A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Perfect Spot

I love being outdoors in nature. There is a beautiful stretch of creek near my work and home and I go there every day for lunch. I've seen some amazing things in the last year.

I've seen dozens of species of birds: the elegant Junco, the Tufted Titmouse that looks like it was painted with watercolor pastels, the awkward sandpiper, the Baltimore Oriole and his wife eating crab apple buds as they forage for nesting materials, a majestic Blue Heron, the vocalist Red
Winged Blackbird, the Carolina Wren that sounds like a whole orchestra by itself, the sleek and friendly Catbird, the Red Breasted Robin-the bird everyone looks for in the spring and is annoyed with by fall, N. America bluebirds-they really do make you happy when you see one, the white and the Red Breasted Nuthatches hanging precariously overhead from pine cones that have just gone to seed, Indigo Buntings-I've always wanted to see one and he ended  up right in my own backyard, the Pileated Woodpecker along with his cousins the Downey Woodpecker and the Red Breasted Woodpecker, an assortment of sparrows-and the Lord knows each and every one, the striking Red Breasted Grossbeak, the decibel breaking American Redstart, the Scarlet Tanager-not to be confused with the Cardinal-both who made an appearance this summer, the King bird who really does live up to it's name, the Great Crested Flycatcher, the cowbird, the Thrush, the hummingbird that drank from every flower on the plant right below where my feet were hanging, the boisterous, cocky Blue Jay, the Northern Flicker-what a beauty, Bald Eagles both young and old, the Osprey who greeted me every morning as I exited my car and who dive bombed me with some poor creatures carcass hanging from it's feet, the Red Tailed Hawk, the Peregrine Falcon, the Sharp Shinned Hawk, the ever present Kingfisher whose call is unmistakable who caught and ate a fish right before my very eyes, a whole team of Mallard ducks who appeared to be looking for a place on the next summer Olympic synchronized swimming team, Canadian geese-always heading the wrong direction I might add, and the Common Merganser duck with his wife and child,

I also saw some wildlife: a mink swimming, playing and bathing in the creek, a muskrat who didn't see me first and ended up inches from my foot. When he saw me, he put it in high gear and splashed me in the process. A water snake who also wasn't paying attention and followed in the muskrat's footsteps. He hid under a log and spent the next 20 minutes periodically peaking out from under the log to see if I was still there. It was like playing hide and seek. Eventually he decided that I was okay and went on his merry way. There were also several varieties of fish, turtles sunning on logs, bull frogs, tree frogs, tadpoles, squirrels, chipmunks, and one lone garter snake that scooted across the path I was walking on.

I was constantly delighted by the wildflowers that grew and the butterflies and moths that frequented them. I think I got  a photo of nearly every one.

My co-workers complained to me that they had never seen so many things in nature. When I asked them how much time they spent there, they had to admit that they didn't spend much time in nature and when they did, they usually had some sort of an agenda like hunting or hiking to a specific spot so they really weren't paying attention to all the nature around them.

My trips to the creek had only one agenda-just to be there. On those days that I chose to just sit in one spot instead of walking through nature, I found that nature came to me and I was delighted every time. Whether I sat and read, studied, sang, cried, prayed or just closed my eyes to listen to the sounds of the water passing by, I always left with a peaceful calm in my spirit and a sense of wonder at all that God had made.

One day God reminded me we are to seek Him out just as I seek out the wonders of the creek. As we come to Him with nothing but His agenda in mind and we sit and wait or walk through His Word, He meets us there and shows us things almost too wonderful to grasp. We always leave with that sense of peace, faith and the knowledge that He is wonderful, powerful and good.  It surely is true that "when we seek him diligently with all our hearts that He will be found of us" but we have to show up first! That is our part. The amount of time we spend in His presence will determine how much of His beauty we will come to know and understand. Just as the creek calls to me every day, God calls us to come and sit in His presence to see what wonders He would reveal to us that day. His revelations to us will be as diverse and beautiful as the bird population that I love so much. Some people commune with nature as a way to find peace in this crazy world I choose instead to commune with the creator of nature who is the Prince of Peace. He knows me as intimately as He knows every sparrow that falls to the ground and He loves me much, much more than them. And He sees me everyday as I sit among all the wonders He has created for me to enjoy and comes to meet me there. Not one day have I ever left His presence with anything but the knowledge of His pure and perfect love for me. He always brings me to a place of peace in Him and with Him. He is a wonderful God.

He is so much like the creek. Just as I know I will always find the water tripping over the rocks on it's way to the sea, I know that God never leaves me or forsakes me. I can depend on Him when life whether life is rushing at me like floodwaters or when everything seems dry and the water is low. No matter what, He is always there waiting on me to tell me great and marvelous truths. Just as the water sings and giggles as it flows over the rocks and under the limbs on its way downstream, He tells me of His great love for me as His Word speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. Whether I need to see him like the strong rock cliffs that guard the creeks edge and provide shelter for so much of His creation or as the one who soothes away every hurt and concern as the water gently washes over anything standing in its way, He makes Himself known in just the right way on just the right day.

He's always there. I just need to come.


Monday, October 24, 2016

"But Dust" Not A Dirt Bag

Psalm 106: 6-12
We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.[b]
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.
One of the most comforting verses I've found in the Bible is Ps. 103:14. "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." God knew what He was creating when He made us.  He knows what our strenghts and weaknesses are, what we are capable of and what our insufficiencies are. Nothing we do surprises Him. In His great plan, He made provision for our failures and sin before the foundation of the world. That means that in His infinite knowledge, He knew we would fall before He created us. Perhaps He allowed this to be so that He could unveil the greatest love story ever written to let us know just how much He truly loves what He created. He loves us immensely!
In the passage above God's people, Israel, sinned. At the Red Sea they were pressed into a very hard place. The stress of the moment caused them to doubt, fear and accuse both God and Moses. What they knew of their history with God and all the miracles God had performed to get them out of Egypt seemed to pale in comparison to the threat they now faced from the enemy and Israel regretted that they had even started on this journey with God. Egypt had not been good for them spiritually. They had embraced its ways and gods but at least Egypt had given them a roof over their heads, food on the table and an existence that though difficult, had become normal to them even though they knew it was not God's best. In the midst of the moment they forgot that this kind of blending idolatry was what had caused them to be inslaved in the first place.
Before we judge the Israelites, let's remember that we are "but dust", as they were. When life hits us with a Red Sea experience, we may just react the same way that they did. When all you see is what is attacking you and there appears to be no good way out of the onslaught, our natural reaction might be to surrender to it and try to make the best of it. It may seem that a return trip to where God brought us from is an easier, more pleasant experience because we, like them can be overwhelmed and forget where God brought us from and all that He has done in our lives in the past. Indeed, the temptation that we are being tempted with might just look better and easier than to stand in the face of the enemy and believe God when an escape would appear a challenge, even for God!
Perhaps this has happened to you.  Perhaps you have suffered the consequences of this happening to someone else. Perhaps you are currently living in Egypt and enjoying it for the moment forgetting all that God has been to you and done for you. "Sin IS pleasureable for a season, but in the end it brings forth death." It is very deceptive in that it appeals to the comforts craved by your flesh and it looks and feels so good. Perhaps you have already fallen prey to the enemy's deception and you feel that God might as well go ahead and allow you to be slain because even in this pleasurable season you know that you are guilty and condemed.
There is hope! Read on in this passage. Verse 8 says "yet He saved them for His name's sake." I really like that! God stepped in, in spite of everything they were doing that would turn His hand of protection away from them, and He saved them to glorify His own name to the Egyptians.  (I'm sure that the Israelites were impressed too because on the other side of the Red Sea, they had a dance party!) Yes, God, for no other reason than to show everyone how powerful and glorious He is, stepped in and saved His people. It had nothing to do what they deserved or didn't deserve.  It had to do solely with who He is and His perfect plan of redemption that would come through His people Israel. He is a Redeemer!
Now remember that being "but dust" does not mean you are a dirt bag! It means that you are what God created in His infinite wisdom and love. It means that He is on your side. It means that He cares for you even when you don't particulary care for Him. It means that He would split an ocean just to make a way for you.
If you are trapped by sin or the consequences of someone else's sin, turn your eyes towards God. He is there to help and make a way for you to reach the other side! Then you too, will have a victory song to sing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sometimes The Grass IS Greener On The Other Side

