Saturday, June 27, 2015
Are we not mesmerized by fire? I love a fire in the fireplace and can get lost for hours looking into the flames. Fire has always been important to God. He revealed Himself as fire. He was the burning bush, the cloud of fire which led Israel, the tongues of fire at Pentecost. He sent fire to burn up Elijah's sacrifice, He consumed Sodom & Gomorrah with fire, the priests sacrificed with fire. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego walked around in fire and lived to tell about it. And the great city of Babylon will be burned by fire in judgment. God is a consuming fire.
The very nature of fire consumes. It has to be fed with something to even exist. I remember a terrible fire at the beginning of the drought in the Texas panhandle which consumed acres and acres of land. That fire was fed by grass. A bonfire is usually fed by pallets of wood. And we feed a fireplace with logs to keep it burning. But God needs nothing--He is the source. He is the fire which consumes the sacrifice of our flesh. He is the cloud of fire which leads us into the Promised Land.
Instead of being consumed with ourselves, money, fame, or the world...let's be consumed by the Fire of God. That's what the story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego is all about. They wouldn't bow and worship the golden idol which King Nebuchadnezzar had created, so he had them bound and thrown into a fire which was 7x hotter than normal. The next thing the king saw were four men--unbound--walking around in the fire. God didn't just spare the lives of Shadrach, Meschach & Abednego, He met with them in the fire. I believe He became the fire and consumed their bondage.
We can lose ourselves in the Fire of God and be loosed...and live to tell about it.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Andy & I were talking about different beliefs among Christians. It's so easy to point at someone else and say, "That's not truth!" And we hold our beliefs a little tighter. As we were talking, I had a picture come into my mind. I pictured each of us holding a puzzle piece in our hands and looking at someone across the way who has a different puzzle piece in their hands and telling them, "You're wrong! Your puzzle piece doesn't look like mine!" The problem with that is....we only have a piece of the puzzle. And if every puzzle piece looked the same, it wouldn't even fit together to create anything. It takes each of our pieces to create the whole picture.
The completed puzzle is the truth of God. None of us holds all truth. None. I don't know about you, but I don't even believe the same way me, myself & I did five years ago!! God keeps revealing new things to me. So how can I expect someone else across the way to be holding up the same puzzle piece I possess? I keep finding new pieces and trying them to see if they fit. God is the picture by which we know what we're creating. We have to hold the puzzle piece up against Him to know if it fits.
How much better and how much more fun it would be if we worked together, adding a piece we're holding to a piece someone else is holding, and watching it fit together! It's so exciting and there's such a sense of satisfaction when many hands make a puzzle fit together.
Monday, June 22, 2015
First of all, you have to remember your goal. From the day you gave birth to this child, your goal was to shoot that arrow-child at the target of God's will. You wanted them to leave your home and release them as well-adjusted adults who would impact the kingdom of God. If you didn't have that as your goal, you need to start over. Just kidding!! If that wasn't your goal, you need to make it your goal now and begin praying for that to happen.
I highly recommend before you send your son or daughter off to college, that you bless your child. Have them sit in a chair as you and your spouse speak a blessing over them. Tell them about the greatness you see in them, how you expect them to fulfill God's purpose for their life, and then pray over them. This could be as simple as the two of you doing that or inviting close family and friends and allow everyone to participate. It may feel a little awkward at first, but I can promise a parent's blessing is so important and most kids soak it up. (By the way, you don't have to wait until they graduate to do this and you can do it lots and lots of times!)
What I wish we'd done when our kids were 10-years-old was begin preparing them then for what college would look like for them. (Lot of help that advice does now, right? And...planning ahead and preparing your child on everything is key!) Honestly, we didn't think that far ahead and didn't know what it would look like ourselves. We were not financial planners. There's nothing wrong with expecting your child to pay for their own schooling...it just helps if they know that way in advance. I'm not a big proponent for student loans--we paid on Andy's a few years after we were married. It's just hard starting adult life with debt hanging over your head. But sometimes, that's the only way to do it. Check with Dave Ramsey...he knows a lot more than I do about the subject.
Allow your kids to attend things like Super Summer or specialty camps on nearby college campuses while they're in high school. They'll begin to feel comfortable at certain schools and will consider attending them when they're making that choice. Our kids were on several campuses for Super Summer. It helped prepare them to know what a dorm looked like and how it felt to stay there.
