Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Losing My Mind

I fear losing my mind. Alzheimer’s is a very prevalent disease on my father’s side of the family. As the disease progressed and eventually took my father’s life, I experienced  frustration with my inability to do anything to prevent my father’s mental deterioration. All my mother, brothers, and I could do was to make him as comfortable as possible, to provide safe surroundings, and to demonstrate how much we loved him.

Alzheimer’s is such an insidious disease because the brain actually deteriorates. I’ve seen pictures of the brain of a person with this disease. The affected brain has holes which are left when surrounding brain tissue stuck together in an unnatural manner. It is impossible to restore the brain matter which has been destroyed. I fear this?

I try to keep up with the latest information about how to avoid Alzheimer’s as there is no known cure, and it tends to run in families. The current information is only about how to retard its development and to slow its destruction of brain tissue.

Current advice says to control cholesterol, control weight, control blood pressure, eat fruit (especially berries), and exercise. Sounds like living a controlled, healthy life. Self-control is one of the lessons God’s Word teaches.

 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12  ESV

Not only does advise for slowing or avoiding Alzheimer’s involve living a physically healthy life, but it also admonishes us to live a mentally healthy life. It has something to do with our ability to keep mental pathways healthy and to retain the ability to build new connections in the brain if old ones become unavailable.  The advice of brain experts is to think, problem solve, and learn to do new things.  Suggestions generally include doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and learning to play a musical instrument for which you have no skill. In other words, keep learning. Actively involve your brain.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.”  2 Peter 1:5-6  ESV

I see no guarantees, but if I remain active, have a healthy lifestyle, and avoid gluttony I may stand a chance of greatly delaying if not totally avoiding the Alzheimer’s curse.

So, I intend to follow God’s plan for living.

Lord, thank you for giving me workable and sensible guidelines for living this life well. Give me the willingness to do as you direct.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Foggy Brain

Can’t concentrate
All’s unclear
I hear
I see
I feel
Can’t think

Like a bridal veil obscuring the brides face
My brain cannot clearly discern

Why Not?

Lord, remove the fog
That I may clearly see

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Out of Ten

Look at people around you. What expressions are on their faces? What must be in their minds? Are they pleasant thoughts or unpleasant feelings? Are they grateful? Think about it. When you thank someone, do you frown? Of course not. You put a pleasant expression on your face. You recognize that the other person has given something of themselves to provide meaning and pleasure to you.

“…he was met by ten lepers…they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks…” Luke 17:12b, 14-16a ESV

Recently Pastor John preached on Luke 17:11-19. He was challenging us to show our gratitude to others. In this passage only one of the healed lepers said thank you to Jesus. Can’t you imagine the huge grin Jesus saw come across his face as the leper realized the miracle of healing which had just taken place. Picture the smile that must have crossed the face of Jesus as he watched the reaction of this grateful man. And how Jesus must have grieved that only one—1/10 of those healed—displayed gratitude. Very sad.

We all recognize the selfishness of the ungrateful nine and the unpleasant people we encounter daily. When we do something nice for someone else, we are quick to point our fingers and shake our heads if they do not display appreciation in words and actions. But do we even recognize the nice things others do for us? How often do we smile at those who befriend us? Are we too busy watching out for “numero uno” to say thank you. So what if the cashier is only doing her job? When was the last time you smiled at a store employee? How selfish are your behaviors in both public and private encounters?

A couple of days after pastor’s sermon, my husband and I received a thoughtfully handwritten thank you note from a couple whose children we had worked with in our classrooms and in the gym over fifteen years ago. We were surprise, and our hearts were warmed. One thank you I will never forget happened in the front lobby of the local hospital. It was a chance encounter with a father whose four children I had taught and my husband had coached in school athletics. He had a very serious, reserved countenance, and his words went something like this, “I know people do not often tell you this, but I appreciate what you and Ray did for my kids.” Later I learned that his son had committed suicide, and he was probably at the hospital as a result of that tragic event. His son was a veteran who had valiantly served our country under very difficult circumstances. He was truly a casualty of war. How amazing that this grieving father took time to show gratitude.

“Give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18a ESV

When others express gratitude to us, our faces relax and our expressions become pleasant.

So, say thank you often and with sincerity. Do your part to warm hearts and encourage others to smile.

Lord, create in me a thankful heart. Show me who I need to thank. Create in me an irresistible need to demonstrate appreciation to others and to you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Just a Comment

Just a comment—an innocent comment. That is all it took to cause an old scar from a very nasty, jagged wound to ooze blood again. I told myself I was being silly to let those harmless words affect me. I have worked through the relational issues and realized I was also at fault. Now the relationship is on a somewhat civil status even though I have tried to repair damage with very limited success. I hold no grudges—only good will. However, Satan is a powerful foe. Both of us let him delude and control us as small tremors became full-fledged earthquakes in our friendship.

This time an innocent comment during a phone conversation came from a person who had no idea that the words would be problematic for me—that old hurts would surface and tears stream down my cheeks. The next day one sentence in an email from a different person, not written to hurt but only to inform, brought old wounds violently to the surface. This time my emotional scar didn't just ooze. It was ripped wide open--bleeding freely. The senselessness of it all is so hard to understand. At this time I am no longer angry--only retain mild hurt that has potential to spiral out of control if allowed free reign. Why do simple, coincidental words bring such pain—such a feeling of helplessness? I grieve at this nonsensical loss of friendship.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” Isaiah 53:3 ESV

It is at times like these that I understand why Jesus was referred to as a man of sorrows. Even hundreds of years before he was born to Mary, his sorrow was prophesied. He was betrayed by close friends, yet he forgave and gently brought believers back into a close relationship with him.

My struggles with what I consider to be a nonsensical rift in a valued friendship has lead me closer to Christ. I have had to admit that all the things I have tried have failed completely. Why can’t I quit trying the ways of this world? Why can’t I rest easy knowing God is in control and he will repair the emotional damage in his time in his way. It is because I am tired of innocent comments or situations ripping open my emotional scars. I yearn for heaven where there will be no tears—only smiles, music, and joy. Jesus made it very clear that Christians will suffer sorrows on earth but we will have unquenchable joy with him in heaven.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22 ESV

So even though this life is full of difficulties because of Satan’s interference, I know there is an eternity of joy in my future.

