Friday, August 26, 2011

GRACE Required

Did you ever notice how God likes to use your own words to challenge you?
This month I’ve been teaching lessons to my Sunday School class about GRACE – “getting something great that you don’t deserve.”  The lessons are not my own.  They are from a curriculum called 252basics.  Anyway, this word, “grace,” was spoken to me by a good friend today.  My friend had no idea that we were studying grace, or that the word, alone, would impact me as it did. 

People are complicated.  Relationships are complicated.  Living in this world, and brushing up against people on a regular basis causes conflict.  And today I found myself in the midst of one.  Did I handle it well?  I can only say, “I tried.”   But this conflict has driven me to my knees in prayer.  How do I show grace to someone who seems to constantly try to hurt me?  How do I love them when I don’t feel that they deserve it?  Maybe they don’t even want my love. 

Christ loved the people who nailed Him to the cross.  He showed grace even as he healed the ear of the soldier who came to arrest him.  God showed me grace by offering me a salvation that I do not deserve.  He loved me before I loved Him, and even layed down His life for me.  This is the truest picture of grace.

Do I believe that I could ever accomplish a love like that, or a grace that is so amazing?

Only by God’s grace!

The ability to give love is a gift in itself.  It is a gift from the Holy Spirit whose power resides in me.  That’s how I know that it can be done!

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

If I could alter an old adage, I would say, “Relationships are fragile.  Handle with prayer.”  That is what I am doing today, praying for God’s grace and love to flow through me in this relationship.  I would love it if you would join with me in this prayer.  I can use all the help I can get.

My friend, Shelley Gallamore, has been blogging about conflict management all this month.  If you find yourself in a conflict, you may want to check it out at:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So How Can It Be Done?

Yesterday I asked this question:
How can we “mingle with (the) godless” and NOT “pick up their evil ways?” 

Here's what Hosea chapter seven taught me.

First, cry out to God for help! 
It sounds basic, but God, Himself, pointed out the Israelites' failure to do this.  Perhaps if they had called out to God, the punishment could have been avoided altogether. 

Second, know God’s standards and keep them.  
I know, it's easier said than done.  Bear with me.  God’s law is clearly spelled out for us in Scripture.  If we know God’s standards, then we will recognize when they are being broken.   As a result, we will have to make a conscious choice as to whether or not we will keep those standards ourselves.

Maybe you are thinking that most of the Israelites knew God’s laws .  You are absolutely right, but they forgot them.  Just like little children who run through the halls at school or talk out loud in the library, we are forgetful too.  This is why teachers post a list of rules prominently in their classrooms and remind the students of them on a regular basis.  This brings us to action step number 3.

Third, remind yourself regularly of God’s expectations and check yourself against His ultimate standard, Christ. 

How are you doing?  What ways have you seen yourself adopt the ways of the godless? Are you laughing at inappropriate jokes?  Or telling little white lies?  Or wearing your shorts a little tighter than you used to?  Or flirting with someone who is not your spouse?  Beware those baby steps that can eventually lead us down a path to destruction.  It didn’t happen overnight with the Israelites.  Remember that God warned them constantly.  They just didn’t listen.

Are you listening?  Check yourself as David did.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Ps.139:23-24

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.”  Exodus 33:13

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Worthless as a Half-baked Cake

Reading through the prophetic books of the Old Testament can be very eye opening.  How many times have we heard the saying, “The past always repeats itself,” and shook our heads in agreement, but not learned from it?  The Bible provides the perfect opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past.  The book of Hosea is no exception.  In this book, God speaks through His prophet, Hosea, to warn Israel of their coming punishment.  Hosea describes how the Israelites abandoned God’s ways and worshiped other gods despite Jehovah’s constant attempts to rebuke them.  Today I am struck by these words: 

“Its people (Israel) don’t realize I am watching them.  Their sinful deeds are all around them.  I see them all!  The people make the king glad with their wickedness.  The princes laugh about the people’s many lies.  They are all adulterers, … and no one cries out for help.  My people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, picking up their evil ways.  Now they have become as worthless as a half-baked cake!” (Hosea 7:2-3,7-8, NLT)

There is a lesson to be learned here.  America has become a godless nation.  I don’t think that statement is going to shock anyone.  God and prayer have been banned from our schools.  Adultery, deception and lawlessness is so rampant that you cannot watch the evening news without seeing evidence of it.  Even many of our leaders are being found guilty of improper behavior; yet, we all shrug our shoulders saying, “who doesn’t do that now a days?”  We must not forget that God sees everything.  More importantly, we must be careful of how we respond to our cultural surroundings. 

I want to take a lesson from the book of Hosea.  I want to be sure that I am not “mingling” with those who do evil so as to “pick up their evil ways.”  I don’t want to be “as worthless as a half-baked cake!”  Does that mean that I am supposed to go and live in a commune somewhere away from all of civilization?  No.  That is not what God called anyone to do!  Christ commissioned us in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples.  You cannot do that if you are not in the world. 

So how can we “mingle with (the) godless” and NOT “pick up their evil ways?” 

Leave a comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dumb Sheep! Yes, That's Me.

