Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SEEK FIRST!

"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

"Seek first" sounds like such a simple practice. Surely I can seek Him first thing in the morning while my head is still on the pillow. I can begin my day in prayer and praise. Seek first!
But here's how I begin most days: wake up, seeking cleanliness (brush my teeth, take a shower)...seeking comfort (get dressed, make myself presentable)...seeking food (make my coffee and breakfast)...seeking order (feed the pets, walk the dog, get ready for my work day, tidy the house)...seeking connection with others (call or text my hubby and check my emails)...and eventually I may get around to seeking Him.
Still, I hear the calling...seek first...but not as a hard and fast law I must follow. I realize my days go so much smoother when I have my priorities in order. That's why I think He says to seek Him first. It's not to put another burden on my time or a guilt trip on my spirit. And let's face it...I will have the same problems arise during the day whether or not I seek Him first. God knows how much I am going to need Him and His perspective if I want to get the most out of each day. He also knows that I don't really live this truth on a daily basis, and so He gently reminds me, "Seek Me first".
What am I going to seek first today...and tomorrow? Personal comfort? Order in my household? How much of my day will be consumed by these other things? I am willing to wager that the majority of my personal frustrations are rooted in the fact that I am not placing Him first in the order of my day. I am seeking the wrong things first, and giving far too little time and attention to God and other people.
Before I get caught up in the activities and distractions of the day, I want to learn to seek Him first. I want to begin each day at His feet ~ in worship...in prayer... listening expectantly...giving Him my cares...choosing His perspective, priorities, and plans over my own...coming clean...soaking in His light and goodness. Seek first. I want it to be as natural as breathing, more important than my daily food. Seek first!

"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither." 
~C.S. Lewis

"My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up."  ~Psalm 5:3         

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I WANT THAT!

"Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own." ~Harold Coffin

I confess I have often struggled with envy. The biblical term is "coveting". The dictionary defines it, "to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without regard for the rights of others". Ouch ~ when I look at it this way, I begin to get a glimpse of why God speaks against it.
Is it really all that wrong? Isn't it our nature to want more? Is it really so bad for me to wish I had that woman's beautiful hair ~ my friend's expensive wardrobe ~ the new car my neighbor just purchased ~ the larger family my childhood friend has that I always dreamed about ~ the gift of song that a good friend possesses ~ and my list goes on and on. What is so wrong with desiring these things? I am not hurting anyone, am I?
God says yes...I am hurting myself by choosing covetousness over contentment. I am hurting those closest to me when I model envy and send the message that what I have isn't enough. I hurt those I envy by creating a wall of discomfort by my jealousy and inability to truly rejoice in their accomplishments and blessings. And I hurt God, the giver of all good things, when I imply that His gifts for me are not adequate...not enough. Like a spoiled child, I want more and more rather than being thankful and content with all I have been given.
Very slowly, I have been learning to say "no" to coveting. I still struggle with it, but it is getting easier for me to reign in those old feelings of discontent and redirect my focus on my own list of blessings. Maybe it's just that I am getting older. Maybe it helps that I have purposely worked at developing a thankful spirit. Perhaps it helps that I have walked through dark and painful seasons, and coming out of them sheds light on all the goodness in my life. Or maybe it's because God has been teaching me to get rid of my self-absorbed thought-life, and learn to put others ahead of my own wants.
Thank you God for all I have...and for all you created me to be. Thank you for this life ~ my life. May I use it to honor you and to bless others.

"True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content." ~1 Timothy 6: 6-8.          

Monday, August 29, 2011

IT'S A GIRL!

"A new baby is like the beginning of all things ~ wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities." ~Eda J. Le Shan

Yesterday I held our new granddaughter in my arms for the first time. So small...so perfectly formed...a new life begins, and those who love her will never be the same.
It was such an emotional experience to see our son enjoying the role of a new dad. It was the happiest I have ever seen him, with the exception of the day he was married. How grateful I am for a loving daughter-in-law who has made his life so blessed and complete.
Little Aven is a lucky girl ~ she has entered the world and into a family that already loves her extravagantly. Parents, grandparents, a sister, aunts, uncles, and many distant relatives are rejoicing in her arrival.
Today I thank God for blessing us so abundantly, for knitting together our son's family, for creating this beautiful new life, and for the gift of being a part of it. My prayer for little Aven Victoria is that she will always know how unconditionally loved she is ~ that she will grow and develop into her full potential, using her gifts and talents ~ that God's hand of protection, health, and favor will always be upon her ~ and that her joy will know no bounds.
Thank you Matt and Tara for this precious addition to our family. I am honored to be a grandma to your sweet daughter, and I will wear this title with reverence and immense joy.

"Ten fingers,
Ten toes
She's laughter and teardrops
So small and brand new
And amazingly angelic
She's sent to bless you
She's one special baby
The best of life's treasure
And will grant and bless you
Many hours of great pleasure." 
~ Author Unknown      

Sunday, August 28, 2011

THE BEST IS YET TO COME

You are such a better person healed than you would be if you had always been well.
~Paraphrased, from Beth Moore

Recently, I heard Beth share this message, and boy, do I love it! These words are so healing and comforting to me. If I had a nickel for every time I wondered why something happened to me or a loved one, I'd be rich! But the wisdom in this message is a gift and a healing balm for all the "whys", "what-ifs", and "if onlys". I may not know or understand any of the reasons, but I do know the One who sees and knows all. He lovingly allows some things into our lives, and He shields us from others. Why? Because He knows the final outcome. He knows the painful experiences are what will produce the final product. If we will only cooperate and trust Him, we will come forth as gold, of far greater value to the world than we would be without walking through the hard times.

"But it hurts!" Believe me, I know. I have been there multiple times. I also know that the other side of the pain can usher us into a rich and spacious place where everything takes on new life and meaning. And here's another thing for those whose levels of suffering are so severe...I am noticing that the stronger the pain, the greater the glory coming out of it. It seems that those who have travelled through deeply painful experiences are the ones who have the most to offer.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been directed to the passage in the book of Joel that paraphrased says, I will restore to you the years that have been stolen from you. I love this! It tells me that, no matter what I or a loved one has gone through, it is God's strong intent to not only heal those inner wounds, but to restore and give back all that was taken away from us.

Is this not the best news for a hurting world? There is no pain, no trauma, no injury that God isn't dying to grab hold of, use, and turn around ~ to deliver us and to make us better than before. I love what Joel Osteen says about this topic, "God will never waste anything that you go through...God will never waste the pain. He will always use it to your advantage...God wants to restore everything that has been stolen from you...God is saying the best is yet to come!"

