Thursday, January 30, 2014

At The Proper Time

"But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good." 2 Thessalonians 3:13

"Someone once said that the challenge of living is to develop a long obedience in the same direction. When it's demanded, we can rise on occasion and be long as there are limits. But we balk when patience is required over a long haul. We don't much like endurance. It's painful to persevere through a marriage that's forever struggling. A church that never crests 100 members. Housekeeping routines that never vary from week-to-week. Even caring for an elderly parent or a handicapped child can feel like a long obedience in the same direction." These words are from the book entitled, Holiness in Hidden Places, by Joni Eareckson Tada. 

This week I was talking to one of my dear daughters who is always an inspiration to me. I asked her how she was doing and this is how she replied, "Everything is okay." I could tell from the tone of her voice that there was something else she was thinking. I asked her, "Are you sure?" This is how she responded, "Yes, how can I say it? My life right now is "routine", it is not bad - it is all good but nothing new and exciting." 

Right away I thought of this devotion by Joni Eareckson Tada that I quoted above:"The challenge of living is to develop a long obedience in the same direction."

Many times we feel that our life is not producing the fruit that we wish to see - right now! Or we may feel as Joni Eareckson Tada said in her book, "Our commitment to keep putting one foot in front of the other is starting to falter." God encourages us and exhorts us in His Word by saying this, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Do you know what this scripture says to me? It is as if I hear God say in the most loving and tender way to His sons and to His daughters, "I am watching you my child and nothing you do is hidden from Me. It may be hidden from other people, but it is not from Me. I see how committed you are to Me and your family and the path that I have chosen for you. I know that you struggle and grow weary at times, but at the proper time you will see the fruit that your life will produce." 

May I encourage you today? God has a plan for your life and nothing that you do, however small, however boring, however "routine", however insignificant it may appear to be to you - God is using it to prepare you for the awesome plan He has for your life! 

Let's keep putting one foot in front of the other and we will see at the proper time that we will reap a harvest of perseverance, determination, fortitude, patience and sheer joy! 

One day we will look back on our life's and reflect on those times where it appeared to be dry and long and tedious, and we will come to recognize that those were the times that got us closer to God - sooner.

"Your life is not a boring stretch of highway. It's a straight line to heaven. And just look at the fields ripening along the way. Look at the tenacity and endurance. Look at the grains of righteousness. You'll have quite a crop at don't give up!" Joni Eareckson Tada

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Strength Through Struggle

This morning my daughter sent me a text message very early and it said this, “Mom, count your blessings you are in California – it is negative 9 degrees right now in Massachusetts." She sent me this text as see was walking through the snow to her early morning class.  After her class ended, she sent me another text and because I know her sense of humor, she wrote this jokingly, “My lips are frozen – struggles, struggles, struggles!”

Whenever she says she is “struggling” – it is an inside joke that both of us understand and for some reason just saying, “I am struggling”, makes us laugh and gives us a light heart in the situation. However, to struggle can be very serious. People can struggle, emotionally, physically and spiritually. To struggle means to make a strenuous or violent effort in the face of difficulty. Thankfully for my daughter, walking through the snow in negative temperatures is a small struggle that she jokingly admits to having in comparison to what many people are struggling through.

Whenever I hear the word struggle, I also can’t help but think of the butterfly story.  The butterfly story is a very popular story that you may have heard before. I will be sharing the story from a website I found named, 4MyFuture below:

“There’s a parable about a new mother who discovered a butterfly struggling mightily to escape its cocoon through a tiny opening at the top. She became concerned when the creature seemed to give up after making no progress. Certain that the butterfly just wouldn’t make it out without help, she enlarged the hole slightly.

On its next try, the butterfly wriggled out easily. But the young women’s joy turned to horror as she saw its wings were shriveled and useless. Her well-intentioned intervention turned out badly because it interrupted a natural way of assuring that blood from the creature’s body is pushed into the wings. By making it easier, she deprived the butterfly of strong wings.”

Adversity is not always the enemy. 

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trail and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

What a great reminder from Helen Keller to see our “struggles” as tools to make us the kind of people that have character and strength. James, the half brother of Jesus also shared about “struggling” in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I admit that the love I have for my children can at times be a pampering love because I don’t want them to suffer – at all :)!  Thankfully I have a wonderful husband and they have a wonderful father who keeps reminding us of the butterfly story!

God’s love for His children is a perfect love - more specifically, God's love is a STRENGTHENING love!  There are times that God’s love melts me and my heart is swelled with so much gratitude to Him that I feel like I am going to burst with happiness! There are also times that God’s great love for me causes me to be stretched and to be pulled out of my comfort zone and into a place that I need to trust Him and Him alone.

