Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Quiet Lesson

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.  As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
Heb. 3:12-15

     Praying today I asked the Father to help me to hear His Spirit speaking to me better.  Sometimes I feel the things that drag me down and frustrate me are so much louder than what He has to say.  His words and wisdom get drowned out by sin’s deceitfulness and all I hear is myself reacting.  I went so far as to ask Him to yell at ME, so I would hear Him today.  Ludicrous, I know, but I did.  And do you know what happened next?  I think I learned something.
     As soon as I said it, I knew it wasn’t really God’s way.  His Spirit is a quiet voice inside.  The one that calmly sits in the background, all the while knowing what is the right thing to do, waiting patiently for me to listen and obey.  It doesn’t yell.  I thought about my childhood and how I was disciplined, how I learned discipline.  I learned a loud one.  Raising one’s voice was a very common way to get a point across in my house and it is probably pretty common in most homes.  Mine included.  I’ve grown accustomed to learning that way.  I don’t want that for my kids.
     I don’t want them to grow up and not know how to listen to their conscience over their own sinful reactions.  I want them to learn through wise, consistent council.  I want them to learn from their mistakes.  I want the pain to come from a lesson learned, not from some harsh word that I spewed out in a fit of frustration.  I want to discipline like the Lord disciplines me.  He doesn’t yell.  He waits for me to figure things out.  From my favorite book of James:  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
     So this is new for me, but I’m going to throw a question out there and hope that I can gain some wisdom and encouragement and hopefully the discussion will help others too.  Have you ever had a problem with yelling?  How have you conquered it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Audience, My Savior, My Friend

     I think about some of those reality shows where people have allowed a film crew to come into their home and set up a camera to observe them in their everyday lives.  One I specifically thought of was Jon & Kate Plus 8.  I used to watch it when it first began and I would cringe at the way they would treat one another, especially the disrespect of the wife toward her husband.  I would think, “How can she do that, and look so foolish when she knows the cameras are there?”
     Today I was wondering why it is so difficult to remember that Jesus sent his Spirit and that he is with me, always.  Every move I make, thought I entertain, decision I have to make, conflict I encounter, he is there.  Sometimes I don’t obey what the Spirit is trying to tell me and I choose to go it alone.  Just like the millions watching Jon & Kate destroy their marriage he is watching me mess up too.  My relationship with my husband is great, but I disobey in so many other ways.  I lose my patience with the kids.  I shirk my responsibilities and choose the fun thing instead.  I can be cruel and unloving.  I complain, get stressed out and lose my faith.  All while he watches me, waiting for me to remember my place.

     Where is that place?  It’s in him.  John 15:5 says, I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;  apart from me you can do nothing.  I have to remember he is there.  Without him life is fruitless, I am a dead and withered branch.  Not only do I further his kingdom by remaining where I need to be, but he returns that faith with blessings.  Also, when I thought about it from the camera in the room perspective, I don’t want to be a fool.  I may not have millions of people watching me, but the most important, the Lord, is watching and I’d like my ratings to get better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf - For There Is Always One to be Turned

     A change is in the air.  A warm autumn feeling rushes through me today.  Just as the tired, dry leaves will soon be descending from the trees to make room for spring's rebirth, so too am I shedding the old to make way for the new. 

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.  Gal. 5:25
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Tim. 2:21

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Obeying the Voice of God

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Galatians 5:19-23

     How many times have I tried to encourage someone in my life by telling them that God must be planning something better for them?  I’ve thought about God’s plan for my life and been comforted to know that He has one and that He is working on it.  In my darkest hours I’ve consoled myself with the thoughts that there would be a bright morning after the cloudy nights in my life.  Reading this in my Message translation this week has me thinking about God and His plans in a whole different way.  I wonder how many times I have gotten in the way of those plans.
     Every day and every minute His Spirit is with me, guiding my footsteps.  My prayers are constantly filled with pleadings for His help with what seems like the same problems or I pray for strength for my same weaknesses.  I sometimes doubt that He is hearing me.  I wait on an answer for those same struggles to go away.  Today I thought of the many times I have been deep in the heart of a battle and in the heat of the moment received a clear message from the Spirit of what to do, and blatantly ignored it.  Right there!  He was helping me and I didn’t listen.  How many blessings have I missed?  How many wrong roads have I gone down and delayed the progress of my journey with the Father?  How sad.
      I have never felt more motivated to start paying attention.  His love is so constant and He is always there and always giving me the answers I need for this life.  It’s up to me to be listening for that sometimes gentle nudge in the right direction.  It’s time to put “me” aside and give God a real chance.  I’ve missed out on things but I don’t have to continue to do so.  His mercies are new every morning for the forgiven and He won’t give up on me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Son

