Saturday, September 28, 2013

What a Pay Day!!

Last evening my husband and I shared a giant Payday candy bar. If you have never had a Payday, they are simply caramel dipped in salted peanuts.  As I walked this morning it hit me that this candy bar is aptly named.  Pay days in life are a whole lot like them - sweet, yet salty.  It is sweet when we receive that pay check, but then we think of the next day we go back to work and it becomes salt in a wound. I realize there are some out there that absolutely love their jobs and live to see that next day of working, but most of us can relate to this scenario.  Even if we do love our jobs, if we have a family, we still have to leave them each day so that we can provide for them.  Not an easy task when you love your family.  Because of this, we long for something more.  Every once in a while we get it - recognition.  I worked a particular job for almost 18 years.  I had many people tell me I was doing a great job, but the only real recognition I received was at the end of each year when evaluations were done.  I always received "exceeds expectations."  It was always nice to see, and for a brief instant, I actually felt almost appreciated.  However, in the back of my mind I knew that I would be quickly forgotten when I left and someone took my place.
The story is told of a missionary and wife Who came home on furlough.  They didn't know it, but Teddy Roosevelt was on the same ship they were.  When they arrived in America there was great fanfare for Roosevelt, but no one to even meet the missionary couple.  The man turned to his wife and said, "I should get some recognition for forty years in the Lord's service."  His wife gently reminded him, "But Henry, you aren't home yet."
We must remember that our pay day has yet to arrive!!  One day Jesus will return and those of His who remain will be instantly changed.  This old earth will receive a do over and become one with heaven and we will dwell eternally with God!!  What a pay day that will be!!
As I walked this morning, I was praying for all God's people who are sick, injured, diseased, dejected, etc. and I was reminded of the Payday candy bar.  The thoughts I wrote above flowed through my mind like a rippling stream.  I told God what a marvelous day that will be when He takes our hand....and then goose bumps covered me as I envisioned His hand reaching out and taking mine. I nearly burst with joy at this thought, "There is no more greater pay than Your hand!!"  Imagine Christ Jesus welcoming you home with His outstretched hand!  The very hands that were pierced with nails on your behalf are now reaching out to you to draw you not only into His presence, but into His arms!!  What a pay day!!  I can think of nothing better!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What a Heritage!!

This week started out like any other.  We got up Sunday morning and happily went to church.  We worshiped and led Sunday School with kindergarten and then took two of our grandchildren out to Subway and home with us until their mom was finished with the Arnold Days Parade.  Both parents were in the parade, one directing the band and the other marching with their third child with the JCYA cheerleaders.  We only had a short time at home with them before their mom came and got them.  Then my back started hurting.  The next morning I had all seven grandchildren all day due to professional development.  They were exceptionally well behaved and we were having a great time, though I was limited in activity due to my back.  One of my granddaughters came to me and said that she was itching all over.  I was alarmed only because they were taking care of a puppy to see if they would keep him.   I thought she might be allergic, so I cringed inside as I checked her back.  You will think me strange perhaps, but I was actually relieved to discover, of all things, chicken pox.  I texted her parents who could not conceive it.  She has had both vaccinations, so how could she have them?  I went on line to discover that 8 of 10 do not get them once they are vaccinated, but those other least it is a much milder case.  However, she has been with her siblings and 4 of her cousins all day.  Then my oldest grandson came and showed me his hand.  Long story short, it was broken out in no less than 7 cold sores.  I medicated his hand and bandaged it so he didn't spread it to the rest, gave my granddaughter a mask for the pox and sat in my husband's chair with a heating pad on my back until the pain eased.  The amazing part to me is that I never once felt constricted in my chest, frustrated in any fashion or even irritated in the least.  Instead, I had to laugh.  They say mishaps come in threes.....I had my three!!
I remember back to about 7 years ago.  I had just taken an early retirement in order to care for my grandchildren so their parents could work.  I was missing seeing the 650-700 kids I cared for daily.  That might sound ridiculous, but I received many hugs daily and I am one who gives and receives love through hugs.  It was important to me to show love to many children needing hugs because they were so rare in their young lives.  If you've ever worked in the public school system, you will know what I am talking about.  Many times I came home and cried for children who had confided their hurts to me.  Getting back on track....Going from that many children to taking care of only four should be a breeze, right?  100% wrong!!  Not only was I taking care of them, working with them on preschool activities, healing their boo-boos, making sure they got their naps, changing diapers and general all round care, I was trying to keep my house in order.  I was used to going all day with a clean house and having minimum clean up in the evenings. I felt like I was in a first. 
I prayed about this on almost a daily basis.  I didn't want to feel this way.  I wanted to be joy-filled with my grandbabies.  Truth be told, I looked forward to the days when there was no school so I could be alone.  Then a day came when one of them moved on to kindergarten.  I was down to 4 and found myself missing my oldest grandson and granddaughter.  Then an addition came along and I was back to four.  The following year another left for kindergarten and my heart saddened, but then along came my youngest grandchild and I was right back to four!! This pattern continued and each time my heart broke when they went on to kindergarten.  I am down to one now and am enjoying every moment of my days.  I look for the days when they will all be here, but for a different reason than before....I MISS THEM TERRIBLY!! 
God is so marvelous.  He searched my heart, found the love He placed there for my grandbabies, caused it to grow beyond measure and turned me completely around.  I no longer care if my house gets destroyed during the day.  We had fun getting it that way and that is what is important!!  Children grow up too fast to begrudge them being around.  We need to seek that place of refuge found in God's word that declares:
Children are a blessing
    and a gift from the Lord. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.
Psalm 127:3

