Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Selah: How Many Hats Are You Wearing?

Saturday Selah
A woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. ~Proverbs 31:30b-31
I love hats. When I was a little girl, wearing a white hat and white gloves was very vogue on Easter Sunday. Even if my mother made my Easter dress, I got to buy a new hat just about every year.

I try on hats every Easter...although I haven't worn one on Easter Sunday for more than a decade. But, I have other hats. I crocheted myself a lovely little cap and scarf for winter. The hat reminds me of the ones flappers wore in the 1920s.

I also bought myself a straw hat for Christmas. It's a bit fancier than my worn-out gardening hat, but who says shoveling compost can't be stylish?

So many things demand attention every day, some times every hour of the day. As women our roles change from demand to demand. For instance, today I've already worn my chauffeur hat, my Dr. Mom hat, my personal shopper hat, my cat wrangler-dog feeder-chicken farmer hat, and right now my writer hat. It's only noon...

Still scheduled to be worn today are: my housekeeper hat, my chef hat, my publisher hat. I hoping to get in time to wear my redecorating-diva hat and I absolutely can't forget to throw on my quick-Pilates-workout hat (or headband) so I can stretch all the muscles that get bunched up doing all the other stuff. Since my son is sick with flu/bronchitis, I have to keep my nurse hat on under whatever other hat I'm wearing. Here is where the problem with being a hat lover comes in - stacking hats one on top of the other is certainly not very "vogue!"

As women we tend to grab all the hats we have and try to wear them at the same time. So much begs our attention it can overwhelm us and become difficult to decide which hat needs to be worn at which time. We don't like to let people down and we hold especially high expectations of ourselves. A very important lesson to learn from the woman who had it ALL together, the Proverbs 31 woman, is-- as accomplished as she was--that multitude of things on her list of virtues and talents didn't get done all at one time. Her worth would not have been far above rubies if she hadn't learned to prioritize.

Some tasks will keep: laundry, dishes, vacuuming. Some will not: feeding the baby, paying the bills. Some are absolutely essential to our own well-being: relaxing with our spouse or alone, quiet time with God.

My sweet husband doesn't care if the hat I wear with him is just a ponytail holder, as long as I am fully engaged with him during our time together, even if we have to take our time in small increments.

I still don't have a hat for that last one: quiet time with God. I saw a crochet book that is full of patterns for prayer shawls. I have in mind a lovely white lace shawl to drape over my hair while I become fully engaged reading my Bible and talking with the Lord......

Lord, Make me realize how sweet my time with You is when I put You first. You will help me set my priorities in order, if I just spend time praying and talking to You about them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

IOW: No Highs Without the Lows

Michelle is hosting In Other Words at Because I Love You. Visit her to read more IOW posts and to link your own.
Is it possible we could experience the joy of our salvation
if we mourned [over our sin] as if someone had died?
We cannot experience joy without mourning.

by Pastor Robert Morris
from Sermon: "Those who mourn are happy"
God uses the comparison of opposites throughout the Scriptures to teach us important lessons, i.e., if there are no lows there can be no highs. There is a point at the beginning of our salvation experience, actually the point that we realize we need salvation, that we have true mourning. We realize that it is our sin that put Jesus on the cross. All His pain was caused by our actions of disobedience.

Once we repent our sins, admit them and turn away from them, and accept God's free gift of salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ we experience joy unspeakable. There is no moment in life that matches the moment we realize just how deeply God loves us and what He willingly did for us to bring us into fellowship with Him.
Be perfect, therefore, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. ~Matthew 5:48 [NIV]
The responsibility that goes along with accepting salvation is that we try to live the life God has called us to, a life of growing toward completeness. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary's first definition of perfect is 'being entirely without fault.' While eventually, when Jesus calls believers up to heaven we will be perfect in that way, Matthew 5:48 really means the third definition: 'lacking in no essential detail, complete.' Only a close and obedient walk with God will help us gain that completeness.
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. ~Matthew 5:48 [The Message]
Because we are not yet complete, we will tend to fall back into old habits. Perhaps we allow ourselves to be moody and unkind with someone. Perhaps we do something more serious and wrong than just being unkind. Or perhaps we allow someone or something to become more important in our daily lives than spending time with the Lord in prayer and fellowship. When God makes us aware of these sins, our response should be deep sorrow [mourning] over the pain we cause our Lord, followed by confession and restoration to fellowship [joy].
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:12-13 [The Message]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Other Words: REAL LIVING

Nina is hosting In Other Words at Mama'a Little Treasures. Visit her to read more IOW posts and to link your own.

You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not live in a world but a world lives in you.

Frederick Buechner
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Our families and friends influence us in ways in which we may not even be aware. Habits and preferences are formed as much through interaction and observation as through instruction.