"For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, whee you sowed your seed and wteed it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven." Deuteronomy 11:10-11

The Israelites were on their way out of Egypt. They had endured 400 years of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  Still, they had managed to eek out a life and survive as a people. I'm sure that their lives had routines, however stark. I imagine that they were somewhat "used" to their lifestyle and it had grown to become "normal." Even though it was not the optimal lifestyle, I think that they had learned to get along and to be as happy as they could in it.

Then Moses and the miracles came along. I can imagine that had I been an Israelite during that time I would have been a bit fearful at all the supernatural events happening in Egypt. I can imagine that fear AND awe would have been present in my heart. I'm sure I might have wondered what I was getting into with this trip to the "promised land."

Eventually the day came when they had packed their bags and were exiting Egypt to an unknown land that would water itself, a stark contrast to the life they had in hot, dry Egypt. The thought of rebuilding their homes and re-establishing their families must have seemed both exciting and challenging to them but generations who had gone before them had often talked and dreamed of this day. I know they didn't know that 40 years lay before them but I have the feeling that they knew there would be hardships, possible battles and a lot of work. If human nature really does run true, I'm guessing the men were ready for the challenges and the women were not. LOL! Still they took a step of faith and stepped out of the borders of Egypt. What a feeling that must have been!

They left the reality of their "normal" and were entering into an huge unknown in order to inherit something different and better.

In the Christian life, we can become settled in our "normal." Our normal may be a bit like what the Israelites experienced in Egypt, full of situations that aren't the best but we've learned to manage them and they are easier to endure than to try to change. We may pray about them but we don't deal with them. We'd like for them to change, we may even need them to change, but the thought of what it might cost to change them far outweighs the price we pay to endure them, so we choose to stay in a spiritual Egypt. We tell ourselves it's not that bad and many others have it a lot worse than we do.

Then God enters, as Moses did, and says you are getting out of normal and moving into something different. As you see it, you're not sure that what's coming is going to be better. It certainly isn't looking easy. You may not have a choice in the matter. You may be like those Israelite women. The decision is made and you just have to get ready for the trip.

Lately I experienced this.  The actions of others caused me to have to let go of my "normal." My normal was not perfect in many ways, in fact there were parts of it that caused me continual heartache but I had decided to be content, to bear my burden, and to make the best of it-it sounded so spiritual. For whatever reason, God decided that I was not going to live in my normal any longer. As I looked at what lay ahead, I have to admit, I was fearful. What if the best parts of my "normal" would no longer be present in what lay ahead? I was sad. I had learned to be content where I was even though in the deepest, most hidden regions of my heart, I knew things should have been different in a lot of ways. I didn't know what to expect but I mourned the good of my normal that I had lost.

Most of us who come through difficult situations with the Lord's help can look back on them and say I'm glad it happened. We don't emerge from the fray the same as when we went in. With God, we come out stronger, having more wisdom, and tougher. I wish I could say this about my most recent departure from my normal, but I can't honestly yet because I don't know quite how it's all going to pan out in the natural. Yet, I have hope and I have the knowledge that, as the saying goes, "if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." And if He's the one bringing you through it, you can know that you will be better because of it. The grass truly can be greener on the other side.

I have learned a million lessons so far.  Because this was a journey I traveled completely alone, by the Lord's design, I learned the most important lesson that God is all we have and He is all we need. He is enough and much, much more. He is faithful, even when we, in our weaknesses, are not. We all know this as Christians but we don't truly know what it means until we have experienced it ourselves. He has promised that if we will put our trust in Him, He will not disappoint us.

Does that mean that everything will pan out exactly as we think, expect or hope? NO! What it does mean is that His ways are higher (and better) than ours. He is meticulously caring for each of us. He knows what we need and how much we can bear, even when we think we can't bear another thing. For me, it all boiled down to the question of truly trusting Him with literally everything. That might sound weird coming from someone like me who has been made to trust God with some tragic and serious situations through the years. In those situations I was trusting God for someone else, not really for myself. This time, I was trusting God solely for myself.

Sometimes we have to get out of where we are (our normal) to experience something better even if it means that our "normal" will never be normal again. Sometimes the thing causing the exodus from normal is painful, sometimes not but it will always be daunting and challenging. I am finding though that it is totally worth it.  Even though I don't know what my next "normal" may look like, I know the one who is shaping it is faithful, true, and loving. So I wait to see what He's designed for me.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's Always Been About Us

My next door neighbor was a Pastor who belonged to a denomination that believes in hard core pre-destination. He was a wonderful fellow and we had many meaningful conversations about Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what it means to live holy.  If I stuck to subjects that dealt with things after you were part of the kingdom, we heartily agreed. I stayed away from the whole how you get into the Kingdom conversation as much as possible because I believe that everyone has been pre-destined from the foundation of the world to be saved. Ephesians is very clear on that. Paul spent a lot of the New Testament making this clear to all. Christ's blood was not just shed for some. It was shed for ALL.

Then I heard a sermon where the speaker was expressing gratitude that God decided somewhere along the way to allow Gentiles to be saved. I believe they said it was not about us, meaning the Gentiles. I had never heard that before. It was as if they thought that somewhere along the way, when God figured out that things weren't working well with the Jews, He changed his mind and decided to let Gentiles into the Kingdom club. Immediately I thought and even said to my husband, it was always about us! All along! From second one, it was always about us....humankind...God's creation! You see, there wasn't Jew and Gentile in the beginning. There was just us...homo sapiens. That is who God made. That is who God loved. That is who God loves. Jews are simply a sub group of humankind that God set apart for His divine purpose of saving the WHOLE world...that's us!

