Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two Very Different Words

It is very easy in this information age to become calloused to the constant droning of voices we hear reporting the news.  We live in an age of information overload.  I know things about people that I wish I didn't, private things that are splashed on the front of newspapers and magazines, or on teasers for the nightly news.  I know terrifying things that cause my heart to race and cause me to look over my shoulder.  I know nonsense things that aren't really news, but on a slow day anything is game.  And occasionally, we even hear about sweet and wonderful things that make our hearts happy.
These last couple of weeks the word that comes to my mind for the news being reported is SELFISH. The dictionary defines the word selfish as: a person, action or motive lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.  I know most of us can probably conjure up a few names or scenarios right now.  Traveling within the quarantine period after being exposed to a contagious disease?  Not taking measures to contain a problem to the fewest number of people? Misrepresenting the facts to manipulate the public?  Over and over this week my mind keeps asking, "Why?"  "What is really going on?" "Is there anyone with common sense and compassion for people left?"
There is another word that looks similar to SELFISH but has an altogether  different meaning.  The word is SELFLESS.  Selfless is defined as: concerned more with the wishes and needs of others than one's own; unselfish.  I can think of names and scenarios for this word also.  The healthcare workers who were unprepared, but cared for the first Ebola patient in the US, who by the way lied to be able to come here for medical care (selfish).  The airline workers, including flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers and mechanics who are working on planes that may have transported ill travelers who were cleared by the CDC to travel.  People who are just being faithful to do their jobs, believing that someone, either management or government, is looking out for them.  Unfortunately, and obviously not true,
I have a similar, although much less frightening story from my own life.  When I was in HS I contracted hepatitis.  I was very sick and had to be quarantined.  My family members and co-workers had to take shots to prevent the spread of the disease.  To this day, over thirty have passed, I still warn medical care professionals about my history with hepatitis.  I don't give blood.  I don't get tattoos.  I don't want to do anything that would possible infect another person.  I am blessed that my hepatitis has never converted to Hep C.  Isn't that what I should do?  Isn't that common sense?
God's word is clear on this.  If we say we love God but neglect our neighbor we are a liar.  It also says we must not think too much of ourselves; to treat our neighbor as we would like to be treated.  Today, take a few minutes and pray for those in authority over us.  Pray for those who are directing the decisions being made re: protecting our nation.  It may be your loved one who is exposed.  But regardless of that, pray for God to expose selfish motives in each of us and to change us into selfless believers.   Pray for each of us to speak the truth to each other.  And pray for the health and safety of those who are battling on the front lines.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Decision

Last weekend I ran into a friend and we chatted for a bit. He and his wife were having a difficult time in their marriage and things looked very bleak in the natural.  He spoke some words to me that I carried with me.  He told me that he made a decision to love his wife many years ago and that the situation didn't change that decision.  He may not have the "warm, fuzzies", but he still loves her.  He told me that because of his decision to love, the affection came once, and could come again.  Those words have resonated in my head and my heart.
A couple of days ago a young couple we are friends with asked for prayer for each-other and their marriage.  The past few months had brought many changes in their home and recently they had dealt with more than their share of heartache,  I promised to pray (and did) and encouraged them with the truth that the times they were in would not last; the tough times would be gone, but their family could endure.
This morning during my work commute/prayer time I was able to reflect on the words my friend had spoken and the truth of them in my own life.  My marriage has been a roller coaster, a merry-go-round, and now is like a bench under the shade tree in the amusement park.  Kevin and I have seen the best of times and the worst of times; we have endured, survived and thrived.
Twenty-six years ago we said these words to each-other: have and to hold, forsaking all others, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.  I really thought about those words this morning.  They are powerful.  They are a commitment.  They are not to be taken lightly.  And, sadly, I have never thought about them after I said them till today.  Thankfully, they are still in force.  But it would probably do me good to remember from time to time.
I realized how blessed I am.  Kevin and I made a decision many years ago to marry, though many probably thought we shouldn't, and it has been one of the best decisions of our lives.  Kevin still puts a sparkle in my eye, and he can give me butterflies when he looks at me.  The love that I see in his eyes is priceless.  He makes me feel like a million bucks even on my worst day.  I hope he sees the same love when he looks in my eyes.
We feel that way because we choose to.  We made a decision to love and honor each other.  That decision became the foundation for every other decision in our lives.  We choose to be passionate about each-other.  We each choose to put the other first.  We choose be honest, even when it hurts.  We choose live our lives loving instead of losing.  Because any other way just won't work for us.  We are all or nothing.
Proverbs 18 says he who finds a good wife finds a good thing.  I think the same could be said for she who finds a good husband.  It also says that person finds favor with God.  Wow, a great spouse and favor from God.  You can't beat it.  So glad we made that decision.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Dying Breed