Lord, make me focus on you and not on the evil that Satan is working. Make me recognize his work. Clearly show me your will for my actions and words then give me the power through the Holy Spirit to unquestioningly do as you direct.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hey You--Yes, I Mean You

God bluntly grabbed my attention this morning. It wasn’t during the time I was reading Scripture or praying. It was while I was reading an article by Donald S. Whitney published in Tabletalk on pages 61-62 in the February 2011 issue. Normally I study the daily devotionals then read the articles with a bit less concentration. Not so today. God demanded I comprehend the theme of this article.

How much time do you spend reading a verse in the Bible? I’m not talking about how much time you spend reading the Bible. I’m talking about how much time you spend on a verse. Maybe two or three seconds? How can you expect to remember and understand God’s Word if you spend just seconds on important verses? The answer—you cannot. You may gain a general knowledge, but it is doubtful that much of what you read will become a part of your thinking and affect your behaviors.

I am not suggesting spending several minutes on each verse in the Bible. That would be ludicrous. However, God revealed to me this morning that I am rushing over verses he wants me to consider in more depth. I am too busy getting through a passage of scripture (or through today’s devotional reading)--not actually concentrating on what God is telling me in His Word.

The article by Whitney made several excellent suggestions, some of which I have successfully used in the past and a couple I plan on trying.

  • · Repeat the verse or phrase with emphasis on a different word each time
  • · Write the verse in your own words
  • · Find the principle of the passage by asking a question
  • · State a problem the passage solves
  • · Ask yourself how the passage relates to the gospel and to Jesus
  • · Choose a verse or short passage to think about throughout the day
  • · Memorize scripture
  • · Pray scripture

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8 ESV

So, I need to quit rushing God. I must slow down and carefully listen to what he is telling me in His Word.

Lord, show me how to delight in your law. Give me the unquenchable desire to meditate on it day and night.

“…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Psalms 1:2 ESV

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Five Kernels of Corn

The way we portray the original Thanksgiving feast is excessively glorified. The plight of early European settlers on the Atlantic shores of what eventually became the United States was very dire. They suffered greatly from the elements, lack of food, illness, and many other dangers. It doesn’t take much delving into history to realize the desperate circumstances the early pilgrims often faced. They had every reason to be in the depths of depression; however, I prefer to think some were thankful for what they did have.

This poem is based on a passage from The Light and the Glory by Marshall and Manuel. The pilgrims were suffering from illness and lack of food. The winter raged and many had died. At this very desperate time there was only enough food for each person to have five kernels of corn.

Five Kernels of Corn

Five kernels to eat--no more to have.

To gripe and complain--no good it will claim.

Five kernels to eat. I so want much more.

The gloom inside, it is killing my pride.

Five kernels to eat--grateful to have.

At least I have these, nothing else to please.

Five kernels to eat. Thankfulness is due.

I’ll savor the taste--without any haste.

First kernel goes fast--so hungry, so small.

I’m thankful for food. Lord, you are so good.

Second kernel quickly gone. My family eats too.

Their love I can feel. Lord, blessings are real.

Third kernel slowly chewed. Our shelter protects.

No raging cold inside. Lord, in warmth I abide.

Fourth kernel to savor. I still have my life.

To live for God’s glory. Lord, this is your story.

Fifth kernel—the last. It soon too is gone.

Thankful for blessings--salvation and living.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Killing Lincoln

I could hardly tear myself away from the book Killing Lincoln written by Dugard and O’Reilly. I was emotionally involved with the main characters. It is not as if I did not know what was going to happen. After all, the title of the book tells the reader who is going to be murdered, and I did have exposure to America history in school.

I hated history in school—too much learning of dates and places. I could have cared less about what ancient governments thought they needed to do. I could see no connection to real people. Then I found historical fiction. Suddenly the people of each era and conflict had a human face. I could understand their concerns and how their lives were affected. To my surprise, in the past couple of years, I have discovered that factual history books can be interesting if they emphasize the people and culture of that era.

Ray enjoys history more than me. He wanted to see the Gettysburg Battlefield so I reluctantly agreed to go. We spent two days driving the roads around and through that historic place. We walked on selected parts of the scene of this gruesome battle. The people became real. I developed an interest in Joshua Chamberlain, a college professor who became a commander in the Union Army. We purchased and read his book “Bayonet! Forward”: My Civil War Reminiscences. Shortly after the Gettysburg trip I picked up Sharra‘s book Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War and found it much more intriguing as I read it another time.

I just finished Killing Lincoln. Killing Lincoln is set during the end of and time shortly after the Civil War. I was pleased that I actually recognized some of the names of people and places. I had a better grasp of the issues facing the people and how lives were affected. I was mesmerized.

Then it struck me. My appreciation for the Bible has followed a similar path as my understanding of the Civil War. I didn’t get it. The Bible's weird names, seemingly senseless customs, and killing just didn’t apply to my life. I enjoyed the parts about love and peace, but the other parts were boring, not important. Then I attended some well-done Bible studies and conferences. I started to really pay attention to some outstanding expository preaching of scripture. I read biblically sound books. When I started to understand that ancient culture, the people of the Bible became real.

I cannot say that all the Bible characters and all the passages of the Bible fascinate me; however, I am astounded by the lives of famous biblical characters like Daniel, Paul, and Moses. Some of the lesser recognized characters like Onesimus are fascinating. I want to know more about him and love to create stories about what caused his estrangement from Philemon and what happened after he delivered the letter.

So instead of viewing the Bible as an outdated book, we should be reading the stories of real people as avidly as we read our favorite genre. Parts of the Bible are hard to grasp. But it abounds with adventure, human conflict, and love. Much can be gleaned from this fascinating book.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 ESV

Lord, give me insight into your stories. Make my time reading the Bible a time of understanding, insight, and pleasure.

It's Not About Weight!

“I am so glad you are here today.”

“Come sit with us.”

The genuinely warm greetings from Phyllis Umscheid, Allison Patton, and others worked. This friendliness is one of the reasons Jarod and Aubrey Pirtle were persuaded to continue attending TBC after their initial visit.