"That's why we can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."  ~Romans 8:28, The Message

"Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours."  ~Isaiah 61:7      

Saturday, August 27, 2011

THAT TAKES THE CAKE!

The difference between try and triumph is a little umph."  ~Author Unknown

My daughter loves to bake cakes. I'm not talking about a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines version. She makes her cakes from scratch. Some of her cakes take two days to complete. Every special occasion that calls for some kind of gift, she knows my first request will be my all time favorite ~ chocolate pumpkin. I know, it sounds like a strange combination. But wow, is it good! I can't pass by the cake stand without having a sliver here, a sliver there...yum!
Why does she take the time to bake these cakes from scratch when she could invest a buck and a few minutes time to create a cake? Because she has learned that the best results take time and loving attention. She is the epitome of both when she bakes. It's so much fun to watch her. The most arduous part of the process is the endless sifting. Maybe it's our antiquated sifter. (Do they make electric sifters? If they do, she needs one!) This is the painstaking step in her cake baking efforts. Not only does she sift cups of flour for the cake itself, she then faces several cups of powdered sugar for the icing. But the end result is absolute perfection.
Isn't that so true in our own lives? The best qualities that God develops in us don't happen overnight. They take time, love, and a patient God who knows the end result and doesn't opt for the easier path. He sifts through our lives, removing impurities and pointless distractions, creating just the right ingredients to mold us into His image. When we cooperate, He looks at us, our children, smiles, and says, "Perfection!".

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."  ~Philippians 1:6

"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."  ~Vidal Sassoon

Friday, August 26, 2011

MY KITCHEN REMODEL

"Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, 'I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.'"  ~Hebrews 13:5 The Message

This past year my sister got a completely new kitchen. It's gorgeous. Walls were torn down to create a "great room", and the result is stunning. I was so happy for her. But I have to be honest ~ I was also a bit envious.
I went home after seeing her new remodel and took a good, hard look at my own kitchen. It's silly, but I wanted to cry. Everywhere I looked I saw "old", "outdated", "dysfunctional". I also began to see the possibilities. If one small wall were to be removed, my kitchen would become a very open and airy space.
My husband isn't a mind-reader, but this time, he seemed to know my thoughts and desires. He tenderly told me that I deserved a new kitchen after all the years of sacrificing for our four kids. He told me he would find a way to get me my dream kitchen. I was so elated! We began to shop around for appliances, and spent hours leafing through books and magazines to find just the right look for our home. We decided to begin in early summer.
By the time June rolled around, our one hundred year old bungalow cried out for attention of its own. Our entire plumbing had to be redone. Seventeen trees had to be removed. Major car expenses piled up. I slowly watched as my dream kitchen went down the drain.
My husband continued to talk about the remodel, but I could see his stress level going up as he tried to justify a huge expense after a series of costly repairs. I grew concerned as I watched him come home exhausted from working so hard to try to scrape together extra money. Suddenly, a nw kitchen just didn't matter all that much.
Today I see my kitchen through lenses of love. My husband was willing to work even harder to make my dream a reality. But the kitchen I have today reminds me that it's the people, not possessions, that make life so rich and enjoyable. I am so grateful: for my husband and his big heart, and for my kitchen that enables me to create meals and treats for my loved ones. I guess it was just my perspective that needed an overhaul. My kitchen works just fine.

"Happiness consists not in having, but of being, not of possessing, but of enjoying. It is the warm glow of a heart at peace with itself."  ~Norman Vincent Peale      

Thursday, August 25, 2011

THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

"In everything give thanks..." ~1 Thessalonians 5:18

Today, I am overflowing with thankfulness. Maybe it's because today is my son's birthday. My granddaughter's pending arrival helps, too! All I know is that my spirit is flooded with joy and my heart is bursting with gratitude. Everywhere I look, I see so many blessings. I have a loving husband who can still take my breath away after twenty-five years of marriage. I have a beautiful, healthy, growing family, and everyone's lives are so rich. I have a cozy, comfortable home that I love to occupy. I have the gift of good health, something I have learned to never take for granted.
Those are some of the bigger and more obvious blessings. But there are so many more that come to my mind. How thankful I am that I can see the faces of loved ones, and the beauty of nature. I can hear laughter, and the sounds of the birds chirping in my yard. I can smell my coffee brewing, and the sweet fragrance of the roses that grace my table. I can taste the cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on my toast. I can feel my dog snuggled up to me as he snores contentedly.
May I go on? My kitchen has appliances that work, and food that could last us weeks ~ thank you! The closets in our home are small, but crammed with enough garments to clothe dozens of people. Our cars do what they are designed to do ~ get us from point A to point B ~ with the added benefits of air conditioning and music to make the ride more enjoyable. Boredom has no place in our home; all of us are blessed with work and hobbies. Our pets are daily doses of unconditional love and acceptance. Warm and comfortable beds await all of us at the end of each day.
Everywhere I look, I am bombarded with the realization that I have so much to be grateful for. Today, I am going to turn off the negative thoughts and put my full attention on our countless blessings. We are rich beyond measure. Life is so good!

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say 'thank you'?"  ~William A. Ward

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."  ~Cynthia Ozick

"Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel."  ~Author Unknown           

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

"Your life is a gift from the Creator. Your gift back to the Creator is what you do with your life." ~Billy Mills

Today my son turns twenty-three. It feels like only a couple of years ago that I saw his face and held him in my arms for the very first time. Without a doubt, his birth was one of my best days here on earth. My heart has never been the same. He occupies it and enlarges it in ways that make my life fuller and richer.
My memories of him growing up are endless. What comes to mind most often are the qualities I still see in him today: his contagious laughter, his encouraging spirit, and his generous nature. But what stands out to me the most is what I saw in him the moment he was born; God's signature is written all over my son. And I know that God delights in him even more than I do.
My son has grown into a strong, honorable man of God. At twenty-three, he has not only figured out his passion, he is making his dream a reality. He works hard for what he achieves, but he knows how to find balance and enjoy life. He is a man of conviction; he knows what he believes and thinks, and isn't swayed by what people say.
What impresses me most about him is his heart. Some days it seems larger than life. No life and no creature seems too small or insignificant for his thought or concern.
Today I celebrate my son. You are such a remarkable man, and I am honored to be your mom. Happy birthday, Daniel. I know God has amazing plans for you and your life! "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"A birthday is the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip!"  ~Author Unknown

"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest." ~Reverend Larry Lorenzoni   

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

YES! GOD SAYS SO!