Children’s children are a crown to the aged,    and parents are the pride of their children.Proverbs 17:6
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 18:10
I can say from experience, it is so much more fun to be here than where I was at first.  God truly is our Refuge, HIgh Tower and Fortress.  In Him we can be certain of safety from feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, over worked and so very much more.
Father, thank You for hating all the things in us that draw us to self rather than to You.  Thank You for being willing to walk through the muck of my heart and cleanse it from the heaps of self worship that try and make their dwelling there.  Continue revealing in me any area that is trying to imprison me and always keep me free in You.  Thank You so very much for that freedom.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Safe Arms

And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the Lord's priests.  So David said to Abiathar, "I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul.  I have caused the death of all the persons of your fathers house.  Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe."  I Samuel 22:21-23
Yesterday my littlest grandson in age and stature, but not so little of heart, asked me why I must sometimes be alone at home.  I explained that Kpa has to go to work and I stay at home to get the things done that need doing.  He was so serious and a little sad about this, but then smiled and said, "Yes, but I am here on those days!"  I told him that was true except on Fridays.  He became solemn again, then smiled and said, "But we could maybe go out to lunch together or something on Fridays?!"  My little protector.  How proud I am that he wants to make sure I am safe and never lonely!  It makes my heart sing..........(if I knew how, I would put music notes here).
I have many protectors.  Our oldest son has a standing offer for me that when his dad gets called out to work at night, I can either go see them, or they will come see me.  I have actually taken him up on it a couple of times, just because I missed them.  Our daughter checks to make sure I don't need anything or want to go out with her and our youngest son volunteers their home as a refuge as well.  My children-in-law and heart are always more than willing to be there for me if I need something and my husband?  If I am going out even just to pick up milk, he tells me to take my phone in case I need him for anything.  My neighbors keep an eye on our home and inform me if they see anything they even wonder about.  The marvelous thing is, on those rare occasions when I actually do feel lonely or insecure in any way, I have an even more secure refuge to go to.
There was a night a few months ago when I was at home alone and thought I would be so until early morning hours.  I couldn't get to sleep.  those are the times Satan takes advantage of and does his best to distort things and make them seem so much bigger than they really are.  Thoughts flashed through my mind of mud walls caving in on top of my husband (this has happened), of a drunk driver ignoring the flag men and hitting him, of electric lines being miss marked and him striking one (this too has happened) and more.  My heart began to pound and I began to pray.  This is my secret refuge, my hiding place....Jesus!!  I told God how I was feeling, how I was being attacked and that I chose to trust Him to care for all the men working and then I boldly asked that, if it were possible, for Michael to be able to come home earlier than he thought they would be.  I then closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep.  Just as I felt that floating feeling I get just before I crash into oblivion, I heard a key in the door lock and in he walked!!  Over 2 hours early!!  I climbed out of bed, gave him a big hug and told him I love him, climbed back into bed and went into a snug, deep sleep AFTER telling God how thankful I was!!
I am thankful I have so many who love me and want to keep me safe, but they know as well as I that my only real safety comes in having Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.  We have a false sense of security in many areas.  Not that we should be neglectful or negligent in any way, but rather we should understand that every form of protection comes from God.  It is God who places the desire within us to protect in the the first place.  If we, as mere human beings, possess the desire to protect those we care about, how much more does our heavenly Father, our very Creator desire to protect us?!
So Father, I chose to place my trust and confidence in You.  You are my true Source of security.  I can live my life according to Your will in safety, knowing that You are beside me, in me, all around me.  What better security could I ever ask for?!!  Yesterday little Kian said he wants You to be in complete control of his life.  I desire this as well Father, for only in Your arms am I truly safe!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Living on the Edge of Life