It is somewhat odd that they visited a TBC church service because the Pirtles did not know many Benton people. Aubrey had been encouraged to visit TBC by a good friend who is an active member of another church. Because Pam Hendrix’s teenage son enjoyed the TBC contemporary-style service, Pam thought Aubrey and Jarod would also. Pam was sure the Pirtle children, Cameron and Raegan, would fit into the children’s ministries.

They had not been attending The Benton Church very long when an Alpha Bible Study group was formed, and the Pirtles become involved. They started developing friendships with other couples who had children and were seeking to learn more about Jesus. Then a new Alpha Bible Study group formed. This time, instead of participating, they became part of the leadership team by volunteering to lead the children. Aubrey and Jarod grew in their faith as they prepared Bible lessons and activities for the children. They loved getting to know them and their parents as they interacted on Alpha nights.

However, there was one major problem in Aubrey’s life—her weight. The stresses of life, pregnancies, and a thyroid problem had resulted in her becoming overweight. She had tried several times to lose the weight. Nothing worked. But now she needed to lose a large amount of weight fairly quickly for health reasons. Aubrey investigated weight loss programs. One sounded promising, but it was too expensive for her budget. She mentioned her frustration to a church friend hoping only to find empathy. Aubrey found much more.

Noreen Templin quietly talked to some of Aubrey’s church friends. A plan was born. A fund was created. A group of church people started to regularly contribute money to pay for the cost of Aubrey’s weekly appointment at the weight loss clinic. Aubrey is amazed the fund always had ample money to cover the fee. Church friends have supported her in numerous and unexpected ways. For example, Holly Crawford prepared special food for her any time there was a church function where food was served. Aubrey is so deeply grateful for the love demonstrated by her church friends. With tears of gratitude Aubrey laments that she cannot thank all the people involved because she has no idea who they all are.

Aubrey’s tells her weight-loss story best.

I came to the realization that I was idolizing food about a year ago. Many times I had tried to lose weight with no success. I have to admit that it’s mostly because I have very little willpower, and ultimately I was not completely giving it to God. I am going to the Medi Weight Loss Clinic. They discovered that I have hypothyroidism and insulin resistance. It has been amazing to learn that my weight problem is not just because of my eating habits.

After a couple of months of denying the support that was offered and praying, my husband and a dear friend explained some things to me. All the while Jesus was showing me all the ways that losing weight could happen, but each time I was telling him that’s not how I wanted my prayer answered. At one point Susan Griem asked me, “Aubrey, how can you deny this blessing from your friends?” That’s when it started making sense to me. God was there knocking at the door, asking me to let him in the whole time.

Aubrey insists the telling of her weight-loss story is not about her. It is about her Lord and Savior. Aubrey says, “This journey is not about having a beautiful body or being able to wear cute clothes. It is about my past history of giving in to sin. It’s about tearing down the walls that sin creates and becoming closer to my Savior. I want to live my life for my Savior.”

This story is not just about Aubrey. It is about how her church friends lovingly serve others without expecting recognition. It is about how God works through others to bless us.

“…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV

The Spiritual Journey of Aubrey Pirtle as recorded by Sandee

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Serve How?

Serve how? Are you sure?

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13 NIV

Joyfully! Now that is one tall order! Any of us can serve joyfully for a short time doing something we want to do that just happens to be of service. But what about serving in a way we do not want? What about serving when we would rather be doing something else? Isn't it good enough that we serve without complaining? Do we have to be joyful?

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

So do I really serve joyfully? It is easy to say “Of course” when I am sitting comfortably at home relaxing while I sip ice tea. And of course I can answer that I joyfully serve as I do volunteer work at church or in the community—well most of the time I am joyful—as long as things go as I want and as long as I am with my friends.

One solution to not serving joyfully is to just not serve at all. If it is not something I want to do with the people I want to be with, I just will not do it. But is that pleasing to God?

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 NIV

Whoops! That verse does not say anything about serving only when I want to serve. To make matters worse, my Savior served others without complaining even at great distress to himself and without his friends encouraging him.

“ just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 NIV

So we are to serve joyfully no matter what God calls us to do. We are to gladly serve doing whatever is needed whenever it is needed.

“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” Psalm 68:3 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, make me a joyful servant—no matter the task.

Need Church?

I did not think I needed church. It was amazing I even considered not sleeping in on Sunday morning and drinking several cups of coffee as I leisurely read the comics in the Sunday edition of the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. Making myself look good to others was the only reason I first attended the Benton United Methodist Church (as it was known then). I had taken the job of principal at the grade school, and I wanted positive exposure in the community. I wanted to meet people and to demonstrate that I was interested in the town. Little did I understand at that time, the decision to attend church with this congregation was God-directed and life-changing.

Even though I grew up in the church and accepted Jesus as my savior during childhood, my early adult years were not exactly exemplary. Yes I was a “good” person by society’s standards, but I was not attending church regularly, reading my Bible, or even praying except when my circumstances became difficult. I had no time for such things. I was busy living my life, having a fulfilling career, and watching out for my personal interests. My motivation for church attendance in Benton fit perfectly with my professional goals for community exposure. I had no intension of joining the church or of even becoming involved. I must admit that I felt I was far too busy educating children to participate in any of the church programs. However, God had plans for my life.
Over time our somewhat sporadic church attendance became more regular and important to Ray and me although we both remained very reserved in our participation. One week I started feeling an extreme dissatisfaction and an unusual need to talk with one of the ladies in the church. One evening I called the choir director to see if she would respond to a couple of religious questions. She did not answer the phone which I took as an omen that my religious convictions needed no enlightenment from anyone. However, God had created unrest in my heart which could not be extinguished.

