Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ladies' Bible Study

I've started a Bible study with Lisa McKay of The Preachers Wife blog. My responses will be posted here as I progress through it.

Lesson 1: I AM Your Beauty
Just In Time

Are there any circumstances or relationships in your life where you can see God has intentionally placed you to be a light for Him?

I don't believe in coincidence. I believe everything is the providence of God. My husband and I wanted to be involved in a church start in our community. Our denomination placed its new mission in a building across the highway. When they started Sunday morning services, they scheduled them for 2 pm, giving us time to attend our current church, get home to eat, and then attend the mission church.

Our ladies' Sunday school class is composed of women at various places in their growth as Christians. We are just finishing up a study of Cynthia Heald's book "Becoming a Woman of Prayer." Learning to be a woman who prays first and foremost has been a passion of mine for many years. This study has allowed me to put my passion where my mouth is as we have studied and prayed together. I have learned so much!

I've been working on writing a book for women who desire to be homebuilders according to Proverbs 31 and Titus 2. God has placed many women in my life who are great examples and He has lead me to several recently for whom my book is intended. When I hear their struggles, I stay motivated to keep on task.

Can you honestly describe yourself as a woman with a 'yes' in her spirit?

I can honestly say that my natural response is to say 'yes' before I think, while sometimes shouting 'NO' in my spirit. When I take time to quiet myself, then I can hear the still, small voice guide me to willingness.

Are you in an emotionally and spiritually healthy place today? If so, what will you do with your series of unrecurring events? Will you commit to ask for spiritual eyes to see opportunities to defend a weaker sister?

At this point in my life, I may be the healthiest I have ever been spiritually. I am looking for what God is doing and trying to see how He has designed the series of unrecurring events in my life to equip me to meet Him where He is working. I will commit to asking for spiritual eyes to defend a weaker sister. I have three in mind right as I type.

If no, are you taking steps to seek out wise counsel from a sister you admire or perhaps a Christian counselor if needed? If not, will you resolve to do so?

I rely on counsel from sister in Christ~a woman who has a spirit of peace and service that is almost so obvious that it seems to clothe her with a beautiful fragrance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thirteen Story Starters to Break Writer's Block

  1. The door to the little cottage was open and the sound of a tea kettle whistling merrily guided me up the gravel walk.
  2. With the non-refundable airplane tickets in my hand and my packed bags waiting by the door, I stared open mouthed as I read the email that said my old high school boyfriend had signed up at the last minute to attend the class reunion.
  3. My hand shook as it hovered over the mouse pointed at the send button ready to shoot my first novel out into cyberspace.
  4. Late into the night the thunder crashed and the rain pelted the windows.
  5. My mother-in-law stood knocking on the front door, last night's dishes were stilled piled in the sink, and the baby's toys were strewn across the living room floor.
  6. The picture in the catalog lied.
  7. He tried to remember who had talked him into this.
  8. I should have listened with both ears instead of one.
  9. It was the scariest thing she had ever seen.
  10. No one said being a mom was easy.
  11. With just minutes to get to the interview I parked in the first available spot, ignoring the blare of the horn from the SUV that had been waiting in the oncoming lane to park there.
  12. It was the last thing I expected my husband to say when he got home from work.
  13. Just one week away from my 45th birthday and not even the second cup of coffee was cheering me up.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Unblocking Writer's Block

Evidently my creativity lies not in my angst, but in my joy. I've been fighting a case of writer's block for nearly a week. I had no answer for it and was quite discouraged. Some undiscussed issues in my home were bugging me too, so I was not having a great week. Last night, right before he went to bed, my dear husband and I spent about 10 minutes discussing and trying to find solutions for those undiscussed issues. I still had a Sunday school lesson to finish writing and was going to stay up a couple more hours to finish. He said, "Why don't you get up when I do and finish it then?" I followed his advice, snuggled into bed next to him and woke up early this morning refreshed with fingers tingling to get on the keyboard. One Sunday school lesson, one magazine article, and two blog entries later, I am unblocked! Hurray for wise husbands!

