Thursday, October 05, 2006

Communication Challenge

I just read a post by Tim Challies in which he offered a challenge to Christian bloggers. Here's a direct quote from the end of his post:
"Let us be certain that we constantly seek to serve and that we pursue holiness rather than popularity. Let us set the standard for respect and fellowship. Let us take the better path and show our love for God in our love for one another."
Earlier in the post he said this:
As Christians, we are called to a high standard--we are called to holiness. We are not to push the limits of what is decent and what is true, but to serve and to be a blessing to others. We are not to ask "Is this libelous? Will I be sued if I publish this?", but we are to ask "Will this serve the person I am writing about? Will this serve the church? Will this bring glory to God? Will this defend the truth?"

Excellent challenge, not only for Christian bloggers but for Christians period. We need to carefully evaluate all our communication and ask ourselves the questions in the last quote: "Will this serve the person? Will this serve the church? Will this bring glory to God? Will this defend the truth".

If you take the time to read the comments from readers under his post you get to see an excellent example of Christian communication as it should be - full of humility and grace, but, because we are human, far from perfect. :-) We all can slip up in the challenge to live right. The real test is in if we pick ourselves up after the slip up and do what we can to make amends for it or keep on sliding down. Commentors Dr. Mike and Ron both do an excellent job of picking themselves up after slipping and make amends for their slip ups rather than continuing to slide down.

Empty vs Full

I was reading Ruth a couple of days ago when a phrase jumped out at me again. In Ruth 1:21a Naomia says, "I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty." Years back Naomia and her family had left Bethlehem because there was a famine in the land. I guess they left because they figured they would fair better somewhere else during this time rather than toughing it out there. They moved to Moab. While they were there Naomi's husband and two sons died, leaving Naomi in a strange land with nobody, except her two daughters-in-law that her sons had married in Moab before they died. Somehow Naomi got word that "the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them" (verse 6) so she decided to go back to Judah. From the sounds of it Naomi and her family didn't fair as well as they thought they would. She tells her daughters-in-law that "the Lord's hand has gone out against me" (verse 13). When she returns to Judah she tells the ladies to call her Mara, a name meaning bitter, (verse 20) and she certainly does sound bitter. In the rest of verse 21 she says, "The Lord has afflicted me: the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." It sounds like Naomi has come to the end of herself and she seems to blame God for it.

There's something very curious about this, however. One of Naomi's dauthers-in-law, Ruth, must have seen a time when Naomi had great faith and trust in the Lord. In verse 16 Ruth says "Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth must have seen something in Naomi's faith in God at one point that made her have faith in Naomi's God, inspite of the troubles Naomi seemed to be having.

I think that happens sometimes. We have great faith in God but we start to depend on ourselves sometimes and slowly God gets put in the background and He has to allow us to come to the end of ourselves, to be empty. That, however, does not mean that we can not have a witness. Naomi obviously must have been a witness to Ruth at some point. Naomi went out full, but she came back empty, so she thought. I think God allowed her to become empty so that she would fill the place that He had planned for her.

Lord, help me to never be so full that I forget You because without You I am empty.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"Not Me" Poems

Juanita recently included a poem called "Mr. Nobody" in a post about poetry. The poem inspired us to try a hand at writing our own poems. I've decided to share them here, starting with the poem Juanita shared and then sharing our poems. We're not great poets but we had fun coming up with these.

Mr. Nobody [who is definitely alive and well at our house!]

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
in everybody's house!
There's no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody.

'Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pins afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don't you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody.

The finger marks upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blinds unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying 'round you see
Are not our boots - they all belong
To Mr. Nobody.

Not Me! (a relative of Mr. Nobody) by Jacqueline

Whenever Mom asks "Who did...?"
About something that should not be
You're sure to heard a quick response
As everyone shouts "Not Me!"

Or if she asks "Who forgot...?"
About something that should be done
Once again "Not Me" get the blame
From each and every one.

Miss Not Me by Sarah

So this is how the story goes
in our house everyone knows
anything done that should not be
we always blame on Miss Not Me.