If you’ve ever taught Sunday School to children, then you probably know that the teacher often gets more out of the lesson than the students do.  I taught a lesson this week on Luke chapter 15.  This passage contains the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal child.  The lost sheep is my favorite because I love the analogy of Christ being my good shepherd.  I’m not so sure that I like being called a sheep however.  Do you know how dumb sheep are?  Sheep will wander off a cliff if no one is looking.  They don’t have any clue that there are wolves and other animals around that want to devour them.  And worst of all, they don’t realize that they NEED a shepherd.  If you could interview a sheep, I would imagine it to say about its shepherd, “He’s a great guy, but I’m not sure why he hangs around us.  He needs to get a life and let us do our thing.”  The same sheep’s story may change drastically if he ever had to be rescued just once.

The “bottom line” in the lesson last week was “Everyone needs to be rescued… even me.”  That is so true.  I am absolutely like those dumb sheep in more ways than I care to admit. 

-         I need a shepherd. 
I was headed straight for a cliff called “Hell” and I needed to be told that only Christ could save me.  For the longest time I thought I could be good enough to get to Heaven all on my own.  The Bible calls that foolishness.  How could I really believe that I could be good enough to impress God anyway?

-         I need protection, DAILY. 
There is a ravenous wolf out there wanting to devour me and my family.   Satan is very real and he delights in leading God's children astray. 

John 10:10-11 
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

I Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

-         I am prone to wander.  This world has so many wonderful distractions that I tend too often to take my eyes off my shepherd.  This is when I need a reminder of the previous point!  Even the good things in life can lead to ruin if I let them take me away from my Protector who wants what is best for me.

A friend challenged me just this morning of the importance of prayer in all of life’s issues.  Too often I try to take control of my life.  I charge into my day with a plan in mind and sometimes fret over whether or not I’ve made the best choices for my family.  Do I send my 4-year-old to preschool?  If so, where?  Is it wise use of our finances?  Do I need to go get that root canal, or do I need a second opinion?  Is my teenage child’s schedule too busy?  Do I need to make a change?  Do I join a Bible study group at church this Fall?  If so, which one?  What do I cook for dinner?  When do I go to the grocery store?

There are hundreds of decisions I make in each day and I wonder how many of them I am trying to make without consulting my Shepherd.  Even more, how many are actually taking my eyes off of God and leading me down a wrong path… a path that leads only to worry, possible pain, or a false security which leaves me open to attack? 

Lord, for today, let my eyes remain on you.  Lead me in the way YOU want me to go.  Let my ears be stretching to hear your voice.  And, help this dumb sheep stay on the right path.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

… no one will ever know!

      I’ve been on one diet after another since I was about 12 years old, and not a single one of those diets would  permit me to indulge in  my favorite candy bar.  Imagine that!  I’m sure you can also imagine the number of times that I cheated on those diets.  After all, what woman can live a week without chocolate?  Sometimes I would sneak a SKOR bar into the middle of my pile of groceries and then tuck it in my purse while the bagger was doing his thing.  No one at home would be the wiser.  Of course, I would then have to consume said SKOR bar in the bathroom or behind another closed door.  I’m sure no one else has ever done this.

     What is ironic about my little escapades is that I was the one who would ultimately suffer the consequences whether I was seen or not.  I might notice a gain on the scale, but far worse than that, I would feel the guilt that inevitably follows.  I feared being caught and letting someone down, but I was really letting myself down.

     I’ve experienced the same type of guilt when watching a show on television that I know is not God honoring.  (I'm not even talking about SOAPS, although they would definitely fall into this catagory.  My bend is toward the medical drama shows.)  I would watch those shows during the day when I was home alone with little ones who didn’t know any better and wouldn’t tell if they did.  I won’t deny the attraction to some of these shows.  After all, who doesn’t like a good drama?  The problem was that people were always falling into bed with others -not their spouse - or lying to one another and cheating on each other.  Certainly not God-honoring activities to fill up my mind and my days!  Have you ever been there?  You probably wouldn’t tattle on yourself if you had!

     Why is it that we always try to hide our "little" transgressions?  Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit.  (I wonder if they hid while they were eating it, too.)  Likewise, Judas when he sought to betray Jesus waited until the opportune time when very few people would be around to see him do it.  How did that work for him?  Not well at all.  Almost two thousand years have passed and yet anyone who has heard the story of Easter knows exactly what he did.  Let’s pretend for a moment that Judas' sin was not recorded in Scripture and that no one witnessed it save himself and those who paid him.  Would God still hold him accountable for his actions?  Did God see Adam and Eve behind the bushes?  Did He hold them accountable for what they had done?  Of course!  

     Our God sees everything that is done in secret.  He knows the little white lies we tell even if no one else is privy to them.  He is disappointed with our poor choices of what to watch, what to eat, what to wear or what to do with the resources He entrusts to us.   I could go on and on.  Our sins grieve Him.  My prayer is that I will feel that same grief, beg His forgiveness, and follow through with making the right choice the next time.   It's time to stop pretending that I can hide from Him and that my "little" sins don't matter.

Psalm 90:8 (NIV)
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Old Story, New Lesson

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today my plan led me to the book of Jonah.  I had to fight hard the urge to skip that book because I knew the story so well.  I mean, how many times have you heard or read the story of Jonah and the big fish?  Finally, I decided to give God the chance to show me something new in that old story, and WOW, did He!   

The story begins with Jonah, a prophet of God, being told to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent.  Well, Jonah thinks God is off His rocker this time and decides to ignore His command.  Actually, he doesn’t really ignore God.  He defies Him.  Jonah decides to board a ship and go across the world to escape God’s call.  Big mistake!  He ends up becoming fish food when a huge storm whips up, threatening to overturn the ship.