As a child I loved to get on a swing and fly just as high as I could go.  To tell the truth, if they made swings to fit adult bottoms, I would still be doing so today.  However, it is rare to find a swing big enough, even for those of average size.  Swinging through the air and feeling the drop in my stomach as I hit the top of the arc and begin descent backwards is a thrill of joy better than a roller coaster in my eyes, and I do love a good coaster!!  My youngest granddaughter feels the same as I.  I love to watch her soar; her grin filling her face and her eyes seeking the sky as she goes higher!!  It takes me back and I can feel what she is feeling; joy bubbling inside and ready to burst forth in a giggle; some of it sometimes escaping.  You want to hold it in though.  It makes the bubbles from the backward drop more exciting, so you simply grin all the wider until your face feels as if it will split in two!!  What joy!!  What exhilaration!!  There is no fear.  We are clinging to the chains that hold the swing up!!  Some call us thrill seekers.  I call us admirers of trust.  We trust the swing to hold us up and are thrilled that it does so over and over and over again no matter how many times we pump our legs up and down or stop, get off and then get back on again.  If we did not trust the swing, we wouldn't get on. 
There are times in our lives, whether of our own accord or not, that we are thrown into situations that we can either choose to jump on and swing or we can cower behind a tree watching as others jump on and enjoy the ride.  I have done both. 
I have shared in other blogs that I am rather an introvert.  When invited to a party, shower, wedding reception, etc. where I know I am going to know only a couple of people there, I tend to not want to go.  Many times I have been "rescued" from making a decision by my husband having to work or making other plans.  The rest of the times I have had to decide what to do.  I, with shamed face, must admit that many, many times in the past I have chosen to hide behind fear as others experienced the joy.  The times I have chosen to force myself to go have rarely caused me any hardship and usually brought me great joy, so why do I hide?  I know why - I was that child on the playground at school who played alone.  If I had one person each year that chose to be my friend, I felt extremely blessed.  I remember my first grade year.  I didn't go to kindergarten.  There was a little girl named Kathy who was all bubbly and cheerful where I was solemn and quiet.  She sidled up and asked to be my friend.  We were inseparable until the fatal day her family moved out of town.  For the rest of the year I played alone 99% of the time.  I was always looking for a friend.  I'd search the playground for someone else who was alone, but couldn't find anyone.  Everyone was playing with someone it seemed.  So I would go climb the monkey bars, or if I was really "lucky," a swing would be free.  On a swing I could reach to the sky and fly.  It didn't matter if I was alone.  The thrill was all I needed.  the monkey bars were my second favorite because I could go to the very top and see everything everywhere it seemed.  Later I learned to do flips on the horizontal bars and spent many recesses there.  That needed no company either.  These are the ways I "fit in."  No one noticed I was alone, so maybe I was more acceptable was my line rationalization.
I am not telling this to gain sympathy, but understanding for those who are out there like myself.  I know they exist.  I have talked to many.  Others called us loners.  We knew we were lonely.  We were called snobs.  We knew we were simply unsure of what to say.  We were called losers.  This we agreed with in many ways.  All this due to fear and worry.  The funny part is, our fear of not being accepted is exactly what separated us and caused us to be unaccepted.
When I accepted Christ as my Savior, many things changed in my life.  The biggest change was to stop allowing fear to rule my life.  I am not saying it came all at once, but there was an immediate loss of fear in the area of death.  I no longer feared it.  I knew Jesus had defeated it in my life and I would and will live forever with Him.  I carried so many other fears though that I am still being delivered of some.  The first step is God pointing out to me that I have a certain fear.  Some of the fears I used to carry seem frivolous to me now, but I assure you were very real at one time.  One of the first I had to deal with was introducing myself to someone.  It was only a very short time after I accepted Christ that a new person joined our youth group.  I knew what I needed to do, so I was one of the first to walk up, shake his hand, force myself to look him in the eye and smile and simply say, "Hello."  I gave my name, said I was glad he came and sat back down.  My heart was pounding in my chest, but I had done it!  After that it became easier and easier to do the same.  Now I can introduce myself to anyone and have a short, or sometimes I am surprised by a long conversation with them.  Sounds silly, doesn't it?  How many friends have I missed out on having because I was too scared to simply introduce myself?  I may never know.
Our pastor is preaching a wonderful series on the 23rd Psalm.  There are 5 more weeks to go on it and I don't want to miss even one.  This past week he shared that he had done an in-depth word study on the word "worry."  He had looked it up in different languages even.  He wanted to come up with his own definition.  Here is what he came up with: self-inflicted torture when our thoughts and emotions go negative about the uncertainties of life; self-inflicted strangling.  I nearly jumped from my seat.  This is exactly what I needed to help me defeat the rest of the fear in my life when God points it out!!  He didn't stop there.  He went on to say something God had been whispering in my ear for quite some time.  "The root of all worry is is lack of trust."  Worry is fear - fear is worry.  God commands me not to fear several times in both the Old and New Testaments.  Since worry is a lack of trusting God, it is a faith battle; one which has already been won by Jesus on the cross.  I simply need to walk in it - the victory over fear and worry.  How?  Through prayer.  There was a time in my life when I would cry out to God for more time to pray.  I reasoned that if I only had more time to pray, I wouldn't walk in fear so much.  God has shown me that there is always time to pray and Pastor Kenny wiped out any possibility of denial of this in one fell statement: "We all have time to pray, because we all have time to worry."  I simply need to jump into prayer the moment fear and worry try to push me off the swing.  It's the only way to keep soaring!!
Father, when fear and worry try to push me off or prevent me from getting on the swing of trusting You, help me hang on tight to the chains, refuse to be dissuaded and keep on soaring with You.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Child Like Faith

Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?  For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"  I Samuel 17:26
Two days ago my three (almost 4) year old grandson asked, "Can God pick up the ground?"  I replied, "Well, He made the ground, so yes, if He wanted to He could pick it up."  He immediately bowed his little head and asked God to pick up the ground.  When he looked up I reminded him that picking up the ground would move the earth and might hurt someone.  I asked if he thought God would want to hurt anybody.  Of course he said no, but was a bit disappointed.  He explained that he wanted to see what would happen.  I assured him that I understood, but that God always wants what is very best for us and picking up the ground and moving it was probably not it.  He cheered right up and went about his play.
The faith of a child is wonderful, isn't it?  I wish my faith was as perfect as theirs.  In this passage David is no longer a child, but a young man, but you can see and hear his great faith.  he never lost that child-like faith, but carried it throughout his lifetime!!  How did he do it?  He spoke what he believed, when he heard it, he believed all the more.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  Romans 10:17

Evidently David understood this concept much better than I.  He taught himself daily the word of God through psalms (songs) and prayer.  When it came time to battle Goliath, he spoke words of God's promise to Goliath himself.  He did hold back in fear and trepidation, but boldly went out.  Why?  He had been going from man to man asking what would be done to the man who defeated the giant.  He continued doing this and saying that God would deliver them until he eventually was taken to King Saul.  He then proclaimed one more time God's ability to deliver, then went out and won the battle in God's strength!!  My personal belief is that David was doing his best to encourage the Israeli army to do battle.  When all refused, he then went to do it himself, but he had spoken God's promise aloud so many times that it had become faith in him.  He did not go out in that field trusting in his own might, but in God's as can be seen by the words he spoke to Goliath:
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” I Samuel 17:45-47
Some things I notice about his words are 1. He never claims victory in any other name than God's. 2. He gives a definitive reason why God will deliver Goliath into his hands - not to glorify David to prove he was right, but rather to prove that God is God alone and He was ruler over David's heart and the army of Israel. 3. He took no credit for victory, but gave God all the glory stating that regardless of physical weaponry, God would deliver the Philistines into the Israeli army's hands.
For three days God has been speaking to me on the importance of speaking aloud His promises.  Why?  So I can learn from them.  I have made an amazing discovery in my prayer life.  When I pray aloud God's promises I hear them and believe them to be true.  Please do not get the idea that I am saying we should claim things.  I realize there are many who believe that we should, but I honestly can find this no where in scripture unless I take scripture out of context and distort it a bit.  However, there are many promises that we can speak, listen to and pray until we take them into our hearts where they can never be stripped from us.
Victory is an awesome promise to claim.  The problem is we must remember that victory comes spiritually before it comes physically.  A great example of this is my Dad.  Right before he passed away he had gone to his pastor and asked him to pray with him that God would expand his boundaries for reaching the lost.  Shortly thereafter he went to be with the Lord.  From a worldly stand point people would say God failed him and there was no victory.  However, if you know where to look you will make the discovery that God did indeed expand his boundaries through his children who became burdened to reach out to more people on a more regular basis, through friends he had led to the Lord who felt compelled to do the same and through church family who suddenly felt the burden to get back to working for God's Kingdom.  His going home expanded his boundaries in an exponential manner!!  Am I glad he is with the Lord?  Yes, but I miss him terribly.  But I know that I know that I know that it is not the end of our relationship.  I will see him, hug and kiss him and have long talks with him again when I reach our heavenly home. 
On a side note, as I was contemplating writing about this topic, I went out to my car to pick up Mom and take her shopping.  I turned the radio to Joy FM and the words being sung were: Let my words be life, let my words be truth.....I burst out in laughter!!  I told God that I would indeed write whatever He placed in my heart to write.  So I must ask myself: Are my words words of life and truth at all times, or do I sometimes speak word that bring death and encourage the lies of Satan?  Am I speaking words of encouragement and victory through Christ or defeatism? 
Lord God, may the words of my mouth be words that bring life, joy and victory in You.  When I am tempted to cry out words of frustration and defeat, remind me of David and the victory You gave him all because he refused to believe the lies Goliath spewed forth and chose to believe and trust You instead.  Help us, Your children, learn to bite our tongues when tempted to derail someone of their hope, and instead offer prayers of support and guide them to Your Word.  Help us to rear our children with words of love and confidence in You rather than berating them for not being perfect.  Help us to remember that neither are we perfect, so why do we expect it of them?  Make us wise in You, Oh God!!  We cry out to You for wisdom and understanding!!  Each day is filled with lies and death all around us.  You have promised that it shall not touch us if we trust You.  We need to remember that nothing in this world can take us out of Your hand.  We have life eternal regardless of our circumstances!!  Thank You for victory over sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus and His free gift of salvation through faith in Him.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who am I?