If Mom's tweezers go missing
and Mom she goes growling and hissing
there's no on else that it could be
we always blame Not Me.

The mud foot prints in the hall
the fist that punched right through the wall
it wasn't anyone else you see
it is always Miss Not Me.

Everything that is done wrong
who else could it be
but Miss Not Me.

Not Me by Jonathan

I have a friend
not a better friend could be
there is no other friend like
Not Me

He will take the blame
He won't complain
Oh what a friend
Not Me

Who left the dishes
asks Mom as she wishes
that it wouldn't get blamed on
Not Me.

And what but a bottle
left for her to waddle
around and see
that yet again it was
Not Me.

Oh I really am sorry
but I do think even
the baby's first words
could be....
Not Me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Victorious and Honorable Retreat?

I'm reading through a book called Tongue Fu!: How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict by Sam Horn. This is my second time through the book. The first time I read it myself, this time I'm reading it to my two middle children - teenagers - they need to learn Tongue Fu. :-)

Yesterday while reading the book a quote from Norman Vincent Peale stood out to me: "Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself victory." We often think of retreating as a conceding of defeat - a result of losing or failing - but it doesn't have to be that way. I like the idea that retreating can be a victory in itself.

One of my favorite verses to quote to my children is Romans 12:18 "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." We need that reminder almost daily in our house. :-) I usually follow that up the first part of Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers".

I like to take the Romans verse phrase by phrase and think it through. "If it is possible". That to me shows that sometimes it isn't possible, but it is important to take the time to see if it may be possible. "As far as it depends on you" It is important to be sure that you do your part. Don't worry whether someone else is doing their part or not just be sure that you are doing all you can. "Live at peace with everyone" Even your family. Even your friend that drives you crazy. Even your enemies. Even your neighbors. Even strangers. Everyone.

Last night while reading a chapter of Proverbs I noticed another verse that went along with this strain of thought. "It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Proverbs 20:3" It is honorable to avoid strife. I like that thought.

Help me today, Lord, to be wise and honorable, not foolish, in my dealings with everyone I come into contact with.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Parenting - A Daily Routine with Lasting Rewards

I came across this great quote in a book I'm reading - Baby Games by Elaine Clow-Martin - "Most daily routines have no lasting rewards, but parenting and playing with your child do."

I like that. I'm having a great time right now parenting my three teenagers and playing with my 9 month old. Playing with my 9 month old is bringing back so many memories of playing with my other children. I see the fruits of my time spent with them and I'm fairly pleased with the results. The rewards of parenting are sometimes immediate in the shared smiles and hugs, but the lasting rewards are the memories and relationships that develop. There's no greater treasure in all the world.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wholeheartedness = perfection?

My searching for some information about wholeheartedness in the Bible had me checking out Asa King of Judah. You can read about him in 1 Kings 15:9-24 and 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa was a good king. 2 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 15:17 both say "Asa's heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life".

When you read that don't you get the feeling that Asa must have been perfect, or at least as close to perfect as a person can be. He must have done everything right and nothing wrong. Wrong!

The verses that I quoted above start with these words "Although he did not..." Asa didn't do all that you would think he would have done, but yet he still is recorded as having been fully committed to the Lord. There's hope for me yet. :-)

Reading the story of Asa in 2 Chronicles you see some of the good things Asa did but you also see where he fell short. Verse 11 of chapter 14 records a powerful prayer that he prayed asking for God's help in a battle. "Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you..." After winning the battle Asa was met by a prophet that told him "The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you." (15:2) He also said "Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." Asa took courage from these words and led the people into "a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul." (15:12) About 15 years later, however, Asa took a different path. Chapter sixteen tells about a time when he turned to a human king for help rather than to the Lord. This time he received a message from a seer that he did not like. God was not pleased with him having relied on a human king rather than on God himself. Rather than respond with humbleness and repentance to this message Asa became angry and had the seer put in prison and "brutally oppressed some of the people." (16:10)

Inspite of this downfall the Bible records that Asa's heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. Isn't that amazing! If only Asa had remembered the words of the first prophet when he said "be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded" and then listened to the words of the seer when he said "the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." How differently his life could have ended if he had responded differently.

