Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hunting Is About Opportunity

One of my new favorite shows to watch is Sarah Palin’s “Alaska” series on TLC. I have always admired her and especially enjoy seeing the personal side of her.

On a recent show she was caribou hunting with her father. Their first day of hiking over rough terrain produced nothing. However Sarah referred to something her father always says, “Hunting is about opportunity.”

What immediately came to my mind was the devil. I believe he uses that mindset when he goes after us. He hunts us but he looks for opportunities. He doesn’t just pounce on us at will. He is pretty slick about what he does.

I believe there are two important factors to how the devil hunts us. First, he looks for opportunities that make us the most vulnerable. Some of our most vulnerable times are when we are facing difficulties or tragedies in life. It could be sickness, the loss of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the backsliding of a child and the list could go on.

There are certain moments in our life when we are just more vulnerable to his attacks. That is an opportune time for the devil.

Another hunting opportunity that I believe the devil looks for pertains to our personality. He knows enough about some of our weaknesses that he will use any opportunity to take advantage of that. He doesn’t go after us when we are at our strongest. He takes advantage of those moments when something in our personality causes us to be at our weakest.

Now all of this might sound like we are at his mercy. We are never at the mercy of the devil, no matter how he pursues us. The good news is that we have someone alongside of us that will fight back. We have the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

The devil may have his tactics for hunting us. But remember that God’s Word says that greater is He who is in us than him who is in the world (I John 4:4).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Leaf At a Time

Several times during the week I pass this certain house, located about a mile from my own. During the fall season I always get a kick out of this older couple that lives there. They are outside not just raking their leaves but they are down on their hands and knees with a plastic bag and picking up every single leaf.

And when I say every single leaf, I mean every single leaf. They apparently are very particular about their lawn. Now our family…I don’t think we have ever raked our leaves. We prefer to mow right through them. It’s not that I don’t care about my lawn. It’s just that I don’t care that much.

For some reason, this reminded me of our lives…the care we give to the lawns of our lives. Think about those areas in your life that you struggle with. Perhaps you have struggled for years. Are you like my family? Why bother getting rid of it? Just mow over it instead?

The problem is that although you do make the leaves less noticeable, they don’t completely disappear. In fact, now you have cut them into so many pieces that they spread further. Sin mowed over won’t disappear. It will only spread. There will always be a reminder of it, too.

For instance, I would bet that some of the leaves stuck in our bushes are not from this year; they are probably from last year. There is no way to completely get rid of them if we don’t rake and only mow over some of them.

But that couple at that other house…down on their hands and knees. They have taken the time and care to make their lawn look the way it does. Can you imagine how differently our lives would look if we paid that much attention to our sin and meticulously got rid of it?

I can tell you that what they do is hard work. It takes time and dedication. What we do takes no effort. It is just easier and shows our lack of enthusiasm for yard work. Yes, no matter what time of year you visit our home, you are bound to see a few leaves. But that is not the way the Lord wants us to live our lives. He wants us to get down on our knees and begin to clean things up, one leaf at a time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Your Life's List

Get up at 5:30 am…ugh, is it that time already?????

Grab my coffee, Bible and journal…now my daughter wants to talk.

Wake up my boys…wake them up again…and then again…oh come on already!

Turn on the WII Fit Plus…of course now somebody needs something from me!

Pick up a few things…why can’t people clean up after themselves?

Drive my children to school…
people in front of me are driving too slow, don’t they know I am in a rush?

Finally able to get started on my work…the telephone rings, the dogs won’t stop barking.

Worked all day but didn’t get nearly enough done…great, now I have to finish it in the evening.

Go to pick up my kids and carpool some other kids…why am I always the one who has to drive everyone’s kids?

Thinking about the work I have to finish later…but now everyone wants to tell me about their day.

Get home and attempt to finish my work…interrupted by requests, questions or a need to be driven somewhere…grrr…

Cook dinner early because I have to get my son to football practice…why does football practice have to be at this time?

Time to eat…except two of my three children don’t like what I made and are complaining.

Drive my son to football practice…why am I always hitting traffic, no matter what time of the day I drive?

Back home to finish work…but then I remember we need milk…and bread…and eggs…and toilet paper…not again!

Off to the store…I wish the lines were shorter, don’t people realize I am in a rush?

Get home and try to finish work…husband is home so I guess I should greet him.

Get back to work…husband wants me to go with him to pick up son…doesn’t he know I have work to get done?

Back home and finally finish my work at 8:30 pm…this is just really not fair.

Know I need to get to sleep by 10 pm in order to get a good night’s sleep but then remember that I never threw the laundry in…how come no one else can throw it in?

Finally asleep by 11 pm and tomorrow I get to get wake up and do it all again tomorrow…oh joy.

This is more than just a list of what a day in my life looks like. It has actually become my list of complaints. But this is my life. So what I am really doing is complaining about my life. It kind of puts things into a different perspective when I think about it that way.

We all have our list that comprises our life. You may be thinking that my list is nothing, that I should see everything you have to accomplish in a day. You might get up earlier, you might stay up later, you might have more than three children or you might work two jobs.

The point is not to compare lists but to examine our hearts to see if we are complaining about our lists. If you were to write a list of what you do in a typical day what would it look like? Remember, what you are actually writing out is what comprises your life.

Life is filled with some of the things I have mentioned. Life comes at us with inconveniences, interruptions, changes in the schedule, needs that must be met and unending duties that must be fulfilled. I don’t think any of us are exempt from these things.

So to get out of this recently developed habit of complaining, I decided to tweak my list. I can’t necessarily remove things from my list because this is the life I have been given. However if I were to think from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one my list would look something more like this:

Get up at 5:30 am…thank You Lord for another day of life!

Grab my coffee, Bible and journal…my daughter knows that no matter what I am doing, I am available—and as an added bonus, she gets to see that I am spending the start of my day with God.

Wake up my boys…wake them up again…and then again…someday they won’t be here and I will have no one to wake, so I am going to appreciate this opportunity.

Turn on the WII Fit Plus…while getting in some exercise is definitely a good thing if my children need me, I will gladly make myself available to them.

Pick up a few things…thankful that I have arms and legs that can do this.

Drive my children to school…take advantage of the opportunity and pray for my children, feeling thankful that I am able to drive them to school.

Finally able to get started on my work…thankful that the Lord has given me the work that I have.

Worked all day but didn’t get nearly enough done…feel thankful for what I was able to accomplish and trust that if I give my time to Him, it will all come together.

Go to pick up my kids and carpool some other kids…
blessed to be available to not only my children but to other people’s children as well.

Thinking about the work I have to finish later…but happy to be interrupted by my children telling me about their day, thankful that I can be the first one to hear about it.

Get home and attempt to finish my work…blessed to be a mom who is needed, which is more important than my work.

Cook dinner early because I have to get my son to football practice…thankful that I am home at this time to get an early start on dinner.

Time to eat…enjoy my meal and if the kids don’t like what I made, encourage them to make themselves something else to eat.

Drive my son to football practice…so glad my son is able to participate in a sport he enjoys.

Back home to finish work…but remember that there are things our family needs first.

Off to the store…thankful that we have the means to buy the things that we need.

Get home and try to finish work…eager to greet my wonderful, hard-working husband when he comes through the door.

Get back to work…husband wants me to go with him to pick up son…blessed to have a husband who wants to spend time with me and gladly accompanies him to pick our son up.

Back home and finally finish my work at 8:30 pm…it has been a very productive day.

Know I need to get to sleep by 10 pm in order to get a decent night’s sleep but then remember that I never threw the laundry in…recognize that part of my ministry as a wife and mom is taking care of my family.

Finally asleep by 11 pm and tomorrow I get to get wake up and do it all again...I am one blessed person!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Journey Isn't Always Easy

Things have been quiet here on my blog. I have been working on some changes in my life, both in my career and in my personal life. I feel like I am on this new journey that is taking me to great places but to get there I have to make some adjustments. Some of it is about prioritizing and some of it is much deeper than that.

No journey in life is without some difficulties. No matter how much you are looking forward to the destination, there is bound to be some rough spots along the way.

This summer my family took a trip to Washington D.C. Well, we actually stayed at a hotel in Virginia and took the metro train into Washington D.C. each day to visit some historical sites. It was an amazing trip. But to get there required leaving in the middle of the night, driving many hours with three children in a minivan. Need I say more?

Once we reached our destination the journey to get there was worth it. It was the same thing on the way back. Our destination was home. But it required a 14 hour trip, with by now three very ornery children and not getting home until 1:30 a.m. The journey was rough at times, especially when we got lost in Indiana and drove for what felt like days…but once we arrived at our destination—home sweet home—again, it was worth it. It felt so good to walk through our front door.

Rarely do we take any journey in life, literally or spiritually, without there being some incidences along the way. We might fuss and complain. We might wish we could turn back. We might think there has to be a better way. Yet once we reach our destination suddenly we can breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Well that wasn’t so bad.”