Who am I?  I have asked myself this question many times in my life.  Today I read a bit about David's young life as a shepherd.  The focus was on the fact that shepherding was not the glorious job we tend to make it in our imaginations.  Because Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd (John chapter 10) and the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13) we tend to think of it as a profession that was considered noble and rather sought after.  Truth be told, the shepherds were considered the lowliest of the low. 
“The Mishnah, Judaism’s written record of the oral law… describes [shepherds] as “incompetent”… says no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit… Jeremias documents the fact that shepherds were deprived of all civil rights. They could not fulfill judicial offices or be admitted in court as witnesses.” ~ Eternal Perspective Ministries
“Shepherds of Jesus time were considered, by the general populace, generally untrustworthy… Even worse, their work made them ceremonially unclean… because they had daily contact with carcasses of animals and came into contact… with all sorts of unclean animals… So, surprisingly, when the angelic announcement arrives, it comes first to the social outcasts of Jesus’ day.” ~ Holy Ordinary
This was a job usually given to the youngest son in the family, as was the case with David.  While most were relieved to give up the position when a younger brother came along, David doesn't seem to have minded being a shepherd one bit.  Rather it appears he used it as an opportunity for getting to know his God better.  Shepherding was a lonely, dirty, rather dangerous, (when it came to protecting the sheep from predators) and sometimes boring position to hold.  When we read the Psalms David wrote, especially the 23rd, we see that he did not look down on shepherding, but compared it to God's love and protection he received on a daily basis.  David knew who he was, accepted the fact and chose to be glad in it.  So again I ask myself, who am I and do I choose to be glad in it?
I am a mother.  Today it is considered a little more admirable to be a stay at home mom than when I became one.  As a matter of fact, I was once asked why I chose the easy way out and stayed home with my children?  It was asked by a sister in Christ no less.  I realize now that she was simply regurgitating what she had been led to believe as she went through schooling.  In fourth grade our daughter was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She replied, "A teacher."  The teacher who asked looked at her and asked, "Why?  You can be anything you choose to be.  Why would you choose teacher?"  My daughter was quite hurt by this.  I told her that her teacher was quite correct.  She could be whatever she felt God wanted her to be and if that was a teacher, then so be it.  She should follow her heart and do what God asked of her or she would never be content.  She is a vocal choir teacher in a middle school and gives private voice and piano lessons, is quite content and does a remarkable job.  God has worked through her to bring about many first place trophies in choir to the school district and she has been asked what her secret is.  Her answer?  She doesn't have one - she simply does the best she knows to do and expects the best her students have to give, which is exactly what God wants of us - our best in whatever He gives us to do.  Going back to the question I was asked - I gave no real reply.  I was dumbfounded by the question.  I personally thought and still think (as I have been both a stay at home mom and a working outside the home one) that it is much more challenging to stay at home and care for your children than to go to work each day and lay the responsibility of child care on someone else.  In today's society, with the economy the way it is, it is almost impossible for moms to stay at home though.  Instead they are forced to try and find a trustworthy caregiver for their child and often find quite the opposite.  Which comes to another me.