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." Psalm 37:7a

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Conclusion

Matthew 6:34 - "Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I've been working on a schedule to keep track of everyone's comings and goings at our house. With two daughters in college, a son in high school (playing soccer, too), my husband working, me working, and a grandson that needs to be taken care of, our lives seem to speed right by. I can't believe that it's already September!

The seemingly hardest part of our busy lives is fitting everything that needs done into each day. It is very easy to forget or leave out the most necessary part of the day-time alone with God. As a mother and wife (and now grandmother), it is very easy to neglect myself, but I try to remember to feed myself each day. Somehow, I am having and always have had trouble setting aside time with God, which is the most important meal of the day. If I don't feed my soul, my life dissolves into a chaotic scramble to find enough time.

I have found that I cannot love God with all my mind if my mind is too busy to include Him in each day. I start off each day worrying about getting everything done that is scheduled for that day and I finish my day worrying about what is scheduled for the next day. I sometimes find it hard to be thankful for the gift of each day: "This is the day that the Lord hath made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24.

This whole worry cycle is what started me searching for a better way to keep track of our days. I have found great help in the book I've been reading by Elizabeth George - Loving God with All Your Mind. She has some great guidelines for managing time and mastering worry.

    Guideline #1: Prepare.
    Prepare in the evening. Do certain tasks the night before. Prepare some of tomorrows tasks tonight. She suggests making as much of the next day's evening meal as possible (brown the chicken, wash and tear the lettuce, chop the vegetables-you get the picture). Do a quick tidy job of the house just before bed. Lay out your clothes for tomorrow. Prepare in the morning. Take a few minutes to spend with God. I have found that I can read a devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers while I drink a cup of coffee or tea. Then I can pray over the words I receive and my mind can mull the message all day long. Mark 1:35 tells us that Jesus knew the value of meeting early with God. " the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there."
      Guideline #2: Plan Ahead.
      Planning ahead helps us be more effective during the course of our day, and our planning needs to be both long-range and short-range. Long-range planning helps us keep up with birthdays (one of my greatest challenges), parties, vacations, holidays, remodeling, moving, retirement. We break these large tasks into bite-size pieces with long-range planning. Short-range planning helps us meet the days demands: Who's watching the baby while Heather is in class? What's for supper? Wednesday Bible study starts at 7 PM. Whatever is important for your day falls under short-range planning...we incorporate the big tasks into these plans as well.
      Guideline #3: Pray.
      British preacher and writer F.B. Meyer had seven rules to live by every day. Number one on his list was "Make a daily, definite, audible consecration of yourself to God. Say it out loud: Lord, today I give myself anew to you." Elizabeth George says "Giving God everything means giving Him myself, my things, and the people I care about as well as the physical, the practical, and the emotional concerns of my life. All these are His to do with as He likes. This complete commitment to God of all that I am and all that I have is another way I respond to God's love and try to love Him with all my mind-and making this commitment daily is key."
      Guideline #4: Proceed.
      Now we must put into practice all the guidelines each day. Our day has been prepared for, plans are made, and lifted up to God in prayer. Now we are to live this day joyfully as unto the Lord. The focus becomes the task at hand and not the worries for tomorrow. We can obey Jesus' words in Matthew 6:34.

And we can better calm our mind and heart and put into practice our most important goal: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:30

First printed September 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Part 2

2 Corinthians 10:5 - "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

We have a society that spends a great deal of time and money on ourselves, everything from the diet, exercise, and plastic surgery craze to outcome-based education in our schools that emphasizes "self-esteem" over basic learning. Women, in particular, are targeted daily by advertising on TV and magazines...even 'news' stories that focus on what society has been deemed the ideal woman. I have to think that the basis of this focus on self is a scheme of Satan to direct our thoughts away from our Creator and Savior. The sad fact is that most people are completely unaware of the spiritual battle that goes on around us and we become unknowing participants for the enemy when we live in this unawareness.

