaven will be like that, but even more so.  I think about how uncomfortable some situations can be here on earth.  There are times when I am surrounded by people I don’t know very well and I am squirming.  In heaven we will all be there together and I imagine we will feel like one big family.  We will be happy to see people because they are brothers and sisters in Christ and we belong together.  I guess the lesson I learned from the short time I knew Jack and got to get together with this family was a small taste of heaven.  It was good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Grass is as Green as You See It

     I long for the day I can look out over the suds in the sink, to the pasture and see her galloping on her horse.  Wind blowing their hair, smiles for both.  Can a horse smile?  I dream of the chicken coop full of chickens busily laying eggs just for us.  A walk through our own woods at sunset, listening to birds and insects unfamiliar to my ears would be such sweet music.  Maybe a cow or two would be nice, and a large garden full of fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs.  I long for something I don’t have.  The longing comes and goes, but it’s there and I can’t deny that it doesn’t get to me sometimes.

     The Israelites were rescued from the Egyptians by the most heroic, powerful means that could ever be imagined.  They had a chosen leader in Moses and they had a destination.  All they had to do was follow and trust.  Their one folly is that they could not be content with their situation.  The least bit of discomfort caused them to whine and complain.  They had already forgotten what their previous lives were like.  They thought they weren’t happy…I think back.
     Just five years ago, Eric and I lived in our small starter home.  We were happy there and have many fond memories of that home.  Both of our children were born while we lived there.  However, it was small and after having our second child we were running out of space.  We never could decide if it was the right decision, so we prayed and trusted God.  If it was His will, it would happen.  It was a seller’s market and so we decided to take the plunge.  In just two months we sold it for the asking price and moved to our current home, which we like very much.
     God’s people knew they were heading to the promised land, but their lack of gratitude and impatience led to their demise.  They agreed to be faithful to the covenant that God put before them, yet they didn’t.  Because of this decision, their consequence was to wander for 40 years in the very place of their misery before their ancestors would have the privilege of entering the land of Canaan.
     I sure don’t want the same fate.  I also agreed to a covenant with God.  I agreed to live my life in Christ.  That means I need to obey his commands and I need to be forever grateful for my blessings.  I don’t deserve anything, so whatever I have is icing on the cake.  Heaven will be a land full of glory, more beautiful than any countryside on earth and if I have to wait until I arrive there, I will.  By being thankful every day for the little things and the big things I am showing that I trust and “BELIEVE” in God.  How can I say I believe in Him if I am not thankful for what He gives?  Don’t I trust Him to give me exactly what I need when I need it?  I don’t really believe in Him if I don’t trust Him.  Have you ever told someone, “I believe in you?”  What are you really saying?  I trust you.  Right? 
     I can’t control every emotion I have and I’m sure that I will dream of my farm in the country.  I can remind myself when I have those feelings of what I have right now.  When I’m looking across some bright green pasture longing for it to be mine, I can think of all of the other “pastures” He has already given me.  I can be thankful for the ones that are in my home, wherever that home sits; the ones that have my heart.  After all, home is where the heart is.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rebirth and a Reminder

     My heart beats, it’s swelling with a mixture of love and excitement.  Just minutes ago, I was actually fretting about this very thing.  She was sitting in the pew next to me drawing and leaning on my arm seeming entirely too disinterested in it all.  I nudged her and asked her to listen and participate.  She assured me she was listening, I had doubts.  Then my worrying got the best of me.  I was thinking, panicking really, about what I could start doing differently.  I was feeling so discouraged wondering if either of them would ever choose to make their way in life with God leading them.
     I silently asked God to help.  Then I resumed listening myself.  Toward the end of this wonderful youth-led service, a beloved elder got up to talk about the things the kids learned at Summer Excitement this year.  He spoke of God and His love.  He spoke of real life and what these teens had to say about the things that hold them back from God.  His words came straight from his heart to his lips and had me wishing I could hurry and leave the building where I could go home and be alone with God.  I wanted to worship!  I wanted to seek His will and find it.
     He says he spoke for a long time, but it didn’t seem that way to me.  Before I knew it the invitation song was starting and she leaned over and whispered in my ear.
     “I want to be baptized.” She said.  At first I had to run the words back over in my head to make sure I heard them right.
     I looked in her eyes and said, “you do?”  She nodded and I grabbed her hand and walked her right up to the front pew, no more questions needed.  We have been talking about being saved and I knew the Spirit was calling her.  With tears in my eyes, I just sat there and listened to my family sing.  Thanking God, just thanking.
     She confessed her faith and we headed to the baptismal area to prepare.  When she came out with her robe on and a smile, I asked her if she wanted me to pray with her.  A sweet sister, Abbey and I held hands and I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and I asked that God continue to bless my child and for Abbey to always remember this moment and to live long and happy walking in His ways.  We hugged and I sent her up the stairs toward her rebirth.  
     I watched from the side as her chosen baptist, Daddy, raised his hand and proclaimed, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”  She died and rose again.  My heart was so happy for her.  I wasn’t proud, but relieved, at peace, full of joy.  We talked tonight as she settled down to go to sleep.  I’m sure she is thrilled and has so many emotions of her own.  I asked her if she felt different.  She does.  What a night of surprise and an answer to a prayer, and more proof that worry is so futile.  My heart sings tonight.  It sings praises to my King.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Life is What You Make It