I don’t know what journey you are on today. I don’t know if you are facing some obstacles, some rough spots or some huge boulders that are standing in your way. Plow through. Go around. Walk over. Keep going. The point is, whatever you do…don’t stop! Eventually you will reach your destination. God may have some pit stops for you to make along the way but He has a final, wonderful destination for you to reach. No, the journey isn't always easy but it is always worth it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra Nachos?

Are you living in the supernatural? As Eric Cross sings, “We should be walking in the supernatural.” Who is Eric Cross? He attends my church but he is also a Christian rap artist. Just this morning I got his new CD from him, “The Signature,” which I have to highly recommend.

One of the songs on his CD is called “Supernatural.” Apparently God wanted me to have a real supernatural experience today. Before I share my story, I have to put something out there. Too often we get misconceptions about what living in the supernatural really means. We tend to think of it as being some explosive event in our lives.

Yet the supernatural is really supposed to be about just living day-to-day. Everyday we could be living in the supernatural if we really wanted to.

So here was my just living out my day supernatural experience. I had gone alone to stop at a store after the morning church service and pick up Taco Bell for my family. I ordered my food and while I was waiting for it I noticed on my receipt that there was an extra order of nachos.

Normally I would have done what most of us would have done. I would have told the cashier that there was an extra order of nachos on my receipt…that I only ordered two, not three. Something stopped me. I just decided to let it go.

So I got back in my van with my food, and my extra order of nachos, and put on Eric Cross’ CD. Just as I was passing a guy on the street with a sign that read, “Needs food” the song “Supernatural” came on.

As I drove past him my initial thoughts were things like, “I’ve already passed him.” “Jacob is probably so hungry he will eat that extra order.” Then as the nudging in my heart grew stronger it became, “I am a woman alone in my van. I can’t pull up to some guy on the street.” When the nudging became even stronger it was, “What would I say to the guy? He is going to think I’m nuts.”

See, I was thinking in the natural. But then these words from the song sunk in my heart as I continued the internal battle. “People are watching us…” and “actions prove if He lives inside of us…”

Even as I turned the van around to head back toward him, I was still doing battle. “Our food is going to get cold.” “The kids are going to wonder where I am.” That song just kept speaking into my spirit and I knew that I had a choice to make at that moment. I could keep on toward home and go about my natural way of life. Or I could choose…notice I said CHOOSE…to live the supernatural.

With my doors locked and my window only partially down, I pulled up to the man. When seconds earlier my heart was pounding, I was now feeling an incredible sense of peace. I rolled my window down further as he came to it. I said to him, “I just went to Taco Bell and they accidentally gave me an extra order of nachos. I believe God wanted you to have them.” He smiled and said thank you. He eagerly took the nachos and I said, “God bless” and I was off.

That was it. It was simple yet it was supernatural. That’s what I find so amazing about living in the supernatural. It isn’t always this monumental moment in life. It can be as simple as handing a hungry man an extra order of nachos.

I tell this story for two reasons. One, I have been on the other side when God spoke into my heart to do something and I didn’t. Probably most of us have been there. Who knows what was missed out on. I don’t want anyone to miss out on whatever God has. Two, as I learned today and I hope for others to really understand is that we could be living in the supernatural every single day. We just maybe have to get a new perspective on what that means.

So…what are you going to do with your extra nachos?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are You Ready to Grow Up?

Obedience to God is an amazing thing. I have been on both sides of the coin. I have experienced blessing for being obedient and I have experienced consequences for not being obedient. I believe the goal, however, for every Christian is to become more obedient as we grow in our relationship with the Lord.

It’s similar to raising a child. When they are babies there isn’t much discipline to be done and we really don’t have any expectations. We are just enjoying this stage of newness. As a new believer, I think it’s similar to how God feels. He is just enjoying this newness of life that we have found in Christ. That is why babies only receive milk. They are not ready for more. I Peter 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.”
In other words, without the milk of God’s Word there can’t be growth. The intention, however, is that there IS growth. We don’t expect our children to remain babies forever. They have to grow and the same is true as a believer.

There is a source of frustration that can arise when children don’t begin to “grow up.” Sometimes we see children who appear to be greatly lagging in maturity. They are 5 years old and still walking around with a pacifier in their mouth—hopefully I have not offended anyone who has a 5 year old with a pacifier. My point is that growth is part of human development but it is also part of spiritual development.

I Corinthians 3:1-2, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”

Who wants to be on milk forever? If you are a parent, think of the first time you put something in your child’s mouth that wasn’t milk. Some of them probably spit it right back out. That’s like a believer who isn’t ready for something more than milk. They want to remain as an infant in Christ.

Then there are other babies who, although quite surprised at this new thing in their mouth, gobble it up. They are ready for more! They are ready for solid food. The same is true with believers. There will be some believers who are ready for more. As a believer, we SHOULD be ready for more. We should be CRAVING more.

Hebrews 5:12: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

This is really sad if you think about it. Every single one of us ought to be a teacher of the Word of God. It doesn’t have to be formal, such as a Sunday school teacher or a preacher. We should all be equipped to share the good news and teach others. It could mean that you are a “teacher” in your neighborhood, in your workplace, with extended family or at your school. But the point is that we should all eventually arrive at that place where we are ready to teach others what we have learned. We shouldn’t be babies squalling away, kicking our legs and opening our mouths for more milk!

Still not convinced that you need to grow up? Look at the next verse after Hebrews 5:12: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hebrews 5:13).

If you are unskilled in the word of righteousness then you are not able to grow in obedience. Obedience is a really big deal to God. If you are a parent, you know that it’s a big deal for you. My children are now either a preteen or teens. If they were still acting the way they used to at 2 and 3 years old, there would be a serious problem.

So think about your spiritual walk. Are you still a babe in Christ? Have you been wearing diapers for too many years? Or are you more like a toddler, getting into things you shouldn’t and throwing fits when you don’t get your way? Perhaps you are more like a school-age child, who is just flitting through life, enjoying this time of childhood antics. Maybe you are more like a teenager, still trying to figure out who you are but finally beginning to break away from childhood. You have one foot in childhood but another foot moving toward adulthood.

Or are you a grown adult? Not only ready for solid food but tearing apart the meat of God’s Word? Do you dig into it like it’s the last time you will ever eat? This is the place God has for you. Are you ready to get there? Are you ready to grow up?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Got Peace?

One of the things that I have been on a pursuit for, especially as of late, is peace. I’m not talking about an inner peace; by the grace of God I have that. I am talking about peace in certain relationships in my life.

I have had to learn the hard way that while I am seeking peace, I can expect to be hit with some trying challenges. It seems like as soon as you determine to really work at something, the heat gets turned up. The people you are trying so desperately to be at peace with suddenly come at you with a renewed force. The easy thing would be to stop trying and just walk away.

Believe me, I have been there. This pursuit of peace has left me to feel like I am scrambling up a mountain. Just when I get my footing, an obstacle looms before me and I begin to slip. At times I just want to let go and freefall. Forget them…I have tried and I can do no more. Yet God keeps asking me to hang on. Sometimes it is with the edge of my fingertips.

It has been a trying pursuit, to say the least. It has left me banged up at times. I have been hurt in the process. I have wondered why. But then I am reminded of the many times we read throughout the gospels in which Jesus never gave up on people. He was the true pursuer of peace; however, the peace He had to offer was a relationship with the Heavenly Father.

That realization has given me a new strategy. No longer do I feel a need to pursue peace for the sake of not arguing or being able to just get along. I need to seek peace in order to point them toward a relationship with Christ.

No, they don’t exactly get me. Their beliefs don’t exactly line up with mine. I might seem too radical to them at times. But preaching won’t do it. I have to live my life in a way that pleases the Lord and then pray that the peace they see in my life will make a difference in their life.

Sometimes we try so hard to fix situations, to change things when really all we need to do is step back and just let God do the work.

Peace with others can only really be had when we first have our peace with God. That peace will begin to overflow into other areas of our lives and that includes our relationships with others. Got peace? Perhaps if it hasn’t happened you need to find a new strategy. Study and examine the life of Christ and take note of the way He dealt with relationships. His life is the greatest example and He truly is the Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Don't Be Hasty in Making Decisions

Recently I had a very important decision to make. I was faced with what might have been considered a no-brainer to others. What was right before me appeared to be the opportunity of a lifetime. It was enticing and presented a nice price tag. No, this wasn’t something I would have to pay for; it was something I would get paid for. Financially it would have been wonderful for our family.

Despite the pretty outward package I knew I couldn’t jump right in. I had to be sure this was really best for our family and for my future career. It probably surprised the person who presented this opportunity that I didn’t immediately agree. I told her that I would need time.

That time would be spent praying, talking to my family and others close to me who could offer some words of wisdom. I knew more than anything that the prayers for wisdom, guidance and direction would be what would make things clear.