     I vividly remember lying on the table staring at the sonogram screen knowing this time I would find out.  I wanted to know you before you got here.  I wanted to call you by name and imagine what time with you would be like.  “It’s a boy,” they said to your dad and I so matter of fact, no doubt in the tech’s voice as he printed out a picture for us to take home.  Your first photograph to show around to whoever we could get to look at it, we did just that and put it in a frame to marvel at for the next few months.  A boy, wow, this was going to be exciting!
     The day you decided to make your entrance into this world was a wonderful sunny September day.  I woke early to a gentle prompting that you were coming, and I was so at peace.  I was home with your three year old sister and went about getting her some breakfast and a short trip to the church office to wrap up some last minute details before my maternity leave.  Then I had a friend go with me to the hospital, fully
expecting to be sent home with advice and a written reminder of when to come back for the real thing.  It all seems like yesterday, I was seen by a nurse.  I was staying and this would be your birthday.

     Now here we are nine years later.  You are so much like your dad, and at times I see some of me in my younger years.  You are a great kid.  What a blessing you have been.  I love your funny jokes and your silly faces.  I love how you just need to give me a hug sometimes.  You have so many ideas to tell me and your imagination is out of this world.  I enjoy how you can “play” with no toys.  I adore you in your baseball uniform each spring and can’t wait for you to get your trophy so I can get another picture of you holding it with your sweet, proud smile.  I like your curiosity about the world around you and your need to know how things work.  You got that from your dad.  You are feisty and you got that from me.  I love you.
     Happy birthday, my son.  I pray that your future is full of joy and that you find much love and fullness in your life.  I pray that you never forget your Creator and that you always seek to do His will in your life.  I pray that the people you surround yourself with treasure you as much as we do.  May you trust the Lord to guide you and never fear the unknown.  Lastly, may you be happy, healthy and may you love with all of your heart, always.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Keeping up with a Blessed Life

     Sometimes I have a hard time saying no.  Anyone else fall into that category?  Certain times of the year are busier for me than others.  This is one of those times.  School has started back, meetings, horse visits in the evenings, church events, etc.  I have to keep a close reign on my schedule or I will absent-mindedly forget to do something.  I completely forgot to go to a meeting Monday night because I wasn’t being careful.  I have to make sure my priorities are straight and that I am organized.  How do I decide what events to do and when I can participate?
     I read a book long ago when my daughter was a baby about time management.  It was called “The Family Manager” by Kathy Peel.  It was a Christian wife/mother self-help book and it was a great tool for taking my job seriously as a stay-at-home mom.  It taught me that my job wasn’t to just be at home, but to make that home a comfort zone for my family.  In order to do that, I was going to have to break a sweat and use my brain.  Something I had not considered when I quit my job, I thought I was going to be bored.  Twelve and a half years later I can see that was a huge misperception.

     That book also had a helpful chart to show me how to prioritize my life.  I have tried to remember it ever since and live my at-home life accordingly.  Basically it was this:  God, husband, children, family, work, friends, me, community.  If I remember the order of these priorities in my life it helps me to say no when needed.  It’s not always easy to tell someone no, but I know that if I adhere to my plan, I am practicing self-control and I am pleasing the Lord.  I was reading Nehemiah this morning and came across some scripture.  Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem according to God’s plan, when his enemies sent him an invitation. 
“Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.”
     I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this:  “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down.  Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you:”

       Now I know that most of us aren’t going to get phone calls from our enemies, inviting us out to dinner.  I guess if we do, we should set up time in our priority list and pencil “dinner with enemies” into our calendar.  We are supposed to love them, right?  However, more than likely invites will be from people we know and like.  Nehemiah knew where his priorities were though, and wasn’t willing to stop and do something that would get in the way of that.  He probably was curious to see what they were up to and might have wanted to go and find out, but he told them his priority was to the work he was doing for God and they would have to wait.