Hopefully, your child has held a job at this point or has at least had to deal with high school counselors on their own. It's so important in building their confidence in being able to deal with adult issues on their own before they go off to college. I just don't think it ever hurts for a student to have a job. I carried a very full load and still worked while at college. If you look at people who've done that, you'll see some pretty determined folks. If some students have too much time on their hands, they tend to find trouble. Not all...but a lot. I'm a firm believer that working builds character and confidence.
PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE
Honestly, public vs. private boiled down to expense for us. I know from our days as youth minister, so many parents sent their kids to a Christian college thinking their child would be "safe" there--morally, and in every other way. Sadly, just because a college has "Christian" or a church denomination in front of it's name, doesn't make it a godly place to be. In fact, sometimes it's just the opposite. Because so many people are sending their troubled kids to a Christian school for that same reason, it has the opposite effect. We found that kids are going to find whatever it is they go looking for. If they're looking for trouble, they'll find it at any school. If they're looking for a Christian influence, they'll find it at the Christian campus ministries. Our kids attended a state school where there were great campus ministries. They even had opportunities to lead in them.
Whatever rule you set for grades, make it fair and make it ahead of time. They need to know about dropping classes if they're failing before it affects their grade point average. And they need to know from you when/how many times they can do that. If you expect them to graduate in four years, tell them now. If you're willing to pay for a bachelor's degree which takes them six years--while they discover what they want to be--that's up to you. But I know some parents have set a limit and told their kids if it takes longer than that, they're responsible for the finances. I believe boundaries are healthy and motivating.
So many kids pursue a major and then hate the job that degree plan produces. Encourage them to finish the degree they start. My guess is 75% of the adults aren't in the fields they studied for. (I googled it...and I was right!) I believe God will use whatever they study. Andy's degree is in Radio & Television...but he's used those skills in every church we've been in. If they really don't have a clue what they want to pursue, encourage them to get an associates degree at a junior college or go to a trade school. I just don't think you'll ever go wrong knowing how to do things with your hands.
What about those kids who don't want to go to college? Not all of our kids did. Our philosophy was, "That's fine. But you have to get a job. You will be a responsible adult."
What happens if/when your adult-child messes up? Allow them to suffer the consequences of their choices now. If you don't, the consequences can get much bigger. The goal is for your child to leave home and make good decisions. They need to know you love them and that your door and hearts will always be open to them, but you're not going to rush in and rescue them now. They are adults. But if you're going to tell them they're adults, you have to be willing to treat them like adults. That's the hard part.
Finally, I hope you've taught them not to mix whites with reds while washing clothes...and not to put aluminum foil in the microwave! With those tools, they should be good.
Friday, June 19, 2015
We had a man who lost his job and our church, at the time, offered him the job as janitor of the church. He accepted. Jay worked at lightening speed with a cheerful attitude. He never cut a corner. Not only did he clean things well, he began making sure things which hadn't been looked at in a while were maintained. He put up well-made signs asking people to turn the lights off when they left the room to save the church money. He manicured the lawn and detailed the vans. He was always available to anyone who needed his help. He cleaned out closets no one had looked in for years. You could run a gloved hand over the place and not find a speck of dust. I've never seen a janitor do as good a job as he did his. He was a work horse and a cheetah all rolled into one....he worked hard and fast!
You see...Jay wasn't just working hard because he was grateful for a job. He was serving God, not man. And you could see the greatness in him. He wasn't meant to always be a janitor, although there's nothing wrong with that profession, which Jay well-proved! Because Jay gave it his all, he was destined for promotion. And it came.
I've never forgotten about the job Jay did with such excellence! I've used him as an example many, many times because he was an example. He proved every job is worth doing well and to give it your all. He didn't care if anyone was looking or not...he gave his very best to God.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
God gave us the prescription for a forever-kind-of-life in Ecclesiastes 3:14, "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it."
So the question begs to be asked, "Am I allowing God to do through me what He wants?" That's the key. Whatever He does is going to last. It will live beyond us. Can you think of people where this is true? Their lives and their legacy have lived beyond them. What about Corrie ten Boom? Hudson Taylor? Lottie Moon? Jim Elliot? I even think of people I've known and loved. Because they allowed God to do whatever He wanted through their lives, their memory will live in my heart as long as I'm alive.