Today begins day two in my study of the Sabbath. I am discovering that there is very little said about it in my well-stocked library. This makes me all the more determined to delve into this subject matter. Afterall, if it was one of God's Ten Commandments, it must be pretty important to Him. I know...those were written in Old Testament days. But do we look upon the other nine as outdated and no longer applicable? Here's another thought; The God who gave His people these commandments is still the same God we serve today. I don't think He's changed His mind about any of what was written in stone.
My frustration over not being able to find more on the topic has caused me to pause and ask, what are the benefits to me personally for keeping the Sabbath? Here's what I came up with.
1. It's honoring to God. He said to keep the Sabbath holy, and when I do, I am being obedient. My personal experience tells me that He blesses my obedience.
2. It is an opportunity to get spiritually re-charged. It frees me up to focus on God for a solid amount of time. When I do this, I find that it helps me to put everything else in my life into perspective. The problems don't seem so big. The worries begin to fade. This time set apart for God nurtures my relationship with Him. The closer I am to Him, the more prepared I am for anything that happens.
3. It is a weekly opportunity to take the time to think and reflect, and to see all there is to be thankful for. There's nothing like a grateful attitude to change your entire outlook and disposition.
4. It is a good witness of my faith and how I try to live it out in my day-to-day life.
5. It provides much needed rest ~ physically, mentally, and emotionally. Why do I resist taking the time to have all of my batteries re-charged on a regular basis??
6. It lowers my stress level when I stop the going-going-going lifestyle regularly to rest.
7. It's a huge step in getting my priorities in order....God--husband--family--work and other responsibilities--friends--other interests. I cannot say this is how I live each day. But I think that honoring the Sabbath will move me closer to my goal.
8. It's healthy for our relationships. I can take the time to nurture them by having quality "down" time to spend with them.
This list is reason enough for me to commit to making Sundays a holy Sabbath. It's going to be a huge adjustment! But I am motivated. This cannot be a legalistic issue for me; that will only give me another reason to beat myself up when I fall short. This has to be a heart issue, and my heart is crying out YES to honoring God in this way.
I can't wait for Sunday!

"If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, if you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration, if you honor it by refusing 'business as usual', making money, running here and there, then you'll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all. I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob." Yes! God says so! ~Isaiah 58:13,14  The Message         

Monday, August 22, 2011

REST AND RENEWAL

Anybody can observe the Sabbath but making it holy takes the rest of the week." ~Alice Walker

Yesterday morning my husband and I visited our niece's church for her baby's dedication. Nestled into the pastor's arms, little Annie Grace was the picture perfect baby, smiling and chatting away. The pastor talked about how her parents' desire was that she would grow up knowing and loving God's Word. Laughter filled the room when she took a good hard look at his Bible after he spoke these words. (I am not kidding ~ that really happened!) After her dedication, the pastor gave a great message about the Sabbath. Today, I find myself thinkng a lot about this often ignored subject.
The message yesterday was clear. Our society has moved far away from the whole concept of keeping the Sabbath. The pastor pointed out that he could think of only one place that chose to keep its doors closed on Sundays for this very reason. We are a population of people that are constantly on the go. If it isn't official work we are doing, then it's errands, housework, gardening, bill paying, chauffering the kids to a myriad of activities, and the list goes on and on. It's a wonder we ever manage to fit time in to go to church!
While I am NO expert on the subject, I do have a general understanding that the Sabbath was established for our own good. I believe that God created the Sabbath because He knew it would be a necessary ingredient to our very busy lives. I cannot help but wonder what percentage of heart attacks, strokes, and other stress-related ailments would be prevented if we just did things God's way.
Like I said, I am no expert. In fact, most Sundays I spend a good chunk of time doing something productive. The bottom line is that I am not really honoring the Sabbath. How would my life change if I did honor this day each week? Would I fall behind in my neverending lists and work load? I have a hunch that the answer is no.
Some days I just have to pause and take a little nap. Just a few minutes of uninterrupted rest gives me a new leash on the day. I am renewed and reenergized, more prepared to handle the rest of the day's responsibilities. Surely this basic principle of rest and renewal applies to the Sabbath. How can I not begin a new week more prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually if I've taken that day of rest and renewal?
Suddenly the Sabbath is looking so good! This week I want to study this principle (okay...command) and what it means for me and my life. I think the quote by Alice Walker is right on ~ integrating the Sabbath into my life will make for a holier week overall.

"Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work ~ not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; He set it apart as a holy day." ~Exodus 20:8-11   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

WHAT A WASTE REVISITED

"Each of us will give an account of himself to God." ~Romans 14:12

It's been ten days since my family began the experiment of writing down every food item we throw away, along with its monetary value. If you didn't read my blog about this, you can find it under my August entries, "WHAT A WASTE". I am fortunate that my family shares my newfound passion to curb the waste. There's also the fact that we are wealthy enough to be in a position of having a surplus of food to throw away. We just don't feel okay about it anymore.
These first ten days have been a real eye-opener. We have given so much more thought to what we are buying and the meals we are planning. That said, our list of discards is still embarrassingly long. When I add it up, it only comes to about fifteen dollars. But multiply that by three to cover an entire month, and you get almost fifty dollars. Ugh...and this is when we are being so careful! Time to turn it up a notch. For the remainder of the month, we are going to double the dollar value of every food item tossed, keeping in mind our pledge to give this money to the homeless.
Why are we doing this? Because there's a hungry, hurting world out there. I was shocked when I heard the statistics on the number of kids that die DAILY of starvation. We are also tired of spending hard earned money on food that feeds the trash can. Here's the bottom line: one day we will give an account for our lives. I know that I don't want to be hanging my head in shame because I didn't respond to the conviction to make a change and curb the waste. I want to be a better steward.
I encourage you to hop on board with our experiment. Sure, it takes extra time and thought. But I can see it already paying off in my own family. The four of us living under this roof can make a very small difference. But if one, two, five, or ten families join in this challenge, think of the rippling effect it could have. There's a hungry world out there.       

"Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression." ~Karen Horney

"Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both." ~Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, August 20, 2011

THE ALL-PURPOSE GARMENT

"Do everything in love." ~1 Corinthians 16:14

I think you can tell a lot about a person by how they dress. Someone who typically spends his days in a suit followed by a polo shirt for leisure is creating a professional look. A person who likes to wear faded, worn-out jeans and a tye-dye t-shirt with a giant peace sign projects the "hippie" persona. A woman who loves to wear very low cut, clingy tops and short skirts is probably an attention-seeker. The preppy look implies prosperity and the good life. The ultimate garment of self-denial and service is the nun's habit. I am not suggesting that we look at how people dress and make judgment calls based on their attire. But let's face it; there's a reason why we dress the way we do.
I am a pretty casual dresser, but every once in a while, I love to get dressed up. On these rare occasions, I enjoy the whole process of finding the right dress and shoes. When I have the outfit in place, I give my hair and make-up more than the usual few minutes. I cannot ignore this last and most important final step. If I were to put on a really nice dress, but ignore my hair and my face, I wouldn't look complete. I would look in the mirror and see that something critical was missing.
It's the same thing with love in today's section on God's garments. "And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it." I can be wearing all the other pieces of clothing mentioned in the past few days...but if I'm not wearing love, I am incomplete in my attire. My presentation to the world will be lacking. It's what pulls the whole look together. 
Again, I need to look to the One who has chosen my clothing. Just like compassion, I need His help in putting on the garment of love. This lesson has been a very slow one for me to learn. I consider myself to be a loving person. The list of people I genuinely love is long. But the type of love that is woven into this garment is a whole different quality of fabric than what I am used to wearing. It's the type of love that is referred to in the passage that says, "God is love." This isn't a warm, fuzzy love. This is a gut-wrenching, selfless, unconditional, extravagant love that always looks out for the interests of others. By this definition of love, I fall so short. And try as I might, I will never be able to squeeze into this type of fabric on my own. Again, only God can complete the process of preparing me for such a rich garment. It won't happen overnight. God has been working on my makeover for over twenty-five years. But that's because He's getting the fit just right. And in the process, I am learning what not to wear.

"There are many things God calls us to do, but loving well always comes first." ~John and Stasi Eldredge       

Friday, August 19, 2011

LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY DOG

"Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."  ~Philippians 2:3,4 The Message

The more I meditate on the garment of compassion, the more I see the rippling effect it can have in all of my relationships. This brings me to the next section of the passage. "Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you."
Gulp ~ this is where the rubber meets the road. Now it's getting specific. I will start with being "even-tempered". I have to giggle because not two minutes ago, I was yelling at the dog to be quiet so I could concentrate. Hmm... That aside, I think that when we are clothed in compassion and the other four garments mentioned yesterday (kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline) are in place, it is less tempting to fly off the handle at any little thing. (Sorry I yelled at you, Scout!) Hopefully, we become more thoughtful and less reactive in how we respond to people and circumstances (and dogs!). I know from experience that when I am me-focused, or when I am dealing with a festering wound, I am much  more likely to react harshly.
How many of us can say we are "content with second place"? Who likes to play second fiddle? Who is content with letting someone else have the limelight, even if it is undeserved? The person clothed in compassion, that's who. The person who regards the garments of kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline more than the glory of being the winner. Again, if I am focused on myself and I lose...ouch. It doesn't feel so good. But if I can put others before myself and they walk away with the prize, I can share in the celebration.
Another sign that a person is clothed in compassion is the desire and ability to forgive quickly and completely. This means no grudges, no retaliations, no resentments. It requires giving a clean slate to the person who has hurt or offended you, just like the one God gives to each of us. Only a compassionate person can pull this one off. Again, I see I have so much to learn.
When I think about it, my dog is a much better example of the qualities in this passage than I am. A loyal companion, he daily lives out compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline (well, maybe not so much), forgiveness, and even-temperedness. Time for me to go play with my dog, and learn from his examples. 

"Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness, or else forgiving one another."  ~Jean Paul Richter  

"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet." ~Colette         

Thursday, August 18, 2011

DRESSED TO HEAL

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

I have been taking a closer look at the garments God wants me to be wearing. After taking a good hard look at my scars yesterday, I am learning that I can either hide them in shame or allow them to prepare me for the garment of compassion. If I am willing, the ugliness of those scars can take on a new beauty. When this happens, they no longer have the power to embarrass me or drag me down. In fact, just the opposite is true. Because of those battle scars, I can learn to look someone hungry in the eyes and offer them a meal...kindness. I can get to the point where I celebrate another person's victory even if I am not sharing in their success...humility. I can get to the place where I face each day with confidence and peace regardless of my circumstances, and put others before myself...quiet strength. I see that I no longer have to be swayed by my moods or emotions. Instead, I can learn how to step up and do the right thing regardless of how I am feeling...discipline.
"Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline." If I have compassion in place, the other four garments listed in this passage begin to fit as well. And they are a perfect combination...nothing seems out of place. Not that I am wearing them yet! I have so far to go to and SO much to learn. But I am grateful to have the perfect Tailor for the job. He knows how to take all of those battle wounds...all the past injuries...whether inflicted by myself or someone else, and give them new value and meaning. I love this! I can throw off the garment of self-pity and wear the robe of rejoicing instead. Those injuries, though painful, are preparing me for my new attire. God is suiting me up so I can go out and be a blessing to others ~ the best part of all!

"To possess true beauty, we must be willing to suffer...women who are stunningly beautiful are women who have had their hearts enlarged by suffering." ~John and Stasi Eldredge         
 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EXTREME MAKEOVER

"God of all healing counsel! He comes along side us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us along side someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us."
2 Corinthians 1:3,4 The Message 

Yesterday I began to take a close look at the garments God has picked out for me to wear. I saw that the first underlying article of clothing he desires for me is compassion. Today, I realize I have overlooked the first crucial step in getting clothed ~ I have to get naked first! If I try to wrestle my way into an outfit when I am already dressed in something else, I am going to be mighty uncomfortable. And I am going to no longer appear genuine.
Today I strip off all the old layers I've been wearing for many years. UGH ~ as I do this, I can see how filthy and ugly they really are. I admit, I'm embarrassed. Who likes to get naked in front of an unseen audience? Not me! But I have to be willing to be vulnerable and expose myself if I want to be ready for my new wardrobe.
When I am stripped of the costume and mask I have been wearing, there are many scars that become visible to those who are looking. There may even be an open wound or two. But the scars are what I 've been trying so desperately to cover up. Not anymore. There are scars from wounds I suffered physically. Those are the least embarrassing. Then there are the scars from spiritual wounds, some of which were self-imposed. Keep looking and you will see the scars from emotional wounds. These are without doubt the ones I want to hide the most! But I can't. I need to get real if I am going to be able to fit into my new clothing.
You may be wondering what some of these scars really look like, and your curiosity may be frustrated when I don't hand you a magnifying glass so you can examine them up close. That's not what today's message is about. Today I simply reveal that there are many scars I have kept covered up.
Here's the kicker ~ I am finding that it's all of these scars that make the garment of compassion fit so beautifully. Without the battle wounds, this first garment would simply fall off of me. But the fabric of compassion seems to cling to me BECAUSE of my scars. How beautiful they are now looking! What used to embarrass me is taking on a whole new dimension. I don't have to wear those old tattered garments I was hiding under. I am freed up to let God slide the garment of compassion on me.
I've only begun the process, yet I am already excited about my extreme makeover.