I myself have spent a good portion of my life worrying over what I thought others must be thinking of me. I have a tendency to talk very fast when I am nervous or uncomfortable in a situation. I suppose the reason for this is if I fill a person's mind with a barrage of words, then he or she doesn't have time to form negative thoughts of me.

Now, is this sin or just the natural response of a person with low self-worth? I have come to believe that they are one and the same for the following reasons:

  1. I am disobedient to the precept of 2 Corinthians 10:5. I am spending my time in speculations and worry.
  2. I am disobedient to Philippians 4:8. My focus is not on loving God with all my mind because I am worrying about what others might be thinking of me, instead of thinking on whatever is true. No idea that includes the word might can be true, because future happenings are not true or real at this moment-the only moment I am guaranteed to have.
  3. I am ignoring Romans 8:35-"Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" God loves me- He sent His Son to die for me. Christ loves me - He died for me. The Holy Spirit dwells within me - He speaks to my soul the love of the Father and the Son.
  4. I am ignoring that I am a daughter of the King. My attitude and self-confidence should be based in that fact alone. 'For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (and daughters) by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"' Romans 8:15.

The Bible is full of the evidence of God's love for us. It is our responsibility to find that evidence by daily reading His word.

Elizabeth George gives these tips for training our thoughts:
"Step 1: Recognize the command - Philippians 4:8 is God's command to us to focus our thoughts on the truth of His Word and the things in life that are real.

Step 2: Respond in obedience - By definition, thoughts that are not true or real are mere "speculations." The are "lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God," and they have to be taken "captive to the obedience of Christ."

Step 3: Reap the benefits - When we acknowledge God's command and take steps to obey it, we will find ourselves enjoying greater energy and spending less time in melancholy introspection. Thinking thoughts that are true and real frees up our energy for positive and constructive uses." From LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND, Harvest House Publishers © 1994.

Here are some verses to memorize to help you focus on the truth:

  • I John 1:9 - God is faithful.
  • I Corinthians 6:20, I Peter 1:18-19 - You were bought by Christ's blood.
  • I Peter 5:7 - God cares for you.
  • John 1:12 - You are a child of God.
  • Romans 5:8 - God loved you first.
  • Ephesians 2:10 - You are His workmanship.
  • Romans 8:35 - God has always loved you.
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 - God has a plan and purpose for you.
  • Psalm 139:14 - God made you unique.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 - God has gifted you with spiritual gifts.

When we understand our image in God's eyes-through the covering of the precious, holy blood of Christ that washes us and makes us pure-what right do we have to fret over what humans might be thinking about us? We have a direct command to "take captive every thought" in obedience to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He deserves no less than our full obedience and complete attention. There is a beautiful chorus that states just what benefit we will get from focusing on Him: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

Our Most Important Goal: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:30.

First printed August 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Part 1

I wanted to share some of the insights I'm gaining from delving into the Biblical principal of Mark 12:30. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your heart.

So the question is,
How do I do that? Humans are not naturally God-lovers. We are disgustingly in love with ourselves. Just think of how often your speech or others includes the words I, me, mine...

Elizabeth George, in her book LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND, points readers to Philippians 4:8 as the starting point: "
Whatever is true , whatever i honorable, what ever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

The word
dwell is translated think in the KJV. The literal translation is ponder on these things. Ponder means to consider, think about, wonder about, brood over, contemplate. It gives the idea of spending time in thought...but thoughts of what?The first thing Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about is "whatever is true". We find absolute truth only in God's word. It is His love letter to us. Now what can I do to dwell on God's truth? Elizabeth George states, "one key to loving God with all our mind is not dwelling on the past or on unpleasant memories." She gives three specific practices to cultivate that will help us dwell on truth:
  1. Memorize Scripture-tape Bible verses to your fridge, above your sink, on your mirror.

  2. Meditate on Scripture-turn the verses over in your mind, this is deliberate concentration.

  3. Master Obedience-as we are committing the verses to our mind, it is of utmost importance that we do what these verses tell us. The ultimate evidence of love is obedience. We should not just know what God's word says, we should do what it says.
We should never allow our thoughts or feelings to override the truths of Scripture.