In the end I turned down the offer. The fact that the person who offered this has never responded to my answer in turning it down makes me think I have lost some favor. It is very hard to not let it bother me. It may have seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime but despite how enticing it was, in the end I had to do what was best. Boy, that wasn’t easy!

Sometimes the decisions we make in life will not be warmly received or understood. Others may think we are foolish. We may be questioned or ridiculed. Sometimes we make decisions that are to please others. However, if we say yes to something in order to please man, we may have lost sight of our purpose.

For me, I just cannot stand the thought of being out of God’s will. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it is right for you. I would rather lose favor with people than with God.

It reminds me of a recent conversation I heard on the radio. They were talking about the very same thing, doing what is best for your family. The speaker was using the example of educating our children. He said that home schooling is a great option for many families but so is public school and so are private schools. No one choice is the better one. Yet so often people will try to dictate to others what they should be doing, just because it is what they are doing.

It is the same thing when we face decisions. One of my family members stated, “Well you can’t turn it down.” In their eyes it was something they would have jumped at so that meant I should do the same.

For me, I have always known that my presence here in the home is the place I am to be. My availability to my children has been priority and although it is what I feel is best for our family, it does not necessarily mean that I believe others have to follow suit. That is what helped me to make the decision that I made. It would have taken me away from the very place that I know God has me in.

I realized in the end that this new opportunity would have distracted me from what God’s purpose in my life is. If I had jumped at it because it was the opportunity of a lifetime, I would have either missed out on some blessings or brought about a whole bunch of problems. That certainly wouldn’t have been worth it.

It’s important that we take time to think through, pray and sometimes we need to seek the counsel of others before we make life changing decisions. In the end we have to know that we are following God’s plan for our life. Don’t be hasty in making decisions. Bring them before the One who knows what is best for you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shattered Pots

Isn’t life as a believer such an incredible journey? I mean, you truly never know what to expect. Things can change in a heartbeat. I don’t know how anyone could ever say that being a Christian is boring. Living a life that is being guided by the Creator of the Universe is anything but.

In fact, there have been times when I have desired boredom in my life. I would ask God,
“Can’t things just be normal?” I would desire to have moments where nothing is really going on, life is just sailing along. This hardly seems to happen, though. But that’s okay. You see I have also found that when things are sailing along, my connection to the Lord decreases. I really don’t have a need for him if everything is hunky dory.

There is a specific part of the journey that I think can be the most difficult—even more challenging than dealing with relationships, our careers, illnesses, or any other “outside” event. It is the journey that we take within.

You see, we are constantly being molded and shaped. He is the potter and we are the clay. He continues to do His work within us. It isn’t always easy to be on that wheel. Sometimes we look like nothing more than a mess. Other times we begin to take on the form of something quite beautiful.

Then there are times when we seem to be almost complete. As we are shaped into this beautiful creation, we are removed from the wheel and we think this is finally it. We are now everything He foresaw. He is ready to put the finishing touches on us and display us. But to our shock, instead He shatters us. He breaks us apart and begins to start all over again.

What a minute! What is this? Why are you breaking me God? Have you been there and felt that way? While it might seem like cruel and unusual punishment God knows what He is doing. He knows the flaws that still need some work. He knows the cracks that need to be filled. He sees the discolorations. His work is not through.

Recently I felt just like that piece of pottery, suddenly shattered to the ground. He began to show me some things that I had no idea were even there. It’s almost easier to deal with those things that you already know are an issue. But when He reveals something that you didn’t even realize existed, it can be difficult to receive.

However this journey was unlike any other because it was a combination not only of what He was doing within me but it also involved outside sources. There were things happening in relationships that I could not understand and was frankly, quite frustrated about. It seemed like too much. How could I possibly deal with all of this?

Then I came to the realization that I am at that place where He KNOWS I am ready. He wouldn’t be putting me through this if He didn’t think that I was ready. So that actually confirmed to me that He has more belief in me than I have in myself.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Ignore Your Ingrown Toenail!

This past week I had dinner with a friend. It’s a special friendship to me because she was my oldest son’s teacher when he was in 6th and 7th grade. Almost five years later, we remain friends.

Her family recently went through a scary experience. Her husband ended up in the hospital when an infection spread through his leg. How did the infection start? It started with an ingrown toenail. It got so bad that they literally had to cut open his leg to allow the infection (puss) to ooze out. He is still at home, unable to work.

As she was telling me this story I couldn’t get over how something that would seem so insignificant, like an ingrown toenail, could turn into such a dangerous infection. If he had gone much longer without seeing a doctor, it literally could have become deadly.

I didn’t realize at the time how that story would turn into a spiritual lesson. The very next night was my church’s Wednesday evening Bible study. We are going through a video series on one of my favorite Bible teachers, John Bevere.

The lesson that night was about sin. He talked about how one day believers will have to give an account to God for their works and how some of those works will be burned up. Suddenly the story of my friend’s husband came into my mind.

God was showing me how sin is like that ingrown toenail. It starts off as something we think is pretty insignificant. “Oh, it’s not a big deal if I watch…” or “No one will know if I…” or “I will just do it this one time and then never again.” There are many scenarios of sin that can play out in our lives. These are sins that we think are really no big deal.

But what can happen? If we don’t treat the ingrown toenail, or our sin, it can cause an infection. The infection starts off pretty small, contained to that one area, our toe. Yet without getting a handle on things, before we know it the infection begins to spread.

If my friend’s husband had continued to ignore the pain in his leg, it could have turned deadly. Keep in mind that the pain in his leg he was experiencing he didn’t associate with the ingrown toenail. He didn’t put two and two together. That can happen to us. We have sinned and something in our life begins to happen and we don’t realize that it was because of our sin.

Keep ignoring it, keep letting it spread and we can experience spiritual death. Thankfully he caught the infection in time to have it cut open and dealt with. God will cut open and deal with our sin, too. Suddenly we are exposed and now we have this mess to deal with. It’s not a pretty sight, as I am sure my friend can attest to.

One of the things that stood out in the Bible study was how God cleanses us from our unrighteousness. His leg had to be cut open and cleaned out. God does the cleaning. We don’t have to do the cleaning. But he had to make sure the wound was bandaged and kept clean. We must do the same. Once God has cleaned us out, we need to make sure that we stay clean. That means we don’t go back to our sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Don’t ignore your ingrown toenail!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Handle the Word of God Carefully

If you don’t already know I have three children who are 11, 13 and 16. I assign them weekly chores that pay a certain amount, so one chore is worth a different amount than another chore. I also rotate their chores every week so they aren’t doing the same ones. It’s a system that I have down pretty pat.

No today’s blog is not a parenting lesson. Something struck me about all of this that connects to the Word of God. It will make more sense in a moment.

My three children are very different from one another. They have different personalities and interests. The way they approach their chores is very different, too.

To protect their identity I won’t say who…but I have one child who not only does every chore on the list but will sometimes take another child’s chores if they don’t want to do it. This child doesn’t mind extra work if it will provide extra money.

Then I have another child who won’t do extra chores like that first child but will do whatever needs to be done, just enough to get by with a little bit of money.

Then there is the third child that usually doesn’t earn their full amount of allowance at the end of the week because that child has done less than was assigned and allowed that first child to take on some of their chores.

Which brings me to the parable of the talents, a parable that has been interpreted probably hundreds of different ways. Now here is what I think. I try very hard to not interpret as much as I do try to apply a Biblical principle to our lives. Interpretation can be a slippery slope and I would never want to be accused of interpreting falsely. So I choose instead to find an application for the parable of the talents. Just something to keep in mind…

Let me just break all down for you. A man is going on a journey and so he has to leave behind some of his property to be taken care of. I am the mom who is going on a journey called “life.” I am trying to make a living, run a household, take care of three children and be a loving wife. I need some help with some of my things, so I assign chores to my children.

He gives each one of his servants a different amount of talents. Every week I give my children different amounts of chores which equal to different amounts of money that can be earned.

Each servant handles their talents differently, just as I have already shared that my children do with their chores. One of the servants doubled what was given to him. That is like my first child who does more than their assigned chores.

The next servant earned just a couple more. That’s about as comparable as I can get to my child who usually does no less and no more.

Then there is the servant who not only didn’t earn more talents but actually hid the talent in the ground. This is like my child who would rather bury the chores and not even think about them.

The parable of the talents can be applied to our lives in so many different ways. It can be applied to the way we handle money, how we use the talents and skills that God has given us, how we deal with responsibility and yes, even how my children handle their chores. I think taking something from the Bible and finding a way to apply it to your life is great. Jesus used stories and parables all the time to try and make a point.

However we have to be careful, as I said in the beginning, about interpretation. In my work as a writer, I enjoy reading other writer’s work. However there are times when I literally cringe because I read something that just doesn’t sit very well with me.

We have to be careful that we don’t take scripture and turn it into a mandate. We shouldn’t try to put our own interpretation into what it means and then declare to others that they should interpret it the same.