If Gentiles could not be saved until sometime later, then what about all those Gentiles who existed before that time? Were they lost? NO, because that would include anyone living before Abraham, like the author of the first five books of the Bible. It would also include non-jews after Abraham but before Christ, like two women who are in His geneology. They were not born Jewish. They embraced Judeism when they learned the truth of who God was and like Abraham, it was accounted to them as righteousness. We are saved simply by faith.

God has placed in every man a measure of faith. That is so any/every man has the potential and opportunity to be saved. If a man does not exercise that measure of faith, he is lost. If he does, he is saved. It's pure and simple. Where we came from, where we started out does not matter. It's what we do along the way that determines our eternity. If we embrace a personal relationship with Christ, we become part of His kingdom. If we don't, we are lost to an eternal hell. It really is just that simple. God loves us ALL! Christ died for ALL! It's ALL about us! It always was!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sin Police

As a Pastor's wife, some things disturb me maybe more than they do others especially when it hurts more vulnerable sheep in the congregation. This blog is in response to some of you younger Pastor's wives who have asked me to talk about things that I've seen and dealt with in my 32 years of being a Pastor's wife.

Because it's summer, that season where church attendance becomes secondary, (I thank God that He never takes vacations from us! What a mess that would be!), people are often missing from church on Sunday morning. One of the things that I despise is when I overhear questionable conversations about other church members.  Usually these conversations take place when the subject of the conversation is not there of course and the reason for the conversation is because they aren't there.

Sometimes I hear, "I wonder where so and so is. I hope they are alright.  I think I'll check in on them after church to see if they need anything." That warms my heart because it is body life at it's best. It shows a genuine trust, concern, and action for the other members of our spiritual family.

Sometimes I hear things like "I wonder where so and so is today.  I hope they didn't fall into sin."  Now, to be honest, comments like this really burn my biscuits! Even if it is known why they aren't in church, if the person commenting doesn't approve of the reason, it is said with contempt. I've heard this all my life in churches I've been in and it sickens me.

I'm not so naive to think that everyone in our current body is saved but I have to admit that I think the large majority of them are committed Christians. No, none of them are perfect. No two look the same. They live their lives differently on many different levels. They don't always do what even their Pastor recommends but I wouldn't for one moment question their salvation. It's not my responsibility to be the sin police. That's the Holy Spirit's job. Immediately wondering if someone is sinning just because you don't know why they aren't in church defies 1 Corinthians 13 when it says "Love always thinks the best of another."

I sat one afternoon and pondered why people are so quick to believe or think the worst of a person or a situation. These are the reasons that I came up with.

They never read 1 Corinthians 13.
They read it but don't think it applies to them.
They read and understand it, but are choosing not to walk it out.
They think that they are so perfect that everyone should live up to their standards because they ARE the standard. If anyone does anything differently, they must be in sin. There is a large amount of legalism involved in this, and legalism will kill a church a Christian's spirit.
They forget some of the squirrelly reasons that they miss church that no one challenges them on. (Of course, if you're perfect in every way, then your reasons are sanctified. But if anyone else misses, even for one of the same reasons you miss, it's not okay. Yes, I've seen this!)
They think that God has appointed them to His police force that goes around identifying and calling out sin. They are too anxious and quick to assume that sin is involved. This tells me that maybe there is a sin problem but in the accuser, not the accused.

Seriously, we just need to leave each other alone, mind our own business, and genuinally treat others the way Christ would treat them.

"Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 1 Thess 4:9-12

If we are doing what this verse says, everyone will be fine. It's not our job to go around trying to "catch" people in sin. When the sin, if it exists, needs exposed, God will do it in His own time and in His own way. Then...and only then...does a "spiritual" person step in to restore, not to accuse, not to condemn, not to judge, but to restore!

As a Pastor's wife, when I have heard this in churches, I normally tell people in a nice way to mind their own business. I remind them how they would feel if someone were doing this to them and remind them of the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We need to let people know we care but first, we need to genuinally care! Then and only then should we ask them where they were when we missed them.

Let me say a word too about genuinely caring. If a person does not feel genuinely cared for, they are not the problem. The person trying to convey the care is the problem. The Bible says that God has shed His love abroad in our hearts. So when we love people it is His love that we love them with. If they are not "feeling the love", chances are we are not loving them the way Christ would and we need to make an adjustment and to examine our own hearts, allowing the Holy Spirit to shine His light in our hearts to find out why. Yes, it's humbling to have to examine your own motives but it is necessary both for your effectiveness in ministering to others and for the sake and well being of those you want to minister to.

Some say, "love is not a feeling." Hogwash! Love is a feeling! There are times when tough love is needed. There are other times when showing love to another person is harder than normal. But there are always feelings involved. Saying that love is not a feeling allows people to interact with others without feeling and that never feels good when you are on the receiving end. Furthermore, God is able to put a genuine love inside of you for every believer because it is His love that you love them with. His love is not without feeling. Jesus corrected a lot of people in Jerusalem, but He also wept over them. I'd say that the love He had for them He felt. People use "love is not a feeling" as an excuse to pound on people and when I see that, I step in. I hate spiritual bullying even though the bully may think that they are "helping" by bringing that person into the right way of thinking, which most of the time happens to be their way of thinking.

As Pastor's wives, we have to love everyone. Frankly, there are people in every church that are just hard to love. I have learned and experienced that God will place His love for them in my heart and enable me to love them in the truest, purest way and the end result is that usually I end up liking them too because I realize that they really aren't much different than I am.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

So Who Cares?

My husband surprised me with two weekend getaways in a row! They surprised him too. We spent two consecutive weekends in the  hospital. Now I love weekend getaways as much as the next gal but told him that while I appreciated him whisking me away for the weekend, I really felt  that we needed a change of venue. LOL! He heartily agreed.

I've done my time when it comes to hospitals. I've never actually been admitted to the hospital myself for more than emergency room visits or out patient procedures, except for the four short visits I had with each of my four children. And I must say that it's easier for me to be the patient than to be the one sitting with the patient. Why? Because I've found that caring as deeply as I do about the person in the bed is exhausting!

You would think that sitting by a person's bed while looking at your computer, reading the paper, watching out the window through binoculars at hawks soaring overhead  (yes, I took my binoculars to the hospital), snacking on chips from the cafeteria, and occaisionally getting up to assist the patient would be relaxing, even boring. Well, it was boring at times but far from relaxing. 

I remember the first time I saw my husband in a hospital bed. This just happened a few short years ago after knowing him for over 37 years. It stopped me short and took my breath away as I saw him laying there unconscious with an IV bag dripping Ringer's into his arm and an oxegen tube strapped across his face and there wasn't even anything wrong with him. He had just had some sort of out patient procedure that basically amounted to nothing. Still, it hit me hard. There lay my invincible hubby, totally incapacitated. 