The next Sunday as everyone was chatting and filing out of the sanctuary, I felt an irresistible urge to talk with the choir director immediately. This was very strange as we had probably not exchanged a dozen words during the previous months, and I had crossed her off my list of possible ladies to talk with about religion since she had not answered her phone when I called. I had to hunt her down and the words which came out of my mouth requesting a meeting were not what I had planned to say. She listened and proposed a time we could meet later that week. I will never forget that first meeting in her basement. It was the beginning of my spiritual growth. God had placed me in the hands of a person knowledgeable in how to study scripture. She taught me how to pray in ways and at a depth that I did not think possible. She nudged me into joining the church and becoming actively involved in church governance and ministry. I learned the difference between being religious and having a strong spiritual life through worshipping God. God worked a miracle in my life as a result of her skillful spiritual mentoring.
I have two questions. First, is God creating unrest in your heart? Is he telling you it is time for you to learn more about him? Ask God for a spiritual mentor. Our church has several strong Christian men and women who would joyfully and gently lead you into a closer relationship with our Lord.
Second, if you are strong spiritually, has God placed a person on your heart? Is God moving you toward mentoring a less mature Christian? Are you actively looking for someone you can encourage to grow in faith? Let the Holy Spirit work through you.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 NIV

The Spiritual Journey of Sandy Taylor as recorded by Sandee

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Focused on What?

It has been a challenging year. But that is not the issue. With every challenge there has been a blessing.

The past year has been full of changes. But that is not the issue. Each change has brought new knowledge, new understanding, and new personal growth.

The most difficult aspect of the past year is that I discovered my focus is wrong and must be changed if I am to live a productive Christian life.

In my eyes I have always had a servant’s attitude as we are commanded to do in the Bible.

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:26b-28 ESV

I have many times given unselfishly of my time and resources to serve the needs of others. I wanted what is right, what is good, what is best for society. I was driven to accomplish this task. But I was wrong.

I was not wrong to want to serve. I worked hard thinking I could make the difference and others would reward my effort. That is where I was wrong. Normally others only reward what they perceive as pleasurable or promotes their own agenda, not what is right. Sometimes doing the right thing meets the pleasure now criteria, but often it does not. The right thing is often hard work and requires the difficult process of making choices which delay gratification.

Yes I have made a difference, but no it has not been a significant difference. Much of my life and resources have been wasted. Instead of doing things in God’s power at God’s time, I did them in my power on my timeline. My life was too complex and too focused on bringing recognition to myself.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 ESV

I have spent the past couple of days in prayer and meditation. I have been away from the demands of home and focusing on God. He has confirmed what I have begun to see during the past few months. He must be the focus of everything, even the most mundane activities which occupy my efforts and time. Now the test is if I will turn loose of past habits and make the changes which God has made so clear. I know I cannot. Only the power of the Holy Spirit will change me from my overly busy, accomplishment oriented, “to-do” list personality to God’s servant doing only what is important for eternity. Only through the Holy Spirit can I distinguish what is Sandy and society oriented from what is important for God’s kingdom. Satan is deceptive and if given the slightest opening he will sabotage my efforts as he has done so many times before.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written,’You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Matthew 4:10 ESV

So this life is not about impressing the neighbors and our friends with all I am doing and accomplishing. It is about living in submission to my Lord and Savior.

Lord, keep me focused on you. Show me when Satan is employing his deceptive tricks. Make it clear when my motivations for a given activity are focused on me instead of on glorifying you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Will the Real Teacher Please Stand Up?

Two questions are on the minds of children as school approaches. Is my best friend in my class, and who is my teacher? Children know the next nine months will be pleasant, bearable, or challenging based on the answer to these questions. But who is their real teacher?

Who is exerting the most influence on the mind of your children? In today’s society this is no longer a question that can be easily answered nor one that parents can ignore. Being a parent today is so much more complex than it was just twenty years ago. Today the influences on children are not just parents, family, and friends. To keep your child safe, it is no longer adequate just to instruct your child to not take candy from a stranger. The stranger is lurking in your child’s pocket on his phone or residing in your home on your child’s laptop.

To be sure there are many things parents can do to keep their children safer. First, do not allow computer use behind closed doors. The computer should be in a very public location where the screen can be observed easily. If your child is changing screens every time you enter the room, investigate. Install filtering software on your computer. Know all of your child’s passwords. In some situations it may even be appropriate for the parent to be in total control of passwords.

Have you recently checked to see what is being said by your child and their peers on the social networking sites? What basic personal information is being disclosed to the whole world? What pictures are being displayed? Is the language and subject matter appropriate? Is your child using a pseudonym to keep you in ignorance? What are the passwords? Parents, you should know.

Phones pose just as much danger as an unmonitored computer. Do you have a filter on your child’s smart phone and iPad? These devices can access objectionable sights on the web just like a computer. Our children are very adept at texting. Are their phones affecting their mood and health because they are texting late at night thus not getting needed rest? Why do tweens and teens need to have a cell phone in their room after midnight anyway?

Yes being a Christian parent in today’s society is much more difficult than it was in the past. You say that you do not want to implement the above suggestions because you want your children to believe you trust them. Consider this. When you were growing up in a much less tech centered world and a much safer environment for adolescents, did you always follow the rules? Did you always do what your parents expected? Did you never let the influence of peers lead you to do something you should not have done? Did you keep secrets from your parents because you knew they would not approve of what you were doing? I had great parents who were proactive in providing an excellent environment and limiting my exposure to bad influences. However, I engaged in many activities which were not healthy and did not square up with my “good kid” image. Are you really willing to take the “I trust you completely” gamble? How much of your child’s mental, physical, and emotional safety are you willing to entrust to this tech infused world?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV

So parents, and the whole Christian community, need to be vigilant in guarding children and ourselves from the evil available through the use of technology while embracing the good that can be gleaned from it for the glory of God.
Lord, give us discernment to know what is safe and unsafe. Provide us protection from evil influences through the Bible, Christian accountability partners, and our local Christian family.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Life's Glove

Lifeless. Just lying on the dresser--

Waiting to be used.

Colorful, functionally designed.

Waiting for a purpose.

Naturally it fills with self--

Pridefully seeking gratification

Self-deception building up ego.

Pridefully doing as I desire.

Deceptively it fills with Satan

Deviously sneaky manipulation

Evil destruction reigns everywhere

Deviously creating havoc for all.

Lovingly filled by God’s grace

Bringing internal contentment

Serving others as God commands

Bringing meaning to life.

What is filling my life’s glove today?




Monday, June 27, 2011

Hurry Up

Those who know me best think I am hyper. Although I do have many of the characteristics of an ADHD person, I detest that label for me. I prefer to think of myself as high energy and efficient. I get a lot done. Never mind that I have two or three projects going at once as I juggle caring for my mother-in-law and run errands for my mother. Never mind that I seldom sit down to relax, and I never sit down to do nothing. Watching TV is a way too passive an activity for me to enjoy except on rare occasions when I am really tuckered out.