Interpretation has created a lot of false messages. Just last night my husband and I were watching 20/20 which had this segment on about a family who teaches their children that God hates America, Jews, gays, and those who fight in the military. They were interpreting God and His Word to be based on hate. All I could think was that I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

The great thing is that sometimes we may get a particular message from Scripture because that is something God is trying to speak to us about personally. We need to be sure that we handle it the right way. We need to handle the Word of God carefully.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Remembering the Hurting this Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is a very special day to many women. However, sometimes we forget that Mother’s Day can also be a very painful day. There are daughters who have lost their mothers to death or even to a broken relationship. There are women who have longed to have a child yet remain childless. There are mothers whose children have died. There are mothers whose children are sick, running from God or for whatever reason, are no longer speaking to them.

Mother’s Day is not always a happy day. It can be an extremely painful day. I remember one of the worst Mother’s Days I ever experienced. It was about six years ago. Our family was going through a very difficult time, as my oldest had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Along with that difficulty were some behavioral issues and many nights where we didn’t get sleep. Being a mom was not a joyous occasion for me.

As our church does every Mother’s Day, we moms were invited to the front so that we could be recognized and prayed for. The front of the church was filled with smiling moms. What did I do? I was in the middle of this crowd bawling my eyes out. I had so many warring emotions going on inside of me. “God, this wasn’t what motherhood was supposed to feel like!”

Motherhood has its up and down moments. It has its difficult moments where we even wonder what God was thinking when he made us a mother. If you have never been in that place, be very thankful. But there are other women who are in that place. Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what they no longer have or what they long for.

I feel very thankful that I can celebrate Mother’s Day knowing that all is well with my household. We are healthy, blessed and I have a good relationship with each of my children. But I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for the others who are not where I am. I don’t want to forget those who are hurting.

So this Mother’s Day, I just pray that each of us will remember to pray for someone that may be facing a painful Mother’s Day. While you are celebrating, someone is hurting. If you don’t personally know someone who is going through a difficult time, then pray for those who have longed to be a mother and it hasn’t happened. Pray for those who have lost their mothers and those who are in a broken relationship. Pray for those mothers whose children have passed on or are not involved in their lives. This Mother’s Day, remember the hurting.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Going Through the Motions

To me there is nothing worse than just going through the motions of life. There is a great song by Matthew West called “The Motions.” This song talks about what it feels like to just go through the motions…almost as if you really have no feeling. Have you ever been in that place? Where all you seem to feel is numbness? This can happen in any area of our lives. It can happen in our walk with God, our marriage, our parenting, our work, our ministry, our friendships and the list could go on. This is probably one of the worst feelings to have, that numbness. It’s hard to penetrate through that.

This song also talks about what type of life you have when you are going through the motions; it’s a life of nothingness. Everything you do in life basically has no value, no meaning to it. That is a very sad and pathetic place to be.

Who wants to feel this way? No one signs up for this. But it happens. Sometimes it happens gradually. In fact, it can be so gradual that we don’t even see it coming. We are almost blindsided by it. However, it seeps in because we allow it to. There are so many things that try to invade our thoughts—discontentment, jealousy, discouragement, frustration, disappointment and so much more. When we allow these things to come in, we set ourselves up to be in that place where we are doing nothing more than going through the motions.

Thankfully there is hope. We can break out of that pattern with the Lord’s help. As Matthew West cried out in his song, “I don’t wanna go one more day…” We have to not want to go another day of just going through the motions. It has to start with us first. It’s easy to blame others or blame situations. It’s easy to say, “If only…” and wait for that “if only” to happen. But we have to take a step in the right direction. We have to determine that we are not going to live this way. It doesn’t matter what area of life it is in—we need to determine that we are going to get beyond the motions and start living again.

We also don’t want to end up with regrets. Another line in the song says, “What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?” When we just go through the motions, we are missing out on all the good things that could be ours. I’m not talking about getting every single thing we want on our wish list. I’m talking about living our lives in such a way that we GIVE everything. It’s not about getting, it’s about giving. The more we give, the more we will receive. Anyone who is stuck going through the motions is not someone who is giving.

If you have been in that place, in some area of your life, stop wasting time. Get out of the rut, get out of the place of nothingness and step into a world of giving…give of yourself to those areas that are struggling and God will see you through. When you live your life for Him there is no way your life will be just going through the motions. It will be a life lived abundantly and completely!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weaknesses Can Be Powerful

Never underestimate the power of weakness. That’s the message I get through the story of Samson in the book of Judges. Samson lands the job of judge over Israel for a period of 20 years. He is a pretty interesting guy. He has a lot of strength, known for his buff body, but he also has some pretty powerful weaknesses.

Before Samson is even born, God has determined that he will be a man of strength and will bring deliverance to the Israelites. An angel of the Lord appears to a woman and tells her that she will have a son, whose hair should never be shaved. The source of his strength would be found in his hair. I don’t know why God picked his hair to be the source of his strength. I guess He chose something that wouldn’t be so obvious to others. After all, if someone could guess the source of his strength, then they could cut it off (the hair and his strength).

Now Samson is so strong that he does some pretty incredible things. He tears a lion apart with his bare hands. He manages to somehow tie the tails of 300 foxes together. I try to imagine gathering 300 foxes and tying their tails…an amazing feat for sure! He slaughters many (we don’t get details; we are just told he does in Judges 15:8). He breaks free from Judah’s attempt to bind him and turn him over to the Philistines. He kills 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone. These are just the stories we know of. I’m sure there are more that the Bible doesn’t include. After all, he did judge over Israel for 20 years.

So he is a mighty man, a mighty warrior and God uses him time and time again to do some pretty amazing things. But the problem is that Samson also had a weakness. His weakness was women. In the face of a lion he could demonstrate incredible might but in the arms of a woman, he became like mush.

We first see this when he gets a wife from the Philistines. Although he wanted to marry outside his people, it was God’s plan from the beginning. So I guess we can’t really fault him there. However, his weakness in women is quickly revealed when she manages to get out of him a riddle he has told the Philistines. She backstabs him and tells the Philistines the answer to his riddle.

Samson would be backstabbed by a woman more than once, yet they continued to be a weakness in his life and as we will see, a pretty powerful weakness. Samson ends up losing his wife, first to his best friend and then eventually she and her father are burned up by the Philistines. This was in retaliation for the whole fiasco of tying the fox’s tails together, setting them on fire and causing them to burn up the Philistine’s grain.

Then in Judges 16:1 he goes in to a harlot. No strings attached. The Philistines try to take advantage of this opportunity and lie in ambush. However, he manages to escape yet again, relying upon his strength as he rises up at midnight and lifts up the doors to the city’s gate, along with its posts and bar and carries them to the top of a hill. With so much strength, one would think he could overpower anything—including the lure of a woman. But no, that is his snag.

We all have a snag, a weakness that we can fall prey to time and time again unless we learn how to overcome it. It could be that Samson didn’t really recognize women as his weakness. Or it could be that he did but he didn’t know how to break the ties. It could also be that he didn’t want to overcome his weakness. We don’t really know but eventually, it would be his weakness that would bring about his demise.

Along comes Delilah. I don’t know what he thought he was getting into but clearly from the beginning her affections for him were not very deep. For some silver she is willing to give away the secret of his strength. But to do that, she needs to find out what it is. Three times she thinks she knows the answer and three times he tricks her.

The power of his weakness for women is most demonstrated in his “relationship” with Delilah. Not only does she nag him to give away his secret but she has men waiting to subdue him. Did he not know those men were there? The Bible doesn’t make that clear but it seems impossible that he didn’t know. In one instance it says that the men were in the “inner room,” so I don’t see how he didn’t know.

Here’s the thing, though. If he didn’t know, he was blinded by his weakness. Our weaknesses can do that. It’s like we are under the power of our weakness and the power over us is so strong that we can’t even see straight. Our perspective on things can get really messed up.

Finally, he gives in and tells her the source of his strength. It says in Judges 16:16 that she “pressed him day after day.” She just kept coming after him. Our weaknesses will do that. They will come after us, day after day. They are always there, whispering in our ear…enticing us. The question is will we give in? Samson gave in. In my Bible it says he was “vexed to death.” That means he was harassed, irritated, annoyed…to death. Literally it would bring his death.

The source of his strength is revealed, his hair is cut off, his eyes are gouged out and now he becomes nothing more than a source of sick entertainment for the Philistines. It says in Judges 16:20: For Samson did not know that the Lord had departed from him. There comes a time when our weaknesses have so overtaken us that the Lord is no longer with us, and we don’t even know it! We mistakenly think we can handle a situation but we have strayed so far from Him that we don’t even realize His presence is no longer there. What a sad ending for Samson but clearly, one that could have been avoided.