I've been discovering the purpose for which God has created me. I was talking to my sister today and told her it's like I'm throwing things on the wall at this point to see what sticks. Am I supposed to be mentoring people? Blogging? Speaking to women? All I know at this point is to continue doing what I know to do in the power of the Holy Spirit and do it to the best of my ability. And I believe God is going to do a work through me which shall last forever. God will do it. I just have to be submitted to Him.
I've seen the effects of unforgiveness. I've seen the mental and emotional anguish it causes. I think we carry illnesses and diseases because of it. I've seen families torn apart and friendships destroyed. It's happened because an adult child married someone his parents didn't approve of. It's happened because of business deals, because one sibling seemed to be favored over another, or because one certain person gets to do everything at the church.
You've heard it said before: "Unforgiveness doesn't hurt anyone but you." I don't believe that's true. Unforgiveness hurts us all. It hurts the heart of God. It hurts you, your offender, and the body of Christ. God gave us the greatest example of forgiveness and reconciliation when He sent Jesus to die for our sins. And He gave us that example for a reason...it's our example to follow. We should be quick to forgive. And we should desire to be reconciled to those with whom we have broken relationships.
Don't wait. If you have unforgiveness in your heart, you've already waited too long. Confess it as sin to God and go and be reconciled to your brother, your mother, your child, your friend. You don't want to have any regrets in this life. And waiting could become your biggest regret. God wants truth, life, freedom, and relationship for you. And He will help you if you ask. I can't promise it will be easy. It probably won't be--I know because I've had to do it too often. And I can't promise the other person will receive your apology. But even if they don't, you can live with the peace of mind that you did what you needed to do and that's what you're responsible for. No regrets!!
Helps in Asking Forgiveness
- Humble your heart before you go to ask forgiveness. Make sure your heart is right with God.
- Your apology is as big as your offense. If you sinned by thinking bad thoughts about a person, you don't go to that person to ask forgiveness--you go to God and ask His forgiveness. It was a sin of your thought life and your heart and mind need to be cleansed by asking God's forgiveness. If your offense was an action of doing something to another person, you need to apologize to that person in private. If your offense was a public offense, you need to make a public apology.
- When you apologize, say something like this, "Please forgive me for saying you were ugly. That was so wrong of me and I should never have done that. Will you forgive me?" Always give them room for a response. Don't just go to them and say, "I'm sorry." While that shows that you did something wrong, it's not specific enough and it doesn't allow them to respond.
- Never justify your actions! Don't say, "I shouldn't have said you were ugly...but your makeup was just over the top and your hair was sticking up like a monkey's!" That only adds insult to injury. You are still making it sound as if you were right.
- If you're the person who was hurt, say something like this, "I was offended when you told people I was pregnant. And I've carried that offense too long. I value our friendship and want things right between us again. Will you forgive me?"
Monday, June 15, 2015
These are some of my favorite photos from this week. Jay & Amy have been in Ithaca, New York for a wedding. The kids & I have had a busy time and it's been fun watching these kids do summer activities that I used to do...and that their parents used to do. So without commentary...here they are.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
I busted out the big bucks and took these 4 grandkids to the $1.50 movie theater in Dallas. We saw Cinderella. The boys could only be appeased by me telling them they could pick the next Netflix movie. I'm sure it will be some male-worthy, bust-'em-up movie. The girls, on the other hand, came home and donned their Cinderella apparel, including the glass slippers. And they danced.
Because I've been studying the Kingdom of God, I was struck by spiritual applications in this movie. Here are just a few....
- The King and Prince were about to be separated by death and the father was encouraging his son to find an appropriate wife. The Prince had already met a "commoner" and wouldn't agree to marrying someone of position...he wanted to marry for love.
- "Ella" (the name she had prior to working near the cinders) had been a princess to her father and mother. She was well-loved.
- The evil stepmother filled Cinderella's mind with lies and thoughts of worthlessness. She tried to "put Cinderella in her place" by forcing her to do the work of a slave or servant and filling her mind with her insignificance and wretchedness.
- The fairy godmother helped Cinderella. She dressed her in a beautiful garment and glass slippers which would only fit her feet. She was dressed like royalty.