Disciplining our thought life by focusing on God's true and reliable Word is a giant step toward truly experiencing the love of God so that we can love Him with all our mind."

Next time, "
taking every thought captive", 2 Corinthians 10:5. Meanwhile, how about using Philippians 4:8 as your memory verse goal?

First printed July 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Baptist Church, Huntington, WV.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Despair: When Spiritual Anguish Causes Physical Pain

Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for my God.” – Psalm 69:1-3 (NASB)

A dear one of mine is, through no event of her own causing, suffering in the dark night of despair. Her pain is so deep she has withdrawn from interacting with us. Yes, she is a Christian, and yes, she knows that God is with her through her suffering. But that knowledge doesn’t lessen the real pain she is enduring.

I admit I am at a loss to know what I am to do to help. My prayers are absolutely necessary. I keep our rare conversations light and neutral. Sweet little homilies about God’s will are the last things she needs to hear. Those who have never really endured this depth of suffering have no perception of how dark the brightest day is in the midst of it.

I am entirely offended by those who would say that if she is “prayed up,” or “in right relationship with God,” she wouldn’t be suffering so. Look at what David, the man after God’s own heart, had to say in Psalm 69. He equated his pain to drowning, his suffering to a sense of approaching death. His description of no foothold is real to anyone who has gotten in water over her head with no solid place to put her foot. The battle to stay afloat is physically and mentally draining. Even the surge of adrenaline caused by the desire to survive leaves one weak and exhausted when it subsides. There is little more frightening than being overwhelmed by the realization of the uselessness of one’s own power in the face of nature’s strength.

David spoke of his exhaustion and physical pain from his crying. His very soul was suffering. He knew that God was aware of his suffering. He realized that God would work in His own time. “But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, answer me with Your saving truth.” – Psalm 69:13. That knowledge did not stop David from crying out begging for relief.

He repeatedly asked God to intervene. It is obvious that his prayers were not answered immediately even though he confessed his own faults and sins: “O God, it is You who knows my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You.” – Psalm 69:5. He acknowledged God’s sovereignty: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” – Psalm 69:19-20. This would lead me to believe that he was “prayed up” and in “right relationship” with God. His conversation with God was an ongoing plea for relief with a true yielding to God’s will and timing.

David was also well aware that others were watching him in his suffering. Even in the midst of his pain, he asked God to protect them from doubting Him. “May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord God of hosts; may those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel.” – Psalm 69:6. David’s suffering was caused by circumstances outside of his own influence and he could do nothing to ease his own pain, yet he was able for this brief moment to look outside the dark tunnel of despair and pray for those who looked to him as an example. How hard it must have been for him to rise up to that point and ask that!

We see David suffering and praying through Psalms 70 and 71 also. Reading these passages would lead one to believe there seemed no end of pain in sight for him. But not so according to his own words: “For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You.” – Psalm 71:5-6. David affirmed his hope in God in these verses.

He still goes on to plead for relief but his pleas are based on what he has seen God do in the past. No matter the intensity of this present pain, God has always been faithful to him. “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. May you increase my greatness and turn to comfort me.” – Psalm 71:20-21.

My dear one is still deeply immersed in the mire of her despair. The end of her suffering is far away and the pain is intense. But she is a child of God and ultimately He will bring her to the sunshine of His blessedness again. He has promised this and He is the righteous God who keeps His word. Following David’s example, I continually pray for her strength and for those around her that they will see His mighty hand deliver her and come to know Him more fully.

First printed July 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thankful Thursday...just 45 minutes late!