I am a grandmother.  I have the joy of being trusted with my grandchildrens' care.  I have been doing this for going on eight years now.  I took an early retirement in order to be there for my children so they could financially afford to have a family.  I am now down to caring for my currently youngest grandson 99% of the time.  There is a day here and there that I have more - when someone gets sick, there is a professional development day, etc. When I first took on this responsibility I had forgotten just how much work is involved in all day caring of children.  Yes, I worked with over 600 children on a daily basis when working for the school district, but it is completely different.  Yes, it made me tired, but my patience wasn't tried on a moment by moment basis as it is when you are caring for children you love more than life itself for a ten hour day.  When you are mom and at home, it is a 24-7 job of emotions running up and down, patience being shredded, housework being destroyed and redone, cooking and feeding, diaper changing, and so much more!!  I remember when I first became a mom, my husband would come home and ask what I had been doing with my day.  I wanted to slap him!!  What hadn't I been doing would have been the better question!!   Anyway, it took almost two years before I realized once again that, even though it is exhausting work, there is nothing that brings greater satisfaction and joy than giving your all to those you love.
I could list many more of the who I ams, but my favorite is wife.  Anyone who has read what I have written in the past knows the truth of this. There was, however, a time when it wasn't my favorite.  I was selfish and thought my husband's world should revolve around me.  Going to work all the time, taking every call that came his way, always seeking ways to help others seemed to put me in last place.  When I was finally slapped in the face with the reality that everything he did was with me in mind, my perspective changed.  It is the same with God.  Everything he does is with His children in mind.  It may seem at times like we are forgotten.  We want it to always appear that we are the center of God's world, when the truth is, He should be the center of ours.  We are already the center of His.  He tells us we are the apple of His eye, (For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. Zechariah 2:8) our name is “engraved on the palms of his hands.” (Is.49:16 )  He is always thinking about us, but is He our Center? 
If Christ is my Center, I should never look down on any position in which He places me.  I should not look on anyone else' position as being greater than the one He has given me. Rather I should be looking for ways of knowing Him better through it.  Who am I? A child of the Most High God....what better position is there to be?  What difference does it make if I am the youngest in faith and therefore doing what may be considered the lowliest of the lowly jobs or the eldest in the faith and holding many positions?  Does either place make me any less a child of the King? 
Father, may I learn to respect any and every position You place me in.  May I grow in grace and faith because of it.  Help us, Your children, learn to love and respect the jobs You give us and to honor those who seem to be doing less in the world's eye view than we may be viewed as doing.  May we never look down on each other for holding different responsibilities or look down on ourselves, holding others  as being greater than ourselves due to the positions they hold.  Help us take great joy in knowing we are of any use to You at all and revel in knowing that You are thinking of us at all times, even if it doesn't always feel like it.  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2  May we walk in faith rather than by sight.  In Jesus' precious name.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You Meant What?!

