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Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Ain't a Man Cave...

The past few weeks I have worked very hard to turn my living room - a place that is often a wasted space - into a place that is my space. A place for me to read, to sit and drink tea with friends and a place to escape testosterone when it becomes too much for me. It happens. I don't mind testosterone as a rule...just need to escape it every once in a while.
We have a den. It has a huge television and the Wii and X-Box with a nice big couch and leather chair and ottoman. It is named correctly - a den. For the men. I do not mind the men coming into my more feminine space - as long as they understand that they are on my turf. And if there is a chick flick on my more sensible sized telly - they should LEAVE IT ALONE. I'm just sayin'.

What I love about my little room is that there are things that are special to me. My piano, the chairs my Mom and I refinished together (still not quite done). The corner cabinet and pitcher and ewer that were my grandmother's, my desk when I was a little girl. My husbands grandparents 100 year old table, a rocking chair I finished for him before we were married, my framed cathedral quilt squares my childhood neighbor taught me to make that I framed, or the picture my 9th grade Sunday School teacher painted for me when I had the twins, an antique library table I found for a steal at a garage sale as well as my antique baby bed side rail I use for my magazine rack. My boys pictures and silhouettes and even a book case that was mine in college, given to me from my boss when I worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It was the boys bedside table for years. I recouped it and it has all the things they wrote on it - I decided I liked it too much with their scribblings from years gone by than I would if I wiped it all out and refinished it. Everything in the room makes me smile when I think about the story behind it.






I think that is the way a house should be decorated. Not with just pretty stuff. But stuff that means something to you. That moves you in some way. When I sit in my little living room I am truly at home. I think every mama should have such a place.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My reading...what a blessing.

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/

My husband and I have been dealing with money issues - the lack thereof to be specific. Since he lost his job last year, we have been put in a position of "monetary constriction". It has been scary at times but overall freeing. I have seen how God takes care of us when we trust him. I have seen him keep me closer. Charles Stanley was saying one of the biggest blessings of hardships is that it keeps us dependent on our heavenly Father.

So when I read this this morning, I had to share it. I love the picture it presents and the idea that our "open" hands not only allow us to give - but receive. A great read to start out my Tuesday!

Open Hands


And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."


Acts 20:35b

Recommended Reading

2 Cor. 9:10-11



Try this object lesson with a child. Have him hold out both hands, palms open, and put a nickel in each palm. Tell him to close his fists tight and keep them closed no matter what you say. Now tell him you're very poor and need some money. Can you have his two coins? No--he's holding them tightly. Then tell him you're very rich and would like to give him two quarters to replace his two nickels. Can you replace his nickels with quarters? No--he's still holding tight.

Even a child can see what adults sometimes fail to recognize: A closed hand misses two blessings in life. A closed hand cannot enjoy the blessing of giving to others who are in need, nor can a closed hand receive blessings God may want to bestow. The best posture in life is to live with open hands and to view ourselves as channels of God's blessings. He gives to us not only to meet our needs, but to give us the opportunity to learn to give as Christ gave--fully, generously, and unconditionally.

Prayerfully hold out both open hands in front of you and present them to the Lord for Him to take from them or give to them as He pleases.

Our heavenly father never takes anything from His children unless He means to give them something better.


George Muller
 
 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Now..... WHO's hard to love?

I live my life most days like it is mine. Like my husband and children are duties along with all of the other things I "have" to do. Thankfully I enjoy them. It is a blessing that just is - I love people. People are amazing. Especially my family - and for the most part God has given me the ability to love genuinely and with little effort, most people. Of course there are a couple that come along that are hard to love. I can say that because I am one of those people that make it tough. I believe that I am a difficult friend. So when my counterparts come along - it throws me. I see myself in them and I do not like them. I can love them. I can understand them. But  - wow - it's hard to love them well.

I would say in the past year, God has given me a true glimpse at who I am. It has changed my perspective. Little by little I see things that I did not see before. I am not a lovely person. This was a gift given to me by God. And I know it sounds bizarre, but the gift is, finally understanding that there is no good thing in me - apart from God.
What is so great about this gift is - it gives me humility- and it is hard to look down on others when I see how very sorry I am.  It has allowed me to see that my standard for my friends is high. Very high. I was a slave to that standard myself. And I expected it of my friends. So - when they failed me - I pulled away. Not in a "I am mad at you and never speaking to you again" way. It was a very subtle withholding of my love from them. I did not call. I did not fellowship.