I couldn't resist joining this one even though it's after midnight. My Thursday hasn't ended yet and I have so many things to be thankful for. I was reminded of some very important truths as I went throughout my day for which I am thankful:

  • Dealing with two-year-olds is like trying to hold water on a table. It keeps one nimble and... young? A visit to the library for the summer reading program was exciting and exhausting. The following stop at the supermarket was loud and slightly embarrassing as the two cousins tried to out-yell each other. But...the cuddles when all the activity was over and it was time to rest were worth every minute of chasing, shushing, and separating them before a fight broke out.
  • Grown kids still need their mom. I am thankful that my youngest daughter called me from work to get me to commiserate with her about her sore throat. It makes me feel needed even though she's been making her own doctor's appointments for two years now. I can't heal the throat, but I can make sure she has a nice cup of tea before she leaves for work in the morning.
  • My husband still loves me even if I've been spending an inordinate of time at my desk writing and using the computer (he's calling me his "cyber-babe" now).
  • My kids don't mind me hogging the computer so much because a creative mom is a happy mom (just look at the Proverbs 31 woman!) My oldest daughter remarked on my more cheerful demeanor with these words - "You must have been in such a bad mood because you hadn't written anything in a while. It must have been all bottled up."
  • God is in control whether we pay attention to that fact or not. An evening trip to the funeral home for the visitation time for our neighbor was definitely God-ordained. My husband and I ran into a man we hadn't seen in a long time. We found out he is the nephew of our deceased neighbor's husband. He was an active member of our church until the congregation went through a painful split three years ago. He and his family never settled into another church. "Flitting" was the term he used. He said he'd been thinking of dropping in on a service. We encouraged him to push away the events in the past that cause him to hesitate and just come back. PTL! God is still in the business of bringing unity to the broken.
  • The word of God always meets me exactly where I am in my walk. The Psalms are particularly refreshing as I study about prayer. Let me close with David's Prayer:
"I will bow down toward Thy holy temple, and give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindess and Thy truth; for Thou has magnified Thy word according to all Thy name. On the day I called Thou didst answer me; Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:2-3.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finding "A Path Made Straight"

I visited CWO Internet Cafe during my quiet time today. I read a piece called 'Written on My Heart" by Elise Hooper. Intrigued by her insights on leaving the signature of God as we go about our everyday life, I followed the link to her blog A Path Made Straight.

I spent time reading and getting to know her through her writing. I found myself with a huge lump in my throat as I read her description of the last day her daughter nursed. I remembered the day nearly 23 years ago as my own daughter, 8 months old, also turned her head away. Her need for independence from me lasted until her mid-teens. The suddenly she "needed" me again. I got to share in her joy when her own little one came 2 years ago. Whew! Those years from new mama to nana went by so fast!

The lump in my throat became tears as I read, with the feeling of looking through a window into a warm kitchen, Elise's description of cooking with her little Eliana. Read what she said about this experience: "The small skipped beats in my heart when I recognize a moment that has not been missed are like the clicks of a camera. I will never forget what you taught me tonight."

I didn't even intend to go to that link on Elise's page. I was trying to click on the section entitled A lead. Somehow my mouse skipped down to A love. I was well through Letters to Eliana, May 15, 2007 before I looked over at the list to see where I had clicked. My mistake or God's providence?

You see, I think God had a lesson for me to learn from this dear woman. Not about leading, but about loving. I think He wanted to reinforce in my heart and mind that one can not lead someone to Him without first demonstrating love. And to demonstrate His kind of unselfish love we must walk closely to His side to learn how to love, starting with those He places nearest to us.

I urge you to seek out those who show a life of devoted submission to Him. You will know them by their love. Even though Titus 2 tells the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, the gift of teaching is not reserved for the older ones. God gifts those who are spiritually mature to teach those of us who might not be quite so far along our path to Him. 1 Timothy 5:11 says ~ "Let no one look down on our youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."

Even though I'm a 44 yr old mother of adult daughters and a teen son and nana of a 2 yr old grandson, I learned a valuable lesson in love and cherishing special moments from Elise. I even had an opportunity to put the lesson into action this afternoon when my great-niece (also 2 yrs old) visited for playtime with my grandson. Hunter is not used to sharing...his toys, his sippy cups, or his nana. It could have been a very trying time for us all, but I knew I had applied Elise's example well when Hallie curled up beside me and said, "I like you." She snuggled a bit closer and said, "I love you." This was a particularly precious moment because I haven't had a chance to take care of her in my home since she was 4 months old. Somehow, the 3 or 4 times I've seen her over two years and this afternoon's playtime have given her an inkling that I'm to be trusted with the best gift she can share with me, her affection.