An example I've heard told many times is about two sisters and the holiday ham. Each time the sisters baked a ham, they cut the end of it off. This practice continued for years until one sister's new daughter-in-law asked, "Why?" The woman replied, "That's how my mother did it." Again the daughter-in-law asked, "Why?" The woman called her sister and asked her why she also cut the end of the ham off. The other sister's reply: "That's how Mother always did it." Curiosity peaked, the sisters called their mother to ask why. Their mother's response: "When you were growing up, my roasting pan was too small to fit the whole ham, so I cut the end off."

So many of our adult responses come from our background - unfortunately even negative ones. I think that is partially why Jesus said
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 NASB)
My Bible has a polite little side note for the word hate: "i.e., by comparison of his love for me." While I agree with this idea, I have to think it perhaps is a bit mild and in the case of our quote today, not as descriptive as it needs to be.

...Because not all of the influences from our family and friends is based on what was (or is) best for us.

Amazingly enough, an abused child still loves his father. Yet that relationship tends to color his perception of God the Father once he becomes a believer in Christ. Let's get real here: How often have we thought, "OK, God... When are you going to zap me? When do I have to pay for that awful thing I did, or said, or thought back x years (minutes) ago?"

Or if we've had a wonderful life to this point and God calls us to step out into unknown territory... Do we cling to our "good life" - parents, children, job, home - hesitating to put a foot in the raging waters of change?

What does hesitation or holding on to the influences of our families and friends benefit when God calls our name?

Do you remember the story of the woman with the alabaster box of costly perfume?

This woman with the damaged past (Luke calls her a sinner or an immoral woman) takes this box and pours it over Jesus' feet where it mingles with her tears. She then dries his feet with her hair. The disciples - the very friends of Jesus and supposedly the leaders of the new believers - grumble in indignation saying
Why this waste? (Matthew 26:8)
What does Jesus say about this woman giving her best to him, and doing it in an attitude of complete abandon and submission to the Lord regardless of what the other believers think of her?
She has done Me a good deed.

Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her. (Matthew 26:10b, 13 NASB)
How can we be like this woman with the alabaster box?

Can we walk away from the consuming influence of our world? The absorption in pleasing everyone around us?

Can we focus on doing whatever it takes to please our Lord...even if it means sacrificing our best?

And beyond that, can we push past the fear of losing what only God truly holds and step out into the raging waters to gain the promises and blessing God has on the other side of the river for us as we live REAL LIVES of devotion to Jesus Christ?
When you come to the edge of the shall stand still in the [raging waters].

When...the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), which were flowing down from above the waters stood up and rose in one heap.

And the priests who carried the ark of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. (Joshua 5:8b, 16-17 NASB)
It is one simple step to just dip our feet into the water, it becomes complicated when we look at that big wall of our families and friends opinions and needs but still choose to stand firm. If we can focus on Jesus, our heads bowed in complete submission to Him...seeing only Him, listening only to His voice, our lives of worship and service become REAL.

Look what the priest faith did for Israel: Everyone crossed the flooding river in safety. Look what the woman with the alabaster's box did for us: We yearn to worship like she did and God increases our love and desire for Him when we read her story.

How will our REAL LIVES in Him bless our families and friends we give up to His care as we follow Him obediently?

Father, Hold tight to my hand as I step into my faith walk, trusting you to care for my family, my friends, all my other that I can follow my heart for You and serve Your Son with complete abandon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

IOW: All We Need is Love

Karen is hosting In Other Words at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. Visit her to read more IOW posts and to link your own.
Love needs to be based on character, if you know and love God you see He has a lot of character we are in love with. The best thing we can do for our spouse is to grow in character as listed in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a love of choice. We choose to love God, He chooses to love us. Love of choice is the most powerful love, God calls that agape love, it’s a love that lasts, we should never settle for anything else between us and God and others. It’s a love that grows. Keep fervent in your love, allow it to stretch and strain as you watch it grow.
~Wayne Corderio
The Nelson Study Bible describes the love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 as agape: "a love that is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved." This is the way God loves us. Is there anything more profound or more precious in life? God loves us -- so much so that He was willing to sacrifice His very heart for us:
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Again, the Nelson Study Bible elaborates on this agape: "God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are."
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:16-17 NKJV)

"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6 NJKV)
As we walk with Him, God teaches us His character and the most wonderful quality of His love. He does not withhold that love for any reason... He is the perfect example of self-less love. I really draw strength from this word of encouragement from Adrian Rogers' book, What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith: "There is nothing you can do to make God love you more; there is nothing you can do to make God love you less." Unlike humans who love according to mood, God loves perfectly according to His flawless character. If we want to love as He does, we must learn to love deliberately, purposefully, and unconditionally.
"Love suffers long and is kind." (1 Corinthians 13:4a NKJV)
"True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on." ~Nelson