     Are people born to stop and smell the roses, or are there only certain people like that?  That’s what I wondered this morning as I looked out the back window and saw my oldest sitting in the grass.  As I examined her I realized that she was playing with something so I continued to watch her.  She had a butterfly and was playfully catching it and letting it go.  She would stop and hold him and study his wings with admiration in her eyes.  She is a stop and smell the roses kind of person.

     I try to remember if I was ever one of those people.  For as long as I know I have been in a hurry.  A hurry to get to the store, a hurry to get to church, a hurry to get home, hurry, hurry, hurry.  If this daughter asks me to stop to pet a baby horse at a fence, or stay a little longer at the milk farm, I always do.  I still sometimes feel that urge to hurry, but because she is this way and because of my love for her I am able to see things as she does.  Even if it’s only for the time being, I see it.  I like what I see.
     Society has taught us that to be a success in life you have to hurry.  You have to be the first one to achieve.  The early bird gets the worm, and if you miss that worm, you’ll never amount to anything.  Is there another way?  I think that in all of the rushing around in life that millions of us are missing actual life.  Isn’t life the beauty and the once in a lifetime sights?  Isn’t life the infectiousness of a baby’s smiles, the hugs between long lost loved ones, the sunsets, the pretty drawing that a child made just for you?  Life happens when in that one moment there is no other alternative but to stop and live in it, fully aware.  That’s life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

One Nation Under God

     The bravery of the ones who came before us is astounding.  In 1621 it was a risk to travel by ship across the world for an experienced sailor, much less men, women and children who may have never boarded a vessel of any kind.  I sit and imagine what it must have been like in England for these people to pick up and leave everything they owned and the familiarity of home, climb aboard a ship with hostile company, and travel to a mysterious far away land about which they knew next to nothing.  What courage!
     Just 150 years later, the same kind of bravery led the Continental Congress to take a stand against tyranny and claim freedom for an infant nation.  They had always only known that England was there.  There to trade, there to protect, and there to now tax and give nothing in return.  Even though they had no idea what would become of the United States of America they took a chance and defied all odds.  This country was founded on convictions and a courage that can only be explained as a God-given gift.
     So today, as I celebrate Independence Day, 235 years later, they will be in my thoughts.  My prayers will be with the country and with what it needs today.  It needs God’s hand.  We need people with convictions today that will stand up and trust in the unknown.  This country was founded through a belief that God would bless us and with a vow to be a Godly nation.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.  Am I grateful for this gift:  America?  I think of Sodom and Gomorrah when Abraham begged God not to destroy it if he could find just one worthy of saving.  I pray that the Lord sees enough Americans living for His glory to continue to bless this country.  What do you pray for today?

Friday, July 1, 2011

God Holds the Key

     For fifteen years you have been my rock.  Sometimes the longing to run off in to the woods alone with you and sit by the bank of a cool pond and just have you all to myself is overwhelming.  I wish I knew that you were happy with the life you’ve chosen.  I know you get up before the sun rises every day and go to a place where you are treated less than human.  Their expectations and demands coming at you from all sides, and your head spinning, projects stacking:  all for us.  You feel that hours of your life tick away behind four stuffy walls and one crisis after another breaking you down.
     We can’t wait for you to get home.  You light up the house.  You add the “silly” to balance where I am too serious with the kids sometimes.  We need you in so many ways.  You are our leader.  You do it in such a way that I never feel oppressed or less than, but in a way where I feel like what is on my heart matters to you.  You cherish your family.  Your gentle way of discipline is perfect for our childrens’ tender hearts.  They love and respect you and strive to make sure you are pleased with them.  You’ve always been gentle, even when you disagree with me, and you’ve taught me so much.
     God will use you in whatever career path you choose.  Wherever you and I go, He will be with us.  We will pray and He will provide.  There is joy for your daughter, your son, your wife, and there is joy for you.  No more complaining, but trusting.  That’s what we need to do.  There is power in prayer and we aren’t using that power.  Why do we do that?  I do know that God wants us to be thankful and I am.  I’m so thankful for you.