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.