Thanks, Elise! I look forward to more time visiting "A Path Made Straight." I highly recommend it to those in the midst of child-raising, for those of us about to get to the other side of it, and any of us needing see an example of the Proverbs 31 & Titus 2 woman in action.

That Coffee House Experience...

I’ve spent several years trying to convince my dear husband that spending five dollars on a single cup of coffee is worth the money and it’s not just about the coffee.

It’s about the aroma when I walk through the door of the coffee house. I always pause for a moment, close my eyes, take a deep breath and inhale the fragrance of freshly ground beans, just brewed coffee, and hot steamed milk.

I open my eyes and listen to the murmur of conversations all around me and then try to determine what music is playing softly in the background. This morning it’s Frank Sinatra singing about how he did it his way.

Now comes the hard part – choosing my coffee. The choices are nearly overwhelming, fresh brewed Guatemala blend with a hint of chocolate aftertaste, or maybe a frozen blend of espresso, bananas, and coconut syrup – with an extra shot of espresso.

Today I choose the Guatemala blend, hot and steaming with space for plenty of half and half. As I watch the milk swirling in the cup I spot my favorite table. It’s empty and the sun is shining on the chair in which I like to read and do a little writing.

The next part is the best part. I sit with the sun directly on my face, take a drink of my hot coffee and savor the little taste of chocolate after I swallow. I open my Bible study materials and begin to completely relax – the sun warming my face, the coffee warming my mouth, and the word of God warming my soul.

Five dollars doesn’t seem like too much for all that, now does it?

**Note: I originally wrote this piece for a Christian Writer's Guild Apprentice assignment. It's a coffee house kind of day so I needed to read and share it again!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

After that second cup of coffee....

Finally the wheels start rolling! Cup number 1 is the one I hold in my hand as I walk out to feed the chicken, dog, rabbit, cat... Cup number 2 is halfway consumed before I get to the desk for my morning devotions... then over to my computer for the second round of inspiration:

I was absolutely intrigued by the name of Linda's blog: 2nd Cup of Coffee. I had to include it on my list of favorites for the title alone. After spending time reading and absorbing some of her insights, I am glad I found it! She is hysterically funny! Just what I needed to read while trying to finish my second cup of coffee and dash to the pot before it shuts off and I have to reheat cup number 3 in the microwave.

What is with those auto shut-off coffee makers, anyway?? This isn't Shoneys! I don't have to brew a fresh pot every 20 minutes. With a little extra cream and maybe a bit of sugar, that thick, dark, two-hour old coffee kinda tastes like a mocha latte, right?

On to the ?inspired? stuff...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In "Other" Words

I am frequently given lists of prayer needs - Sunday school, Wednesday Bible study, the church prayer chain. Most of the time I write the prayer requests down and mumble a brief prayer over them then go about my business.

This past Sunday night our youth group stayed upstairs for evening worship to hear a special speaker. As one of the youth workers, I sat with the teens in their favorite spot at the back of the sanctuary. After the message was finished the congregation broke into small groups to pray together. The guest speaker, a youth minister from another church, came and joined us in the back.

Some of the kids named requests and then my 14 year old nephew who is visiting asked that we pray for his parents. Instead of each person in the group taking a turn, as is the custom, the guest minister prayed for all the requests. Except one - my nephew's request. I looked at him as the man finished praying. I know this man didn't deliberately forget this one request. There was a lot to pray for.

I heard the wife of another youth worker assure my nephew that she would be praying for him and his parents. I was grateful to her and reinforced that we all needed to pray for his parents. Then I went about my business...

...Until I stated playing the whole thing over in my mind...