- The Prince came searching for Cinderella. He chose her. He wanted her for his bride.
- Not only would Cinderella's beauty and transformation woo her Prince, but she would become beneficial to the kingdom.
I'm thinking the Grimm brothers had a handle on the kingdom!
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
This is my cousin, Kristi--who is actually the age of my children. Kristi is a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister...and much, much more. She's someone I love. When Kristi leaves her home to go to work, she puts her life on the line. I know you hear that all the time, but it's true. It becomes even more true when someone you love is doing it. I worry about her...I pray for her...I wish she'd go into a different line of work. But I respect that she is doing what she feels called to do.
Our world feels out of control...mainly because it is. We've started calling right wrong and wrong right. We've lost respect for authority. Where did it go? We're tearing apart the basic fabric of our communities--a part we desperately need! Can you imagine if every police officer just walked off of the job? What would happen to society as we know it?
Are there rogue police officers? Yes, I'm sure there are. Are there rogue doctors? Yes, I imagine so. But that doesn't keep me from having confidence in 99.9% of police officers and doctors and being willing to put my life in their hands. Both professions may even make errors in judgment at times but that doesn't mean they're bad people. I make errors in judgment a lot and I bet you do, too.
I'm not sure what's really going on in our nation. I just know I want Kristi to come home safely each night to her husband and beautiful baby. Please give our law enforcement the benefit of the doubt. Give them respect and teach your children the same. Most are doing the very best they can and leave home each day with "protecting and serving their community with honor" on their minds. I respect what Kristi and her fellow officers do. Thank you, Kristi. I love you. And I won't be mad if you find another line of work. ;-)
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
I recently reviewed a book about how to develop your gifts or interests. The author's philosophy was to do a small project every single day so that you have small successes which will lead to bigger successes which may lead to new opportunities. At the very least, you'll know whether it's a gift you want to pursue or whether you might be better off redirecting your interests. I reviewed this book months ago, but I couldn't get it out of my head!
I've decided to write every day. I'm pretty determined to do that. I've found a private way which suits me and I'll see where it leads. At the very least, it's a good exercise. I'm also going to try to take a photograph every day with my 35 mm camera. I may not be as determined about that. ;) It's just that it's not always convenient to lug a camera around. But I'm going to try. I may even combine the two.
What if God has gifts for me to use and I never develop them or take a risk to see where they lead? Taking something I already love to do...and doing that thing in a small way once a day...may be the beginning of a great adventure with God! I've got my passport ready.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Have you ever taken the DISC personality test? I recently took it for the Living Life by Design retreat. I took it before I went and then it was used in helping us find out our design--how God created us. It was VERY enlightening for me!! I've taken lots of personality tests in the past, but this one is so much more detailed and gives way more insight than I've ever had into myself before. In fact, this morning, I went back to review my own pattern to see if I could gain more insight (if you knew my personality type, you'd know this is hysterical---because it's a reflection of who I am anyway). I didn't just review my own personality, though. I was thinking of my family members and trying to figure them out, too. (Insert laughter)
The conclusion I came to is this: WE'RE ALL A BUNCH OF MISFITS! Seriously!! Why in the world would God leave His kingdom plan in our incapable hands?? If dependent on us, this world is doomed, without hope, destined for failure. Each personality type has some gross weaknesses, judgments, fears, and overuses. And we all have blindspots--weaknesses we don't even realize are there.
But then...hope moved in. We can't do it on our own--and we weren't left to do it on our own! Without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the best we can do is try to be better. But with the Holy Spirit at work lopping off some rough edges, developing and growing His fruit in us, quieting our hearts with His truth, and leading us...we can become a force to be reckoned with. And put us together collectively with the Spirit of God doing all of those things, we stand out. All of a sudden, the unity and love between a beautiful myriad of personalities submitted to the Spirit of God makes the world sit up and take notice. We were destined to change the world...together.
We weren't meant to be Lone Rangers. Jesus told us, "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." One of his last prayers was this, "...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me." By our love and unity, we are reflecting the kingdom plan of God--so that the world will know that we are His disciples and believe that God sent His son. It's us TOGETHER through the power and unity of the Holy Spirit that the kingdom message is understood.