"All the best transformations are accompanied by pain." ~Fay Weldon

"The body is a sacred garment. It's your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart with, and it should be treated with honor." ~Martha Graham     

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

"Dress in the wardrobe God picked our for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it." ~Colossians 3:12-14, The Message

Can you remember the last time someone had to help you get dressed? I can...it was after my hip surgery. It was quite a humbling experience to have to rely on someone to help me get my clothes off and on. Today's passage makes me realize that I am in daily need of help if I want to put on the garments God has set out for me to wear. When I meditate on this, I see the beautiful picture it paints, and I want to be clothed like this. But if I am going to dress in this fashion, I have to accept the fact that I am going to need help ~ a lot of it!
Let's look inside God's armour and go through it one layer at a time. "Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline." I don't know about you, but I am already overwhelmed. Wear all of that? Daily? Notice that the first garment is compassion. Is this not the starting point ~ the undergarment ~ of the other four? If I am not dressed in compassion, I might as well not even bother with the other four articles of clothing. Without compassion, an act of kindness can become an insulting gesture that mocks the recipient. Humility is just a nicer word for self-pity and self-hatred. Quiet strength is simply arrogant self-sufficiency. And discipline is a legalistic regimen that attracts no one. (Hmm...these sound more like the garments that have been hanging in my closet!)
If this is true, I need to have compassion. But here's the thing...I cannot put it on myself. I can cooperate as my Dressmaker fits it on me. But I need his help to squeeze into this crucial undergarment.
Is this a fun and enjoyable experience? NO...it's usually very painful, humiliating, and embarrassing. But if I want the outfit as a whole to work, I have to cooperate. And when I do, I find it isn't such a nightmare afterall.
Tomorrow I will look at our next layer in this new wardrobe. I hope you'll join me as we see how God wants to fashion us just to his liking.

"It's never too late to be what you might have been." ~George Eliot       

Monday, August 15, 2011

YOU WON'T REGRET IT

"Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." ~Ephesians 5:1,2  The Message

Everything pales in comparison to one truth in my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly cannot hold a candle to this underlying fact....no blessing or curse can outmeasure it. It's the heartbeat of my life, the reason I get up in the morning with a smile on my face. It's what allows me to go to bed each night in peace. No worry, fear, threat, illness, injury, loss, or rejection can come between me and this one foundational truth.
I love God. Let me say it again; I LOVE GOD. A little louder this time: I LOVE GOD. Even more amazing to me is this: God loves me. That's right; GOD LOVES ME. I want to shout it from the rooftop. GOD LOVES ME. Are you grasping what I am saying here? Nothing comes close to this experience...NOTHING...NOTHING.
Here's another truth, whether you know it or not. Some of you may know it, but you aren't really experiencing it or living it. Are you ready? God loves you. It doesn't matter what you've done. GOD LOVES YOU. Nothing can change this truth. You can run and hide from it, but it's still true. GOD LOVES YOU.
Ponder that for a minute...an hour...even a day. The One who created the entire Universe ~ all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God loves YOU. How can this not change everything? I get shivers just thinking about it. For me, it doesn't get any better than this...except knowing it, knowing Him, and loving Him back.
Go ahead, I dare you. You heard right, I DARE YOU. A little louder? I DARE YOU!  Meditate on His love for you. Drink it in. Experience it. Let it consume you. Offer it back to Him. You won't regret it. Did you get that? YOU WON'T REGRET IT. One more time? YOU WON'T REGRET IT! There...I feel so much better; don't you?

"The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved ~ loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." ~Victor Hugo

"For finally, we are as we love. It is love that measures our stature." ~William Sloane Coffin 
        

Sunday, August 14, 2011

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." ~Psalm 139:9,10
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9   

Do you ever stop and wonder what your life would be like if you had done something differently? It could be something major, like taking another job or buying a different house. Even the seemingly insignifcant everyday choices can have a lasting impact on your life, from the route you took to work, to the place you stopped for lunch. The list is unending of every choice we make and how it can affect our lives. If you let it, it can drive you crazy wondering, "What if I had....." in neverending scenarios. Each choice remembered can hold positive or negative memories and emotions. Some haunt us for a lifetime. Others we spend our lives being thankful for.
This whole concept has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. My husband and I are contemplating some changes in the next year or two. We get caught up in wondering what is best and how our choices will impact our lives and the lives of those we love. How will it affect our parents? What about our grown children? And our grandchildren? And on and on it goes...
How wonderfully reassuring to know that God has all the answers. He also has paths marked out for us to benefit all concerned. Our part is to show up, seek Him and His will, and following His nudges. I know that if we go to Him in sincerity and faith, He will guide our every step. "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." When we look at it this way, the changes coming up don't look so frightening. In fact, they become an adventure. We don't have to worry or fret about a wrong choice because we have the ultimate Guide directing our steps. Can it get any better than this?
I have never been spelunking; just the thought of being inside of a cave gives me an uneasy feeling. But if I were to venture out and try it, you can be darn sure I would want to be holding my guide's hand the entire time! This is how I feel about the future. I don't know what it holds, but I am going to be a lot more excited and at peace about it if I am holding on to my Guide's hand each step of the way.

"Before us is a future all unknown, a path untrod;
Beside us is a Friend well loved and known ~ that Friend is God."
~ Author Unknown      
  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

PAST OR PRESENT

"This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it." ~Psalms 118:24

Our home has an attic that runs the entire length of our house. The temptation to pile things upstairs has resulted in wall to wall boxes of everything imaginable. I recently began the daunting task I'd been putting off for years...sorting through each box and paring down on the amount of accumulated stuff.
One of the boxes I opened was filled with page after page of journal entries, dating back to the early nineties. Curiosity got the better of me and I began reading through each page, reliving moments I had forgotten about. After an hour or so of reminiscing, I noticed that the words written years ago were digging up memories that I really didn't want to revisit. I decided that I wasn't going to read any more.
Now what? These pages told a part of my history. Would there come a day when I would want to revisit them? What if someone else stumbled on the box and read them? Would it be an uplifting experience for any of us? When I pondered this question, the answer was clear. I carried the heavy box and all of the baggage it contained and headed for the shredder. As I watched each page get swallowed up by the machine, I felt a little lighter and freer.
The past is just that. That afternoon, I realized I didn't want to cheat myself out of one moment of the present by going back in time. I guess it's true ~ you can't savor the here and now if you're focused on what's been and gone.
The attic will have to wait for another day to get organized. I am planning to enjoy this day!