    I think my husband and I are part of a dying breed.  We are Christians who don't drink alcohol. If I would have made that statement ten years ago it would have sounded ridiculous.  Now, not so much.  Sometimes I look around myself and wonder, where am I?  And I realize, like the Bible says, I don't fit in; I don't belong here.
    This has concerned me so much that I spent several months studying and praying and even discussing this with other believers.  I must say, my conversations with others only added to my distress.  I found that I have been totally disillusioned and that many of my friends and colleagues have a very different view of what 'not drinking' is.  When I say Kevin and I don't drink, I mean ever, for any reason.  Not 'when the kids are asleep and the neighbors are out of town', not 'only in the privacy of my own home', not 'when I'm on vacation', not 'only socially'.  None.
    My time studying has taken me all over the Bible.  I had to start my study with an open mind, willing to change my stand if that was what the Word proved to me.  But it wasn't.  The most compelling verses to me were Proverbs 31:4 which says kings and princes should not have wine or strong drink, coupled with Exodus 19:6 which tells me I am part of a kingdom of priests.  The other verses which convinced me to continue abstaining were Titus 2:2, 1 Peter 1:13 and 5:8, which each call us to be sober.  
    My time in prayer was mainly a time of reflection.  A time of remembering my past, and all of the many situations I put myself in with alcohol.  Disastrous decision and lots of heartache.  Oh yes, at first it seemed fun, but somehow it usually ended in tears or angry words or worse.  I can honestly say that most of my worst decisions were made when I drank.  And, not to mention the destruction that alcohol and drugs have played a part in many friends and family.
    I know every argument that people use about why it is okay to drink.  Jesus turned water into wine...if He didn't want us to drink, he wouldn't have made wine.  Breaks my heart, and I bet it breaks His too.  Why can't we see the true miracle in this? Jesus took something common (water) and made it something uncommon (wine).  Or, the miracle of provision, there was a need and it was filled.  But all we see is an opportunity to drink.  And, my other favorite, all things in moderation.  I think how this should be written is, all things I want in moderation.  Sorry, just one's not against the law.  Well, soon smoking pot will probably be legal and same sex marriage also.  Are we going to do that too?  Paul said all things are permissible but not all things are good.  If we use the legal system to decide as believers what is right and wrong we are in big trouble.
        My final, and hopefully most compelling reason, is my ministry.  When God spoke to me about beginning the singles ministry at our Church I know it was a 24 hour a day commitment.  I am not just a small group leader from 9:45-10:45 on Sunday mornings.  I am a get dressed and come to your house at 10 pm on a Thursday night cause you called and were scared and going to have a seizure leader.  My husband is a get on your roof and find your leaks on his Saturday off minister.  We choose to be ready in season and out of season.  Sober and clear-headed.  We believe that is the only way to be a leader.  That is the kind of leader I want to follow.  And I do.   
    You don't hear much preaching any more on living a sober life.  Oh, we are all on the bandwagon of stamping out prescription drug use and meth, but when the rubber meets the road, don't mess with my Saturday night 6 pack or my martini at my business lunch.  We are all for healthy bodies, but my wine after dinner, step back. A cloudy mind is a cloudy mind, no matter what produced it.  A clear mind always knows what it is doing.  My sister-in-law Carol and I had a good discussion about drinking and Christians.  Her words of wisdom: Once you make a decision to drink, it only brings up more questions and decision to make.  When am I going to?  Where am I going to?  Am I going to do it openly, or hide it?  How much?  How about these questions: Why do I even want to?  What good purpose is it  going to serve? Who might get hurt? Is this something I'm bringing into my new life with Christ that is really from my old life without Him?
    I know My thoughts and my convictions are just that, my thoughts and convictions.  Just thought I would share.  Maybe there are a few more of us than I think.  I hope so.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The First Day

When I was groing up my Mom had some saying she shared about whatever you did on the first day of the year would be what influenced the rest of the year. So we ate black-eyed peas to bring prosperity. That was our tradition.

