Archive for February, 2011

Guarding Your Back Door

Meow, meow, meow…

We don’t own a cat, but as I drifted in and out of a state of sleep, I could hear meowing.  I felt suspended between reality and dreamland, uncertain of my surroundings.  I thought my preschool son was making cat sounds that sounded remarkably real.  But why was he still up and why would he be meowing? 

Confusion enveloped me.

Then, my husband’s voice entered my head and I snapped back to wakefulness. “Why is there a cat in our house?” He questioned.  Still groggy, I began to realize that the cat was part of reality, not a dream.

My husband was able to remove the cat without incident and determined that it had entered through the back door which had been blown open by howling winds.  It must not have latched completely when the kids came in earlier that afternoon.

Doors serve a purpose in our lives.  They keep unwanted creatures out of our house.  They offer protection from the weather.  They are useful in conserving energy when heating or cooling our homes.  They even offer a welcoming entrance into the comfort of home after a hard day at work.

Likewise, we have “doors” into our hearts and minds.  Doors such as awareness and self control that guide our decisions in life.  Doors such as the Word of God that protect us from hatred and unforgiveness.   When we get careless and forget to use such doors effectively, things can wander in unexpectedly.  Pride, greed, and stubbornness can slip through.  Laziness and gluttony begin meandering through the homes of our heart searching for a place to settle in.  Let’s be on guard for these unwanted visitors that slip through the back door when we’re not looking.  Let’s rest in the comfort of God’s protection as we allow Him to cover our hearts and minds.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Proverbs 4:23

Changing History

My memory fades.  Yet, I desperately want to keep the memory of my daughter, Ashlynn, alive.  Therefore, I often pray that God will help me – specifically, I ask Him to give me new insights or perspective on the memories I have.  Her life was so short and I can’t create new memories, but I can certainly be reminded of them and even see them in a different light.  So I ask… and then watch and wait expectantly.

And He answers me!

It always delights me, inspires gratitude, and most often leaves me speechless with my jaw dropped in wonder and awe.  This time was no exception.

As I was preparing for a class I was teaching, I found myself digging through the book of Exodus.  I became excited about what I was studying and learning about the deliverance of the Israelites.  And then, I stumbled upon a commentary by Ray Stedman.  He said, “When God wants to change history, he doesn’t start with a battle, he starts with a baby.”  He was specifically talking about Moses, but I couldn’t help to also think about Jesus who arrived as a baby to save us. 

And then my thoughts shifted again… Ashlynn!  My sweet baby girl changed history.  God used her precious life to change me. Perhaps she didn’t change history for the world, but she changed history for me and my family for generations to come.  I was living a fearful and ineffective life before God brought her to me.  I wasn’t truly living life; I simply existed as I was pushed around by emotions and worldly influences. She was my wake up call to start living.  It’s ironic that I learned how to live through her life and death.

God taught me about His joy through her.  He taught me about His love… about His strength… about His comfort… about His grace… about His mercy… about His sacrifice… about His power… about His peace… all through my daughter’s life!  She was a petite 4 pounds 10 oz and lived only 2 ½ short days.  Yet, God taught me a lifetime of lessons through her.

Praise God that He starts with a baby when He wants to change history!

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Beyond Valentines

If there were such a thing as a scrooge at Valentine’s Day, this year it would be me.  Valentine’s Day has always seemed a little overrated to me.  Why is February 14th the magical day that we’re supposed to show love? And really, do we need another day to tempt me with candy and treats?

This year I was even less enthused than usual.  It had been a busy time and I was feeling pressure, not love.  The gift I ordered for my husband didn’t arrive on time.  And, as someone who prides herself in being prepared, I was feeling even more of a failure because I found myself in the midst of a sea of men in the card aisle on Valentine’s Day.  Somehow, it’s acceptable for men to do last minute shopping, but not for me.  Not at all logical, but the thought plagued my mind nonetheless.

The day did not go at all as planned.  I had to take the kids to the dentist, run errands, try to squeeze in some schoolwork, cook a meal,  and I ended up helping to run a party unexpectedly.  I fell asleep at dinnertime as my husband and kids prepared dinner for me and woke up cold and hungry. I woke up today realizing that I never even gave my husband the card that I had shamefully purchased the day before. I also discovered that I had forgotten that my son needed to make Valentines for his preschool party.  Ugh…  the holiday that keeps on giving.

In the midst of it all, there was one blessing in hurriedness of my day.  As I stopped by a friend’s house to make a delivery, her husband had arrived home from the hospital.  He suffers with ALS, an awful degenerative disease, and is nearing the end of his life.  He is completely present in mind, but his ailing body no longer cooperates.  He can’t even use his communication device any longer because his eyes (which were used to control it) don’t function well enough to work the machine.  And yet, when I came to speak to him, he smiled.  He smiled at me!  I’m not sure how he mustered the strength to make those muscles work, but he did.  And it brightened my day.  It let me know that he’s still who he is.  He’s still the likeable, jovial guy who loves to hug and smile and enjoy life.  I have no idea what he was thinking, but he smiled.  It was the highlight of my day. 