In the end, he sacrifices his own life to wipe out approximately 3,000 Philistines at a house where he pushes apart the pillars and the whole thing topples down on top of them. His end was due to his weaknesses. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your weaknesses. The more we give in to them, the more trouble we invite. Samson’s weakness was women. We all have our own unique weaknesses. Recognize what they are so that you can walk in the power of your strength and not those weaknesses!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Nameless Woman

There are so many stories in the Bible where you are left to read between the lines. You have no idea how it played out. The details are missing. I am going to have more than a few questions someday when I stand before Jesus!

There is one story in particular that I read about this morning. It’s in the book of Judges. It’s the story of Jephthah, a Gileadite. His father’s name was Gilead but there is no name for his mother. There is only a description of her. She was a harlot. At one point his half-brothers throw him out of the house, so he goes to the land of Tob.

Eventually the Ammonites come to attack Israel. The elders remember that Jephthah was a mighty warrior so they go find him and ask him to please come lead the Israelites against the Ammonites. He agrees but he makes this deal with God. He vows to God that if he would be victorious against the Ammonites, that whoever or whatever would greet him at his door when he returned from the battle, he would offer it up. In other words, he would sacrifice it.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what he was thinking…or if he was thinking. It seems like a very dangerous vow to make. Why would you suggest such a thing? Wouldn’t it have been enough to say, “God, if you give me this victory I will obey you the rest of my life?” I mean, I think that’s what people typically say when they make “deals” with God. I don’t hear of too many people who suggest something so radical.

At any rate, the vow is made. It’s a done deal. So Japhthah goes out and he gets the victory. He is returning home, maybe even forgetting about the deal he had made with God. Who should meet him at his door with celebration but his daughter! His only child! I mean, clearly he had not thought through this vow and considered the possibilities.

Japhthah knew his vow to God could not be broken. He had to break the news to his daughter. Now think about that. Your father tells you that he had made this deal, this dumb deal, and now he has to sacrifice you. I don’t know about you but I would run! Instead she says, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what you have vowed, since the Lord has taken vengeance for you on your enemies the Ammonites.” (Judges 11:36)

What I find kind of sad is that she is nameless. The Bible never mentions her name. She is this somewhat forgotten portion of scripture. We may have read the story a hundred times and never given much thought to it. But think about the reality of this situation. This poor girl has come out to celebrate her father’s return and his victory over their enemies. The celebration quickly turns sour. Her decision to greet her father would bring tragic consequences.

She doesn’t run from it. She knows the value of the vow that her father has made. Think about vows for a moment. Vows are meant to be kept. They are never to be broken. They are promises that we say we will keep. Yet today, vows have become nothing more than casual statements. It is no big deal to break a vow. Vow to stay together until death do you part? Nah. We stay together until it gets too hard or we think that the grass is greener on the other side.

This is a woman of integrity. I wish I knew her name. I can’t wait to meet her someday. I will have so many questions for her! Although she knows that the vow cannot be broken, she makes one request of her father. “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go and wander upon the mountains and bewail my virginity. I and my companions” (Judges 11:37).

I don’t know about you but I really find this remarkable. First of all, the fact that she doesn’t run from her father and that she doesn’t beg for her life is amazing to me. She then asks for some time to get away and mourn the fact that she would die a virgin. I really think that is what she was saying here. She didn’t seem to be grieving the fact that she was going to die. That would have been the ONLY thing on my mind! No, she was grieving the fact that she would never marry and never have children. She would die a virgin. I really honestly don’t believe I would be thinking about that. Maybe it’s because since the time she was a little girl, she had dreamt about the day she would grow up and meet her prince charming and become a mother. Perhaps she was already engaged and now the marriage would never take place. We really don’t know but I sure would like to find out!

So her father sends her away. She goes and spends two months in the mountains. Here is where I am really curious. What all happened during those two months? Two months is a long time to think about what you would never have, what you were going to face when that time was done. She must have had some awesome friends because apparently there were others who went with her to “bewail her virginity.” Maybe it was even her fiancĂ©. We really don’t know.

What if you were given two months to live? How would you spend it? At first, I would think that spending it grieving in the mountains is a waste of time. Most people might think that they would want to go out and do everything they can while they have the time. They would want to live life to the fullest and do something wild and crazy. It would be easy to think that she just wasted the last of her days. But here is what I think. Remember, this is just my own thoughts…this is one of those Bible stories where we really don’t know what happened.

But what I think happened is that she probably had some amazing encounters with God. I think God was with her and helped her during that time. I think instead of going out and partying and living life to the fullest, she spent it connecting to her Heavenly Father. I think He prepared her for the sacrifice she was going to make. I think that by the time the two months was over with, she was ready. And I also believe that God had given her a peace.

Here’s why I think this. She had more than enough time and ample opportunity to escape. She didn’t have to return to her father’s house after those two months. I think most of us would probably run to another city, another country! But amazingly, she comes back to her father’s house. There is also a line in this story that says: She never mated with a man (Judges 11:39). Obviously this was a big deal to her. Now think about that. She could have said to herself, “You know what? I’m going to die anyway…I might as well enjoy the time I have left and go for it!” She could have lost her virginity and given herself to a man. She didn’t. She died a virgin and apparently, this was a very big deal for her.

I think our true character shows when we are facing dire circumstances. When our world gets turned upside down, the real “me” will shine through. We can hide our true selves from a lot of people and in a lot of situations. But when we are faced with a raw situation, I believe the raw person we are shows forth.

She is a nameless woman whose story only takes up about seven verses of scripture. But her story is very powerful when you try to read between the lines. She gives us a lot to think about. What is she saying to you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What If I Don't Feel Like Celebrating Easter?

I bet the title of this blog caught your attention. This weekend is supposed to be very special for our family. We have so many reasons to celebrate. First of all, we are celebrating Easter. It is the whole reason that Jesus came to this earth. He came so that on Good Friday He would take on the sins of the world, yet on Easter morning He would rise from the dead—clearing a path of salvation for all those who would believe on Him. What a glorious celebration!

Our family has other reasons to celebrate as well. My oldest son turns 16 this weekend. There is just something remarkable about that 16th birthday. It’s like a special turning point in a young person’s life. Childhood is just about to be completely left behind. A new season of life waits just around the corner.

We are also celebrating my mother’s 60th birthday which is yet another milestone in a special family member’s life. So many celebrations and so many good things to think about…but we have had this dark cloud covering the joys of all these celebrations. A marriage in our family is falling apart. It seems that prayers just aren’t quite getting answered the way we would like. Tomorrow is supposed to be a special day—the celebration of Good Friday. Sunday is another special day, Easter morning church service and then our family gathering to celebrate Jesus Christ and the aforementioned birthdays. But a family member will be missing. There will be this hole in our family and I have been battling the past week on how we can fill it.

The past several days I have been trying to think of ways to keep things joyful. Pretend it isn’t happening…bring out a funny DVD of a Christian comedian…put together some special Easter baskets for my kids and nephews…lots of different thoughts that I have had. In all honesty it has emotionally been a bit overwhelming. I have been feeling like I am trying to be the glue that keeps everything together and attempts to bring joy and peace in the midst of a very difficult and trying time.

I have also had my moments when I would like to do nothing more than just cancel everything. Forget even trying to make this happen. Call up family and announce the cancellation…they would probably understand. At one point I even thought that I should forget all about the plans I had this weekend to celebrate Easter—our Good Friday service, the Easter musical, and Sunday morning’s Easter service. How can I pretend to be happy when part of our world is falling apart? What if I don’t really feel like celebrating Easter?

Almost as quickly as I had those thoughts I was reminded of those dark moments that Jesus experienced the day He would hang on the cross for the sins of this world. It was now about the sixth hour (midday), and darkness enveloped the whole land and earth until the ninth hour (about three o’clock in the afternoon), while the sun’s light faded or was darkened; and the curtain [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two (Luke 23:44-45). Indeed it was a dark time. It was not a time of celebration. It seemed that all hope was gone. But who was there? Who was hanging in the balance between life and death? Jesus was. Even in the darkest moments He was there. In our dark moments as a family, He is there. But the darkness won’t remain just as it didn’t on the day He was crucified.

I love how Luke 24 starts off…BUT. But on the first day of the week… What we know about the word “but” is that it cancels everything before. Our debt was canceled. The darkness that had once clouded everything was canceled by the word “but.” Because in Luke 24:3 it says But when they went inside, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Why couldn't they find it? Because He had risen! The dark cloud had been lifted and Jesus’ resurrection paved the way for light and life.

My reminder, which is for anyone else who is experiencing something difficult in life right now, is that the darkness doesn’t remain forever. There may be a dark cloud hovering over you right now but Jesus is still there. Don’t feel like celebrating Easter? Do you think Jesus “felt” like hanging on a cross? Remember the reason for the celebrations of Easter, what He did for you and watch the dark cloud begin to break away.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Which Will It Be: Egypt or Promised Land?