Interestingly enough it caused me to realize that it costs something to care about people. There are sacrifices involved. It's not always easy. And our greatest example of caring is God, who cared so much that He not only sat by our beds as we languished in sin, but He sent His Son to take our place in the bed and to die so that we will never have to. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us all." 

What a wonderful thing to come to know and experience the kind of love God has for us. What a wonderful thing to have the grace of God in our lives so that we can love each other the same way that he loves because He has given us His Spirit who graces us to love. 

So who cares? God cares! I care.  It's the Lord's doing and it's marvelous!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

I saw this photo on Facebook.  The caption said "not all who wander are lost."  I don't know if it was a quote or just the thoughts of the person who took the photo but it struck me and caused me to think. I don't think the person who posted it meant it in a spiritual sense but because I think in spiritual terms, I thought to myself, that is true spiritually speaking as well.

We all know people who have wandered from the faith because of circumstances or just plain neglect of their spiritual life. That does not mean that they are lost forever. Galations 6:1 say "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to oneself so that you too will not be tempted." There are 3 key ideas reflected in this process that we need to observe and follow if we truly want to call ourselves "ministers of reconciliation." But first let's take a small look at the idea of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is the "act of being friendly again after a disagreement." When you think of it in these terms, we have to remember that we were at odds with God. The cost of our reconciliation was not only great, it was also COMPLETE! There is nothing that needs added or refreshed or renewed. It is once and for all complete!Also remember that the terms, conditions and accomplishment of our reconciliation was totally on God. We, the beneficiaries, could do nothing or add nothing to make the work complete. God, the perfect one, gave all so that we could have all. Now in terms of reconciling and restoring one that wandered from the faith, we need to remember that, relatively speaking, we are in the same positions that God was in when he reconciled us unto Himself. It's not a 50/50 deal. Yes, the one repenting has to truly have repented, but we must also forgive, accept and receive back the one who wandered. This is called FORGIVENESS and it is born from LOVE. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life."

Now lets take a look at the 3 key attitudes we must have to successfully restore an individual back into the fold.

1. Restore-to return to its former state. So once a person has repented, they are once again on the same level ground that you are on. This means that they are not a sub-Christian or a marred Christian because of what they did. They are washed and clean and their garment is just as white as yours! If God throws our sins in a sea of forgetfulness then we can do no less for those who have repented. Who are we to be remembering, judging and allowing former sins to form how we feel about and treat a repentant sinner? We certainly do not want God or others doing the same thing to us. Nor should we expect or look for a return to sin from the now washed believer, but should as 1 Corinthians 13 directs, "think the best of another." When we expect or look for sins to return, we are, in effect, deriding the power of the Blood of Christ to cleanse and restore. He uses the same blood on others that He used on you. That's a good thought to remember.

2.Gentleness-kind and quiet; not hard or forceful; not in a harsh way. There's no need to remind or rehash their sin over and over again unless for the purpose of finding the reason that caused it in the first place so that it won't happen again. Furthermore, they have just been a punching bag for the devil so they don't need punched anymore. The only way that one can do this in a spirit of humility is to remember point number three.

3.Looking to oneself-realizing that you are not beyond falling to this very same sin or worse. If this wasn't the case, the Lord would not have added this little phrase. Learn from other's mistakes just how vulnerable you are and remember that our human nature makes us "prone to wander." If you saying "that would never happen to me...I would never...then take heed! You are already on shaky ground! Don't get on your high horse but remember that "pride comes before a fall." You're not all that and a bag of chips yourself. Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to Christ, the sinless, spotless, perfect one. You too, have already failed and with the same mind that was in Christ, with the heart that has had the love of God shed abroad in it, restore others as you have been restored. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Most Thoughtful Gift

I've wanted to write this blog for a very long time.  Since May of last year, in fact. On Mother's day I received a gift from my oldest daughter. Now to know her is to love her. I watch her with her children, I see how she loves her husband (You're a lucky man), I watch how she ministers to others. I see how thoughtful, how caring, how genuine she is and I honestly stand in awe. Most times I just think to myself that I wish I was more like her. I wonder to myself, how she became what she is, a Godly, authentic woman and I feel blessed to say I know her.

She's always been Daddy's girl. She still is. Too say that I never felt left out would be a lie. I worked hard at teaching her to love and respect her Daddy. I always felt that she was so fortunate to have a Dad like my husband so I always let her see the value of having him as a father and a Pastor. I was glad that she was so in love with her Dad but there were times when I wished that I had been more a part of their inner circle. That was selfish of me and I'm glad that she is so close to her Dad.

One endearing quality she has is that she is exceptionally good at is gift giving. She is crazy generous, but when she doesn't have a lot of funds, she takes what she has and makes something beautiful and meaningful with it. I've never ever heard anyone say a bad word about her. That may be because people know I carry a gun. LOL! But even in public I've heard people comment on how nice and sweet and thoughtful she is. She makes me proud but most of all I feel fortunate to know her. If I had a best friend, I would want them to be very much like her.

Last Mother's day she gave me a gift. It was two pickle jars filled with little slips of paper. Her husband and mine kind of poo-pooed it as a gift but let me tell you, two men have never been so wrong.

On those slips of paper she had written 260 reasons why she was glad I was her mom-one for each workday for the next year. I was flabbergasted that any woman with two active boys could possibly find the time to sit and think up that many things, much less write them down. I can't imagine how much time, thought, and love she put into them. It truly is the thought that counts!

I tried to be good and follow the instructions on the jar, reading only one a day but that soon fell by the wayside and I found myself devouring them in groups of 10 or 20.  When I got through them all in a week, I read all 260 every week for months. If you remember, from May of  2015 into 2016 was the most difficult time of my life on every level. There were many days those little slips of paper ministered hope, healing and gratefulness to me when I felt hopeless, broken, and alone. I still read them. They still make me cry, and laugh and remember. Some days I read them wrapped in the beautiful silk shawl she made me this year for Mother's day that is covered with beautiful birds in all my favorite colors. (A thank you  to my grandsons who had to endure the fabric shopping trips to find this most exquisite fabric.  I'll give you extra candy!)

As I read these slips so full of love, I realized that she had listened and learned more than I ever imagined. What hit me the most were the "little things" she remembered that to me were just what you do when you're a mom, but to her were the things that had helped form her into the lovely woman that she is today. Unbeknownst to me, I was, after all, a small part of a big God's plan in the making of this beautiful creature I call my daughter. She's taught me that life is made up of the "little things" we do everyday. Breaking it down that way doesn't make motherhood seem so daunting.

I wish I could share every single one with you, but that would be overdoing it a bit but here are some of my favorites.

"You built a Mexican snowman with me complete with Dad's birthday sombrero from Chi-Chi's. Love you Mom!"

"You taught me to respect authority." Love you Mom!

"You always wiped my tears away!" Love you Mom!

"You took me to fly kites and sang "Let's Go Fly A Kite" while doing it." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to love all people despite their past, skin color, or social status." Love you Mom!