Hopefully I will learn a lesson from Asa. Asa's life proves that wholehearted devotion to God is not easy and doesn't have to be perfect. I can't rely on my own strength or the strength of those around me - I must rely only on God. He is with me if I am with Him. He is looking to strengthen me if my heart is fully committed to Him. If I depend on Him, stay strong, and don't give up my work will be rewarded.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Right, but not wholeheartedly

Once again I haven't been able to get away from something that jumped out at me in my Bible study this week. I was reading about Amaziah, King of Judah in 2 Chronicles 25 and verse 2 jumped out at me. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly." (NIV) The New King James Version says "but not with a loyal heart."

How often am I guilty of doing something right but not wholeheartedly? More often than I care to admit, especially when it comes to housecleaning. I often remind my children that it's okay to do what is right but if you don't do it with the right attitude it's not as good as it can be. Reading Kim's recent blog entry "Before you start looking for birds..." was a good reminder to me to make sure I'm doing right before I harp on them. I need to be sure that I am doing things wholeheartedly, and not just doing what is right while grumbling the whole time that I'm doing it.

The story of Amaziah is also told in 2 Kings 14. Verse 3 says "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash." My last post, Look at me and do likewise, talked about the importance of striving to be a good example for others but the story of Amaziah shows that following good examples are not enough.

Amaziah followed the example of his father Joash (you can read about him in 2 Kings 11-12 and 2 Chronicles 23-24). Joash was good but only as long as he had the guidance of Jehoiada. 2 Chronicles 24:2 says "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest." When Jehoiada wasn't around to guide him anymore Joash didn't know how to do right on his own. He was doing what was right because he was told what was right and not because he knew it in his heart. Amaziah learned how to do what was right from watching his father do what was right but he didn't know how to do it from the heart.

How important it is, especially as parent's, that we go beyond being a good example and show the importance of the heart being right. I'm off on a bunny trail of studying scriptures that talk about wholeheartedness in an attempt to learn how to do this. I'm sure you'll be hearing about what I learn eventually. :-)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Look at me and do likewise"

This phrase jumped out at me recently in my Bible study. I just couldn't get away from it. "Look at me and do likewise." Wow! Could I, would I, dare to say that?

Those are pretty brave words. Some would even say conceited words. You would think you would have to be perfect to say those words. Who in the world said them?

They were said by a man in the Bible that was far from perfect. He was good. He did good things. But he wasn't perfect.

Gideon said these words in Judges 7:17. He also said "watch, as I do". Gideon was not a perfect man. He was not a terribly brave man. He threshed wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites (Judges 6:11). He did what God told him to do but he did it in the night instead of the day because he was afraid of his father's household and the men of the city (Judges 6:27). He was somewhat rude to the Angel of the Lord and questioned what the Angel said (Judges 6:13,15). He needed sure signs before he would act (Judges 6:17,37,39). He sure doesn't sounds like a good example to follow. But he said it, inspite of his short comings he came to a place where he knew he was doing God's will and he said, "Look at me and do likewise".

I am challenged by this phrase this week. I want to come to that place in God where I can say 'Look at me and do likewise". I don't want to say it out of pride, but I want to be an example that others can follow, inspite of all my shortcomings, and know that they will be doing God's will. I want to naturally lead people to God's will.

I am especially challenged to be able to say that to my family. "Look at me and do likewise." They know me and all my shortcomings, but I want to be able to rise above those and with confidence say, "Watch, do as I do". Help me God to come to that place in You.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Three Barriers to God's Blessings

Our pastor shared a sermon this morning based on Hebrews 12:15-16 (NIV). " See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." He talked about how we sometimes cannot experience the fullness of the blessings of God because of barriers that keep the blessings away from us. The three barriers he expounded on using these two verse were: 1) bitterness; 2) immorality; and 3) possessions.