The story of the Israelites leaving Egypt is a story that we can relate all relate to…leaving Egypt means leaving slavery. What things once enslaved you? I was enslaved to many things that held me and kept me in bondage for a great number of years. But then my day of Exodus came when God called me out from my own land of Egypt and brought me into the Promised Land.

Egypt for me meant searching for love in all the wrong places, it meant filling the emptiness in my life with alcohol and drugs. It was really an empty, meaningless life. I am so thankful for the day that my red sea was parted, when my next-door-neighbor invited me to go to church with her. It was then that I saw the mighty hand of God part the waters that would lead me to a better place. Leaving Egypt was the best thing that ever happened to me. You would think its how the Israelites would feel as well.

Sure, once they actually crossed the red sea there was a great deal of celebrating that took place. Many of us, when we left behind our Egypt probably experienced something similar. We had something to celebrate! We were once slaves but now we were free! However that celebration would die out quickly for some of them. Suddenly there would be a longing to go back to Egypt. What? How could that be? Why would anyone want to go back to slavery? The problem was that many times the Israelites only remembered the “good” things. They would fail to remember what it was like to be enslaved. It is sad to see this happen but it does with many people. They are like Lot’s wife who can’t help but look back at what they left behind.

For some people it is almost immediately after their deliverance from Egypt that they desire to go back to their old life. In Exodus 15:20 Miriam brings out a timbrel and the women begin dancing. They have just witnessed a mighty act. God not only delivered them but parted the red sea and caused the Egyptians who pursued them to drown. Yet in Exodus 15:24 just four verses after we read about the dancing, the people already begin to complain. This reminds me of the parable of the sower and the seeds. In Matthew 13:18-23 we read about the seeds of rebirth in Christ that are planted and what happens. When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path (Matthew 13:19). The seed doesn’t seem to stand a chance. Any seed that is sown “along a path” can’t take root. The Israelites, who immediately began complaining just after their deliverance, is like the seed planted along the path.

Even when the Israelites complained and longed to back to their Egypt, God would provide for their needs. He wasn’t willing to give up so easily on their longing for slavery. He knew that they could enjoy freedom in a way they had never before experienced. But they were so foolish at times and yes, there were times that God allowed them to have what they wanted but made it so that they wished they had never complained. Some would trust God throughout the entire journey but others would not. Time and time again there is “murmuring” and “complaining” or some type of rebellion taking place. Discontentment is something that can easily settle in our hearts unless we guard against it.

It can be easy to long for the “old life.” We remember the “good times.” We forget about the enslavement part of our old life, our Egypt, and we fool ourselves into thinking it was a better life. Thankfully some who return to Egypt quickly realize the error of their ways but others remain in Egypt. It is very sad to see.

I can honestly say that I have never once longed for my Egypt. Once I was delivered, once I was set free I never wanted my old life back. It was nothing but chaos, strife, unrest, and disappointment. My promise land is peace, assurance, contentment and satisfaction in a life I would never trade.

Where are you at? Are you in the promise land and fully enjoying it? Or is there a part of you that longs for Egypt? Do you really want to be enslaved or do you want to enjoy the freedom that is found in Christ? Will you be like the Israelites who finally made it to the place God had for them or will you get lost in the journey, destroyed along the way? Don’t look back. Egypt has nothing for you. Look ahead to the promise land and all the goodness that God has in store for you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

From Here I Am to Who Am I

Moses has been in my mind the past couple of weeks. Between reading about him in my Bible reading time and watching the 2006 version of “The Ten Commandments” I have been soaking him up like a sponge.

Last week I talked about the burning bush and how it represents God’s calling on our lives. The story of the burning bush doesn’t end with Moses responding “Here I am.” No, there is much more to the story that we can learn from.

God begins to lay out His plan. Every calling on our lives has a specific plan to it. We may not necessarily get the layout but there is one. Moses had a rare opportunity to hear that plan directly from God. God told Moses that He had heard the crying of His people, the Israelite slaves, and that He was going to rescue them. Moses would be part of that rescue. He was going to bring them to a place of milk and honey, as opposed to the slavery and cruelty they had been enduring. It would be Moses that would lead the way.

Some would like to chastise Moses for the way he responded. He did not respond favorably to what the Lord had presented him with. But how often do we do the same? God asks us to do something that either we don’t want to or we don’t think we are equipped to do. Think about it. “That’s all God? You mean there isn’t something grander or greater that you want me to do?” “Work in the nursery?” “Stay home and raise my children?” “Take a job making minimum wage?” There is an endless list of possibilities when it comes to God calling us to a task that we don’t think much of.

Then there are the plans that He has for us where we don’t feel equipped. That is exactly how Moses felt. He said, “Who am I?” Who am I that I should… You can fill in your own blanks. What is God calling you to do that you are questioning?

Here’s what I find especially interesting about all of this. The same man who said, “Here I am” was now saying “Who am I.” Isn’t that just like us? Here I am God, use me! Here I am God, send me! But then when God gets ready to do it, we question Him. Suddenly we ask, “Who am I?” We aren’t much different than Moses!

So Moses presents his “Who am I” argument and God makes it clear. He won’t be doing this alone. No, God never sends us to a place where He expects us to do it on our own. He goes with us. He would go with Moses. Not only did God tell Moses that He would go with him but that He would also provide a sign that God was the one who had sent him. Once the people were delivered from Egypt, Moses would worship God on the very same mountain that the burning bush was on. What a plan! Who wouldn’t jump at that, right?

But we know the story. Although God knew the time of deliverance would come, that Moses would lead the Israelites out, it wouldn’t happen for a long time and not until Moses would go through quite a few tests…not just with the Egyptians but with the complaining Israelites as well. God may have a plan for us but to get there, we may need to go through a few tests.

So God has laid it all out. He will go with Moses, the sign will be there and so Moses should be ready to move, right? Wrong! Moses isn’t done questioning God. He now wants to know what he should tell the people when they ask who has sent him to them. Plain and simple God says to tell them that “I AM” has sent Moses to them.

Moses still isn’t convinced. He asks, “What if they don’t believe me?” Not only are the “Who am I?’ questions obstacles that we create but so are our “What if”” questions. God lays it out but all we can think about are the “What ifs.” “What if this doesn’t work out God?” “What if we don’t financially make it?” “What if I’m stuck doing this forever?” “What if I don’t like it?” and the list goes on and on.

God is so patient with Moses. I often remind myself that if He can be that patient with Moses, then surely He can be so patient with me! God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground and it turns into a snake! Moses runs from it but then God tells him to pick it up. He does and it turns back into a staff. God isn’t done yet, though. He then tells Moses to put his hand inside his cloak. He does and when he takes it out, it’s leprous like snow. He sticks his hand back inside and this time when he takes it out, it’s restored. Pretty cool!

One would think that Moses would be chiding himself for ever asking the questions and say, “Okay God, I’m ready!” But he doesn’t. No, he goes on to express how he has never been a very eloquent speaker. He still isn’t convinced that God has called him to the task. Now he is seeing nothing but his flaws and weaknesses. Are you spending more time looking at your flaws and weaknesses? Are you making excuses for not stepping out? That’s really all that Moses was doing, making excuses.

Yet again God is so very patient with Moses and explains that it is God who makes man to talk. He would be the one to help Moses speak. If God can turn a staff into a snake and make a hand leprous, surely He can help Moses speak!

By this time Moses has gone from “Here I am” to “Who am I?” to “What If?” to now pointing out his flaws and weaknesses. You would think it would end there. Wrong again!

Now Moses gets to the real heart of the matter. “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” The truth is that from the very beginning Moses had no interest in God’s plan. He didn’t want to do it. It didn’t matter what great signs God would provide, the miraculous things He would do to prove Himself…Moses didn’t want to be the one to do it. He was probably content to stay in the place he was at, happily married and tending his sheep. He had left Egypt and the last place he wanted to be was back there.

Well God’s patience finally runs out. Take that to heart. God can get to a point where we have done so much questioning, made so many excuses, tried so hard to get out of His plan for our life that we can make Him angry. I don’t know about you but that’s not a place I want to be.

God tells him that his brother Aaron will be the one to speak for Him. God would still use Moses but not to the full measure that He had intended. Think about that. How would things have turned out differently if Moses had not asked God to send someone else? I can’t help but wonder if it would have been easier to get the Israelites out of Egypt if only he had trusted God from the beginning.

What have we possibly missed out on because we refused to go along with God’s plans? Who has been put in the place that was originally intended for us? At the time Moses had no idea the incredible things that would take place—the parting of the Red Sea, the intimacy he would have with God, receiving the Ten Commandments and so much more. If he knew, I bet he never would have questioned and argued with God so much. What about you? What have you been questioning God about? Have you been arguing with Him? Don’t miss out on a single God moment by trying to wiggle your way out. Let God be God and do His work in you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What Is Your Burning Bush?

Some of my most favorite Old Testament stories are those that took place during the life of Moses. From the time he was placed in the Nile River in order to save his life, to the time he passed away are hundreds of lessons and insights that we can learn from.