Somehow, that old wives tale stuck in my head and it really brought some fear instead of encouragement. If Kevin, my husband, and I would have an argument on the 1st, I would fear that it would last all year. If I got bad news of any kind it felt like an omen for the next 12 months. It wasn't overwhelming, but just this little nagging in the back of my mind that would pop up...remember what happened on New Years Day? Oh, that explains everything. Crazy, but true. For the last month I have been thinking about New Years Day. Not becasue of resolutions, but becasue I have contemplated how my day would go; what would it influence in the coming year. And instead of approaching this day with trepidation, I wanted to change my way of thinking. Instead of fearing the things that might happen, I wanted to set some positive precedents for the year on the first. I want to share some of my ideas for the new begining we have before each of us. I hope to encourage each of you to start a new thing or re-commit to an old thing. Today I am going to read my Bible. Several years ago I read through the chronological Bible and it made so much more sense to me. So I am starting it again today. Wether you are a person who reads one verse and meditates on it, or a person who reads a chapter a day, or a person who studies one topic at a time, start out fresh today. I am going to spend time with the Lord. I am going to pour my heart out to Him and listen to His plan for me. I am going to be grateful that Jesus is my Savior. I am going to be thankful for the direction of the Holy Spirit. Today I am going to love my husband. I am re-committing myself to the promises I made almost 25 years ago. I am going to love and cherish this man; stay with him in sickness and health; forsake everyone else and keep myself to him alone. Today I am going to be an encourager to my children. My girls are grown, so the time for discipline is past, it is time to encourage them to be all God wants them to be. And to be a safe stable place for them to always know is home. Today I am going to endeavor to be a better relative and freind. I am going to love my family and pray for them. I am going to be a freind to my friends, really be a friend. Today I am going to set my mind on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. I am going to think on things that are pure and lovely and honorable. I am going to work on getting my mind and my body to be under the authority of the Spirit of God that lives in me. None of these things would be possible if I do not see each of them as important and make it a priority to follow through on the decisions I have made. This year, instead of being afraid of what might happen today and the implications it might have on my coming year, I am making a concious decision to be sure of some things that will happen and look forward to the benefits that are going to come from those actions I start putting in to practice today. Today is the first day of the rest of each of our lives. It is a new year, a new day, a new opportunity. I want to encourage you to begin today to do something that is going to bless the Lord, bless others and in turn bless yourself. Today you are going to.....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Great Sorrow

I believe each of us have one great love of our life. Not that you may not find love more than once, but that one can't really be compared to anyone else.

I also believe that each of us has a great sorrow. Different people and situations may bring tears at different times, but the sorrow I am referring to is one that may be described as chronic. It isn't bound by time or space. There is a place in your heart that doesn't ever completely heal. The refrain of a certain song, or the way the light reflects on the water or the smell of rain coming triggers a a tightness in your chest and a stinging in your eyes. The term 'a broken heart' takes on real meaning. The ache is so intense you wonder how is continues to beat and preserve your life.

If you live in a small town or are a part of a constant community those around you know your sorrow. You know theirs. But the truth is that each sorrow is individual. We can dry tears and show grace, but the sorrow is personal. It is owned by the one grieving.

Honestly, if you did not suffer through the loss of a child how can you know what it feels like? If your father did not leave before you were born and was never a part of your life how can you understand? What advice do you have for the young mother with cancer if you have never been through chemo or radiation?

My great sorrow is having a child who has been a drug abuser for 10 years. Who has been to prison twice and more rehabs that I can remember. Since we began this nightmare so many people have offered their insights:

"You should punish her. Punish her more." Or, "You should forgive her. Forgive her no matter what."

"She has a demon. She needs prayer. You need to fast." Or, "She is a child of God. Love her. Love her more."

"Your too strict," then "You're not strict enough."

"Send her away," or "Lock her up."

"Push forward", then "Step back."

Through these years I have often met myself coming and going. I always believed that someone else must know better than I. After all, I had created this mess hadn't I? Everyone seemed to have words of wisdom, but none of them ever matched. And none of it worked. That is because many of the voices I was listening to were lacking two things:

1.) experiencing a child on drugs and in the prison system

2,) offering their own opinion rather than the Word of God

The Lord is looking for laborers who will be transparent. Believers who will expose their own 'great sorrow' in order to minister to another hurting in the same manner. To survive we often take our hurt and put it in a box and place it out of sight of others. We only open the box when we can deal with the raw emotions that come. To let someone else see the pain would cause us to be vulnerable in a world that is looking to eat us alive. We fear that our sadness will consume us. It has before. For those around us to realize we are broken would make us appear weak ...wouldn't it? Aren't I supposed to be strong, confident and with all my ducks in a row? Can my great sorrow be used by God to help mend another hurting heart? And, in the process, could I actually receive some healing myself?

The Father is also looking for people who will offer His Word and not popular opinion. Faithful friends speak the truth in love. They have compassion for the pain, but encourage you to do the right thing, no matter the situation. They are lighthouses on storm-tossed seas, a hand that lightens the load, friend that is closer than a brother. They come down into the pit of your despair, but they do not leave there alone. They take you up and out with them.