Some people are intimidated, or maybe irritated is a better word, by my need to be doing things. I am task oriented and like to mark things off my list. Lists--that is another issue. I make endless lists to keep myself focused on what has to be done today. Otherwise I get sidetracked doing the things I want to do versus the things that must get done. Of course I now have two items which are being repeatedly written on my daily list. I just do not seem to get around to doing them. Procrastination reigns if it is something I do not like to do or do not feel confident in my ability to do well.

Since May 20 this spring, I have been extremely frustrated. About the only thing I have been able to do is sit around. My left hip and leg just will not function correctly. Even though this part of my body is gradually becoming more functional, it is at an agonizingly slow pace. To do almost anything, I have to ask my beleaguered husband to help me. He is currently chief cook, dishwasher, launderer, house cleaner, and caregiver to his mother. He does not need to add meeting all my whims and needs to that list.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 NIV

Some people are so good at following this biblical advice. A wonderful, sweet older lady at church this Sunday inquired about how I was healing. I gave her the brief update of “I am doing better but am not nearly back to normal activity.” She asked how she could pray for me. I responded, “Pray that I can do God’s will—be right with him—throughout this ordeal.”

It is so easy to feel sorry for myself. My pain and extremely slow pace are so difficult. Yet I know that God will richly reward me if I stay focused on him.

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV

So I have to slow down and pay attention to what God is doing. He has made sure my “hurry up” mode of operation is virtually impossible.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” Psalm 37:7a NIV

Lord, thank you for slowing me down. Show me how to stay focused on you instead of the busyness of the day’s activities. Keep me close to you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Too Old

Today is my birthday, and I do not like it. Well, I take that back. I like having another birthday—cards, Facebook birthday greetings, and a gift or two are special. Another birthday means I am still living and enjoying family and friends. However, I am having a hard time with this birthday. Turning forty was fun. Turning fifty was a big joke in my mind. Over the hill at fifty—me?—not really. But this is my sixty-second birthday. Bummer! I do not have very many years left, and I am officially old enough to collect Social Security.

Now I have to face the reality that my life is more than half over. Yes, I know I can die at any moment. But if I do not contract a serious disease or have a major accident, my expected life span is about thirty more years. That is a sobering thought. What do I want to accomplish or experience before I die? The sobering part is that I will not have thirty productive years. Health and mobility issues for the eighty-year-olds usually limit what the older person can accomplish. So more than likely I have twenty “good” years. How do I want to live them? What is important to me? Scripture makes it clear that the things we humans tend to value are not the things God values. If the next twenty to thirty years are to be pleasing to God, I must intensify my focus on Him.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” Romans 14:17 NIV

I’m now old enough to collect Social Security payments although at a reduced rate. I guess I should be glad that money is available to me. It signals that I do not have to work anymore. Never mind that I have not worked for pay for four years now. I’ve been developing housewife skills and skills in caring for our elderly parents. I have learned so much about health care that I almost think studying to become a nurse would only be a review of my current knowledge. (That is an exaggeration, but I think you get the point.)

At some level, being old enough to collect Social Security makes me feel out-of-date, useless. I do not feel too old to be a productive citizen. I do not feel like I am ready to be "put out to pasture." However, the American society values youth and youthful leisure activities. What are we oldies supposed to do when we are too old to work? If we are too old to work are we too old to play? The entertainment industry seems to think the only way elders play is sitting back and sipping a drink. Even then, older people are often portrayed as useless and cantankerous.

I do not want to have the lifestyle of retired luxury. I do not want to sit on a cruise ship and sip iced tea. I want to be a productive, vital part of society. I want to be valued by the people around me—not looked on with pity because I cannot work or be productive.

I feel like I am thirty. Wait a minute. I have spent the better part of the past month in physical therapy because of an injury which has caused standing upright to be very painful. Maybe it would be more accurate to say I feel like I am forty-five. No matter, I know I still have something to offer those I love, my church, my neighbors, and society.

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 NIV

My Savior taught that we are to be servants. He did NOT say anything about retiring from servanthood at the age of sixty-two. Many of the Bible stories imply that older women are important and have specific tasks. At one point God even gives the older women specific responsibilities.

“Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:4-5 NIV

So, it seems clear to me that I am to stop focusing on the age and start focusing more on God and his commands. Age is irrelevant. Worshipping God is paramount.

Lord, take my eyes off worldly concerns. Draw me close to you each moment of each and every day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Remain in Me

I love being outdoors. I love growing flowers and vegetables. It is such a miracle to watch the plants grow and produce flowers for my visual enjoyment or veggies for my table. The modern grocery store has a wonderful variety of fresh healthy foods to choose from in the produce section. We are very blessed with an abundance of good fairly inexpensive healthy food; however, I still prefer the produce from my small garden plot. Veggies freshly picked from the garden are so much tastier than those bought in a grocery store.

Reflecting about the flowers and vegetables brought John 15 to mind. The fifth verse is one of my favorites.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NIV

In my front yard are a couple of crabapple trees. As I watched them flower this spring, it struck me that the beautiful blooms and small fruit are located on the branches—not on the trunk or root system of the tree. Isn’t that like our spiritual walk? We must be rooted in God and his love. He is the vine or trunk that supports us and gives us nourishment. I am a branch that is firmly attached to him. As I follow his commands and witness about him, I bloom in beautiful flowers of love and service to others. That love and service matures into nutritious fruit which God uses to sustain and encourage others--just as this winter I watched the birds feasting on the crabapples.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.” John 15:9-10 NIV

So God is my support, strength, and nourishment. If I want to flourish I must obey God’s commands and draw sustenance from his love.

Lord, create in me an unquenchable desire to remain in your love at all times.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

I am unhappy because I cannot do what I want to do when I want to do it how I want to do it. God, let's make a deal. You fix this problem and I will...

That is one way the scenario goes. The other common way I make deals with God plays out something like this. The problem, embarrassing situation, danger, or illness is really bad in my eyes. Only God can fix it, so I will make a deal with him.