"You taught me there's a song for every situation..Usually a silly one." Love you Mom!

"You taught me how to not get my legs caught in the roller slide." Love you Mom!

"You taught me not to strive to be perfect but to just be who God created me to be." Love you Mom!

"You are the perfect hospital companion." Love you Mom!

"You built huge piles of leaves for me to jump in." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to learn and adjust whenever life brings changes." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to pray for others." Love you Mom!

"You were always my Mother first and my friend second." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to look with my eyes instead of my mouth." Love you Mom! (Something some of my other children have not yet conquered. LOL!)

"After Dad pronounced Brian and I husband and wife and we started to walk down the aisle, you tearfully grabbed my hand and I'll never forget that special moment." Love you Mom!

"You always loved to rock your babies...and I think that's why I love to rock mine." Love you Mom!

"You have the courage to say necessary things when most people are too scared." Love you Mom!

"You showed me corn on the cob is a meal." Love you Mom!

"You showed me it's okay to spoil my kids sometimes." Love you Mom!

"You've always been available to me." Love you Mom! (Sometimes I was too available! LOL)

"You let us get dirty and have fun and just enjoy being kids." Love you Mom!

"You gave me lots of kisses." Love you Mom!

"You taught me you aren't always blood related to family." Love you Mom!

"You made sure to meet my friend's parents before I went over to make sure I was in a safe place." Love you Mom!

"You celebrated each of my pregnancies and mourned the one we lost." Love you Mom!

"You sang the 'Good Morning Song'  to get me out of bed. Love you Mom!

"You give great hugs!" Love you Mom!

"You taught me to finish what I started" Love you Mom!

"I've never once heard you swear." Love you Mom!

"You got me a library card and showed me how magical the library could be." Love you Mom!

"You accepted help when you needed it." Love you Mom!

"You made a ridiculously fun slide from cardboard boxes and bean bags." Love you Mom!

"You let me spend time with my friends and develop strong relationships and lasting memories." Love you Mom!

"You prayed for my PUPPS to go away...and it did." Love you Mom!(Praise God for healing power and the agreement in prayer with other  church ladies! We saw a miracle we will never forget)

"Many young people who grow up in the church believe that "married activities" are evil and sinful, even after marriage. You taught me it is beautiful and it made it even more worthwhile to save myself for marriage.: Love you Mom!

'You always tell me you love me." Love you Mom!

"You treated my friends like they were part of the family." Love you Mom!

"You gave me good baby birthin hips." Love you Mom! (A blessing and a curse, I think,)

"You've always been honest with me." Love you Mom!

"You helped me learn how to be in the world but not of it." Love you Mom!

"You made me an award winning angel costume...twice." Love you Mom!

"You helped me realize that I am human and in fact, not a dog." Love you Mom! (That was a scary time indeed.)

"You acted all excited when I got you a bug-eyed goldfish for your birthday." Love you Mom! (I did like the way his butt wiggled when he swam!)

"SEVEN.LAYER.SALAD. Enough said." Love you Mom!

"You made my childhood magical." Love you Mom!(Even without Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny!)

"You are modest in how you dress." Love you Mom!

"You prayed for a Godly husband for me since the day I was born." Love you Mom!

"You held my hair back and put a cold washcloth on my forehead when I got sick...in the toilet." Love you Mom!

"When we didn't have a sled, you took a car mat and turned it into a sled! That's my first memory of sledding and I loved it." Love you Mom! (Actually that was your Daddy's idea and a good one indeed!)

"You took me shopping every year for school and always spent more than you should have. (And I gave Daddy a fashion show. He didn't mind!) Love you Mom!

"You defended me when I had crazy teachers." Love you Mom! (And they were never in short supply, it seems! Couldn't they tell you were close to perfect like I could?  They weren't very smart for teachers! LOL)

"You love corney Christmas movies (and I'm not alone when I cry for the Christmas Shoes.)" Love you Mom!

"There were always misconceptions of what the Proverbs 31 woman was and you always taught me truth." Love you Mom!

"You were faithful to go to church and made it a priority" Love you Mom!

"You had the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song memorized and sang it with gusto!" Love you Mom!

"You taught me to make good friends because 'bad company corrupts good morals." Love you Mom!

"You helped me through the heartache of losing best friends who chose wrong paths." Love you Mom!

"Sometimes you let us get unexcused absences from school when we just needed a day off." Love you Mom!

"You gave me fun dress up clothes and a tea set and let me make actual tea!" Love you Mom!

You learned to cut hair so Bubby and Evan could have their hair the way they wanted since no professional could suffice." Love you Mom!

"You made me buy my own candy at WalMart to help me get over my extreme shyness." Love you Mom!

"You simply love me." Love you Mom! (That I truly, truly do! Love you Kate!)

"You always tell me I'm a 'good egg!'" Love you Mom! (A truth if there ever was one!)

"You always make our Christmas Stockings fun." Love you Mom!

"You taught me it's good to relax and unwind." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to always have hope." Love you Mom!

"You tell me when you're proud of me." Love you Mom!

You taught me to take well calculated risks." Love you Mom!

"You showed me the beauty of remaining faithful to your husband." Love you Mom!

"You used tough love when I needed it." Love you Mom! (Oh, how hard that was cause you were so darned cute! :-)

"You showed me how God can take the worst things that happen to us and use them for good." Love you Mom! (I think we have to give God the credit for that one!)

"You got me rubber gloves so my hands wouldn't crack and bleed when I did the dishes." Love you Mom!

"You gave me room to make my own mistakes and helped me learn through them." Love you Mom!

"You helped my friends through some of the most difficult situations imaginable." Love you Mom!

"You taught me to listen to meaningful music." Love you Mom! (Among all the silly songs I taught you! LOL!)

"You took me to big hills to sled!" Love you Mom

"You never stop learning or educating yourself." Love you Mom! (Belly dancing anyone?)

"You appreciate a good cup of tea!" Love you Mom!

"You didn't leave your kids hospital beds for months; until they were able to come home." Love you Mom!

"You always told me I was beautiful...inside and out!" Love you Mom!

And my absolute favorite one:

"You understood that even though I'm a "Daddy's girl", I could never live without my mamma! Love you Mom! (This one causes me to burst out crying so I leave it at home!)

Now, if you're a Mamma and you read this whole blog, I owe you a box of tissues! I encourage all kids to do this for your Mom. She will treasure it forever!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just For Fun-Dishwasher Salmon

There is just a lot of senseless information on the internet! I know I have to be careful! It's just too easy to flip through Facebook and click on every random item that someone posts. When you are done, you realize that you have spent the better part of an evening looking at totally random, useless information. It's a total waste of time.

I have to apply the same restrictions to my blogroll. The other day I clicked on a blog that listed uses for your dishwasher-other than dishes. Some of it was helpful and clever but this one was way over the top! It lterally made me laugh outloud. I hope it give you a giggle too and my apologies to the person who came up with this idea and thinks that they are clever.