"Our time here on this earth is so short. What a shame it would be to allow something that happened in the past ~ whether it was twenty years ago or twenty minutes ago ~ to ruin the rest of this day...God let go of the past. The question is: Will you let go? Will you quit remembering what God has chosen to forget?...Let your attitude be, I'm forgetting what lies behind and I'm pressing forward. In other words, I'm throwing away my rearview mirror. I'm not looking back anymore. I'm not looking to the left or to the right. I'm looking straight ahead. I'm pressing forward, knowing God has good things in store for me....Get rid of the baggage and start focusing on your possibilities. Let hope fill your heart. Your future can start today. No matter what you've been through, no matter how difficult it was, God is saying there are great days ahead for you."  ~Joel Osteen   

Friday, August 12, 2011

GOD, PLEASE BLESS AMERICA

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land." ~2 Chronicles 7:14

My husband and I enjoyed a relaxing weekend in our local mountain community of Big Bear Lake. There was so much to savor during our short getaway. The best part of our weekend was spent sitting on the cabin's deck, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. It was a much needed opportunity to share what was on our hearts and minds. One conversation centered around our country and the concerns we share for its future. We know we live in the greatest country in the world, and we are so grateful. But we can become easily consumed with worry over the direction we see it headed in, and we wonder what it will be like for future generations. Will they look back on this time in history and refer to it as "the good old days"? It is easy to become anxious about so many aspects of it, from the economy and jobs, to morals and values, to freedom and personal rights. With these issues in mind, we can find ourselves pointing fingers and placing blame on leaders.
This weekend, we decided to try to change our pattern of thinking regarding our country and the people who are running it. Instead of criticizing, cursing, and becoming fearful about the future, we are going to try to stop, pause, and pray. We are going to aim to lift up each leader and his or her family, pray for our nation, pray for each area of concern, and leave it with God.
I have a voice, and I use it at the polls. If someone asks me what I think about a person in office or an issue, I will answer honestly. But today, I want to try to break the cycle of cynical thinking, critical speaking, and pessimistic attitudes. It is a big challenge for me, but I will give it my best. When I catch myself thinking or speaking in a critical spirit, I will try to take it to God instead. Afterall, He alone has the power and wisdom to turn our country around, to prosper and heal it.
It starts right now...God, PLEASE bless America, this land that I love.

"All our worrying ~ even when done in the name of love ~ can accomplish absolutely nothing. But all our praying in the name of Jesus could entreat God to accomplish anything. When will we learn to turn our worry effort into prayer?" ~Beth Moore

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WHAT A WASTE

"Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." ~Proverbs 21:5, The Message

"Waste not, want not" is drilled into my head. But I must confess, I do my share of wasting perfectly good food. My weekly chore of cleaning out the refrigerator and the food cupboards is a sobering testament to this fact. The uneaten produce, bread, and dairy products that make their way into my trash can is disheartening. My entire household agrees with me. It's time to stop the waste. But how?
For the next month, we are going to conduct an experiment in our home. Every uneaten food item that feeds our trash can instead of our stomachs is going on a list. Also on the list will be the dollar value of what is thrown away. At the end of the month, we are going to add up the total amount spent on food that is discarded. This amount will be deducted from next month's food budget and will go to feeding the homeless.
I am hoping a lot of good will come out of this experiment. We will get a more tangible picture of the amount of food we are wasting. Hopefully, we will become more organized in our food and menu planning. We will likely be more frugal in our food budget. And we will use this as an opportunity to bless those who aren't afforded the luxury of such waste.
Just some food for thought.

"As a race we claim the name homo sapiens (the wise ones), when in truth we are the opposite. No other creature on the planet has so devastated its resources or squandered its treasures with utter abandon. We claim to be so superior to lesser life forms when in reality we are so stupid...Animals, creatures of incredible charm, elegance, grace and devotion, are a lower order than we. Still they have qualities which often put us to shame. They exhibit attitudes of restraint and patience and loyalty that move us deeply."  ~W. Phillip Keller

      

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MORSELS OR MOUNTAINTOP FEAST?

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him."  ~1 Corinthians 2:9

When I choose my way instead of God's way ~ when I take a path I know is not pleasing or honoring Him ~ when I give in to my own desires of the flesh instead of seeking His desire for me, I put up a roadblock between myself and God's blessing. I am not saying that God is a killjoy, shaking His head in disapproval, wanting to deny me good things. Instead, I think it is a natural consequence of not taking the higher road. You can't expect to reach the mountaintop if you insist on staying on the low roads.
I don't think we have a clue of all that awaits us if we do things His way and follow His directives. Our vision is fixed on the things we see with our limited and skewed vision, and boy, do they look good to us! If only we could see that these "good" things we desire and go after are like crumbs on the ground. Instead of settling for the crumbs, we could be partaking of the feast at the banquet God has for us.
While it is tempting to be content with the crumbs and the self-pleasing morsels, I think I would rather do things God's way and move on to the feast He has waiting for me. The road to get there may be longer, and I will probably be tempted to veer off course. But I think that once I get to that place of complete surrender and just go with His plans, I will be asking myself what took me so long. Crumbs on the floor or a feast on God's mountaintop? I am heading for the feast. I hope to see you there.

"We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." ~1 Corinthians 13:12, 13  The Message

"How does one become a butterfly?...You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." ~Trina Paulus        

Monday, August 8, 2011

A LIFE WELL LIVED

"Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: 'Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!' Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!" ~Proverbs 31

"You reap what you sow." This woman is reaping the rewards of a life so well-lived. Her priorities have been in order. She has kept balance in her life. The tone she has set for her household is loving, accepting, and affirming. She has taught her family well the importance and the blessing of hard work. She daily models kindness, generosity, self-control, and a heart for God. She's always looking for a way to bless and build up her husband and kids.
No wonder they sing her praises! She has earned every ounce of respect and admiration poured upon her by her entire household. I am sure there were days when her diligence met with gripes and complaints. But she saw the bigger picture and persevered, knowing the pay off she would see in the end.
I, on the other hand, fall so short of my role model. I get caught up in the moment...I can be fickle in my priorities...I am wishy washy in my temperament. I can be lazy, self-absorbed, shortsighted, easily discouraged. As a wife and mom, I can only hope that the good days outweigh the bad, and that the positive lessons taught outshine my poor example. And I can pray that my grown children will far exceed my accomplishments as they build families of their own.