Can you just picture this?  Here are several non-believers, purely innocent bystanders, desperately fighting for their lives.  Jonah tells them the storm is his fault and instructs them to throw him into the sea.  Here is what I find fascinating.  Jonah does not call out to God and repent until after he is thrown overboard and half drowned.  At least, the Bible doesn’t record any repentant prayer or cry for help.  I can just see Jonah frantically slapping the water, trying with all his might to grab the nearest supply barrel that had gone over before him.  Not until he is utterly exhausted and has completely given up does he resort to prayer.  Isn’t that so like us?  We get ourselves into a sticky situation and we don’t want to ask God for help until we’ve exhausted every single resource, every solution we can dream up.  I think this is especially true when we know that we defied God and are just reaping the consequences. 

Maybe you knew God wanted you in church on Sunday and you decided to go golfing or boating instead.  Maybe, as a result of that decision, you left the plug out of the boat and it sunk to the bottom of the lake.  (I know one reader who is laughing right now because this happened to him.  Mind you, he wasn’t laughing then!)   God doesn’t always punish us so directly for our rebellion, but when he does, do we think to repent and cry out for help?  At what point does that happen… the last possible moment? 

God doesn’t sit in heaven gloating and telling us, “I told you so.”  No.  He waits patiently, longing to hear that call.  I know this because I’ve experienced it with my own children.  One of my sons gets sent to his room for talking back and being defiant.  As a Mom, I know that ignoring the offense will only cause it to be repeated.  Still, you know that all this Mommy really wants to hear is a genuine plea for forgiveness.  What does my son do instead?  He kicks and screams, and sometimes cries himself into a tizzy before finally saying those dreaded words, “I’m sorry.”

Have you gotten yourself into a mess?  Have you tried to defy God?
How long will you wait before you repent and ask Him to help you get out of that mess?

This question hits home with me today because I, like Jonah, have spent years running away from God's call.  I  have glossed over every Bible verse pertaining to gluttony and self-control with regard to food.  My resulting "mess" is the excess weight that I carry around with me every day.  Each diet I have tried has been my last ditch effort to save myself from my own mess, slapping the waves so to speak.  But God waited patiently for my call.  Today, I stand repentant (and forgiven) of my disobedience and lack of self-control.  While I beg God daily to help me shed my excess baggage, I can joyfully report that He is showing Himself faithful.  I am seeing the light of day.  Praise Him for His patience and ever loving mercy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tribute to My Mother

Today's blog hop topic is: how are you alike and different from your mother?
I think I'll just have fun with this one.

Growing up, my mom and I were always asked if we were sisters. Yes, there is no denying that I get my looks from her. I use to wonder if that was a compliment or an insult. Did I look old, or did she look young? I soon decided that it was a promise of a good looking future. At least, that's the hope. My mom is truly beautiful and always has been, inside and out.

Judging from that last comment, you may deduce that I am quite the optimist. This quality, I believe, comes from my mother as well. Her optimism, coupled with her gift of mercy, helps her to always see good in people. She always gives others the benefit of the doubt. I find myself imitating this when my own children come to me with a complaint about someone. I count myself fortunate to have learned from the best.

When it comes to our differences, well, my mother is one of the most selfless people I know. This, I wish, she had passed on to me. She will drop what she is doing to attend to the needs of another. That is why she made such a great church secretary for so many years,and also why she was "Mom" to far more children than she actually bore. Mom also loves to serve behind the scenes. In contrast, I tend to chose the ministries where I am surrounded by people. We both enjoy teaching, but her teaching tends to come more from example or one-on-one counseling. I have been blessed greatly through the years by her counsel.

I graduated college.  My mom never went.  She married early instead, and learned from life as she raised her four children. While I made all "A"s in school, I had no boyfriends. I was a bit chubby. That didn't help. She, on the other hand, had many boyfriends and was thin as anyone would dream to be. She grew up in the country, I in the city.  These are the differences that stand out to me in this moment. 

I could probably go on about being the same height, and coloring our hair in our thirties, loving to play Scrabble and being married to men who hate the game, but none of that really matters all that much.  What matters is that we are best friends and I will cherish her always.

Proverbs 31:28-29                                        
Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.

I love you mom!

Footnote:  My mother is the grammatic genius in the family and she usually edits my postings.  This one I wanted to be a surprise, so please forgive any mistakes.

Hop to the next blog by clicking here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Laundry Day

The laundry is piled in a heap on my bed, an all too familiar scene. If I would put each load away before I pulled out the next one, then the pile wouldn't grow so high. Honestly, sometimes it seems so daunting that I go to bed and attack it the next morning when I am feeling braver. Today I did five loads of laundry and still have yet to put it all away. I'm certain there is a lesson to be learned here. All suggestions are welcome. I have a feeling, though, that I know what you'll say. "Just do it!"

Staring at my pile, I can't help but think about how other things can pile up in my life - chores that need to be done, messages needing to be sent, bills to be paid. The list could go on. But the worst kind of mess that I get myself into is the one created when I let sin go unconfessed. The Bible says that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God gave us the Holy Spirit, and a conscience, to make us aware of our sins. God is fully aware of our sins as well. His desire is that we confess those sins so that He can wipe our slates clean and free us from all guilt and fear. (I John 1:9) At least that is the plan. But, have you ever noticed what happens when you let your sins pile up? The burden of those sins becomes almost too heavy to bear. I've seen men and women crippled in their ministry because they had sins they were unwilling to let go. You start to feel like God couldn't possibly want to use you. You feel dirty and, to say the least, unworthy. I assure you that I am speaking from experience. But our God is patient and kind. He lovingly waits, anticipating the day when we will tackle our pile and be made free once again.