It was a blog that told you how to cook salmon in the dishwasher. (Seriously, who would even spend time experimenting with something like this.) Of course you wouldn't want to cook your salmon in the same load as your dishes in case you didn't do a very good job at wrapping it in tin foil because who wants to eat salmon cooked in dirty dishwasher water? Furthermore, usually the dishes are done AFTER dinner is cooked, not before. Although salmon is considered a pure food, I don't think this is what they mean when they talk of a "clean food" diet either. 

This just didn't make sense to me.  Firstly, you are using an entire load of dishwater plus the electricity to run it. Double jepordy in my opinion. Even with the promise that the salmon will be cooked and moist-DUH, it's not enough to make me want to try it. It's actually more efficient to cook salmon in the oven with some side dishes or on the grill than to use an entire dishwashing cycle! And in the summer, my dishwasher heats up my kitchen just as badly as my oven, so no advantage there either. 

Obviously I have since wasted more time just thinking about this. There is a lesson here to be learned though.

How many times do we hear something about another person that sounds ridiculous at the time, yet we spend precious time thinking about it when we could be filling our heads with other more valuable, useful and edifying things? With all the information we now have at our fingertips, we must be extra careful about what we fill our heads with! The more of the world that is swirling around in there, the less of God we are meditating on. Slowly our spiritual life will decline, in increments so tiny that we won't even realize it until we are in a place of tempatation or trouble. Then we would be wishing that we had put more effort into reading the Word and listening for the voice of the Spirit. 

As a way to regulate this, I have seriously limited what pops up on my wall on Facebook. It's much better to just check on someones statuses when the Lord brings them to mind than to read every item they share on their wall. 

I have catgorized my blogroll too. All the blog categories are listed on the left, but only "reliable" blogs actually appear with their subject titles. 

Thirdly I have limited the amount of time I spend on these sites at all. If I see something that interests me on a quick pass through I will mark it for later so that I can access it easily. If it's a website, I'll email myself the link so that I don't waste time scrolling and possibly being taken captive by some outlandish title or photo. 

I'm challenging myself to not give media of any kind more time than I give to God. That's out of balance. Does this make me a religious fanatic?  I hope so! If there's anything I want to be fanatical and knowledgable of, it's the Word of God! If there's anything I want to hear clearly, it's the voice of God. And if there's anything that I want to feel in life, it's the presence of God. That can only be gained by spending time with God.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Things I've Noticed During My Weight Loss Experiement

I've needed to lose weight for years. As I approached a weight that was almost unbelievable to me, I decided that I had to take action. Why I waited so long, I don't know. Until I had 4 children it was never an issue for me. Then life got real busy...4 kids, 2 brain injured...5 jobs between my husband and I to pay for the accident that caused the brain injuries...busy church activities...and the list goes on and on. Before I knew it, I was getting very overweight. Now being the tall girl that I am, I could carry a lot of weight but one day the scale, that does not lie, let me know that something needed to be done. 

I started looking on line because Google knows everything right?. I had no idea what to believe.  All the information was contradictory. It finally just made sense to me one day that I needed to eat less and move more. That's where I started. I didn't lose any weight but I started to feel better.

Then the company that I work for offered a 17 week Weight Watchers program for employees.  They took the fee out of our checks every other week and if we met our weight loss goal, they reimbursed us all but a few dollars of it.  I figured that WW had been around a long time and had a proven track record so I signed on the dotted line. 

The very first thing they called this weight loss program was a weight loss journey. I had already decided that I was not going to count points for the rest of my life so it was no journey for me. For me, this was more of a weight loss experiment. I exercised a minimal amount during the 17 weeks and learned what and how much to eat. I ended up losing 13 lbs. and getting my reimbursement. I do love a challenge! 

Since then, I've continued on-without counting points- to lose weight and I added an exercise regimen to my daily routine. As of my last weigh in, I have lost 47 lbs. My goal is 100 lbs. which would put me at the weight I weighed in college. A lofty goal no doubt but doable with time, patience, and the grace of God. 

I pleasantly surprised the Dr who had me with one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel when he saw my cholesterol levels 6 months ago. I bargained for 6 months to get it down without medication and it dropped 43 points! So now I will not have to take medication for my cholesterol and he is happy as a clam that I dropped so much weight.

Through all of this, I've made a few observations.

I can bend over, tie my shoes and pick up spent brass without suffocating. A most pleasant development. Breathing is good.

I can actually see my toes in the shower. If I suck it all in, I can see my legs too! O happy day!

I can tie my towel around me and it actually closes in the front! That's big when you're standing in front of a mirror!

The scale is my bestest friend.

The scale is my worstest enemy. 

People closest to you will not notice that you lost weight and if they do, they won't say anything except my youngest daughter who says pretty much everything she notices. Gotta love her honesty!

People who want to lose weight will notice that you did but won't ask you how you did it. Instead they will try fad diets and end up gaining weight.

There are no longer lumps in the front of my nightgown. This is both encouraging and disheartening because some things I would have preferred not to shrink have shrunk along with my belly. Oh well. 

When you lose weight you lose weight in your feet! My feet are swimming in my shoes! I guess it's time to buy new!

I'm get cold a lot more and a lot easier. Guess the fat layer just aint what it used to be. Thank goodness for under armor!

Since eating real food, processed food tastes horrible to me. Like last Friday my body told me I just had to have some Pringles. Since it was a cheat day, I bought one of the very small containers and ended up eating only 4 chips before giving the rest to a co-worker and drinking a quart of water to get rid of the taste in my mouth. Sorry Pringles, but you are history.

You really can swallow 2 big fish oil tablets, 6 garlic tablets, 2 turmeric tablets, a multivitamin, and two smaller pills for various symptoms all at once! It feels like my jello chuggin days at VCU where we competed to see who could swallow the largest number of jello squares in one gulp. I maxed out at 6 but my best friend could do 10! The kitchen ladies liked it because they didn't have to recycle the jello! LOL!

My knees don't hurt as much. My back doesn't hurt as often. My hip can take a lot more standing. What the chiropractor couldn't do, losing weight did! That and the diatomaceous earth I throw in my smoothie every morning! If you want to get your pound of dirt that they say it's healthy to eat every year, I recommend this stuff.  I feel great!

I don't recognize myself in photos but am pleasantly pleased when I realize that it's me! LOL!

It's a miserable day when you wear old pants to mow and forget a belt! LOL! You can just imagine that sight. 3 steps. Stop. Pull up pants. 3 steps. Stop. Pull up pants.

Losing weight does not help with stretch marks from 4 children. I guess I'm scarred for life. But to me they are kind of a badge of honor in that I produced life and left something good on the earth. 

Some clothing can just not be taken in no matter how hard you try.

I've become the health fanatic that I always made fun of before. Age has a way of changing you and helping you realize that you're not indestructible! In fact, it can quickly convince you of how vulnerable you really are!