Most people seem to  have a gift at understanding the nuances behind other peoples words and actions.  I do not.  I can make inferences, but do not receive them well.
"Now it's your turn to read to me," I said to my youngest grandson who is just learning to do so.  "No, I don't want to read."  "Reading is one of the most important tools we have for learning," I replied.  "Well, I don't want to read.  I want to go downstairs and get the one blocks that stick together and build a tower."  I waited a moment and then said, "No, I don't want to build right now."
"Okay, okay, I'll read the book!"  I smiled and said, "And then we will go downstairs and get the blocks!"  He read the book cheerfully then.
Wouldn't it be nice if we all understood the point trying to be made every time?  I confess I don't take hints very well.  They tend to shoot right over my head, or in one ear and out the other, however you choose to look at it.  I have to stop and consider, but my almost four ear old grandson got it the first time. Maybe I need to be four all over again and learn how "to get it,"
My husband has learned through the years to say things in a very straight forward manner so that I don't get confused.  On the flip side, I say what I mean, which throws others for a loop at times, because the tendency to read things into what is being said is so prevalent.  For instance, when we were first married I once made a comment to Michael such as, "I'd like to go see my parents whenever you can get a weekend off."  Now that is exactly what I meant, but back then his feelings would be hurt and he would remark along the lines of, "You always blame me when we can't go see your parents!"  I was totally confused!!  Where in the world did he get that idea?  So I asked.  He started telling me about how I always mentioned his working and how it gets in the way of us visiting, but he has to work in order to provide for the family.  I assured him I realized that and didn't blame him one bit, I simply didn't know when his next weekend off was going to be.  He wasn't convinced at first.  It took several years of explaining that I mean what I say and there are no inferences included.  Saying things to me in hint fashion and not getting a response may have helped with this.  Having to explain that when he made the comment that he wished he had a hamburger meant, "Let's go to Hardees or Burger King, or could you make hamburgers for dinner," may have helped a bit.  I still get messed up now and then though.  Yesterday he told me that we would need to leave right away when he got home so he could get his mom's ceiling started (it had a sag where water had leaked in) I thought he meant immediately, so I didn't make dinner.  I admit that the thought, "I wonder if he really wants to eat before we go?" did go through my mind once or twice, but I rationalized that he had said right away, so I would be ready when he got home.  Well, he wanted to eat first.  I should have called and asked!  He knows me and didn't get upset, but simply made suggestions for a quick fix.
When studying God's word, I have to literally stop, pray and ask God if there is more to what is written than I am seeing.  I many times read a passage and say, "Lord, I just don't get it."  I have found that it is much better when He does the explaining anyway.  This morning I read this passage:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.   Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.  I Corinthians12:4-11

After prayer I can say the inference here is not that we should strive for all the gifts and do our best to work in them or have them work in us as we can, but rather that we have all been given a gift to use for God's glory.  I don't deny that some have been given more gifts than others, nor do I believe this is an all inclusive list, as more gifts are mentioned in other passages, but I do believe that every true believer has been given at least one gift to use for Kingdom purposes. 
When I read about the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) I have to ask myself if I am using the gift(s) and talents given me for Godly purposes or for my own glory. 
Teaching is fun for me.  It is a gift and can be taken away at any moment.  If God did not give the message, I would be (and I know this is hard to imagine) wordless.  I think about the times I have not prepared a Sunday School lesson properly because I felt I knew the lesson all too well (PRIDE!!) and then fell flat on my face in the presentation.  You'd think this should only happen once and I would learn the lesson, but I assure you it has been more.....way more than once.
When I compare this to the fact that I love to sing, there is a difference.  I really love to sing, but I NEED to teach.  Singing is a God-given talent that I should use to glorify Him, but teaching is a gift that must be used not only correctly, but at the right moment.  Try to teach in my own power and talent and I fall flatter than flat.  Ask God to teach through me and children actually not only grasp the message, but teach me something new as well most of the time!  Teaching is not a one way street!
Lord, help us, Your children to realize the gift or gifts that You have placed within us.  It is hard to see a brother or sister who thinks they have nothing to offer.  If it hurts us to see this I can only imagine how You grieve over it.  Help us see that You have placed within each of us a gift, whether of preaching, teaching, ministering to the poor, or the ones that seems to be overlooked most often, the ability to love the unlovable and forgive the things that are unforgivable.  There are so many gifts You have poured out on Your children.  Help us not to envy each other, but to marvel at You at work in us instead.  Help us learn to work together so that every gift may be made manifest in a lost and dying world.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Consequences of Prayer