What an egotistical, and nauseating way to live my life. God has called me to a much more satisfying and blessed life than that. I never saw it. I thought I was the best friend EVER. I would have bent over backwards for these folks. And when they failed me, when my standards were not met, I felt betrayed - BY THEM. So in my hurt - I distanced myself. I did this when I was younger as well. But it was not so subtle. It was the ever so clever "You are not my friend anymore" said directly to the face. And I meant it. So - as I got a little older, I saw the error of my ways and fixed what I thought my problem was. You cannot give up on your friends. So I stayed friends with them. I just quit investing myself emotionally into them. Because it hurt when I was let down. See? No change really. Just more of the same. Me. Controlling "my" life. And that is not friendship. Nor is it what God has called me to do.

So - when God gave me a glimpse of myself. I was grossed out. Truly repelled by who I was when I tried to take control. My instincts, my attitude, my abilities - mean nothing when they are not sifted through the loving and capable hands of my heavenly Father - WHO has made me in HIS image. And has given me gifts that will serve me well as the daughter of a King. And there is the dicotomy again - I am unlovely on my own - but made in the image of Christ - apart from him - I am nothing. With him I am lovely.

The gift of humility that was given also gave me a genuine gratitude. God loves me - in spite of my unlovableness. As I am. Oh - he sees the ugly alright. And he loves me anyway. Amazing. I saw how I stomped across people in my desire to be noticed and thought well of - he saw that too and was so sad. I saw how my pursuits each day were for myself alone.  My closet narcissim knew no bounds: the meals I made and took to people - the Sunday School class I taught - when I would sing. It was to glorify myself. To make me feel better about who I was.

When all along, I was so much more than I realized. I still struggle with my selfishness. I forget how ugly I really am. But still God opens my eyes every so often, he still gives me those glimpses and it brings me up short. When I see these things about myself...my loving, heavenly Father opens his arms and bids me come to him - and I do. I linger there...I see the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness. The freedom to live as his child and to enjoy these gifts in full.

How blessed am I?

I am trying to re-engage. To find the place that God wants me to serve. But for the right reasons. Not to please others so I can feel good about myself. But questioning where would God have me be? It's not easy. I feel that people think that I am doing nothing right now. But I cannot worry about what they think. That is part of that "me monster" (thanks Brian Regan) that I cannot stand to see come out. But I know that he will direct me and that he is using me - in the raising of my children as image bearers of their heavenly Father. And he has given me a vast calling on my daily life, in every person I speak to and every task I put my hand to."Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" Colossians 3:23



Galatians 5:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To Slog or To SOAR.

I've been slogging through life again for the past week.

Slogging - transitive verb: To PLOD (one's way) perseveringly especially against difficulty.

I didn't think it was a word. I thought I made it up - it is what I FELT like I was doing. But - there it is - in Webster's online dictionary. Apparently someone else has been slogging too.

It's almost like an onomatopoeia.

Anyway - I have managed to get myself back into a blue streak and have become overwhelmed with my little life. A couple of weeks ago - it was so big and expansive and it was exciting and amazing and then this last week has been plodding. slogging.

Apparently this is my natural tendency. To fly off into the stratosphere and then to plummet to the depths. It's exhausting. But does it have to be? Can I not somehow skip the very lows? Or at least dip a little less lower? Or is this what I have to expect now?

I have also found that there is a direct connection to my lows with sin. And seperation. Which to a Kingdom minded person translates to falling away from Christ. Not in a apostasaic (that one is NOT in the dictionary) way, but in what I have come to find is a natural cycle with me. A drawing near and falling away pattern that I would like to see less of the falling away happen. I trust that it can be done.

I happen to be exhausted by life right now. The getting up and hitting the ground running every day and not stopping until bedtime is too much for me. The continued pressure of feeling the need to redeem the time - making every moment count - wears on me, and I find I hear the whisper of the serpent very well when I get tired. And I am still not doing some of the things that I want to. And because of my dissatisfaction, the serpents voice is loud and clear.

To be honest, there is no simple solution to this. I have backed up and started over in my mind in pretty much every direction I can and I always find myself back to being overwhelmed. But this is me. Trying to fix it. On my own.

I woke up this morning to grab the bull by the horns, to make a plan and to act on it. I carefully routed and re-routed and found that I cannot do it. Not alone.

Is there a simple solution? One that does not end up with me feeling like I am being pinched in that place where all the stress balls up at the base of my neck?
I read Isaiah 40. Apparently my over-whelm-ed-ness is just a sight problem. I am not seeing clearly. I have placed my sights on my circumstances once again. I am not focusing on the hills from whence comes my help.

Once I read Isaiah 40 there was an immediate and physical release of a very real tension on my part. I breathed a sigh of relief. I have a very real God. And my God is BIG. He holds my life and the lives of all in his hands. He is a good God, a loving father, an attentive shepherd. He will give me rest. He will renew my strength so that I will no longer slog - but SOAR. And that is that. How sweet it is!

Isaiah 40


Comfort for God’s People

1 Comfort, comfort my people,

says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

the way for the LORD;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,

and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”



6 A voice says, “Cry out.”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”



“All people are like grass,

and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

because the breath of the LORD blows on them.

Surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of our God endures forever.”



9 You who bring good news to Zion,

go up on a high mountain.

You who bring good news to Jerusalem,

lift up your voice with a shout,

lift it up, do not be afraid;

say to the towns of Judah,

“Here is your God!”

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,

and he rules with a mighty arm.

See, his reward is with him,

and his recompense accompanies him.

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.



12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?

Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,

or weighed the mountains on the scales

and the hills in a balance?

13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD,

or instruct the LORD as his counselor?

14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,

and who taught him the right way?

Who was it that taught him knowledge,

or showed him the path of understanding?



15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;

they are regarded as dust on the scales;

he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,

nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.

17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;

they are regarded by him as worthless

and less than nothing.



18 With whom, then, will you compare God?

To what image will you liken him?

19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,

and a goldsmith overlays it with gold

and fashions silver chains for it.

20 A person too poor to present such an offering

selects wood that will not rot;

they look for a skilled worker

to set up an idol that will not topple.



21 Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,

and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,

and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

23 He brings princes to naught

and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

24 No sooner are they planted,

no sooner are they sown,

no sooner do they take root in the ground,

than he blows on them and they wither,

and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.



25 “To whom will you compare me?

Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:

Who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one

and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength,

not one of them is missing.



27 Why do you complain, Jacob?

Why do you say, Israel,

“My way is hidden from the LORD;

my cause is disregarded by my God”?

28 Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Monday, January 3, 2011

You Must Read This...I love it - Signs of Life

http://www.turningpointonline.org/site/R/?i=TT6dhv6WUs6OgEEkBhRtNg..



Pop Stars


You will know them by their fruits...by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:16, 20

Recommended Reading

Matthew 7:15-20



How hot was it last summer? According to the newspapers, it was so hot in the southern United States that a farmer in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, reported that his corn popped on the stalk. A Hardin County farmer also claimed that some of the ears among his rows of corn started popping in the intense heat. He sent photos of the burst kernels to specialists who said such a phenomenon is possible, though rare. Talk about signs of life! Can you imagine walking through a cornfield and hearing popping sounds all around you?

When we walk among the rows of Christians at church, are there any signs of life? When you look in the mirror as the day begins, are there any bursts of joy and claps of praise? When things get hot, is there an explosion of trust in God and kindness toward others?

As followers of Christ, there should be "signs" that we are alive in Him. When Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them," He was telling us that Christianity must be fruitful. Are you bursting with joy today?

The time is short, and we must not only work while it is day; we must bear fruit while it is the season for fruit.

A. J. Gordon

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Casting Crowns - Who am I?

Starting Over?

There is something about a new year that causes folks to want to start all over again. Their expectations for the coming year are bright and shiny and hopeful. They are going to lose weight, read more, spend more time with loved ones, work harder to become organized. I absolutely get it. I am usually on that band wagon with all my shiny new expectations as well.

But of course, after a few weeks or months (if I'm lucky)  - the shiny is worn off. So the last couple of years, I have more or less backed off on the resolutions. It seems to be setting myself up for failure. This is a defeatest attitude though. It is wrong.

 I have determined that this year I will start over every day. I will rise from my bed, bless the Lord and ask for his blessings and start every day new. I somehow like the idea that I can begin again every day - even moment by  moment if I need to.

My thinking goes like this: I have a tendency to throw my hands in the air and give up when I have a huge goal and I miss it. Such as dieting - if I have a moment of weakness and eat a brownie that has been offered me, my thinking tends to be - "Well I screwed up", and I eat like a failure the rest of the day - or week. Can't do that. That's flabby behavior. And flabby behavior makes for a flabby body. That carries over to every other thing I put my hand to as well. Work. Home. Play. Kingdom.

I think what excited me today is the idea that I have a chance moment by moment to begin again. I will not be able to see my goals made each year. Not even each day sometimes.  But by deciding moment by moment to live faithfully, I expect that I will be further along in a year than I could have ever been by setting my huge list of New Year's Resolutions and doing my normal "give up".

Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version, ©2010)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I do not want to lose heart. I want to run the race faithfully. I am full of hope for this year. I pray that in all things that I will be faithful. That I will set my mind on things above and remember that my steps are moment by moment - and by doing them one at a time that I will indeed see change in myself that resembles my heavenly Father. I want to show hospitality more consistently, to accomplish more in my home, and in my job, I want to love my co-workers better and succeed not only in that but doing my job well. I want to see the creativity God gave me accomplished. I want to love my husband better, and to live more faithfully before my children.

I lay it before you all - that I will be accountable in my endeavors.

I love the idea that when I end my day and wake up to a new day - that I will see God's mercies - every day. Amazing. Encouraging. Blessed.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (New International Version, ©2010)


22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”