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 @ http://www.laughyourway.com/what-motivates-you

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?