God, if you _____ then I will…
…read my Bible every day.
…be nice to ____ who drives me insane with her selfish behaviors
…teach a Sunday School class
…never say a word in anger to my husband
…go on a missionary trip
…so on and so forth

How self-centered I am? My recent inability to use my legs as I normally do has slowed me down enough to cause me to reflect on my daily activities and attitudes. I have examined my priorities—my faithfulness to God’s commands and leading.

How arrogant can I get! I wanted to make a deal when the injury happened. Why would God stoop to making such deals with me? Why would God who has given me everything, including the air I breathe, need or want to bargain with me to get me to do what I should be gladly doing voluntarily?

How shallow can my faith be? When the deal making thoughts are written down, the shallowness of my faith in and love for God is evident. If God is calling me to behave in a certain manner, I ought to willingly do it. I should not have to experience a crisis in my life to remind me God is in control and I must obey him.

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” 1 John 3:7 NIV

So I should do what is right always--not waiting until I am in a problem situation. Not getting into the "let's make a deal" bargaining with God.

Lord, thank you for the pain in my hip and knee. Direct my activities and words. Mold me into the woman you want me to be, no deals necessary.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thank You

Today is Memorial Day—the day we officially honor our veterans by decorating their graves. Saturday morning I drove my mother to the various cemeteries where we have relatives buried. (For those of you who know I recently injured myself and cannot walk without some pretty significant pain, my friend Janice was also with us. She did all of the “leg work.”) Each year Mom and I take time to remember our ancestors and close family members who have already left this life. Each year we enjoy the flowers decorating the grave stones. Each year we proudly view the flags and briefly mention the sacrifice our soldiers have made to make sure the United States remains the land of the free.

It is a beautiful sight to see the flag displays at the entrances of the local cemeteries. Less than a mile from my house, there is a stately line of flags along the south side of the cemetery and a beautiful memorial with a single flag on the north side. It is an impressive sight and can be enjoyed by many as they travel down the highway to their recreational activities this weekend. I wonder how many give a moment of thought to what those flags represent—to the purpose of this national holiday.

This week my dear friend’s son was killed by an improvised explosive device while he was serving our nation in Afghanistan. Immediately the holiday weekend took a more serious tone. The meaning of this day of remembrance is intensified. I can express my sympathy to her and her family, but how do I express my sincere appreciation for the sacrifice they and so many other soldiers and their families have made so I can enjoy the “good life” as a United States citizen?

Thank You

Those two very important words seem so inadequate, maybe even inappropriate, today. But those are the only words which I can articulate.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV

Lord, thank you for our military personnel, both the living and those who have lost their earthly lives, who have fought so that we have freedom from a state sponsored religion—so that we can openly and freely worship you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I’d be complaining and telling God he is not being fair. I’d be like Job thinking calamity should not happen to me because I am a good person who worships God. I’d be desperately seeking ways to calm my troubled soul. But my good friend is relying on God and his strength instead of wallowing in self-pity. I am sure she has had her moments of asking why and telling God she is angry about the situation. But that is not where she has stayed.

Lorna has had a really bad week. Early in the week her elderly, ill mother went to be with the Lord. As the primary caregiver, Lorna has the bulk of the responsibility of planning for the funeral. Funeral planning for a parent is always difficult.

But worse was to come. On Friday the army chaplain visited her home. Her son had been killed by an improvised explosive device as he served our country in Afghanistan. No mother should have to plan a funeral for her twenty-five year old son. No one should ever have to plan a funeral for her son and her mother in the same week.

In a short email sent to people on our church prayer chain, she briefly stated her need for prayer this week. Her words speak of her faith in God—that she is relying on him for strength and direction. She wrote,

“We don't know about lots of things. But this I do know - and hold on to - that God is in control. He numbers our days. He cares deeply for us. The God who spoke this earth into being certainly has those who he created in His image in the palm of His hands.”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1 NIV

So even in the worst of times we are to rely on our faith in God.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

Lord, Be with this dear lady. Envelop her and her family in your protective love.

My Poor Husband

Okay. Okay. I have had too much time to think lately. Granted I have been thinking mostly about getting comfortable and managing pain. What has amazed me is how much a struggle it is to be nice. When I hurt, I want what I want and I want it right now. My patience is totally absent for anyone who does not do as I wish immediately. I could blame my impatience on the pain and lack of judgment caused by the pain medications messing with my mind. But would my bad behavior surface so readily if it was not deeply engrained? If at my core I was thoughtful, patient, and God-centered, my ugly behaviors would not be such a struggle. And why do my worst behaviors seem to emerge when I am with those I love most? Aren’t these the people who should see my best behaviors and be the recipients of my nicest comments?

Oh, my poor husband! I have tried. I honestly have tried to not be too demanding and to thank him when he meets my needs. However, I must admit when the pain is stabbing my leg, my words are a bit sharp and unappreciative.

“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

I suspect that unkind words said to people who love me and help me would qualify as being unwise, as living foolishly. As a matter of fact, several verses in Proverbs address the issue of a disagreeable wife.

“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Proverbs 21:19 NIV

So, since especially when I am out of sorts or do not feel well is the time my worst behavior displays itself, I need to let God’s love live in me. A woman with inner beauty is a blessing to her husband and to everyone she encounters.

“A wife of noble character is her husband's crown…” Proverbs 12:4a NIV

Lord, cleanse me of the selfish, self-centered behaviors I have displayed this week. Make me a beacon light of your love.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Osage Orange

The osage orange is truly a remarkable tree if for no other reason than it grows well in Kansas. Actually it grows too well. I’d almost call it a weed. Very few people appreciate this tree except for its use in a hedgerow for a field. That is why most of us call it the hedge tree.

In the hedge row it can pursue growth in odd shaped directions and drop those awful, sticky hedge apples (hedge balls in the farmers' vocabulary) all over the place. A few trees will become a thicket if the field they protect from strong winds is not regularly tilled. If you are wanting firewood that burns long and hot, hedge is perfect but beware of using it in a fireplace as it will pop embers.

We have a large male hedge tree in our backyard. It was there when we moved into our home on the edge of a small Kansas town. It has benefited from the irrigation system we installed and the fertilizer applied to the yard and garden. Recently we had Hummel Tree Service trim out the dead branches. What a difference that made! It is gorgeous and stately.