If you are staring at a heap of unconfessed sin, make today your clean up day. Confess before God. Name those sins, one by one, and feel the burden being lifted off your shoulders. Don't leave a single piece of dirty laundry for tomorrow.  It's time.  Just do it!  He's waiting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Step into the Light

Have you ever tried to put on makeup in a hotel bathroom?  It never fails.  You think your face looks just right only to go outside in the sunlight, see your reflection in your rear view mirror, and discover that you don’t quite look like you thought you did.  The lighting in the bathroom fooled you into thinking that you had achieved that soft, natural look and now you see the truth for what it is.  You either resemble a harlot with your overly bright lipstick and bold eye color, or you look pale and sickly because the sunlight has a different hue than the fluorescent lighting in the hotel bathroom.  We’ve all been there.
I experienced this recently and it occurred to me that there are times when I think I appear better to God and to others than I actually do.  I’m not referring to makeup and hair this time.  I compare my actions and behavior to others and to the standards of the world and I feel like I’m measuring up.  In actuality, I’m just standing in poor lighting.  Then I step into the light of God’s Word and it reveals a whole other set of standards that are a bit higher than mine.  I start to see myself as God sees me.  I see the way I treated that person at work, how I yelled at my children, or how I was selfish with my spouse, and suddenly I am not looking so good anymore.
Praise God that He doesn’t let me go around wearing blinders.  Instead, He shines His light right on my heart and opens my eyes to  the real me that He, and surely others, must see.  The question then becomes:  how do I respond?  Do I walk away from the mirror and do nothing about my hideous appearance?  This is the very scenario that James addressed in James 1:22-25. 
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

My prayer today:
Lord, open my eyes to my true appearance and help me not to walk away forgetting what I have seen.  Instead, help me respond in obedience so that I can become a true reflection of You.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Stubborn Seed

 A crazy thing happened to my daughter in Science class this year.  She was given the assignment to grow something.  You probably remember doing this yourself at one time or other.  You plant a bean or, in her case, a piece of potato in a cup with some dirt.  Then you place it in the windowsill where you water it once a day and hope for a sprout to appear.  Not too complicated.  It’s not supposed to be.  Teachers know that this is pretty much a no-fail experiment if the student follows the directions.  Well, it didn’t go so well for Rebecca.  She followed her directions carefully and never saw a hint of a sprout.  She tried again with a different seed, to no avail.  After the third try, Rebecca threw her hands up in the air and declared defeat.  The teacher didn’t penalize her because he had seen her efforts and believed it was a terrible stroke of bad luck.  He’s still puzzled by what went wrong.  Ironically, my daughter just started a job that requires her to try her hand at gardening once again.  This caused us to revisit the Science fiasco.  After getting a good laugh, I began to reflect on those stubborn little seedlings.

Many of us have people in our lives who need to hear about Christ.  Maybe they have never heard of Him, never set foot in a church, or never read a single page of Scripture.  Maybe they have heard of God but have a warped view of Him or have chosen to ignore Him.  According to Matthew 28:19-20, our job as Christians is to go and tell them the truth about Jesus.  If you’ve attempted this more than once, then you know that the results of your efforts will vary.  Try as we might, some people will just refuse to sprout.
To put in Christ’s words, the seed falls “by the way side” (Matthew 13).   When Christ’s words were not received well, He moved on.  This is hard to do when you care deeply for the person in question, especially if he/she is a family member or your child.  Ultimately Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit does the convicting.  That is not our job.  So we plant a seed, water it, and stick it in the windowsill praying that one day a sprout may appear.  What we shouldn’t do is let it tear us up if we never see it happen.  Paul said that some will be planters, some will water, but only God can give the increase.

Another idea that strikes me when I think of Rebecca’s little experiment is that I can also resemble that stubborn seed at times.  God speaks truth to me and I reject it.  I simply refuse to grow.  Growth is hard and sometimes painful.  I don’t like it when God points out to me my failures and character flaws.  I don’t like being told that I’m lazy, selfish, unfaithful, jealous, undisciplined, and the list goes on.  But God’s purpose in pointing out my failures is not to make me feel bad.  His purpose is to make me more like His Son.  With that goal in mind, I think I can tolerate a little pain or difficulty.  Bring on the rain Lord, I want to grow!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can't I Just Get By?

Yesterday I promised a second nugget of truth from the book of Ezra regarding work.  Here it is:

Nugget 2:  Work with great energy.
In chapter five, a comment is made about the work that is being done on the new temple.  It states that "the work is going forward with great energy and success." (NLT)  In other translations this phrase "with great energy" is seen as "with diligence" and "great care."  Regardless of which translation you prefer, there is a lesson here about HOW we are to do our jobs, and the jobs on which we choose to "pitch in."

Remember in school how frustrating it was when you were paired with someone to do a project and all they wanted to do was the bare minimum?  Maybe your partner was willing to settle for a passing grade when you were really going for the "A."  That was me anyway.  What kind of effort would you put into your job if you knew you were going to be graded?  Some of us who are homemakers or who have worked for ourselves can tend to think that we can get away with the bare minimum.  What does God think about that? 

The apostle Paul said "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23 NIV)

This includes washing the dishes, raising your children, keeping your house, and doing your outside job, all "energetically," "with diligence," and "great care."