So now...instead of being misfits, we are being fitted together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord and are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22) And that's a beautiful, 3-dimensional, multi-colored, multi-faceted, well-fitted display of the glory of God. And the world needs to see THAT.
Friday, June 5, 2015
How powerful are our words? EXTREMELY powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that "Life and death are in the power of the tongue..." Life...and Death. That's pretty powerful!
Imagine you've put yourself out there with your particular giftedness...let's take "art" as an example. You're having an art show and because you're new on the scene, no one knows who you are. So you're floating around the room as art show enthusiasts are admiring your canvases. You hear hundreds of people admire what you've done...they can't say enough kind things about the content, texture, dimension and intensity you've achieved. But you come upon one progressive-looking couple who is studying one of your works of art and you overhear them say, "I don't get it. The form is all wrong. The color saturation is off. I just don't think they'll ever make it."
What are you going to remember? The hundreds of people you overheard admire all of your work...or the one couple who just harshly critiqued one painting? I can guarantee you'll remember the one critique. It may even be enough to cause you to give up on art for life.
We know words are powerful whether we admit it or not. Our spirit knows. And we can build up or crush someone's spirit with what we say. Life or Death. And we are on the constant lookout for someone who will build us up--we gravitate towards them. Our spirits are hungry...most are starving. I recently heard Dr. Barry Lenhardt say, "There's no such thing as constructive criticism." Don't you think that usually comes out of a jealous heart? When we're jealous, we're looking for ways to tear down...so we look better. We'll never speak life as long as we're jealous. And our jealousy only makes us look small.
Choose today to build up those around you. Speak words of life and affirmation. Look for things to admire in others and don't just think them--speak them. Everything which God created, He did so with words. He spoke and it existed. See? There is life in words. It may be that something you speak to someone today may restore or create life...maybe even a destiny they'd never imagined. It begins with a generous, willing heart to notice the greatness in others and speak it. Create life with your words! You'll never be more like your Father than when you create with words.
"I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19
Thursday, June 4, 2015
I became overwhelmed last night. Through a series of conversations, news reports, memes on Facebook and online articles, I came to a realization. We are bombarded, overwhelmed, assaulted, strafed with the world's message. Can we, as parents, as the Church, even keep up?
When I was a child, my parents could trust me to go to any other family's house. For the most part, we all had the same belief system. What we heard at home, we heard at our friend's house. What we heard at home, we heard at school. We spent 90% of our time outside of school...outside. The only children's programming on TV appeared on Saturday mornings. Plus, our houses were hot---most of the time it was cooler outside. And our friends were outside! Television went off around 10 o'clock at night. Programming was over for the day. Of course, it didn't matter in most homes because we didn't have it on that much anyway. It was frustrating to watch television back then--someone would have to constantly adjust the TV antenna outside to get a decent picture.
And now? We're inundated by media. We have television, computers, Facebook, Twitter, movies, cell phones. Anything and everything is consistently available to us and we're accessing it constantly. CONSTANTLY!!! We're hearing the message of the world 24/7.
This past week, I've been unplugging...not totally, but for hours at a time. I'm learning just how addicted I am. I'm used to the noise. But I'm also beginning to see how battered we are as a nation because of the attack on our minds. How in the world do we, as parents and the Church, compete for that kind of time? We used to only be concerned for the amount of time our kids spent at school vs. home and whose teaching they were getting. Now we should be concerned for the amount of teaching our kids are getting not just at school, but from the media. And if they're getting teaching at home, is it getting lost in the midst of the barrage of media?
I'm concerned. I'm afraid our kids are getting comfortable with "wrong." Blow by blow, the world is hacking away at "right." The world is offended by God's standards. They don't want someone else telling them that what they're doing is sin...so they make sin acceptable. And it's a message our kids are hearing over and over and over. And not just our kids...we may be buying into it as adults, too.
The solution, as I see it, is we need to unplug from the world. I'm encouraging you as families to unplug as much as possible this summer. And then plug into God. Obviously, you need to be teaching your children God's Word and His principles at home. But then you need to put your kids in places where they're going to be confronted with the same message---VBS, camps, youth groups, other families who live the same way. Pray with your kids. You can't just live for God and hope the message of your life rubs off! You've got to be actively teaching them. Not cramming it down their throats, but using every teachable moment that presents itself. We can't afford to lose this battle!