I have had some time to think as I have been slowly recovering from my back-hip-knee injury. What is important in life? What is just window-dressing? What is a total waste of my energy and time? Like that hedge tree, I need to have some dead wood removed along with some errant branches of temptation. Regular spiritual watering and feeding through Bible study, prayer, and association with Christian friends means I have a healthy relationship with Jesus. However, if I am to stand out as a well-formed, healthy Christian I must cut away that which does not belong in my life.

Surely it cannot be much. I am a good person living a good life.

"Ouch." There goes the branch of self-congratulatory pride. Okay God, let’s get the painful work done.

So what needs to be pruned?
  • The time wasters—those things which really do not matter
  • The things I do to boost my ego
  • My pridefully stubborn behaviors
  • My self-direction
  • My thoughtless behaviors towards others because I am too self-absorbed
“...That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’" James 4:6b

Lord, continue to show me the deadwood in my life. Remove the errant branches. Prune me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Puny Me

I am puny. Not that I like it nor want that descriptor attached to me. But I have to accept it right now.

From the first second I woke up Friday morning, my life changed dramatically. Thursday was a good day. I felt good, my days were happening reasonably close to what I planned, I was exercising, my yard looked good, I was keeping up on the housework and meal planning, and I was enjoying some hobbies. That all changed Friday morning when I heard Ray say, “Sandy, it is ten minutes after six.”

I was sleeping in an odd, contorted position, jumped at the sound of Ray’s voice, jerkily rolled, and came to rest in another very odd position. Pain poured through my body. Somehow I stumbled to the bathroom and then to the bed. Pain was running through my body but seemed to be centered in my hip even though my knee appeared to be rotated inward. So I "self-diagnosed" that I had a hip out of place, called the chiropractor, and arranged for my dear friend Roz to transport me to the 9:15 appointment.

The pain was excruciating, but the guilt of not being able to help Ray get his mother up for the day was worse. During a good day it takes two people to get her up. Friday morning she did not feel well and her blood pressure was unusually low. But somehow, Ray managed all by himself. At one point he came into the bedroom, gently smiled at me, and said, ”God is testing me this morning.”

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship…” 2 Timothy 4:5a NIV

The hip was not out of place by the time I reached the chiropractor. Maybe it slipped back in as I dressed. Maybe it never was out. Who knows? All I remember is the excruciating pain. The chiropractor’s instructions to ice the painful area and the administration of an ultrasound treatment did help a bit but by early Saturday morning, I was calling Janice, another special friend, to transport me to the emergency room. I actually told the x-ray technician she was running a torture chamber. I did say it nicely because I know her and respect her. I was trying to lighten the situation as I had been bawling and panting uncontrollably from the pain of lying on the x-ray table.

No broken bones were discovered which was not a surprise to me. Unless waking up in an odd position can break a bone, I had done nothing to warrant a bone injury. I was given a prescription for pain pills and told to contact my doctor on Monday. Monday morning another dear friend, Rita, took me to the doctor. He confirmed that it is not a bone issue, gave me some instructions, and prescribed more pain medication.

From my waist to my knee on my left side was a mass of pain Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday. By Monday I had improved enough that I could recognize specific areas of injury. The major areas of pain were confined to specific locations in my left buttock, hip, leg, and knee. I realized Monday morning that my knee was numb which concerned me because numbness may mean nerve damage. By Monday afternoon it had become obvious that the worst pain was caused by muscle spasms related to the position of my leg. With that discovery, I am able to start walking using a walker as long as my body is flexed at the knee, hip, and waist. I truly look like a little old gray-haired lady when I go from the recliner to the bathroom.

I am very thankful for my Christian friends and neighbors. It has been such a comfort to know I can call on them anytime when a need arises. My heart has been profoundly encouraged by their calls and offers to help.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 NIV

So to all our friends, please know it is unbelievably calming to experience your concern and generosity during this challenging time. Your love has motivated Ray and I toward having a positive outlook and inspired us to follow God’s direction.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Lord, thank you for the reminder that you are in control. Thank you for forcing me to recognize the many ways you care for and bless me each and every day (even during the challenging days).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Putting on the Show

We had tree problems so I called Hummel Tree Service for a solution. It was fascinating watching the three men take down a large tree in a small area, grind the small branches into mulch, cut to size the large branches and trunk, stack the logs in a trailer, grind down the stump, rake up debris, and leave the area in better condition than they found it.

While watching the process, I started thinking about how the life of that tree parallels my spiritual life. It is important not to stretch this kind of comparison to the point of being ridiculous, but this time the visual helped me understand my spiritual life better.

One of the trees was putting on a show of being healthy, but it really was a hypocrite. It looked good from the west, but from the east the rotting interior was obvious. As that tree was cut down, a squirrel came scurrying from the interior. In reality, that "pretty" tree was hollow, decayed, weak, harboring a squatter.

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13 NIV

That tree knew how to put on a good show. It looked good from the side I normally viewed it, from the side it wanted me to see. But inside it was rotten, void, empty.

How often do I put on the good show for others? I know how I am supposed to behave in most situations to be considered socially well-adjusted. I do not mean to be a fake, a hypocrite. I mean well, but if I am not regularly nourishing myself with God’s Word, my core will become rotten, unable to distinguish behaviors which are pleasing to God from behaviors which are pleasing to my selfish nature. Self-rationalization takes over instead of seeking God as my source of strength. The interior rot accelerates. No matter how hard I try to hide my sin from others, I will be unsuccessful. Eventually the rot will become exposed, even on the good side which I allow to be seen. Sin cannot be concealed or camouflaged forever.

This rotten-to-the-core tree even had a squirrel as a squatter. When my core becomes empty, hollow, that vacancy leaves room for sin to take up residence.

So I have two choices when I find my core hollow and sin seeking to lodge itself in my life. Either I can continue harboring unrepentant sin, or I can genuinely seek God’s forgiveness, guidance, and direction in overcoming the sin which has invaded me.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:11-12, 14 NIV

Lord, make me aware of any sin which takes up residence in me. Give me the strength and desire to eradicate it using your guidance and power.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pray for What?

Recently I challenged myself to pay careful attention to what I pray. It did not take very long for me to realize that my prayers are very self-centered. Now there is nothing wrong with praying for what is important to me and praying for the situations I will face today or in the near future. But I soon realized that my prayers for others, my prayers for spiritual growth, and my prayers for witnessing were minimal.