I was quickly humbled by the realization that my business is to be in prayer.
"Bear one another's burdens, an there by fulfill the law of Christ." ~Galatians 6:2.

"Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves." ~Romans 15:1.

I know the details of my nephew's family life. He is my baby sister's son. She and her husband have struggled to hold their marriage together for 15 years. I can't honestly say that I've spent even a few minutes weekly praying for them. But I won't soon forget the look on my nephew's face when the minister overlooked his prayer request. It was a look of resignation, as if he figures nothing will change anyway, so why bother with prayer?

I have about six weeks to pray hard before my sister comes back to pick up her son and daughter. In that time, I'm vowing to spend some serious, dedicated time praying for their very real needs.

"When there is little awareness of real need there is little real prayer."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Total Surrender: Submitting in Love

Recently during the drive home after a Sunday morning service I listened to my husband and son discuss the welcome portion of our worship time. The conversation started with my husband describing a handshake he experienced while welcoming a visitor. The man was of similar build to my husband, but when he gripped my husband’s hand he did so with more than a little force. I found it particularly interesting to hear that after he recovered from a moment of surprise, my husband briefly matched the hard squeeze before he relaxed his hand and focused on just welcoming the other man. My husband and son continued comparing handshake stories the rest of the drive home, with my son describing shaking hands with one of our church members as “like grabbing a two-by-four.”

I found the stories amusing but a couple of questions danced around at the back of my mind. What did this masculine battle of strength say about our relationships to fellow believers? Why is it necessary to try to position ourselves with some sort of importance over another believer, whether through handshakes or stories that begin with “Well that’s nothing! Let me tell you about (me, my, mine)…”

Jesus’ disciples even wanted to “rack and stack” according to spirituality when they asked Him in Matthew 18:1, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responded by calling a little child to Him and setting Him in the middle of them. Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I believe the child Jesus brought into their midst was a very young child, perhaps three or four years old. A child that young is so trusting and giving. A child that young, if protected from harsh examples, will relate to other children in joyful submission. At this point of development, the child will have started getting past self-absorption and begin to enjoy interacting with others. He won’t mind sharing with others and will even give another first place in games just because he enjoys being with his playmate.

As children get older they are exposed to an attitude they learn from adults and older children: the “Me first!” attitude. A favorite game in our neighborhood when I was five or six was centered around a large dirt pile at the edge of the woods. We kids would scramble up the sides racing to get to the top. Beware whoever made it first—the others would push, shove, and trip him in an attempt to claim the title, “King of the Hill.”

This brings me back to the question, “What should our attitude be toward fellow believers? I can only answer it using Jesus as our example.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (emphasis mine)

The result of submitting ourselves in love to others comes with a wonderful promise and blessing. It assures us that there is no need to try to prove our own importance because James tells us to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” 4:10 (emphasis mine)

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. How did Jesus love us? Sacrificially, putting our need for restoration to the Father above His own life. We are to love others the same way, especially fellow believers because, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. So how is this attitude accomplished, considering our tendency to puff ourselves up?

“Total surrender requires both a knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches and a commitment to obey its directives.” –The Woman’s Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers. The key here is obedience…obedience in getting to know God’s Word intimately and deliberately, and obedience to do His Will as He outlines it in His Word and through our effective prayers seeking Him.

First printed June 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Fighting the Freak-out First Factor

Everyone endures trials. Sometimes they are as trivial as misplaced car keys (a frequent occurrence in our home ;->). Sometimes they aren’t so trivial. Our reaction to trials tells others a lot about our character and our walk with God. When our trials are the overflow of the suffering a loved one is going through, handling the trial well becomes more crucial.

I am a “freak-out first, ask questions later” kind of girl. It is not my preferred method of handling problems; it is just my natural way (my “old nature”). When circumstances piled up recently after a particularly difficult week, I reached the limit of what I thought I could handle on my own.

Early on a Saturday morning I sat on my porch swing with my coffee and two different Bible versions. I had finally turned to the place from which true burden lifting comes. I looked up the word ‘stronghold’ in the concordance of both Bible translations. That was the word that kept going through my mind that might be a starting place to find relief and healing.