"We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us." ~Winston Churchill

"Write it down, when I am perished:
Here is everything I've cherished;
That these walls should glow with beauty
Spurred my lagging soul to duty;
That there should be gladness here
Kept me toiling, year by year...
Every thought and every act
Were to keep this home intact."
~Edgar A. Guest

THE ENTITLEMENT ERA

"She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive." ~Proverbs 31

Everywhere I look, I see issues of entitlement. Some are quite subtle, others are blatant. But I don't see entitlement issues in the household of my role model. Quite the opposite. I see this woman training her family to know the value and reward of hard work and taking responsibility for yourself and your loved ones. What a concept! How sad that so many people are missing out on this. They think the easy way is the best way. They don't grasp why they should work for what they want when someone is willing to give it to them.
"You snooze, you lose" was a common saying in my house when I was growing up. It taught me that if I sat back and idly wait for good things to come my way, I was going to miss out big time. What a gift that lesson was for me! Sure, I like naps and vacations as much as anyone. But I love the payoff of persevering, working hard, and seeing my efforts come to fruition. There is nothing like it.
The generation (or population) of entitlement is being cheated of this. And, in cheating them, everyone gets cheated because of the unending rippling effect of the entitlement mentality. It's time to grab hold of what my role model knew ~ that you are really only handicapping and hurting people when you allow that entitlement thinking to take hold. It is far more loving to teach, by example, the joys, blessings, and rewards of a job well done. People, and society as a whole, would be so much healthier...physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually...if we said "NO MORE" to entitlement.
Time for me to sign off. There's work to be done!

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  ~Chinese Proverb      

Sunday, August 7, 2011

NICELY SAID

"When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly." ~Proverbs 31

This verse tells me that my role model doesn't engage in idle gossip. You would never catch her speaking poorly about someone behind the person's back. She isn't petty, doesn't dwell on past offenses. She takes the higher road and forgives people, looks for the best in them, and chooses to edify and encourage instead of tear down or get even. She lives by the motto, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Even when she has to confront, she does it kindly, always for the good of the listener.

I don't picture my role model as overly quiet or withdrawn either. In fact, I think she is just the opposite. I imagine her eager to speak up and engage in conversation. But she manages to keep watch over her tongue, knowing that it contains both life and death. When she speaks, she chooses to use life-affirming words. I think she is so secure about herself and her household that she can let the negative input she receives fall off of her. She doesn't need to be defensive or argumentative. Her only weapons are love and kindness, sprinkled with wise words that suit the moment.

Oh, to be like this woman! My tongue has caused me trouble too many times to count. Just when I think I am getting it tamed, out pops another insensitive remark or curse upon someone who has damaged my fragile self-esteem. Good grief...life is too short to live like this! People are too precious to alienate. Spirits are too easily bruised or broken to allow careless, or worse yet, hurtful words to flow from our mouths. I so want to grab hold of this!

God, only you can heal the junk from my past that causes me to be so sensitive. Only you can help me rise above the pettiness and take the higher road. Only you can help me tame my tongue and use it for good. Keep me ever thoughtful of how I speak, and fill my mouth with words of genuine kindness that will minister to those who listen.

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." ~Leo Buscaglia

"There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting up another." ~Anonymous    

Friday, August 5, 2011

LOVE LIFE

"She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile."  ~Proverbs 31 


I think it is easy to look at this passage and think, this doesn’t apply to me. I don’t even live in a climate where it snows. I don’t make my own clothes. I am not even much of a mender. And who cares if the clothes I wear are made of colorful, pricy fabrics? I certainly don’t design gowns or knit sweaters. I don’t know if my clothes are well-made, and I wouldn’t consider myself an elegant dresser. And by the way...what is that remark about the husband being so greatly respected doing smack in the middle of discussions about wardrobes? Hmm...

I have to dig deeper...I can’t just let it go at that! This woman keeps raising the bar on me! And yet, I still want to be just like her. So here we go ~ this woman takes such good care of her family and all of the details. She makes sure her family is well-equipped for whatever storms they may face. She takes responsibility for her own happiness and comfort. She also knows that she is a reflection of her husband and her household. She makes a point of carrying herself with poise and class. Because she is so attentive to detail, her household runs as smooth as silk. This, coupled with the way she presents herself to the public world adds to the respect heaped onto her husband. And I'm sure it helps that she creates such a peaceful, enjoyable atmosphere at home. Let’s face it...the woman pretty much sets the tone in the home. This has to impact the countenance of her husband and the way he conducts himself when he is out in the world. If that isn’t enough, he probably enjoys the added benefit of a wife who has talents and uses them to prosper her family.


I love the last line in this passage. This woman has such peace and satisfaction, "she always faces tomorrow with a smile". Does it get any better than that? She loves her life! She does every task with a smile on her lips and song in her heart because she loves what she does. I am sure she has her bad days. But my guess is that those are few and far between. I think she could win an award for Best Attitude. I can just picture her greeting each day with passion and enthusiasm. This is how I want to live my life!

"We are all given a choice each day. We can react negatively to the demands made on us or we can choose to live abundantly, to transform the negative into the meaningful. Attitude is all. If I do not endow my life and my work with meaning, no one will ever be able to do it for me. If I don’t recognize the value of what I am doing here in this living room, certainly no one else can. And if homecaring is not sacred, then forgive me, for I truly have no conception of the Divine."~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FEED THE HUNGRY

"She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor." Proverbs 31, The Message

I have to take this verse to heart because the truth is, I am rich. Okay, not by Southern California standards, but in comparison to the rest of the world? Yes, I am very rich. I may drive an old car and buy my clothes at discount stores, but I have to realize how richly blessed I am if I want to put this verse into perspective and into practice. My car is pushing 200,000 miles, but I have a car that runs. My home is a one hundred year old bungalow with under 1400 square feet, but I have a comfortable place to live in a great neighborhood. I only buy clothes that are being sold at bargain prices, but my small closet is filled to the brim with outfits. My family never goes to bed hungry, cold, or scared.

That said, I know that having so much comes with a humbling responsibility to consider those less fortunate and to do my part. I am not referring to those who make the choice to sit back idly and expect handouts. I am burdened for the people who have no choices, no way out. It’s these people that tug on my heartstrings. Can I save the world? Of course not. Can I feed a hungry person? Of course I can. For me, it begins with one simple act. I find that if I ask who I can bless each day, I usually get an answer that is doable. No, I don’t have a lot of money to dole out. But I do have the desire to give what I can. When I get discouraged that I don’t have more to give, I remember the widow’s mite ~ she gave only pennies, but was said to have given more than the rich who far exceeded her humble gift. They gave out of their excess, while she gave all she had. Wow...I have so much to learn about the art of giving!

A friend shared with me that she buys McDonalds gift cards and hands them out when she sees someone who is in need. What a great idea! It encourages me to think outside the box and get more creative in my giving. But more important, I want to keep an open heart and hand that is always ready to share with a hurting world.