Consequence - 1.  a result or effect of an action or condition. synonyms:result, upshot, outcome, effect, repercussion, ramification, corollary, concomitant, aftermath, aftereffect;
2.  importance or relevance.  synonyms:importance, import, significance, account, substance, note, mark, prominence, value, concern, interest;

Prayer – secret, fervent, believing prayer – lies at the root of all personal godliness.  ~ Williams Carey
Why do I pray?  Is it to get what I want, what I think I need, what I think someone else wants or needs?  If so, these are the wrong reasons.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.  James 4:3
The need for prayer is real and eternal, but the whys of it are seemingly vague.  We pray for a loved one going through financial stress.  We ask that God would not only meet their needs, but grant them excess so that they can have relief from the stress they are under.  This sounds great, but it is not necessarily what the person we are praying for really needs.  Perhaps they are being allowed to go through financial strains to get them to truly rely on their heavenly Father.  If so, shouldn't we be praying for them to simply place their trust in the One Who meets every need, so that their needs will be met?  Trust - firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.  There have been times in my life that when I analyzed my prayers in accordance with my faith, I have found myself wanting in the trust department.  Why?  Because I know that what is truly best for me may not be what I think I want or need.  If not, then God may not give it to me and I really want it, whether for myself or someone else!!  How can this be rectified?

 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
This verse doesn't say He will meet our needs according to earthly standards, but rather according to His riches in heaven.  Somehow I think His riches are much greater than those we have here on earth.  However, they are intangible.  We cannot touch them, let alone fully grasp them in our present state.  What can we do to make them real in our lives so that we learn to fully place our trust in our Father?
I recently rejoined a church I have been away from for several years.  Many people came up and hugged me and I thought, "Oh, I remember them!"  I do have a memory of them, but guess what?  They are not the same people I remember.  They have changed.  They have aged quite a bit, some seemingly more than others.  Some are more cheerful than I remembered, some more serious, but they have changed.  The reason I notice the changes is that I have not stayed in communication with them. 
I have seven grandchildren.  They have changed greatly through the years, growing physically, mentally and spiritually.  These changes do not surprise me because they have been going on right in front of me.   I communicate with them daily, so I truly know who they are inside and out.
Even though God never changes, we do, so when we neglect to spend time with Him in true communication, just throwing up our wants and needs in hope that He will maybe hear and answer in our favor, never listening to His response whether through a gentle thought, a thought provoking message from a brother/sister in Christ, or a verse that jumps out at us as we study His word, we may begin to wonder if he has changed from the God we read about as children and were taught about in Sunday School and church.  we will wonder what happened to the God that crushed the walls of Jericho and parted the Red Sea.  Good News!!  He hasn't changed - we've just never taken the time to really get to know Him!!
Seven years ago I sat in a worship service wondering how in the world we were going to pay all our bills.  I had felt led to quit my job in order to care for my grandchildren.  God affirmed this through my husband who encouraged me to do so.  Now here I sat, more bills than money staring at me and taunting me.  I started talking to God.  I realize this blocked out the sermon.  I have no idea what the pastor preached on that morning, but I know what I learned.  I became angry and said, "Wait a minute!  God, You are the me that told me to quit my job, so You take care of the bills!!  I refuse to worry about them any more!!"  I closed the notebook, focused on what the pastor was saying and felt a calm in my spirit - a knowing that something within me had just changed.  God hadn't, but I had.  I had just crossed the line from worry into the land of trust!!
Am I ever glad I did!!  Not only did our bills get paid on time, but we were able to start putting some money aside for repairs on our house, which we are currently in the process of renovating a little at a time as God provides the means. 
Prayer is not a means of gain, it is a means of growth.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. Psalm 145:18

And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints...Ephesians 6:18
Father, I want to know You more.  I want to see Your face.  You have said that I am made in Your image, yet when I look in the mirror of my heart I know that there is much there that is not of You.  You did not create me this way, but I have allowed the change to take place.  Forgive me, cleanse me and make me daily more like You so that when others look at me they might see Jesus' eyes reflecting through mine.  It is Your love that is magnetic and draws us to You.  May all I meet be drawn to Your love in me and desire to know more of You.  May all Your children turn their hearts to seek Your face daily by getting to know You better through prayer.  May our spiritual ears learn to discern Your voice above all others and become ever more obedient to its calling.