The I need new wedding rings argument, the kind with diamonds, just went down the toilet. The old, original I-married-a-poor-dairy-farmer rings suddenly are fitting. But there's a lot of sentimental value to them. Like scripture says "do not despise small beginnings." 

I wish I would have done this sooner, but that's water under the bridge. When I sit by the creek at lunchtime I almost always think about the fact that the water passing by me will never pass by that way ever again. It reminds me that I have to make the best of each day because I will never pass this way again. Every person that I talk to, everything that I do, needs to be the best that I can muster because I may not get a second chance to be a blessing, to help a neighbor, to further God's Kingdom, or to experience something God has left for me that day. It's a good way to live.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Heaven....A Punishment?

I've taken a sabbatical from the worship team at church.  After 23 years, I thought I'd like a break for a variety of reasons. One change this has caused is that I don't have to leave for church as early in the morning. So yesterday, I flipped on the tv while drinking my morning smoothie to see who was preaching what.

I found a minister that I respect and started to listen. Now he and I differ in theology a bit. He is a Calvinist, I am Armenian in my view of salvation which means he is a once saved, always saved believer and I am a whosoever will may come and leave type of believer. I think the Bible offers support for both views. I guess everyone will figure out that Amernians were right when the dust settles. Giggle, giggle!

During his sermon he mentioned that a person can sin but of course in his way of thinking, this will not cause them to lose their salvation. I believe this too as long as there is confession and repentance unless the sin a a lifestyle of sin. I don't believe scripture tells us anywhere that we can continue in a lifestyle of sin and enter heaven. After all, Jesus turned the rich young ruler away from the Kingdom gates for a way of thinking-one that many Americans are guilty of if we're really honest.

Because of our theological differences, there are other areas of scripture that we don't agree on. One of these is healing. In his sermon he mentioned several sins that cause sickness or alluded that God may put sickness on a person because of sin. I don't agree with that either. Why would God afflict a believer with something His Son took a beating to reverse? He bore (he carried away) our sickness on the cross according to Isaiah. Anyway, that wasn't what really got me. What got me was his statement that if you sin and God makes you sick and you die, well your punishment is that you go to heaven a little sooner.

While I think a long life glorifies God, and while I know that Christians die everyday from sickness, I don't see heaven, at any age, as a punishment. Heaven is our reward, not a punishment. I don't believe for one minute that he meant heaven is a punishment, but that's what he said. I believe that people perish due to lack of knowledge. I believe Christians may have knowledge but their faith is not developed to the point that it can work for them sometimes too. That doesn't mean they aren't saved. It just means that they lack faith in that area. But that is fodder for another blog on another day.

Just let me say it again....HEAVEN IS NOT A PUNISHMENT! No matter when we get there or how we get there, it is NEVER a punishment! If you compare heaven wtih earth, heaven could never be a punishment. When we get there we won't be lamenting that we didn't get a few more years on earth!

Although this may not be a deal breaker as far as heaven is concerned, I just wish that preachers would not make false statements because they refuse to re-examine their theology to make sure it lines up with scripture.

Needless to say, the tv will remain off before church next week! I will drink my smoothis in the quietness (a relative term in our house) of my living room.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Oh What Peace We Often Forfeit

What a friend we have in Jesus, 
all our sins and griefs to bear! 
What a privilege to carry 
everything to God in prayer! 
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear, 
all because we do not carry 
everything to God in prayer.

The world is full of people trying to find peace. They search for it in money, reputation, mystical religions, metaphysical practices, humanism and power of positive thinking, drugs and other addictions, hobbies, logic and food-just to mention a few. Might I just say here that true peace can only come from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. 

Unfortunately, I see many Christians who have Christ but do not have His peace evident in their lives.  For the last couple of months, I've been one of them. I found myself blindsided by a situation that was very difficult for me and I could not seem to find peace about it. It was not due to lack of prayer that I was not finding peace.  I was pounding heaven every day, but for some reason peace was at best fleeting, here one day and gone the next. My heart was constantly in turmoil, my mind was constantly racing and eventually my faith began to be affected as well. I came to realize that lack of faith = lack of peace so I had to face the fact that something about the faith I thought I had in this situation was faulty. 

Then someone stood and gave a testimony in church concerning the difference between fact and truth and how it works in our lives. It resonated deeply in my spirit and as I spent the next couple of days meditating on it God began to move on my behalf. The first thing He did was show me that I was being disobedient in my thought life concerning the solution to the situation. To rectify that, He asked me to do something that in my way of thinking, left me more vulnerable than I had been before. It was hard because I had already suffered an unbearable amount of pain, but I obeyed and did what He asked me to do. The next thing he did was remind me of a verse that gave me explicit instructions of what to do in this situation. I mean this verse was tailor made for me at that moment. I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before! I laid down and slept soundly for the first time in months.

In just one moment of decision, EVERYTHING can change both for the better or the worst. When I compare the days before and the day after I finally let go and did things God's way, it makes me stand in awe. The days before I was in an emotional tailspin charging towards a crash emotionally and spiritually.  The days after I felt completely submerged, soaked and saturated in peace. The thing that causes me to marvel is that not one thing about the circumstances (the facts) had changed. But I had changed! I had come into line with the Word of God-finally and I have finally found peace!

In hindsight I realize that my reasoning in the situation was dealing only with facts, not truth and that by following that reasoning, I was being disobedient to God in my thoughts, thus explaining why I couldn't find peace. I had, by my own volition, forfeited my peace and had carried needless pain for weeks by my own efforts to fix or gain some control in the situation. What I had to realize was that I couldn't fix the situation no matter how many facts I gathered. I could only choose to believe that God was on my side with my good as His main intent and to believe that even though what He wanted me to do did not make sense, it was the truth and therefore right and good. 

This is not a foreign concept to me. I've heard it preached for years. I've practiced it on much lower levels but in this situation, because of the high emotional toll it was taking on my heart, I just couldn't get quiet enough before the Lord to hear what He was saying. In that time, God still gave me strength until I got to the end of myself. When I finally cast my burden on Him, he took my burden and replaced it with His peace.  

To forfeit means "to subject to seizure". I had subjected myself to the seizure of my peace by the devil. I'm not very proud of this. It takes a disturbing amount of arrogance to think that your reasonings of the facts will work better than the truth of God's Word. I literally wrestled with God on a daily basis trying to convince Him what would bring me peace.  All the while, He was just trying to take my burden and give me peace but I wouldn't let go of what I thought would be best for me. But God is patient and kind and slow to anger. He quietly waited until I had exhausted all arguments and was totally exhausted myself. Like a parent who just holds tightly to a child who violently fights sleep, God just held me in a tar-baby hold until I finally grew unable to kick any longer and I settled into His loving embrace. It was then He was able to reach me.

I write this as a reminder to anyone else in this same situation. Just let go of your burden and cast it on the Lord. He is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think. Even when his ways seem that they will not work, I can attest that they do.  Trust Him. Believe that He is on your side. He fights for you. You are His child. He will fix everything in His time and in His way and it will right! I know things can look impossible but if you follow His leading He will not lead you astray. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Baring Arms

“Did you mean bear arms?” my spell checker asked? I don’t talk to my spell checker but yes, I meant to write it that way!