One of those favorite stories is the burning bush. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up (Exodus 3:1-2). It may seem difficult to understand how the story of the burning bush could apply to our lives. However, I believe that every one of us have a burning bush. The burning bush represents the calling that God has on our lives.

God may not be calling to us through the hedge in our front yard but He is calling to us all the same. He has a plan for every single one of us. God is looking for a response. When Moses saw the burning bush and heard a strange voice calling his name, he could have easily run away. That’s probably what I would have done had my bush called out to me. But instead Moses responded, “Here I am.” Here I am. There is a song called “Here I Am” that has some amazing lyrics:

Sometimes Your calling comes in dreams
Sometimes it comes in the Spirit’s breeze
You reach for the deepest hope in me
And call out for the things of eternity.

But I’m a man of dust and stains
You move in me so I can say

Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life, I make an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan
Here I am

Just as the calling God has on our lives is unique, so is the way that we will discover it. God works in some amazing ways. But sometimes God also works in the simplest ways. In fact, too often we are looking for the experience. We want the experience of having something amazing happen…like a fiery bush with the voice of God booming from within it. In search of the experience, we miss out on hearing God’s voice in the simple, ordinary ways of life.

The second verse in the song “Here I Am” says:

When setbacks and failures, and upset plans
Test my faith and leave me with empty hands
Are You not the closest when its hard to stand?
I know that You will finish what You began

Moses had an interesting beginning. He should have been killed along with all the other Israelite boys that had been slaughtered. Pharaoh ordered the killing of the slaves’ baby boys but Moses’ mother had another plan. She risked her life, the life of her husband and children and Moses when she put him into a basket and sent him down the Nile River. Even sending him into the river was risky because of crocodiles. But God would finish what He had begun in the life of Moses.

The final verse of the song “Here I Am” goes this way:

Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness
And the fear that I’ll fail You in the end
In this mess I’m just one of the pieces
I can’t put this together but You can

Keep in mind that Moses’ burning bush experience was during a weak moment in his life. Up until then he had been running from everything. He had run from the life he was born into, as an Israelite slave. He had killed an Egyptian and ran to save his life from punishment. He had run from his upbringing as an Egyptian prince. He ran from his home and everyone he knew.

He was not at some high point in his life when God spoke to him through the burning bush. We sometimes get that wrong, too. We think that we have to be in a specific place in life, on top of things and already prepared for what God has. Most often God chooses us when we are least prepared. This song reminds me so much of Moses and the burning bush. He would eventually realize that although he was overwhelmed by the thought of his weakness…although he was terrified of failing God…although he was just one piece in a big pile of mess…he knew that in the end it would be God who would put it all together and make it work.

There is really so much more to this burning bush story that I could go on. So I will leave you with this for now…but next week I will continue with the lessons that can be learned from the story of the burning bush. Now think about it…what is your burning bush?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are You Full of Holes?

I have been reading the story of Moses the past few days. He is considered to be one of the Bible “greats.” His life is a truly amazing one. But I think what I can relate most to is how real he was. To me he is like the Old Testament version of Peter. He loved the Lord but he also had his moments where his temper would overtake him. In fact, it got him into trouble on more than one occasion.

I find it interesting that although Moses was allowed such intimacy with God…although he would be the man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt…although he would see God’s awesome power displayed again and again…he had yet another “flaw” besides his temper. He questioned God a lot. From the moment God called him, he seemed to question God’s plans. He questioned if he was the man to do the job, he questioned his ability to speak and to lead the people of Israel. It didn’t matter how many miracles God had shown him, he still questioned God quite a bit. I actually find that comforting.

How often I have questioned God and then later felt bad for doing so. I think sometimes we try so hard to be super-spiritual that we miss out on the lessons to be learned when we mess up. Yes, there are lessons to be learned when we have messed things up. Without those lessons we couldn’t really be refined. I would rather be that imperfect person who is loved enough by God to be corrected, than so high and mighty that God can’t even do anything in me. I want to be penetrable and the only way I can be is to have some holes…holes in my soul…holes in my heart…holes in the places that only God can really fill. If I block those holes, I block his work.

I guess I just want everyone to realize that even the great men and women of the Bible had faults. They had weaknesses. They messed up. They were full of holes and like us; they needed to be filled with the love and grace of God. I think we need to really get this for two reasons. The first is so that we stop beating ourselves up. God isn’t requiring perfection from us. The guilt we battle with is not from Him. Secondly, I think we need to get this so that we can stop looking at others and expecting perfection from them. We need to stop being so judgmental and condemning. We need to stop focusing on their flaws. God can use anyone.

One of my favorite verses is found in I Corinthians 1:26-28: Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.

Think about Moses again. He was all of those things yet God used him. Do you realize the impact your life can have on the world around you when you really get this? It gives you a whole new sense of what God can do in anyone. Many years ago these verses helped lift me out of the despair I used to feel over the person I was. Why would God ever use me, I would question. I don’t question that anymore. I don’t question it because I earned a PhD in perfection. I didn’t even earn a PhD in confidence. No my confidence is in the Lord.

So why would God do this? Why would He choose the so-called unwise, those without influence, the foolish, the weak, the lowly, and the despised? Would you? If you had to choose your mate, your children, and your friends would these be the type of people you would intentionally choose? Aren’t you glad that God isn’t like us? I know I am! It goes on in verse 29 to explain why God would choose these types of people: …so that no one may boast before Him. If we already had it together, we wouldn’t need God. We would be boasting about how “together” we are. I don’t know about you but I have nothing to boast about. All that I am and hope to be is because of Him. Full of holes? Good! That means God can begin to fill them!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is It Really Obedience?

The past several months I have been learning new some things about obedience. I always thought that obedience meant you not only had to obey but you had to do it with the right attitude. Granted, that would be the ideal scenario. Yes, the truth is that we SHOULD obey and we SHOULD have a good attitude about it. So does that mean if you obey but your attitude isn’t right, then you haven’t truly obeyed? I bet there are different opinions out there about it.

The Bible character that I think of most often when I hear the word obedience is Abraham. He obeyed a number of things and these weren’t little things. He obeyed packing up his family and moving to a land he knew nothing about. He obeyed when God told him to sacrifice his son (thankfully God came through and provided a ram instead). I could go on. The point is that we read about all of these ways that Abraham obeyed and we wish we could be like him.

I started realizing something, though. The Bible provides the background information. It doesn’t go into the feelings and emotions that were evoked in Abraham. I think it’s important that we don’t forget he was a real person with real emotions. He wasn’t a robot. It’s not like he obeyed and didn’t have feelings behind it. Can you imagine the turmoil within him that he experienced when God asked him to sacrifice his son? Do you not think he questioned what God was doing? We don’t know for sure, obviously. I tend to lean more toward the likelihood that he was not exactly thrilled about the idea. Would you be?

Last summer our family found ourselves in a position where everything about our lives was going to drastically change. We became foster parents to two young children. It was not something I had sought. It was not something I wanted. I could write an entire book on just that experience alone.

It was one of the toughest things our family has ever gone through. It affected our lives in so many ways and I found myself obeying but with my heels digging in. Once the experience was over and the children were returned home, I felt a sense of relief that it was over with but I battled guilt for many months. All I could think about was that I went through that experience with the wrong attitude.

God began to show me that all He asked of me was that I obey. He didn’t say anything about liking it. He didn’t ask me to like it or to want it. The point was that He asked us to obey and we did it. It has taken several months for that to really sink in.

Well, this past Thursday we had our ex-foster children over for a few hours. They hadn’t been back in our home for many months. My children were thrilled to spend time with them. At one point the little girl came and sat on my lap. I held her and a feeling of regret washed over me. I started berating myself about my attitude again. Why wasn’t I able to truly enjoy that experience instead of just barely surviving it? At the time it seemed like they were with us forever but when I thought about it, they had only been with us a few short months. Could I not have handled a few short months of inconvenience without having a negative attitude? Guilt was coming upon me again. But then God reminded me that all He asked of me was that I obey. I did what He asked. Hmm…so maybe I am more like Abraham after all? I don’t know. One day I hope to ask Abraham about the feelings, thoughts and attitudes he had when God asked all those things of him. Until then I know that obedience is really just that. It is obeying.

Sometimes the “right” feelings won’t be there. They may take time to follow the act of obedience. The point is that we obey. Our heels might be digging in and we may not like it but in the end all we need to do is obey. God can then work on the other areas that need change. Obey what I command you today (Exodus 34:11).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lessons In Trust

In the beginning of February I registered my youngest son for middle school. Up until that day I had been wrestling between keeping him at his K-8 school and sending him to another school district, where my highschooler attends. That would mean he would be going into a “real” middle school. I liked the idea of keeping him at the K-8 school because of how good it has been for our family. I absolutely love our neighborhood school. It is one of those rare gems in a failing school system.