He talked about how bitterness can keep away God's blessings from ourselves and can also affect the people around us. He talked about the importance of reaching out to bitter people but being careful to guard ourselves from being infected by the bitterness.

Immorality is rapant in our society today, and, sadly, also in our churches. He stressed that no one suddenly falls into immorality but that it is often the result of subtle slidings into it and we need to carefully guard ourselves against it. He talked about the importance of accountability to one another.

Our pursuit of material possessions can also be a barrier to our receiving the full blessings of God. He stressed the importance of having our priorities right and seeking God first, not things.

I'm looking forward to many more messages from this pastor. He is new here and I think he is on the right track in challenging us to check our lives and help one another.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why Worry When You Can Pray...

A little more than a week ago I was singing that song to my eldest daughter. She was getting ready to go on a missions trip with a team from our church. With all the recent talk about hijackings and such she was a little nervous about the upcoming plane ride. I reminded her, by singing the song to her, to change her worries into prayers and I told her that I would be praying with her.

A couple of days ago I had to sing that song to me. Darling daughter was supposed to be flying home early in the morning but the flight was delayed due to weather. I started the worry-pray cycle right away. I was really trying not to worry but really having a hard time not giving in to it. Every time I found myself starting to worry I tried to remind myself to pray instead. It really does work you know. It's not easy, but it does work.

One thing that I find really helps me is if I know there are other people praying too. I have this great group of online friends that have been my faithful prayer warriors for a few years now. They've helped me through so many tough times. They taught me to turn to God with all my worries and needs. I ask for their backing in all my prayers and it gives me a greater faith knowing that I'm not praying alone.

Another thing that helps is to pray for someone else at the same time that you are praying for whatever is bothering you. I love it when one of my online friends expresses a prayer need because it gives me a chance to pray for them. There is something very strenghtening in praying for someone else.

Is something causing you to worry? Find at least one friend to talk to about it and then pray about it, giving it to God. He doesn't always answer prayers the way we think they should be answered but He will always give us a peace if we place our trust in Him. And don't forget to pray for someone else too. You'll be amazed at how your worries will be lifted as you lift someone elses needs to God.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Put Your Glasses On!

A funny thing happened to me yesterday. I got up fairly early - yes, that is funny for me as I'm not a morning person, but it's not the funny thing I want to tell you about.

My little one was still sleeping soundly so I thought I would get to do some things that needed to be done before she got up. The first thing that came to my mind was to sweep up the kitchen because before heading to bed the night before I noticed that it really needed to be swept but I like to take the nights off from house work so I didn't bother to do it that night.

Anyway.....I looked around the kitchen floor and thought with great thankfulness, "Oh how nice, hubby swept up before heading to work." I then proceeded to other things that needed to be done. When little one finally woke I went to get her and also picked up my glasses, which I had forgotten to put on earlier, from my room. When I walked into the kitchen again I was shocked! The floor was not swept, it was just that I couldn't see the dirt because I didn't have my glasses on!

After chuckling a bit to myself about this off and on throughout the day I found that there was a spiritual lesson in this funny happening. We've been having some discussions with our youngest boy, who happens to be 16 so isn't really that young, lately about some things that we are concerned about and he's been challenging us that we are not seeing thing as he sees them, and I have to say that it is true. Then I started to think about the importance of seeing things the way God sees them because that's how they really are. We have to be sure that we have our spiritual glasses on to see things the way God sees them.

I asked God to give me a verse to go along with the lesson. At first all I could think of was Psalm 119:105 "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." I was pondering this verse and felt like that was part of the lesson but not the whole thing. Then today I read Proverbs 23:26 "My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways."

God's word is the lamp that will light our way. We have to take the time to read it so that it will shed light on where and how we are to walk. You can, however, read God's word and not get the full affect of it. To really see it as God sees it you have to give Him your heart, then we can see things as He sees them. You have to have your glasses on.