"Authentic success is accepting your limitations...discovering and calling forth your gifts and offering them to the world to help heal its ravaged heart. It’s making a difference in other lives and believing that if you can do that for just one person each day, through a smile, a shared laugh, a caress, a kind word, or a helping hand, blessed are you among women."
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

"True greatness is not defined by what we get but what we give."
~ Author Unknown
 

A NEW DAY

"She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking."
 
Can’t you just feel her sense of purpose, pleasure, and enjoyment in everything she does? My impression of this passage is that she can’t wait to begin her day. She eagerly throws herself into the tasks that await her attention. She seems to love her life! This isn’t a wimpy homemaker...this is a business woman who knows how to balance home and work. Perhaps it’s because the two seem to overlap so beautifully in her life. This is the true Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart ever existed! The big difference that I see between the original and the modern day Marthas is their focus. Clearly, the original Martha got her ultimate pleasure and satisfaction from her walk with God. I think this is the hearbeat of all of her hard work and accomplishments. Before Colossians was ever written, this woman was living its words ~ "Let every detail in your lives~words, actions, whatever~be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God every step of the way."

 Let’s be honest...we can all grow in this area. I know I have a lot to learn. I do get out of bed, eager to greet the day. But I can certainly learn to enjoy the process more, especially the mundane chores that eat up much of my time. I think it begins with a spirit of gratitude. I am thankful that I am home, able to tend to the needs of my household. Some days it may feel like a burden, but in truth, it’s a blessing. I can learn to look upon each task with enthusiasm and a grateful spirit. I get to be the one to care for the many blessings in my life ~ a family, a home, a garden, a car...the list goes on and on.

For me, it starts with prayer. Thank you God for this home and all who occupy it. Thank you for health, and time, and strength to tend to it. Thank you for Your presence as I go about my work day. And my list of thanks goes on and on...

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."  Colossians 3:23

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."    ~Melody Beattie


Proverbs 31

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CREATIVE LIVING

"She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises." Proverbs 31, The Message I love the practicality of this chapter. Each passage is packed with sage advice that I can latch on to and apply in my own life. Is this verse telling me I should enjoy knitting and sewing? I don’t think so. I think it’s telling me to be creative in my endeavors as a wife and home manager. This verse counsels me to not settle for mediocrity. Its words tell me I should be thoughtful about my purchases, making the most of my resources. It exhorts me to stretch my dollar by knowing the best places to buy the items I need. This isn’t about being cheap. On the contrary; I think it frees me up to be generous. The more I save in my frugality, the more I have to share with others. I also notice that this woman doesn’t rush through her to-do list just to get things accomplished. Every decision, every purchase is carefully thought out and made for the welfare of her household. In a society spoiled by instant gratification, I love this verse because it reminds me to take the time to create something myself, whether it’s a meal I make from scratch, the vegetable garden I am trying to grow, or a fresh new look for one of the rooms in our home. I find there is such satisfaction in taking the time to do things  myself and then enjoying the fruits of my labor. I like food-to-go as much as the next person. But there is such pleasure and reward in taking the time to lovingly prepare a truly homemade meal for my family.
Bottom line? Don’t be in such a hurry to get things done for the sake of getting them crossed off my list. Give it my all. Be creative. Be frugal without being cheap. Give my best to my family and my household responsibilities. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
"Gaze into the faces of those you love, set the table with care, and relish the preparations you make for dinner, delighting in the presentation of your meal. Light the candles, pour wine or sparkling water in your prettiest goblets, and celebrate this new awareness. It is in the details of life that beauty is revealed, sustained, and nurtured." ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

TREAT HIM GENEROUSLY

"She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:12

"Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long."

As I continue to delve into my studies of the Proverbs 31 woman, I am deeply impressed by her relationship with her husband. This woman’s intent is to NEVER bring harm of any kind to her man. Instead, she lavishes him with love, attention, and a myriad of blessings. This tells me that she is a woman who forgives freely and generously. She doesn’t hold a grudge and isn’t overly sensitive. She sees the bigger picture. Her sense of self-worth is found in God alone. She doesn’t look to her husband (or her kids) to fill this role. If he has had a bad day and his mood reflects it, she doesn’t take it personally. Because she knows who she is in God’s eyes, she can rise above it and look for ways to bless, encourage, and minister to her husband. She doesn’t waiver in her role as his helpmate, even when he doesn’t treat her as nicely as he should. (I am not condoning mistreatment of any kind here.)
This is my challenge in today’s verse. I can be so easily upset by my husband’s mood. I take things way too personally. I need to get a broader perspective. His moods are based on his own day-to-day experiences that usually have nothing to do with me. If I can grasp this, and stop looking to my husband for my own sense of self-worth, I can be freed up to be the kind of wife I want to be. I can channel energy into "treating him generously" instead of reacting emotionally. This is so inspiring! Now comes the fun part ~ finding a way to apply it today.
"Contrary to what a good forty years of feminist propaganda has claimed, it is not oppression, subjugation, or abdication of any feminine quality-of-life potential to marry a man, be proud of your bonding, rejoice in your gifts and sacrifices for your marriage and family, and derive pleasure and sustenance from your role as a wife and mother." ~Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Same verse, The Message

Monday, August 1, 2011

A BALANCED LIFE

Since the first time I met her, I wanted to be just like this woman. Everything about her impresses me. She possesses qualities that seem to place her a cut above her contemporaries. This is not your typical everyday woman! Her value as a wife, mom, entrepeneur, and member of society is immeasurable. If you haven't met her, let me introduce you...
"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life....She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks...She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy....She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' "        ~Proverbs 31
If you read the entire chapter about this woman, it reveals even more about her work ethic and talents. Wow...sometimes I get tired just thinking about her! But I believe she does exist. Her qualities are attainable. I think it needs to be said that she isn't perfect...just very godly.  She's not afraid of hard work. She puts others' needs above her own pleasures. But the main reason she is able to live such an exemplary life is because she has the right focus and priorities, and she has balance in her life.
For me to grow more like this woman, I need to remember this.  "Don't put your all your eggs in one basket." I have received this counsel numerous times. It is my nature to pour myself into one aspect of my life ~ my husband, my family, my writing, or my home. When I do this, I get out of balance. My focus gets too narrowed. My priorities get out of wack.
This week, I am going to be studying this legendary woman. I will share what I learn along the way. It begins with my own personal challenge to stayed balanced in my day to day life, with the right focus, and my priorities in order. "She always faces tomorrow with a smile." (Proverbs 31, The Message) Now, that's the kind of woman I want to be!