To those who have bared your grief to me in order to put salve on my pain, I thank you. To those who have used the Word to comfort me, correct me and direct me, thank you. My life is what it is because you did what was required.

Lord, help me. Help me to break free of the fear that comes with baring all my joys and sorrows. Help me to know how important it is to offer the help found only in your Word. Let me be a child of the Light, Father.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Where No Man...

The title is a little bit of an exageration, but I really did do something I've never done before. It was terribly nerve-racking and incredibly thrilling all at the same time.

I sang a solo in one of the songs in my church's Christmas prodution, 'The Christmas Offering.' I totally had no idea what it entailed for someone to get up and sing in front of people. The worship team on Sunday morning makes it look natual. Maybe it is if you are talented, or you have weeks to practice. Which was not the case for me on either count.

I was getting excited about Christmas when our worship leader asked for people to sign up for the play, so I signed up. I figures I would be a sheep or a donkey. Maybe the last angel in the row. But, I got to be part of the sopranos. Not the mob, the singers with the really high voices. I want to say right here that they are the best group to be a part of. the altos were nice too. and the tenors. Everyone made me feel welcome. Being part of the group was great.

Then, a week before the presentation to the church, one of the soloists had to back out. I was sorry about that. I wondered who would take on the part. In prayer that week, God told me it was me who would do it. He is such a kidder. Very funny.

The next morning I got a call from Bobby, our worship leader. He asked if I could do him a favor. He asked if I could try to sing the solo part that had no soloist. I love Bobby. I think that swayed my decision. I said yes. Later, I realized what I had done. I was horrified.

I practiced and practiced. No amount of practice prepares you to sing in front of live people. You forget how to breath. Your knees won't be still. You feel flushed and think you may have a fever. When you hear the entro to your song, you completely forget the words. Is that even the music you have been practicing with? Oh Lord, what have you done?

Somehow, some way, I made it through. It was definitely the grace of God.

I don't know that I will ever sing a solo again. I don't know that Bobby would ever ask me to again. But I have done it. Once in my life I stood on stage in front of hundreds of people and sang. Definite bucket list item to check off. Thanks for the opportunity Lord.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deer Woods Manners

This a daddy/daughter time in our household. We do not have any sons for my husband to pass on his love of hunting to, so he has passed it on to our daughter Kalynn. Several years ago he purchased Kalynn a gun and then went through the Hunter's Safety Course with her. Since that time November has become all about getting a deer.

This is not just a one day event in our home. Several years ago they spent weeks building a permanent deer stand on the back side of our property. A couple of months before season the two hunters begin preparing their spot. they put up a fence to keep out cows and horses, but let deer in. (Deer are amazing jumpers!) They often plant a special 'deer garden.' They offer the deer snacks.

As you can tell, there is a lot of time spent together. A daddy who realizes how quickly his baby has turned into a woman. A daughter who realizes how much she still wants and needs time with her dad. It is and hopefully always will be a special time.

Back to the manners part of this story. After weeks of preparation, opening morning for deer season had come. Kevin and Kalynn roused out of be about 5:00 in the morning, grabbed a bowl of cereal, layered on long underwear and orange, and headed to the perfect spot. The one that they had been preparing for weeks. They climbed up into the stand built by their own hands and settled in to wait for the deer. They knew it would be great because they had seen a big buck a couple of days before. Lots of anticipation.

But what do you think happened? Across the fence sat two other hunters. Two hunters who had not taken time to build the stand, plant the garden or offer snacks. There they were. And as the sun began to creep up over the horizon offering just enough light to see, some thing was coming through the autumn wood. Before my team knew what happened a shot rang out. No big buck came that morning into their sights. Nor has it any morning yet.

I have thought about this for several days. My first thought was 'how unfair.' But as I've thought about it more I have realized that what causes something to be fair or unfair is often using or lacking in manners. I know that the deer woods are probably not a place most people think of in regard to manners, but if we are ladies and gentlemen won't that carry over into every thing we do? Saying please and thank you, allowing someone else to go first and not taking something that someone else has worked for should be the norm.

Someone once told me that it was our right to be happy. That no matter what it took for each person to be happy the means could be justified. I don't believe that. I believe the person who runs over everyone around himself or herself will eventually run off everyone else. That person will be left alone and lonely. God's Word says to 'prefer others above your self.' I know that I can't make someone else have manners, but I can choose to live my life with them.

Lord, today I make a concious choice to prefer others before myself. I choose to treat others as I would want to be treated. I choose to have manners. I choose to let You shine throught me.