If you are in a season in your life that you feel ALL you are doing is “struggling”, remember that God has not forgotten you – the exact opposite is true. Instead God is lovingly watching over you so that you can develop the strength to complete your destiny so that your "calling" will take flight!  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Start Here

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Have you ever seen the car television commercial where two bridesmaids, who are friends, are at a wedding? At the wedding reception, one of the friends is looking out the window with a longing in her heart as she sees a red, convertible car. Her friend notices and says, “Just get a convertible already!” The friend longing at the red convertible says, “I don’t know where to start.” Out of nowhere a light appears and projects the word “Start” on the floor.  Once the girl notices the word “Start”, the word begins to move forward. Without any reservation, the girl hands her bouquet to her friend and begins following the moving word, "Start" out of the wedding reception, through the beach, through the streets until the word stops at the car dealership.

Sometimes we do not know where to start to satisfy the longings that are in our hearts. In the car commercial the longing was for a material good. But there is a longing that God has put in everyone’s heart that has nothing to do with a red, convertible car. Many times we start by trying to satisfy those longings with relationships, material goods, entertainment, and listening to advice that can lead us to only a temporary fix and possible frustration. 

In John 1:14 it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus, the Word, became man in order to reveal the truth to all people – the truth that He is the answer to all the longings that are in the hearts of men and women.  In John 1:12 it says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name….”.  

Whenever we have a longing in our heart and want answers to our life issues, let’s start by turning to the “true and only Light”; the Word, and let the Word of God lead us. Let's follow Him as He will lead us to a place where our longings will be completely satisfied in Him!

God says in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  

He is our “START” and our “END” and all of our journey “IN-BETWEEN”! Let's START each morning with the Light of Jesus and His Word! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Add Don't Divide

“And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25

What a powerful statement Jesus made to His disciples. Reading this scripture caused me to pause in order to let the truth and the weight of the scripture to sink in pass my brain and into my heart.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a family who is united, supports each other, forgives each other, and loves each other purposefully and intentionally for the glory of God.

However, the home is also the place where our guards are down and where family members can see each other at their worst! This is why the scripture should be taken very seriously. 

After reading this scripture in Mark 3:25 and moving forward with my day, God showed me how easily I can contribute to a divided home - something that I would NEVER consciously choose to do!  It is all too easy to be a negative contributor especially when we let our opinion and our preferences and yes, our will, take precedence over the ultimate goal of support and unity – a home undivided for His purpose and His glory.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” But how does that tearing down happen? It is a slow and subtle process; a wrong attitude, a selfish motive, or a disrespectful response. 

Unfortunately, this gradual down slide could happen to every one of us. But here is where the wise woman builds her home: The wise woman pays attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading and humbles herself if needed, before God and/or her family members. 

May I encourage you as I encourage myself to continually remember that God created the family and loves the family? If we allow Him, He will open the doors to allow our families to be used as a bright beacon of hope to a fallen world. He knows how to erase all of our many foolish mistakes in order to make our marriages and our relationships strong and fortified. With strong family relationships and strong, fortified marriages, our children and our children’s children will be greatly blessed as we model to them what it means to be a home undivided!

Families have many strengths and many weaknesses but let's always be working towards ONE MISSION: "To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God." Micah 6:8 

FATHER, help us to build a home that is centered on your decrees. Help us to know when we have acted foolishly so that we can turn around and begin building once again. Thank you for valuing family and giving us all of Your support.  In Jesus' Name - Amen.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Other, Larger, Stronger, Quieter Life

This morning I had a choice. My husband rose early in the morning to attend a meeting and he left the home while the sun had not yet shined through my bedroom windows and the house was quiet. Still in bed, I turned over and nestled onto my soft pillow. My mind thought about the day that was ahead of me and all that I wanted to accomplish: People to call, cards to write and appointments that I needed to keep. Then another thought came to my mind, "When will I meet with God to hear His voice through His Word during my busy day?"

I would like to share a small portion from my book, A Stroke of Love, that expresses what it means to have it backward:

"Knowing God's will sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but we frequently have it backward. Simply put, we want more than anything to please God and to walk in His perfect will, but often the last thing we have time and energy for is that still, quiet discipline of opening God's Word each day.

C. S. Lewis said it best: "The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in."

Can you understand exactly what I was feeling this morning? Have you ever felt tempted to put your agenda for the day first before seeking God? Does C. S. Lewis' words ring true for you as you wake up each morning?

By God's grace, He helped me choose that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. When I opened up God's Word early in the morning, the Son of God shined upon the pages and my heart melted as I read His Words. My will was once again submitted to His plan for my life. I began my day knowing and feeling a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction - not because everything on my list was checked off but because I spent time with my Father and He welcomed me with His warm and tender arms.

Dear friends, may I encourage you to not have it backwards? Shove all of it back and listen to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Jerk

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves….” Hebrews 12:5b

As my husband and I were walking our dog this morning, we were talking about hearing God’s voice and how we shouldn’t always expect God to tell us what we want to hear but instead, knowing how much God loves us, we should expect God to tell us what we need to hear – for our own good. We continued to discuss how sometimes God’s exhortation to us can sound harsh.