I admire Paul. He gave up success and prestige to preach Christ. He was greatly persecuted yet did not turn away from Jesus Christ. To help me get a better understanding of how to pray, I looked at some of the passages written by this remarkable apostle.

Paul prayed for the spiritual growth of his friends and colleagues.

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." Eph 1:18-19a NIV

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Eph 3:16-19 NIV

Paul desired for others to pray for his witness for Jesus Christ.

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Eph 6:19-20 NIV

"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Col 4:3-4 NIV

Various times Paul teaches that the Christian is to be thankful in all situations, but he also talks about being thankful as we pray.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Col 4:2 NIV

Although Paul must have prayed for his current physical and economic needs, they were not the major topic of his prayers. He was more concerned with others learning about the saving grace of believing in Jesus Christ as Savior.

So my prayers should focus more on the salvation of others, the spiritual growth of other Christians, and my witness not only to the unsaved but also to fellow Christians.

Lord forgive me for my selfish, shallow prayers. I want to grow spiritually so that I may pray sincerely for not only my current concerns but also for the spiritual growth of myself and others.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friendly Fire

This is one of the greatest battles women of faith experience according to Grace Hardy, the keynote speaker at Women in the Battle Ladies Retreat. And I whole-heartedly agree. Friendly fire from other Christians can cause immense emotional injury and sometimes result in tragic casualties--friendships forever lost.

David addresses the issue of friendly fire. He was betrayed and wisely instructs us about how to endure betrayal.

"But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God...My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant...Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:13-14, 20, 22 NIV

Biblical wisdom literature addresses this issue also. What are we to do when we are the cause of the hurt?

"If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!" Proverbs 6:2-3 NIV

I am not for sure I like this. It is hard to soothe the hurt feelings of another when I am still hurting. When the other person is not receptive or purposely continues to hurt me, it causes the emotional wound to become a gaping hole. However, I must admit that seldom am I totally innocent. With that in mind I need to make sincere apologies when I have responded to a hurt inappropriately. I also must make amends when my thoughtlessness injures another. Tough, tough, tough.

Either I will handle friendly fire the world's way or God's way. The important thing is that I do what is right in God's sight. If I do that he will bring me through the hurt and give me peace. I know that, but it is still hard to humble myself to respond correctly. It is so much easier to nurse my hurts, rehearse my well-justified response, and build my coalition team. However, gossiping and back-biting are sin.

God's word is very clear about how we are to address wrong.

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21 NIV

So it is important for the Christian to be an offense preventer by avoiding idle talk, forgiving, not being easily offended, and working to stop friendly fire.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18 NIV

Lord, give me the wisdom to know when my actions or words might cause injury. Keep me from being the cause of friendly fire.

Identity Crisis

If a stranger sees you shopping at Wal-Mart, Kohl's, or the grocery story, would that person identify you as a Christian? Could the stranger tell by your clothing, actions, and words that you proclaim Christianity as your religion and Jesus Christ as your Savior? This was a challenge giving to us by Grace Hardy, the keynote speaker at the Women in the Battle Ladies Retreat. Provocative thought.

We all take note of the people around us when in a public setting. If we don't, we should. It is unsafe to not take note of others in our vicinity. But that is generally all that I do--check them out to see if they appear safe. After hearing Grace Hardy speak, I have started to look, really look, at the people I encounter at Wal-Mart and in other public locations. Now I know it is not right to pass judgment on a person's spirituality based on a quick superficial assessment. However, as I observe them, I have started to wonder about their assessment of me. Do they perceive that I profess Christianity--being not of the world but only in the world?

What should be the observable characteristics of a Christian?

1. Self-control--Are my behaviors controlled and appropriate for the situation?

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11 NIV
"Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." Proverbs 2:11 NIV

2. Husband lover--Do I speak well of my husband and honor him by not inviting flirtatious conversations?

"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12 NIV

3. Quiet and gentle spirit--Do people notice me for my gentle confidence or my overt attention getting behavior?

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3a,4 NIV

4. Modest--Does my clothing display good taste without tightly forming to my figure or showing too much flesh?

"I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety." 1 Timothy 2:9a NIV

5. Neat--Who wants to emulate someone with a disheveled appearance?

"For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:33b-11:1 NIV

So do people see my Christianity as an act or as real? Do they see my Christianity at all?

"Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." 2 Corinthians 1:12-13 NIV

Lord, not only on the good days but even on the days when things do not go well, make my Christianity obvious and desirable to those who notice me as I go about my daily tasks in the public arena.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We too often are selfish, spoiled, and ungrateful. We grumble and complain when things do not go our way. We expect immediate reward--instant gratification. We want, want, want. But is this the right way to live--constantly wanting more possessions, achievement, recognition?

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, 'declares the Lord." Isaiah 55:8 NIV

What is the right attitude to achieve contentment? A powerful example of being contented in even the worst of circumstances is given in Acts. In ancient Philippi, Paul and Silas had been witnessing. The owners of a slave girl became very angry at them after they helped the girl. The slave owners complained to authorities.

"After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them...After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left." Acts 16:23-25, 40 NIV

Now that is contentment. They sang praises to God even in the worst of circumstances. When they were released, they visited friends and encouraged them. Paul and Silas did not gripe about their wounds, about their unfair treatment, or about how ungrateful the slave girl's owners were when they cured her. As a result, the jailer and his household came to a believing faith in Jesus Christ. They were an inspiration to Christian friends. And eventually the church in Philippi became a strong, productive Christian influence. All of this would not have happened had Paul and Silas behaved the way we modern Christians normally do.

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Isaiah 59:2 NIV

We are too busy sinning to receive God's blessing. We covet what others have, turn our desires into obsessions, blame and make demands on others, manipulate, connive, and do not enjoy the blessings we already have.

Happiness only happens through a contented, thankful heart. Being thankful is the cure for discontent. What if God took away everthing you have not thanked him for? Reflecting on this question has greatly impacted my thinking.

So we must cultivate a thankful heart in any and every situation.

Lord, forgive my selfishness. Imprint in my mind a realization that it is not what I want that is important, but it is knowing your ways are always best.