This is a great lesson for my daughter regarding her new job, but a great reminder for myself, as well.  I wonder what grade God is giving me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Not My Job

My daughter started her first job last week.   I don't believe it was by coincidence that God led me to read the book of Ezra the same week.  In the book, the Israelites are given permission to rebuild the temple.  The work took many hands to complete, but the people were excited to get the job done.  What does this have to do with my daughter and her new job?  Well, there were some nuggets of truth in that book that I believe she, and all of us too, can apply to the work that God has given us to do.

The first nugget is:  Pitch in wherever you can.  It's easy for me to look at a job, identify my responsibilities, and carry them out.  It's also easy to identify others' responsibilities and point the finger at those who may not be doing them.  I know that the words, "That's not my job," have crossed my lips more than once over the years.  But in Ezra 5:2 the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, jump right in to help with the temple rebuild.  I'm sure that they could have easily said, "That's not my job," and no one would've questioned it.  That's not what they did.  They saw an opportunity to help out and rolled up their sleeves to do some dirty work.  Incidentally, that four word phrase always seems to show up when there is "dirty work" to be done.  I'm finding myself evaluating how often I am willing to "pitch in" when I see trash that needs to go out, dishes that need to be done, grass that needs to be mowed, bathrooms that need to be cleaned, and the list goes on.  My husband is so good at this.  He's the one you see picking up trash in the parking lot on the way into church.  I think I could stand to be a little more like him and to "roll up my sleeves" a little more often, regardless of whether or not it's "my job."

Tune in tomorrow for nugget number 2!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Child, Get Wisdom!

How do you measure success – perhaps a plan carried out or a goal met?
How can you know you’re succeeding if you have no plan or goal?

It's hard to imagine my teenage self having a plan or a goal for my life.  But, if I were able to go back in time and tell my teenage self something, I would tell her to make it her goal to "get wisdom!"  This instruction comes straight from Proverbs 4: Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.” (NIV)

I was never a reader as a child.  I have always been a very slow reader, always the last one in the class to finish.  This made me despise reading.  In my college years I discovered that reading was not so bad if the books were ones I enjoyed.  So I read a few dozen of Janette Oke’s Christian romance books and felt pretty good about myself.  But after I finished her books, I never really made the effort to find another author that I liked.  Consequently, I can count on one hand how many books I read, outside of class, in the next ten to fifteen years.  Sad, I know.

As a woman getting very near to age 40, I have now realized that there is a wealth of wisdom recorded in books.  To not tap into that wisdom is very unwise!  In the last few years I have noticed that nearly all of the women, and men, that I know and consider to be “successful” in life have been readers.  In fact, they continue to be readers no matter how busy their life gets.  At any given time I could ask them, “What are you reading currently,” and they would have an answer.  This is my new aspiration, my goal to be attained… to always be reading something.

Lest you should leave any comments about how just reading “something” isn’t enough, I want to point out that I am referring to reading outside of Scripture.  Without a doubt, Scripture should be read in tandem with anything else.  In addition, it’s important to evaluate the kind of books that you consume.  Proverbs 15:14 addresses this issue. 
“A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.” (NLT)

That’s what I would tell my teenage self.  How about you?

 Proverbs 8:11  For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.”

To view more entries in this "Hearts at Home" Blog Hop, go to:"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Let's Talk About "Made to Crave"

I recently began studying the book, “Made to Crave:  Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food,” by Lysa Terkeurst.  Since then, many have asked my thoughts about the book. Let me just say that there's some great stuff in there for anyone struggling with food issues.  During this 6 week journey that my study group is taking together you may see me share a few thoughts from the book.  The thought for today is a statement that Lysa makes:  "God made us to crave."  Here's the catch, the object of our craving should be Him.  Often we try to satisfy our cravings with other things like food, relationships, hobbies, computers, facebook,  etc…  I have found this to be very true in my life.  I have used all of those replacements at one time or another and have always come up short of true satisfaction.  This is the battle that I fight on a daily basis.  The times in my life when I feel the most fulfilled are those times when I am walking closely with my Lord.  That is no coincidence.  God offers “abundant life” to those who stay attached to “The Vine.”

So how does the craving for God come?  A craving is a feeling, and feelings are fickle.  They come and they go as quick as the tides.  If I wait to feel the "craving” for God before I seek Him in prayer, then I am likely not to be faithful in following Him.  I feed myself physically when I am hungry, but if I haven’t eaten all day and I don’t “feel” particularly hungry, am I wise to wait for the feeling to come again before I eat?  Of course not.  Our bodies need nourishment.  This is true of our souls as well.  In that sense it’s not a “duty” to pray and read The Word of God daily, but a necessity to maintain a healthy spirit.  In this age of abundant vitamins and supplements, I need to make sure I get my daily “God dosage.” 

Still, if you long for that feeling of “craving God” as much as I do, let me suggest that once a day will never be enough.  How do I get that craving?  First, I beg God for it. Then I “fake it ‘til I make it.”  Many experts have studied the power of suggestion.  They say that we can only achieve that which we envision ourselves achieving.  And many companies have employed mantras to motivate their employees to succeed.   “I am powerful, I am confident, I am …blah, blah, blah.”  You get the picture.  Why, even the “Little Engine That Could” had to tell himself “I think I can” several times before he was able to get over that mountain.  I say all that to say, I have found my mantra.  Ps. 73:25-26.

             Whom have I in heaven but you?
               And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
            My flesh and my heart may fail,
               but God is the strength of my heart
               and my portion forever.