But now I cry.  I cry for him as I try to imagine what it must be like to be trapped in a body and life where you comprehend everything that goes on around you, but can’t interact or communicate. I cry for his wife for having to watch her husband and children suffer, all the while trying to keep life going on as normal.  I cry for their kids.  They’ve seen their dad go from a healthy, active man to a bedridden, dependent existence within a couple of short years.  They can’t make sense of it in their youth – and neither can we.  I cry because I can’t chase away the pain their family endures. And I cry, because despite it all, he smiled.

My plea to you today is to show love every day!  Not just on Valentine’s Day.  We never know what the future holds. 

Love is not about flowers and cards and chocolate.  Love is about caring for other people and showing them that they’re special.  Love is an action, not a feeling.  God showed us His love for us by sending His Son to redeem us and reunite us with Him.  I can’t even fathom it.  He is the source of our love.  And,we can’t truly show love until we’re filled with His. Let’s accept His wonderful gift and share it with others… in abundance! 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

School is in Session

As a homeschooling family, school is always in session.  Most everything in our daily life can be educational, for better or for worse. 

This scares my children. They’re fearful that I’m not going to give them a summer break because I won’t be able to resist the temptation to keep teaching them every day.  And there may just be an element of truth in their thinking.  Although I have a feeling that I’ll be so glad that summer break is here for me too that I’ll be ready to put learning (at least the textbook variety) on a shelf for a couple of months.

I have to say that sometimes I feel the same way about God.  Everyday seems to be an opportunity for Him to show me ways to grow and test me to see if I’m learning.  Whether it’s patience, or grace, or self-discipline (a personal favorite), He gives me plenty of opportunities to exercise my skills and abilities in these areas.

But sometimes I just want a break.  I don’t want to grow.  Or be tested.  Or demonstrate my faith and trust in Him.  As I’ve grown closer to Him, the tests seem to be harder.  The concepts and situations more challenging.  He’s skimming off the junk deep down in me and it’s ugly and painful to watch sometimes. 

But…

I know that it’s for my own good. 

And…

I know that it’s because He loves me.

So…

I continue to invite Him to work in my life.  And He continues to accept.

I love that He’s willing to take the time to work with me.  He’s mighty patient, because I can be a slow learner sometimes.  I’m thankful that He hasn’t given up on me and that He continues to use me for His purposes.  What an exciting ride in life! 

I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I’m sure the journey with Him will be an amazing adventure.  What more could I ask for?

I challenge you to invite Him to work in your life.  It can be a little scary to give Him access to your heart and mind, but I assure you that the pay-off is huge.  Be bold and brave.  You’ll be blessed beyond measure.

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.  Psalm 26:2

Top Gear

Have you ever thought about whether you’re running in top gear?

My husband loves to watch the British show Top Gear.  He has an interesting sense of humor and enjoys the absurdity of some of the contests and situations they attempt on the show. 

This morning, I could hear loud belly laughs coming from the other room and felt compelled to investigate. I discovered that my husband was watching this show and he begin to share the details of today’s challenge.  A guy decided that he wanted to decorate the interior of his 80’s model Mercedes to look like his living room… complete with wing back chairs.  The French decorator who was commissioned to the task was not particularly enthralled, but completed the assignment as charged.  After pouring two tons of concrete into the floor of the car to give a level work space, they had to move the gas tank so the wood burning fireplace could be inserted into the trunk.  (OK, I must admit that I was actually a little disappointed that I missed seeing the final product.) 

Now, it was time for the test.  Before the “makeover” the car could go from zero to sixty miles per hour in 11 seconds.  But what could it do now?  The first attempt was disastrous as the wing back chairs were not bolted to the floor and flipped over backwards as the driver hit the accelerator.  After strategizing, the second attempt was completed without incident and the car made it from zero to sixty miles per hours in a whopping 43 seconds.

They took a perfectly functioning car and remodeled it to the detriment of its performance.  As I thought about it, I began to wonder how often we do that in our own lives.  It was funny for entertainment purposes, but not always so amusing in real life. 

We do the same thing we we’re too focused on appearances in our life.  Whether it’s our physical appearance or the image of our success, we can get distracted from what really matters.  We get busy with decorating and remodeling the wrong things.  Instead of the inner workings of our thoughts and attitudes, we’re consumed by our desires to live a certain lifestyle. 

We’re running in top gear when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and produce good fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness and self-control.  When we’re too busy with the worldly aspects of our lives, we’re sluggish and the good things of God aren’t visibly evident.  The end result is a loss of joy in our lives that can even spill over into the lives of those around us. 

I challenge you to focus on what you were created to do – to live your life honoring God – so you can operate in top gear.  You’ll be blessed and equipped to do the great things God has called you to.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10