My husband wanted him to go to the middle school. He felt there were more opportunities for him, including the chance to play football, something my son desires to do. My son also wanted to go to the middle school. The only one that was holding those plans back was me. At first I had what I would call my “logical” reasons for keeping him at the K-8 school and in my eyes, my reasons made sense. But God began to show me that my reasons were really just excuses. At the root of my disagreement about him going was fear. I was afraid. I was fearful of letting go. He is my baby. He would argue that but I know other mothers can relate…your youngest remains your baby no matter how old they are!

I knew that by keeping him at his K-8 school I would have a sense of “control” over him but God wanted me to go a step further and trust Him. I was putting my trust in his school, the teachers, and in the sense of nearness I would have with him just being a few blocks away. There is nothing wrong with those feelings—don’t misunderstand me. What made it wrong was that at the root of those feelings was fear. God doesn’t want us to fear, He wants us to entrust every single area of our lives to Him and that most certainly includes our children.

The few days leading up to February 1st, which is when you could first apply online for open enrollment, I would throw out crumbs to my son. These crumbs were reminders of how good his current school is and all the things he would be missing out on if he moved to a middle school. I don’t feel proud for doing that. I was still trying to twist things and make them happen the way I wanted them to happen. In a sense, I guess I was digging my heels in. Maybe you have done the very same thing with God. You know He is telling you one thing and in your mind you agree with what He is saying…but as you go along with it, it’s almost as if you need to be dragged along.

Anyway, the morning of February 1st arrived and I once again tried to get my son to see my side. I told him that this was it, once I applied to the middle school and if he got in there, there was no going back. What I was really trying to do was scare him. Again, wrong. I had prayed earlier that morning that God would give me peace about the decision, something I was obviously lacking. I went online and began to fill out the application and almost immediately I felt that sense of peace that had been missing. As I took that first step, granted with some apprehension, God flooded me with His peace.

A few minutes later I was checking my email and read a devotional I get from SpiritLed Woman. I read the first line and had to laugh. It spoke directly to me: Our life on earth is a life of seasons, a life of changes. I immediately sensed God talking to me. It went on to say how some seasons in life are eagerly awaited (I was thinking about the birth of my children) and how other seasons are less happily anticipated (like those moments when my children enter a new stage of growing up).

This devotional went on to say that what keeps us pressing on in the midst of changes, whether they are good or bad, is the belief that God is in full control. Do you see why I knew God was speaking directly to me? I had somehow lost sense of that. Sure, He had been in control up until this point…but for some reason this new season in my son’s life caused me to doubt and lack trust.

I’m so glad that God is patient with me. Some lessons are harder to learn, so they end up being repeated. I find myself leaning on Him to a greater degree as my children get older. Looking back now, it all seemed so much easier when they were little. Sure I remember feeling worn out, tired and wishing I had a manual of instructions on what to do at various times. But things are different now. I have one child who only has two more years of high school left. He has important decisions to make about his future. I have another child who has one more year of middle school left and then she steps into that blazing fast season of the high school years. And then, well you already know about my littlest one entering that season of middle school.

Yes a part of me desperately wants to hang on. I sometimes wish that life was like our TiVo. I could just stop and pause it. Take time to view what’s in front of me before it speeds by too fast. How thankful I am that I’m not the one in control of the buttons. God is. He has my children in His hand and I can entrust every season of their life to Him.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Treasure of Friendship

When you have found a good friend, you have truly found a treasure. They are keepsakes that keep on giving. A good friendship can weather any storm and believe me, they will come. In fact, it has been through the storms of life that I have learned who my real friends are. They are the ones who stuck with me, who helped to see me through. They are the ones who encouraged me and yes, even at times disagreed with me.

Sometimes we think that a good friend is one who will always tell us what we want to hear. We think a friend will never disappoint us. But any relationship in life, be it marriage or in parenting, we know the reality. People are people and they will let us down. Our husbands, our children and yes, even our friends will let us down. It’s up to us what we do with those disappointments. Will we allow them to mold and shape us? Will we allow them to cause correction in our character?

Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. A good friend will love you, be dependable and loyal but a good friend will also sharpen you. Being sharpened hurts! It’s tempting to try and escape the pain, to push away what is causing that pain. Yet God uses our friends to challenge us. He uses friendship to sometimes reflect what is really in our hearts—what needs to be changed.

There is an Arabian proverb that I really like. It says: A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away. The good, the bad and the ugly…you get it all when you have a real friendship. It all comes out and only a good friend will stand by your side to carefully sift away those shortcomings and faults. In the end, she blows away the impurities and chooses to dwell on the harvest of good within you.

If you have a friendship like this, treasure it and hold onto it! Don’t let it go. Don’t let a foolish misunderstanding or disagreement stand in the way of what God wants to use in your life. Allow God to work through your friendships to make you into the person that God desires you to be!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What If?

What if? You will understand this question as you read on…I recently watched this movie on the Gospel Music Channel. It was called “Second Glance”, made in 2005. In all honesty, like some of the Christian movies can be, it was a bit hokey. But the message behind it really impacted me. It was about a Christian teenager who started getting unsatisfied with his life. He was looking for something more exciting, especially when he set his sights on a particular girl in school. He got tired of being “the nice guy” and made a statement that sometimes he wished he had never been a believer.

Well his wish ended up coming true and he began to see how differently his life would have been had he not been a Christian. It affected his family…parents were divorced, his mom wasn’t around to take care of him, his sister had never been born. A friend of his had ended up committing suicide. Even teachers were impacted by the fact that his positive influence wasn’t there. He started hanging with the wrong crowd and “enjoying” the party life of typical teenagers. But it didn’t take long before he saw what a mess his life really was.

Throughout the course of this, he had an angel hanging around. When this teenager finally came back to his real life the angel told him how Satan was trying to lure him, to get him off course. He pointed out how he thought all the other kids were having all this fun and he was missing out. But like the angel said, all he was missing out on was sin. Yes, sin is fun for a season but the end results are nothing but hurt and living a life that grieves the Lord.

The other good lesson taught in this movie was about the fact that this teenager had a thing for a girl who was not a believer. But the angel talked to him about what God thinks of relationships and how important it is that he ends up marrying a girl who has been untouched.

It reminded me of one afternoon not that long ago when I was parked outside my oldest son’s high school waiting to pick him up. Kids were pouring out of the school and walking in front of my van was a very pregnant teenage girl. My son was already in the van with me. We were waiting for a couple of girls that attend our church who I drive home twice a week. When I saw this pregnant teenager I was shocked. I don’t know why but I was. I said something like, “Look at that! She is pregnant!” My son looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of girls in school that are.” I was dumbfounded. “There are?!” I asked incredulously. Apparently I must be from another planet because I got one of those “duh” looks from my son.

What a world our children live in. I also recently had to opt out my two youngest children, in 5th and 7th grades from a sex education class that teachers in our local school district are being forced to teach. Apparently Milwaukee has either the highest or almost the highest rate of teenage pregnancies (by the way it was my 10th grader that informed me of that). MPS, the school system my younger two are in, want to start reaching children BEFORE even middle school with sex education because it’s no longer just in high school they are getting pregnant. It is happening in middle school!

Some of what my 5th grader was going to be receiving in sex education is what my now 10th grader just got in his last semester of health. I read through the list of topics and I was absolutely stunned. What in the world is going on, I often wonder. Our children are facing a lot of pressures and a lot of temptations that yes, we as adults faced when we were younger. But I would also challenge that with each passing generation it gets tougher.

Our children can easily become tempted as this teenager in the movie did. They may look at the “fun” they see other kids having and feel like they are missing out. I think it’s a good lesson to sit down with our children and discuss those things. I mean, I have it pretty good. Despite how some would like to tear down those who make the choice to send their children to public school, we have fared very well with our kids. I am so incredibly proud of my children. They have not fallen for the temptations of the world and I stand on the prayers that I have uttered over the years. I believe they are in God’s hands. That gives me an extra measure of faith I wouldn’t have otherwise. I trust their lives to Him.

But what if that temptation did come? What if they did start to wonder what it would be like to not be a Christian? I plan on having my older two see this movie. They might have difficulty with the whole hokey-ness (yes I know, not a word) setting of it but I pray the message behind it will reach them. I would love to talk to them about how differently their lives would be if Dan and I had not given our hearts to Christ. We are “first generation” Christians so we don’t have a religious background in any shape or form. I know for a fact we would be divorced. In fact, it would stand a good chance that our youngest son would never have been born because I don’t think our marriage would have made it until then.

I think it would actually do all of us some good to really take a look at our lives and re-evaluate them. We may spend a lot of time complaining about things. We may see the world and think we are missing out on something. We may wonder “what if?” Yes, that’s right…what if? What if we were out there? What would be different? A lot would be different and it wouldn’t be good and so I think we really need to have a grateful heart and give God all the thanks for the difference He has made in each of our lives. I know I plan on talking to my children about that…