If I can say these verses every morning, and perhaps every time I go to one of my “replacement” foods, then one day I will be living it.  I actually recited these verses in college every morning and it did wonders for me.  I don’t know why I stopped.  These verses help me keep my focus on what truly is most valuable in life.  I’m excited to see how battling my food cravings with this weapon is going to bring me closer to God while I reap physical benefits as well.

How about you?  Do you crave God or a replacement?
If you can identify that replacement, you’ve won half the battle.
The next step is to seek Him and pick up your weapons every time you find yourself craving that replacement. 

Who’s willing to try this with me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Lesson I'll Never Forget


A few weeks back a friend of mine called to ask me why I had made a suggestion to her when we were last together.  She knew me well enough to ask before jumping to conclusions.  I told her that I had seen this idea work really well for someone else and I was just trying to be helpful.  She said that she thought that was the case, but proceeded to explain how her mind was telling her something else.  She had taken that suggestion to mean that I did not like the way she was doing things and that she was wrong.  She was so wise in asking.  She knew something that I had to learn the hard way last year.  That is to say that we don't think and process things exactly the same.  God created us to be unique.  So why is this lesson so invaluable to me?  Let me tell you a little story.

The setting:  a rather heated conversation between me and a woman we'll call "Barb" (not her real name).  Barb and I are about as different as two women can be, yet still share the same faith.  An undeniable tension loomed over us whenever we were together.  (Do you know someone like this?)  I do something that irritates her or she does something that gets on my nerves and, before long, we end up avoiding each other.  It’s not always that bad when we see each other; but, on this particular occasion I had gotten so upset that I knew we had to talk about it.  Through tears and frustration we both realized that we had been assuming the worst about each other.  I can admit to having thoughts cross my mind like:
            “She said that because she thinks I’m a bad housekeeper,”
            “She really meant I’m a horrible mother,”
            “She thinks she is so much better than I am,” and
“She must really hate me.”
The fact is that Barb and I were both choosing to believe some wrong assumptions.  We were constantly  assuming we knew what was going on in the other’s mind.  In reality, we are just two very different personality types and unless we are able to read each other's minds, we will never totally understand what the other is thinking or believing.    My motivations are not even remotely similar to Barb's.  I am motivated by fun and bringing joy to people.  She is motivated by a drive for perfection and likes serving people behind the scenes.  She enjoys housekeeping while I dread it.  She has a quiet spirit and I, on the other hand,  am very outspoken.  Barb leans toward feelings of insecurity, while I tend to struggle with pride. 

 Are you beginning to get the picture?  Anyway, when God finally got through my thick skull, He showed me that Barb was not constantly judging me.  I learned that, if I allowed myself, I could actually benefit from understanding our differences.  Today I can truly say that I am grateful that God placed her in my life so that I can now better understand those around me.  All bitterness toward Barb has melted away.  I don’t know if our chat did the same for her (I pray so) but I can now thank God for her and pray for her in a whole new way. 

Now here's the ironic, totally unexpected twist… my daughter thinks very much like Barb thinks!  How could I ever have hoped to understand my daughter (who is going into her teen years) if I hadn’t first learned this invaluable lesson?

“Now you [collectively] are Christ's body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function].”        1 Corinthians 12:27   (Amplified Bible)

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”       Romans 12:18 (NIV)  

*I would  be remiss if I didn’t give some recognition here to Mark Gungor, a pastor and public speaker, who presented four different personality types at a marriage conference I attended last year.  That is when  the pieces of the puzzle came together for me.  To find materials for discovering your personality type, or that of your children and spouse, check out his website @

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Three Time Charlie"

Sometimes, as a parent, I find myself trying so hard to get my child’s attention.  I may call him over and over again before he finally gives me the acknowledgment I am seeking.  I wonder if God feels the same way I do.

Ever heard of the term, “three time Charlie?”  My parents used it when referring to children who would not respond until the third time called.  (I won’t expose the guilty party.)  Anyway, surprisingly, I found a “three time Charlie” in my Bible reading this morning.  His name was King Nebuchadnezzar.  Three times God tried to get this king’s attention.  Three times Nebuchadnezzar was given a chance to worship the one true God.  The first time, recorded in Daniel chapter 2, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream.  This dream disturbed the king so much that he threatened to kill all of his advisors if not one of them could reveal the dream to him and interpret it.  Daniel, empowered by God, answered the king’s demand.  Nebuchadnezzar then recognized the power of Daniel’s God, but didn’t seem to realize that God was trying to teach him something.  What Scripture tells us is that Nebuchadnezzar worshiped many gods (Daniel 3:12).  But Yahweh would not settle with being one of the many.  In the next chapter we read that Nebuchadnezzar created a huge statue and commanded that all of his subjects worship it.  God’s call to him this time came through the testimony of three faithful followers who refused to bow, yet were miraculously rescued from a fiery furnace.   You’d think this was enough, but no.  Another dream came to Nebuchadnezzar which, when interpreted,  told that he will become like an animal and live that way for seven “spans of time,” and the dream came true.   That king finally got the message, the hard way!  (The end of Chapter 4 records his repentant response.)

Have you ever felt that God was trying to get your attention?  I know I have.  To how many ways does He have to resort before you acknowledge Him and pay attention?

Sometimes God just wants to humble us, like in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, and get us to “look up.”  I’ve been so busy about my own little life at times that I have neglected Him or not given Him the praise He deserves for the things He has done.  Then God gently reminded me or called out to me from His Word.  But He’s not always been quite so gentle. 