Just like God doesn't toss us aside when we hurt Him (every time we sin by commission or omission), we are not to toss aside those who hurt us. In fact, we are taught by Him to love any Christ did while He hung on the cross being mocked, He called to His Father: "Forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34 NKJV)
"Love does not envy." (1 Corinthians 13:4b NKJV)
"If our love is directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than desiring those blessings for ourselves. Fundamentally, the selfless love that God calls us to does not involve pride or glory. It does not parade itself and is not puffed up. In fact, true love does not seek its own. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, and entitlements for the good of another." ~Nelson
"Love is not provoked." (1 Corinthians 13:5c NKJV)
Love doesn't snap at perceived wrongs. It is not quick-tempered. It is not touchy and grouchy. How I wish this particular trait of love was installed genetically! God doesn't let circumstances affect His love for me. Why do I let them affect my outward affection for those who mean the most to me?
"Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6 NKJV)
We are always to look for, pray for, seek for the best for others. We are to believe and hope all things that are good. Love never gives up. This is so hard when we've been beaten down emotionally by circumstances caused by others. God is the only one who can change lives for the better. We must be willing to love when God directs us to...sometimes we must walk away from a person to prevent harm to our children or ourselves...but our hearts must always pray and love.
"Love endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7d NKJV)
"Love accepts any hardship or rejection, and continues unabated to build up and encourage. The love described by Paul in this 'love chapter' means determining what is best for another person and then doing it. This is the kind of love that God shows us." ~Nelson

I've had a hard time watching a loved one suffer at the rejection of a spouse. It has controlled lives for a decade and a half. The children have learned terrible things about what love without God does to people. I do not have the mind of God in this matter because I am emotionally caught up in the very real pain, but I am working on learning to pray harder for the salvation of the offender. My first priority is to help my loved one get through try to guide everyone to rest in the agape God has for them. And then leave the rest of it in His hands.
"Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8a NKJV)
God's love never, ever fails. We can trust in Him to guide our hearts to love the way He loves. Although love sometimes hurts, true agape will ultimately return to us--either here on this earth or most assuredly, in heaven.

  1. The source of love is God: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love not, that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:7-10, 16 NKJV)

  2. The model of love is Christ: "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16 NKJV)

  3. The embodiment of love by believers is love for others: "And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:21 NKJV)

  4. The extent of love is the Sacrifice of life: "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16 NKJV)

  5. The results of love are the abiding presence of God and life eternal: "No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. We know that we have passed from death to live, because we love the brethren." (1 John 4:12, 16; 3:14a NKJV)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Selah: Prayer - Steering Wheel or Spare Tire?

My inspiration for this week's Selah is a devotion written by Karen Burton Mains. I also submitted much of it to our February church newsletter.

Saturday Selah
Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? ~Corrie Ten Boom
In 1983, two great women of faith, Catherine Marshall and Corrie Ten Boom, went to be with the Lord. If you read any of their writings, you very quickly will see that these women spent hours on their knees in prayer. It was part of who they were. Very rarely today do we encounter such women in whom prayer is a second language.

Corrie Ten Boom commented on the tragedy of the fact that most Christians have lost or perhaps never developed a consistent prayer life:
“When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.”
Prayer is a direct line into the power God has made available to us through His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our lives can never be as effective or successful if we don’t tap into what He offers us for free. How do we expect to be all He has planned for us to be if we don’t spend time discussing it with Him?

Karen Burton Mains brought the question home:
“Frankly, there are very few candidates from our generation of women – those of us who have lavished hours in front of the television set, in the shopping plazas, in self-indulgence, in not developing a disciplined spiritual life.”
Ouch! How often am I guilty of letting these things distract me?

Karen goes on:
“…unless we begin to grow up spiritually. Unless we become convinced that we are the generation of Christian adults ultimately responsible for the spiritual condition of our nation. We must understand that there are increasingly few in that generation ahead of us left to pray over this world. We are coming of age. But are we coming to terms with our lack of spiritual depth and ability?”

“It is we who must learn the meaning of forbearing.

It is we who must develop the disciplines of spiritual perseverance, not shrinking back from growth but doing the will of God, having faith and keeping our souls.

It is we who must become women of faith and prayer and obedience and service.

It is we who must set a spiritual standard for the next generation.

It is time for us all to grow up.”
Catherine Marshall put the idea of our neglect of our spiritual responsibility more succinctly:
“One can believe in the efficacy of prayer and never do any praying.”
Efficacy is a single word that describes the power to produce an effect. Do we believe prayer is effective? Can it make a difference in our lives? Our families? Our culture? Our country? The answer to all of these is a loud and resounding YES!

And what does God’s word say to this:
“…Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:16-18 [NIV]

So will I be the one who steps into those shoes vacated by Corrie Ten Boom and Catherine Marshall? Will I be one who makes prayer my second language?

Father, Guide me to my knees. Teach me your language of prayer. Help me stand in the gap for others. Allow me to learn to bring everything before You. Amen.