Turning on the light helps me to see better but I can't really see as good as I should be able to until I put my glasses on. Reading God's word will shed light on things, but you can't really get the full affect of it until you give Him your heart.

Thank God for His Protection and Providence!

But for God's protection, my little one could have been seriously hurt this afternoon. I don't have doors to my top kitchen cupboards. I was standing in the kitchen with my little one at my feet today when two big platters suddenly came flying out of the top shelf of the top cupboard, crashed onto the countertop and proceeded to the floor, shattering into pieces, which fell all around my little one but not one hit her! Thank the Lord! I think I went into shock. Thanks to God's providence, my husband, who normally isn't at home at that time of the day, was standing in the kitchen with me and he grabbed the little one up off the floor before she could crawl into the pieces. I just stood there and asked if she had been hit. He replied that no, she hadn't, but I had. That was when I realized that my hand was covered in blood. I have a nasty gash on my middle finger on my left hand. I didn't even know I was hit. My only concern was for my little one. Thank God she was safe! God is good!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chewing on a morsel

You know how there are certain things that you eat and you have to really chew them, and chew them, and chew them to get all that you can out of them. Well, that's how I find it is with scripture sometimes. I've been chewing on this morsel for a few days now and trying to find time to post but not finding time so just continuing to chew and finding so much more in it than I saw at first. ( I wonder should there be commas somewhere in that last sentence? :-) )

I've been skimming through different passages in the Bible trying to wrap my head around a few things, and get some background to some things, and so many other things have been jumping at me. I was skimming through 1 Samuel looking for some background on King Saul when I came across my latest little morsel.

1 Samuel 12:23 NKJV "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way."

Some background: This is a part of Samuel's address at Saul's coronation. The people have asked for a king to lead them instead of just following God. God has told Samuel to do as they say and give them a king. Samuel thinks the people are crazy to want to have a king to follow instead of just following God and he actually has a discussion with God about that (1 Samuel 8 : 6) Anyway, God guides Samuel to anoint Saul as king and Samuel does so.

When I read this verse a few days ago I was struck by the idea that not praying for someone could be a sin against God. Samuel said "far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you". Samuel probably felt like washing his hands clean of this people and letting them go on their merry way, but he couldn't. He had to continue to pray for them or he would be sinning against God. I'm afraid I'm guilty of washing my hands clean sometimes and ceasing to pray. Forgive me, Lord.

The second part of the verse says "but I will teach you the good and the right way". There's so much packed into this little group of words and the more I chew on it the more I get out of it.

First of all that little word "but". Sometimes I'm guilty of just stopping at the praying part, but that's not enough. Samuel says, "I'll continue to pray, but I'll also continue to teach." Sometimes I stop the teaching and rely only on the praying. There are times when I think that is the right thing to do, but there also are times when it is important to keep teaching.

It's important, however, to temper our teaching with love. Kim's recent post on tough love speaks quite well to how to do that.

The second thing that struck me in this group of words is what is to be taught - "the good and the right way". The emphasis is on the good and the right, not the wrong. So many times I'm guilty of emphasing the wrong, though in an attempt to point to the right. I don't mean to give the highlight to the wrong, but that is what I do. I'm reminded of the illustration I've heard often that says that money handlers learn to identify counterfeit, not by studying the counterfeit but by studying the real thing. I need to be careful that much more time is spent on teaching the good and the right rather than condemning the bad and the wrong.

I've decided to take this verse as a challenge to me this year, especially in my homeschooling and parenting. I want to be faithful in prayer for my children and I want to also be faithful in teaching, and to be certain to be teaching the right things in the right way.

MMMMMMmmmmmm. That was a yummy morsel. :-)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Another blog!

Yes, I've started yet another blog. I've started many others and not kept them up so why start another? Well, because I want too. :-)

My other blogs were for specific purposes - to share books I've read, to encourage healthy living, to share my Bible journey, to share my gardening column. This blog is just for my jabberings of whatever, whenever I want to jabber. :-) I hope my jabberings will bring a smile to someone's face sometimes.