This is what I found: King David wrote in Psalm 62 about our only source of relief and healing after going through trials of oppression and betrayal himself.

“My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation.”

The first step he tells us is patient anticipation, waiting on God to work knowing that He will work and that He is the only One who will never let us down.

“He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, I shall not be greatly shaken.”

This directly addresses the “freak-out first” factor. Believing that God is my stronghold should be the key to a calm spirit in the face of trials. I’ve seen it in others who endure chronic illness, rebellious children, or the death of a loved one. It is no easy thing. David speaks of the pain of his trials in verses 3 and 4, then he comes back and reminds himself (and us) to

“…wait in silence for God only.”

That seems to be a key to his relief. Instead grumbling or complaining, he tells his soul to be still and wait for God. Then after he speaks to himself, he speaks to us:

“Trust in Him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before Him;God is a refuge for us.”

There is never a time when we can’t be completely open with God. He always hears us. His Word always speaks to us…when we wait in silence to hear Him.

In verses 9 and 10, David warns us not to expect our relief to come from the typical places to which we normally turn: people, money, things. Then he comes back and tells us that God Himself has promised us His help to persevere through our trials. David says that God is a just and loving God who’s shoulders are strong enough to handle whatever burdens we bring to Him.

“…you, O God, are strong, and … you, O Lord are loving.”

God reassures us throughout His Word of His love and particular care of us in the toughest times. He provides His comfort through the experiences of those who have served Him. The Psalms are replete with this through King David writings. Look up these verses when you need comfort: 18:16-19, 39-40; 56:8-9; 57:1-3; 91:4-7, 9-12.

The prophet Isaiah also addresses this in Isaiah 40:29-31.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.…but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”

I wonder what will happen to the “freak-out first” factor the next time I encounter a trial if I have these verses “hidden in my heart?” I am sure I will return to God’s feet with my burdens several times… and perhaps I will then “wait in silence” to see Him work in and through me.

First printed May 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Is It Your Testimony or Your History?

I want to thank Russ Chambers for his message on the evening of March 25, 2007 at 20th Street Baptist Kenova that inspired this article.

For 40 years the people of Israel wandered the wilderness waiting for the last of the unbelieving, faithless generation to die before they could enter the land promised to Abraham. Finally the glorious day came and they approached the wild and raging Jordan River where God told the people to cross. The priests carrying the ark of the Lord stepped into the flood-swollen waters – in faith they plunged in and got their feet wet… The waters on the upriver side rose up and stood in one heap a great distance away. Then the priests crossed to the middle and stood on dry ground while all Israel crossed on dry land.

After they all had crossed and while the priests still stood in the middle, God directed Joshua to send 12 men – one from each tribe – to go back and pick up a big stone from the middle of the river. They stacked them up as God told them to. He told them this was to be a memorial so that when their children saw them and asked about them, they could tell the children of how God stopped the flow of the Jordan River so the people could cross on dry, solid ground. (Full story – Joshua 3-4.)

Just one generation later – the children of the generation that received that grand entry into the Promised Land – we are told in Judges 2:10 “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work He had done for Israel.”

Why didn’t they know??? How could their parents, and grandparents (and adult church leaders) have forgotten to include God’s wonderful works for them in telling the old family stories?

But wait……… When you start a story that begins with “Back when I was younger…” do you include what God has done for you? Do you just tell the “I walked three miles to school in the snow” stories?

Or do you tell about the times you walked in the “wilderness” lonely and fearful, and God parted a “river” so you could safely cross on dry ground, protected by His own hand? Do you tell them how you met Jesus and how much you love Him?

Is your life story a memorial to the God of wonders or a history lesson on plain life “back in the day?”

There is great danger in the plain old stories without including God in them… Look what happened to Israel’s children – Judges 2:11 says “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals (false gods).”

Testimony or History? What story are you telling?

First printed April 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.