Sometimes God wants to tell us we are on the wrong path -maybe dating the wrong person, trying for the wrong job, obsessing about having a child, or worse.  I regret that I once lost a job because I wouldn’t listen to God about a particular sin I was repeatedly committing.  He certainly got my attention that day!

My hope and prayer for today is that I will listen to God the first time He calls and not wait to learn the hard way.  No more of this “three time Charlie” business!

Psalm 81:13  "Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would
                           walk in My ways!" (NKJV)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wearing the Shirt and Claiming the Name

When I was growing up my parents bought matching t-shirts for the whole family.  The shirts had our first name on the front and last name on the back.  Mom and Dad bought them so that when we went places, like amusement parks and family reunions, we would be easy to spot and everyone would know to whom we belonged.  Seems a little dorky, but the sense of belonging and pride that I felt when I was wearing that shirt was priceless.  I think my parents were proud, too.

Looking at pictures of those shirts now reminds me of another family to which I belong, the family of God.  What a comfort it is to know that when I asked Christ to come into my life I was adopted into His family forever.  I get to wear the shirt!  I actually belong!  My heavenly Father loves me unconditionally, and one day I will wear the robes to prove that He has covered my sin and made me His own.  What a joy that thought brings!

Until that day, though, I get to walk around down here on earth wearing His Name on my back.  It may not be as visible as the letters on my t-shirt, but that doesn’t change the fact that I represent Him wherever I go.  I pray that I wear the name proudly and well. 

How about you?  Do you own the shirt?  Do you wear it proudly for all to see?

Someone once posed the question, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to find you guilty?”  What kind of evidence might convict a person of that?   I believe the fruit of the Spirit will suffice.  You know - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  These are the character traits that God wants us to display.  These are the letters that spell out our Father’s Name.  And these are the things that make Him proud that He has chosen us to be His.  So next time I am in the grocery line and the clerk is taking an hour to check out the person in front of me, what do you think my response should be?  Patience, kindness, and self control.  How about on the ball field when the referee makes a bad call?  And in tight traffic situations or long commutes?  Or even when someone wrongs me without cause.  Somehow, knowing that I am wearing His Name motivates me to want to do the right thing.  Is it that way for you too?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Which Is Better, Cats or Dogs?

Walk down the street asking random people which animal is superior, the dog or the cat, and you are likely to get some strong opinions.  Even owners of both seem to favor one over the other.  I have owned a few dogs and a cat in my life and have discovered that there are valuable lessons to be learned from each one.

Dogs are known for their loyalty.  They stick by their master's side and seem happiest when the master is nearby.  A well-trained dog will come quickly to his master’s call.  He knows that voice and listens for it.  He heeds his master’s every command.  I had a dog that would sit for what seemed like an eternity with a piece of meat on the end of his nose just waiting for me to say “get it!”  That’s the picture of pure adoration and obedience.  That’s what the Lord wants from me.  What a challenging thought.  Do I strain to listen for my Master’s voice?  Then do I obey His commands and find my joy in putting a smile on His face?  

Deuteronomy 10:12 says, And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”  My Master loves me and never asks anything of me that is not for my own good or for His purpose.  He deserves my love and devotion.

That’s what I have learned from my dogs.  Now what about the cats?  Cats, by nature, are very independent and self-serving.  They don’t often come when they are called unless there is something in it for them.  Cat lovers, don’t hate me, but what I have learned from my cat is how NOT to respond to God.   To my shame, I think I tend to be more like my cat.  My cat always seemed to look at me as if she tolerated me being around.  She came to me only when she felt like it and only under her own terms.  If I wanted her to do something I could almost see her thinking about whether or not she wanted to obey… most times she would just turn a cold shoulder.  I shudder to think of the times that I have turned a cold shoulder to God.  I wish I could say that I obey Him constantly without even thinking about what’s in it for me. Too often instead I lay basking in the sun, too lazy to get up, too involved in pleasing myself instead of my Master.  That is what I have learned from my cat.

My question for you today is not which animal do you believe is superior.  My question is, which one do you wish to emulate?  How have you behaved today?  If you have felt more like a cat today, what steps are you going to take toward change?  Seeking forgiveness is a great place to start. 

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this topic.  Cat lovers and dog lovers alike!
Leave a comment with your ideas of how you can grow in your adoration for your Master, how to hear His voice, or how to learn to respond in obedience.

Disclaimer:  This illustration may be slightly exaggerated for the sake of a good comparison.  I realize that not ALL cats are as self-serving as mine was.  And, it may surprise you to know that I actually enjoyed the twelve plus years that we had with our cat.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I’ve Been Exposed -Part Two

    After reading my previous blog, you may be wondering how God exposes sin to us.  The truth is that He does it in various ways.  Sometimes while reading Scripture a particular phrase or passage may stand out.  Then God tugs ever so gently at the heart with a sense of guilt or shame.  Other times, something a preacher or singer says may remind us of a sin that was recently committed.  On various occasions, God has pointed out to me a sin in someone else’s life and shown me that I am guilty of doing or thinking the same thing.  (I hate that!)  And, of course, there are times when someone notices our sin and straight out confronts us.  Whatever tool God uses, the result is usually the same… guilt, sadness, disappointment, or frustration.  Hopefully repentance comes next, closely followed by renewed peace and joy.  Praise God that “if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (I John 1:9)... every time!

      Glancing again at Luke chapter 8 you may notice another sweet verse:  “On the other side of the lake the crowds received Jesus with open arms because they had been waiting for Him.” (Luke 8:40)  That is where I want to be – waiting for Him with open arms, and not pushing Him away.