The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Isaiah wrote this of the Lord In Is 52:10 of the restoration of Jerusalem.

Earlier in the chapter He called to them saying,

Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Will no longer come into you.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

He was calling for His people to awake and arise and go forth out of their captivity and back to Jerusalem, the city of the great King! He was announcing peace and good news and salvation to them. Even though it was their disobedience that got them where they were, here is God calling them out, calling them forth from their bonds and oppression and back to their rightful place in the world and in Him. He declares that HE has redeemed them back to Himself.

And who would dare to try to stop them? No one because the Lord Himself has bared His holy arm in the eyes of all nations!

We’ve all seen it. What do people do when they want to show you how strong they are? They roll up their sleeve and flex their bicep so that you can see and fear their strength.  That is the picture I get when I read v10. I see the Lord Himself rolling up His sleeve and flexing His holy right arm as He looks into the faces of our enemies as if He is just daring them to try to hurt one of us. He goes further and tells Israel that it is He that goes before them clearing the way AND He will be their rear guard just in case their enemies get stupid and arrogant and think that they can sneak up and recapture them. The Lord seeks to show Himself strong to His people AND to His enemies because it glorifies Him.

I take comfort in this passage of scripture. The Lord has not changed. He is still calling His people forth out of the bondages and things of this world that hold us captive. He has already proclaimed and provided peace, good news and salvation through the precious death and resurrection of His Son.

And when the enemy looms large over us, when we feel overwhelmed and overcome, the Lord is stepping in, rolling up His sleeve, barring that Holy right arm, flexing that spiritual muscle and  looking that enemy right in the eye just daring it to try something with us. This is part of our heritage in Christ. “No weapon formed against us will prosper. This is the heritage of the servants of God.” Is 54:17 When I take time to capture my thoughts and my fears and I remember that the Lord is all around me with His sleeve rolled up and His mighty arm flexed, there is peace even if the circumstances have not changed because I know that “the Lord is accomplishing all that concerns me.” Psalm 138:8 He did not forsake Israel then. He will not forsake me now.

Thank you Lord for the victory we have in Christ. Thank you that we have victory in every day and in every situation because you go before us and fight for us and you protect us from behind. We lose no ground because you are our rear guard! May my life be a testament of this so that all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God in my life!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What's Bad About Submission?

We submit to a lot of things in this life. We submit to Doctors because there is a chance that they can heal what ails us. We don’t question their intentions and although we may not like their treatments, we willingly submit to them in order to gain health. We may not enjoy the treatments but yet we endure them.  We submit to the ruling laws of our society because they keep us safe. We don’t speed in school zones, we pay our taxes, we treat other’s property with respect because the laws tell us that we must, but in the end we are the ones who benefit from it in that our children are safe, there are benefits that we enjoy as Americans that others in the world only dream of, and we have resources for living that exist nowhere in the world in such abundance. 

There is something much worse than cancer can ever be that plagues every single human being on earth. That thing is sin. Yet most are reluctant to submit to the one who can deliver them from sin and all of its consequences either because they don’t realize that the things that are plaguing them in life are a symptom of sin or they perceive His treatment as too harsh. We are willing to do whatever it takes to rid of bodies of cancer but unwilling to endure that much to rid ourselves of sin. Cancer is at the very worst temporary. When we die, it dies. Sin remains and is eternal. It would just make sense to want to rid yourself of it. 

So we see that submission in itself is not a bad word or concept. There are many benefits that it provides.  In fact many of the freedoms that we live in come as a result of submission to the boundaries that submission establishes. 

But you ask, how can submission and freedom be bed fellows? Even freedom at it’s highest level has boundaries because without them eventually unrestrained freedom will lead to bondage. Consider the alcoholic. He was free to buy and consume alcohol. But because there was no restraint in his freedom to do this, he becomes a slave to it and enters into a bondage that he cannot escape. This is the devils way. He tells us that the restrictions of God’s Word are burdensome, overbearing, and destructive to our happiness. He tells us that they bind us in the prison of the mundane, that they will keep us from experiencing all that life has to offer.  Wasn’t that his lie to Eve in the garden? He asked her “has God said?” and then convinced her that God was withholding freedoms from her that she should have. The decision that she and Adam made has adversely affected the whole of the human race since that time and will continue until sin has been obliterated from the earth. 

Now we’ve discussed things that we submit to because it benefits us. That is willing submission, but not pleasant submission.  But we also submit to many things because it is pleasant to submit. 

When we meet that one special person we willingly submit to some boundaries in that relationship. For instance, I don’t flirt with men. I don’t flaunt my bodily features in front of them to gain attention. I don’t deny that person my time, my attention or my affection, no, in fact, I’m willing to sacrifice all those things for them. But as many have learned, pleasant submission is not always beneficial to us. Some relationships go sour and one or both parties suffer because we are human and flawed by that thing called sin which leads to self-worship and self-preservation and every other “self-” that there is. We can find ourselves trapped in relationships that are not good, or maybe not even safe for us any longer. 

In light of all of this I have to ask myself, what’s so bad about submitting to the one who can truly set you free? Why not willingly submit to the one whose submission will provide pleasure and complete freedom in all things?  This is hard to fathom because we have only experienced these things within the confines of human experience. God is perfect. His love is perfect. His plans for us are only for our good, joy, completion and freedom. He already is and has all these things for Himself and His only goal is to get them to us. But we see his treatments and solutions as too harsh or restrictive because we can only view them from our own human experience. Because our minds have been poisoned with that same question that God asked Eve “has God said?”, we miss out on the fullness that Adam and Eve experienced before the fall! We are no different than they were.  The same capacities and capabilities that resided in them reside in us. We were hardwired this way at creation. And once the curse of sin is removed, we can once again live in the same communion with God that they did. In fact, our communion with God through the Holy Spirit is better than what they had. It is part of the better covenant.  If that’s not freedom then there is no definition for it. Just as we are willing to submit to some initial discomfort to receive physical healing and health, does it not make sense to submit to some initial emotional and spiritual discomfort to obtain the same in all of our life? 

God has promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He has told us that His commands are not burdensome. 

A sled dog’s greatest desire is to be picked to be part of the sled team. When he is tied to the sled and the other dogs, he is with his master, obeying his every command. It is his greatest joy to please his master. He does not find the yoke hard or his master’s commands burdensome. In fact, he finds it quite exhilarating. When the master emerges from the house and starts to prepare the gear for the sled, the dogs go nuts in anticipation and excitement. Each one hoping that they will be part of the team that gets to slide into the yoke.

There will always be laws and rules and restrictions. Even nature itself sets boundaries for mankind that we must observe and obey or our very lives will be lost. 

So I ask you today, what is so bad about submitting to the one who can truly provide you everything that you search for in life? The one who can truly set you free!