     I know that God never wants me to neglect the people in my life.  I pray that I will be able to please Him in the way I schedule my days.  I pray that He will bless me when I keep my integrity and guidelines I have set for myself in order to know when to say yes and when I should say no, or let’s reschedule for a later time.  I believe I am home most days ministering to my children and being a helpmate to my husband because they are near the top of my list right after God.  Peace abounds when I am doing what I believe is right.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winds of Change and True Direction

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. ~ Arthur Golden

     What a gift this life is!  When we are young we dread getting old.  As we age, we find there is a certain satisfaction in the wisdom that time gives.  When the pain and difficulties of life peel away our outer shell, we emerge.  Like a butterfly escapes the bondage of its cocoon, so we find the newness of life.  A life of freedom in Christ to be who we are and who he meant for us to be and then we really live.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering the Dads of 9/11

     A tear rolled down my cheek as I read the article.  A quote from a sad-eyed 9-year-old boy, “I wish my dad could be here,” broke my heart.  There were many children that never knew the loving touch of their fathers after the tragedy on September 11, 2001.  They were born shortly following that horrible day to a grieving mother as the rest of us watched with tears and compassion like none I had ever seen in America.  Prayers and donations were poured out by millions of people, for the futures of these children left abandoned by evil.  I especially think of the little boys…

Time between a boy and his father is precious.  Bits and pieces of memories being filed away; a boy is training to walk in the footsteps of his mentor, his dad.

This year on September 11, 2011, I will think about all of the little boys who never knew the love of their earthly father.  May they seek and find the hand of the Heavenly Father to mold them and make them the men they were meant to be.  I pray that I will always be grateful that my son does have his dad to teach and guide him.  And although my husband isn’t always the perfect parent, neither of us hold that title, I will be thankful.  Every day they have together is a blessing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Love of Learning

     I know, I know, it’s Labor Day.  How dare a mom do such a thing to her children!  Alas, here we sat this morning…learning of all things.  It was our first day back today.  I made it light, just an introduction of each course and tried to tell them that they would not wither away from lack of sunshine for the two to three hours spent in the school room.  I was right, they didn’t.  They are both doing well.  The older child likes her free time and it is difficult sometimes to get her motivated.  The younger has a mindset much like his mother.  Sit down and get it done, then I can do what I want to do.  He is also a year ahead in math and reading.

     Abbey watched a documentary with me this week called “Waiting on Superman”.  It was about the public school system and the level at which the U.S. has now dropped in ratings in school performance compared with other countries.  Recently our country was ranked 14th in reading, 17th in Science, and 25th in mathematics out of 34 countries.  It is pitiful and she told me all about how she didn’t want to end up with the same fate as some of the students that leave school and begin their adult lives already failing.  She wanted to start trying harder and learn all she can while she has this chance.  I had to remind her of those aspirations this morning.  She forgot.
     I suppose it’s a goal she needs.  She needs to see that a simple math assignment she does today, helps her reach that goal.  Even though she can’t see how knowing the radius of a circle will help her with a career with horses, it’s my job to keep reminding her that it will do just that.  She needs to know the steps that she has to take to get that career.  I need to tell her that she may never need to figure out the square root of 14 in her adult life, but she may have to take a test or a required course in college that will ask her those questions. 

     They need to know what God has to say about hard work and perseverance.  Proverbs 14:23 says “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”  Real life lessons will speak to them, nagging won’t.  I have to be patient, continue to teach with discipline, and trust God to show them the truths of His word about a fruitful life.  I do pray that they both end up with a job that they love and never feel like they are working.  But they need to know that if they want that life, they must work to get it.