Are you lacking peace?  Could you be hanging onto some sin and fearing you will be “caught”?  Will you allow God to expose you today, or will you tell Him to “go away”?  Will you dare to pray this prayer that David prayed:

                   “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

Monday, May 16, 2011

I've Been Exposed! It's A Good Thing

     I remember as a teen knowing that smoking was bad for me.  My father had been a smoker and made it well known that he didn’t want me to start that horrible habit.  Still, curiosity got the best of me and I tried it, multiple times.  But I didn’t smoke out in the open. I hid in a wooded area behind the drug store in hopes that Mom and Dad would never find out.  My brother rode by one day and I prayed that he would go away and keep my secret safe.  But he didn’t.  Thankfully, I was caught and the horror of ever being caught again kept me from committing a repeat offense.

      Today I was reading Luke chapter 8 which contains the story of Christ healing a demon-possessed man.  It is interesting to note that the crowd of people who witnessed the healed young man “begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.”  (Luke 8:37, NLT)  I wondered what it was that caused them such great fear.  Did they fear what they did not understand or were they afraid that Christ would look on them and see their darkest secrets?  Maybe they feared being exposed the same as I had when I glimpsed my brother riding by that fateful day.  With this thought in my mind, I am wondering, do I tell God to "go  away"?

      I suspect that we all have things we like to keep hidden… skeletons in the closet, so to speak.  One of my children likes to hide in his closet when he knows he has done wrong.  I sometimes hear his little voice from within the closet say, “Leave me alone.”   In the same way we adults sometimes hide our faces or duck around corners to avoid seeing people who have exposed us.  I know I have.  Many even quit their jobs or move away just to avoid facing their failures.  I don’t like to admit when I have done wrong.  Yet when Christ came into my life, He began to expose my hidden secrets.  See, God specializes in revealing the sins that weight us down.  His purpose in revealing our sin is to heal us and give us peace, the kind of peace that you get when you know you have been forgiven.  Did you ever get caught in a string of lies and find, to your surprise, that you were relieved when someone exposed you?   That’s what I’m talking about.  That very moment of relief is a glimpse of what it is like to have God’s peace.  When we try to hide our sin, or guard it and tell God to ‘go away’, then we throw away any chance of knowing His peace. 

Psalm 32: 2-5
Blessed is the one
   whose sin the LORD does not count against them
   and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
   my bones wasted away... 

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin.

Maybe today is the day you will allow God to expose your secrets and give you peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pests -Here They Come!

This season Middle Tennessee is due for a bumper crop of 13-year cicada.  They are coming out of the ground as I write this.  Yuck!  I didn't live in this area thirteen years ago.  These pests are said to be extremely loud and bothersome.  I'm picturing a scene like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."  I hope I'm wrong. According to entomologist Dr. Frank Hale “in some locales, the sound may seem deafening.”  This expert recommends earplugs.  (for more information, see

Thankfully, cicada are not harmful to humans, but there is another pest that is sometimes equally annoying and, sadly, very harmful.  I’m talking about gossips.  We all know the type.  I’m chuckling right now as I remember the scene from “The Music Man” when a bunch of old biddies sing “pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, peck a lot, peck a little more…”  A funny scene in its context, but not so funny to the one who is being “pecked”.  Without a doubt, gossip is harmful.  Maybe you have been the object of gossip at one time or another.  Rumors spread, true or untrue, and people begin to look at you funny or avoid you.  Not fun.  Reputations have been ruined over gossip.  Ironically, the reputation of the gossiper can be equally ruined.  That’s justice for you.  No one trusts a known gossip.

We know that God hates gossip.  Paul couples it with “every kind of wickedness” in Romans 1:29.  God also warns us about it at least seven different times in the book of  Proverbs.   Truthfully, I don’t believe anyone wants to be identified as a gossip.  The trouble is that gossip is too easy.  Anyone with two ears and a tongue who spends time with people is susceptible.  I’ve had long conversations with people about what is considered gossip.  Does it only involve untruths?  No.  You CAN gossip about someone and be telling the truth.  Ever hear someone gossip about two people who are having an affair?  True, and very damaging.  Does gossip only involve slander?  Can you gossip about someone in a positive way?  This is a tough one.  If the information shared is personal in nature, I believe it is gossip.  Maybe Mary doesn’t want the world to know she had cancer, even though she is a walking testimony of God’s healing.  The question becomes, when you hear information about someone else, what do you do with it?  Can they trust you?  And when you are tempted to share their story, what is your motive?  Have you cleared it with the person involved before you opened you mouth? (Incidently, posting on the internet counts as opening your mouth.)  I think these are great questions to ask yourself when you are tempted to talk about someone other than yourself.  Call it a litmus test.  I wish that I could say that I have never gossiped, but I can’t.  And I have lost someone’s trust at least once because of it.  For this very reason I challenge you with the same challenge God has given me:  watch your tongue!  James says that the tongue is “like a flame of fire” that “can ruin your whole life” (James 3:6), not to mention what it can do to others around you.  That is a story for another time. 

Next time you hear the noise of the cicada, let it remind you that there is a time to keep silent.

Proverbs 11:13
”A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.”

Proverbs 16:28
”A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”

Proverbs 17:4
”Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.”

Proverbs 20:19
”A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.”

Proverbs 25:10
”Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation.”

Proverbs 25:23
”As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!”

Proverbs 26:20
”Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”