Many times when taking our dog Aussie for a walk, she does not always go with the program as we walk along the path. We have taken Aussie to several dog training courses and the trainer recommended that we use a special training collar which tightens around her neck the further she walks away from us and loosens around her neck the closer she walks next to us. No matter how patient we are with her and no matter how many commands we give to her to keep walking close to us, there still are times when she stubbornly wants to lead us instead of us leading her. In order to complete our walks, at these stubborn times when she is distracted, the trainer recommended that we give a quick jerk to her chain to get her attention and to refocus her in the direction that we want her to go.

I hate jerking the chain around Aussie's neck. I would rather “baby talk” her, but unfortunately sometimes “baby talk” does not do the job.

Sometimes God’s correction for us to change the direction of our walk or to rethink a behavior pattern can feel like an unexpected jerk – we may think to ourselves, “Where did that come from?” God's correction can come from a dear loved one, it can come from a total stranger or it can come from God’s Word at an unexpected time.

The Bible says, “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves and he chastens everyone He accepts as His son.” Hebrews 12:5b

The reason why we initially used a training chain with our dog, was to condition her to trust us so that we could ultimately remove the training chain and replace it by voice command – therefore giving the dog more freedom so that she would in turn not harm herself or others. Nevertheless, regardless of our dog's sometimes stubborn nature, we enjoy the close relationship that is between Aussie and us.

Obviously, we are not dogs – we are humans :) - God treats us with great dignity.  One of the ways that He shows us His great love is by correcting us as it says in the Bible, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their fathers? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of Spirits and live? They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness” Hebrews 12:7-10

God waits patiently for us to rethink our choices. God also can use people to gently or not so gently get our attention. If however, we continue to stray, He may get our attention in a way that is drastic and sudden - all for our good. The sooner we recognize His “pull”, the softer the “jerk” :).

The next time you feel God’s “pull”, remember it is the child that He loves that He corrects and He delights when we walk close to Him not by force, but by our own free will!

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:7-11

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blank Space!

Have you ever felt ready to do something but then felt uneasy as if something is stopping you?  

Maybe that feeling of doubt is God's Holy Spirit directing you by not giving you inner peace.

That is what happened to me today.  And then I read today's devotional by Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest":

"There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait. The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means, or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means. Never run before God's guidance. If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt - don't!"

January is a time when we make New Year's resolutions and commit to make a change in our life. 

May I encourage you to first take a little time to pray and consult our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ? God sees the beginning and the end and He is able to guide us not just in the first few weeks of the new year, but He is able to guide us through the entire year. In fact, He is able to guide us throughout our entire life!  

"In the beginning you may see clearly what God's will is-the severance of a friendship,the breaking off of a business relationship, something you feel distinctly before God is His will for you to do, never do it on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will end in making difficulties that will take years of time to put right. Wait for God's time to bring it round and He will do it without any heartbreak or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move." Oswald Chambers

FATHER, thank you for your guidance through the Holy Spirit. LORD, help us to respond to the leading of your Holy Spirit - whether that be moving forward or simply waiting for your perfect timing and for Your perfect peace.  In Jesus' Name - Amen.

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Isaiah 26:3

Friday, January 3, 2014

Continually and Ongoing!

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” 
Colossians 3:1-2

Have you ever heard the saying, “Get your head in the game?” This morning while I was praying, I prayed this, "Father, I heard it said before, ‘Get your head in the game’ - Lord, I want to put my heart in Your Kingdom.”

Coaches usually make this comment, “Get your head in the game”, when they see their athletics performing in a lukewarm fashion and not as committed to the game as they should be. Coaches know when each of their players is not playing to their fullest potential.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the Colossians with this scripture, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

“The false teachers were instructing the Colossians to concentrate on temporal observance; in contrast, Paul instructs them to concentrate on the eternal realities of heaven. The Greek verb for "set" emphasizes an ongoing decision. Christians must continually discipline themselves to focus on eternal realities instead of the temporal realities of this earth.” Commentary

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person whose heart is passionate about the things they do. Whether the person is a singer, a musician, an athlete, an artist, a designer, a professional worker, a student, a teacher, a pastor, a caregiver or a housewife who is passionate about raising her children and loving her husband, having your heart completely given over to the task at hand is divine! 

When you see the people mentioned above in action, they make it look so natural and soooooo easy.  But we all know that it is an ongoing decision that each of them must make continually.

Let’s set our hearts and minds with Christ this 2014 and let’s continually make an ongoing decision to seek those things that are above. Let’s make 2014 the year when we completely and passionately live to bring God glory and fame.  Let’s continually and "ongoingly" set our hearts in His Kingdom!