I'm so glad you stopped by! What you will find here are musings from my own personal Bible study, quotes from authors whose work I respect and other random items I come across. I am a Christian woman, the wife of a pastor, and the mother of four teenagers/adults. My deepest desire in life is to live a life that points those around me to the cross of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How do people without faith get through the painful times? I'm not talking about a rough day at work or a squabble with a family member. I mean those moments of anguish when the loss feels as though it is more than one can bear.

As I type this, Christmas day is ten days away. In the last two days, I have received news that a friend is dealing with the fact that her husband has announced his desire for a divorce and another friend lost her husband yesterday after a long, difficult battle with cancer. Both of them have their faith to fall back on. That doesn't make it easy for them. It simply means that they can fall into the arms of their Savior and let him bear the burden of the overwhelming grief that I'm sure they are battling.

I've spent quite a bit of time in prayer for both of these dear women and it's made me want to hold my own precious husband just a bit tighter. But it's had another interesting effect on me - I don't want anyone that I care about to EVER face tragedies like divorce or the death of a beloved spouse without a Savior. I am more aware of the need to share the hope of Jesus with those around me so that, when the storms of life come (and they WILL come) they can know they have an anchor that will not allow grief to sweep them away. But I fear I lack courage at times. I have never done well with the door-to-door mode of evangelism and I can get very tounge-tied when it comes to sharing what I believe with friends. So I'm praying for courage and the ability to share with those I care about so that they can know hope no matter the circumstance they find themselves in. After all, can I really live with myself if someone faces a tragedy without hope all the while knowing that I could have introduced them to the source of that hope?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The toughest thing about dealing with the enemy is he knows our weak spots; those places where it's easiest for him to do some damage and distract us. And boy did he hit a sore spot today! He got in there and messed with my thoughts in an area where he knows that I can easily be moved to self-doubt and self-loathing. With the holiday season in full-swing (and lots of demands on my time and energy) it was a quick trip from chastising myself for a plethora of mistakes to a pretty serious emotional funk.

But my God knows just how and when to step in! As I went to pick hubby up from his office, I spent some time in silent prayer. What's sad is I might have avoided the whole miserable feeling if I had dealt with the "stinkin' thinkin'" earlier in the day by praying! I'm a little slow! Anyway, when I picked hubby up, he noticed right away that something was "off". Without intending to, I spilled the whole mess in his lap. I had not planned to say anything because I seriously believed it would cause a complete meltdown if I admitted what I was feeling to anyone. I got home to find my house filled with the sounds of laughter. Not to sound overly dramatic, but it was just the balm my beaten-up spirit and emotions needed. With four teenagers in my house - three of them girls - it's not hard for them to find reasons to fuss at one another and there had been some minor level fussing before I left to get hubby. Arriving home and hearing them laugh with and enjoy one another could only be my Abba's timing. Then hubby announced that he was taking the family to McDonald's. No, it's not a fine dining establishment but it meant that my weary body and mind did not have to worry about making dinner OR dealing with the mess it would create in my kitchen. The burden lifted a little more and I quietly excused myself to the bathroom where I lost it. Tears of relief and joy ran down my face. In the laughter of my children and the spontaneous gesture of my husband my Heavenly Daddy reminded me that he loves me. Scriptures ran through my brain, reminding just how much he cares for me. The enemy had spent the day pointing out all the ways I had failed as a woman, a wife, and a mother. My Abba undid all of that in two simple gestures that reminded me that my kids are still a work in progress (so are hubby and I for that matter!) and that he cares about even the little details in my life.

The lesson I need to take away from this is so simple that I'm a little ashamed I haven't learned it already - the next time the enemy comes at me with a list of my failures, I'll run to my Daddy right away and not wait so long!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm a little ashamed of myself. On November 1st, I saw that a friend from my college years had started something she called 30 Days of Thankfulness. It's apparently something she's done for years and she decided to share it via Facebook this year. I decided to do the same thing. I even made it extra tough on myself by grouping my siblings, my parents, etc. I mean, I could have killed more than half of the 30 days if I had simply taken each sibling/in-law/parent/child/niece/nephew and given them each their own day! But I wanted to challenge myself. During the course of the month, I've been sick and stressed and I'm ashamed at how long it has taken me on some days to come up with something for which I was thankful. It really knocked me off the high horse I like to climb onto annually. From that lofty perch, I complain rather readily about how many people skip over Thanksgiving like it doesn't matter. I preach against being thankful only one day a year when we should be grateful each day. Yet I'm fighting to find 30 things to be thankful for! This is not good!

Monday, September 20, 2010

As adults, we like to think that we know more than the kids in our lives. When one becomes a parent, one quickly learns that God sometimes uses those precious gifts to teach us a thing or two!

My most recent "lesson-from-the-younger-set" came from two young ladies I've never met. My baby sister lives in San Antonio, Texas, and babysits two young girls each day while her oldest, my nephew, is at school. In other words, my sister is home each school day with three VERY GIRLY preschool/toddler aged girls! Being a "girly-girl" herself, my sister loves it. One of her young charges decided early on that all the girls were princesses and my sister was the queen - smart girl!

Got a phone call from my sister recently and she started with, "I knew you'd appreciate this." I settled in for a good story because that statement from my baby sister always means I'm about to giggle at the least or maybe get in a good belly laugh! She began - The kids were playing outside and the girls were playing princesses - of course! My nephew decided that he was only one prince and wasn't all that interested in dancing with any princesses so he was going to slay the dragon! The oldest of the young ladies got very perturbed with all of his "hi-ya"ing. She popped her hip out like we women can do, put her little fist on her waist, and told my nephew, "There's no fighting in princesses." He gave her a look and went back to his slaying. She told him again, "There's no fighting in princesses!" By this time I've got a visual of a little beauty in dress up clothes, looking ticked, scolding my nephew and I'm laughing hard!

The queen" - aka my baby sister - went on to tell me that she stepped in and explained that the prince needed to slay the dragon so it was safe to have the ball. This young lady was rather put out with his timing and still didn't think he needed to be fighting just then. In the midst of my laughter, I was struck with this thought - how often does my "Prince" go out to "slay the dragon" for me, only to get harped on by me because his timing wasn't ideal? We want our husband's to earn an income, keep the car running, take care of the mowing and shoveling, kill the bugs, unstop the toilets, take out the trash . . . whatever. Let's be honest, we all have jobs that we expect our Prince to handle for us!

What does our Prince Charming find when he comes home? His dragon may be long hours because the boss demands them. Or maybe it's inconvenient hours. (This would be the challenge in our home where hubby - a pastor - is never really "off the clock".) Maybe he has a nasty commute or there were computer problems and he wasn't able to get everything done that day. Whatever his "dragon", he went out there to contend with it for his "lady fair". He wants to know that we believe he can "slay" and "conquer" whatever is in front of him. Then he comes home. Does he find a loving "Princess" - or "Queen" if you prefer - who is grateful for the day he just put in? Or does he find someone looking and acting more like an ogre?!

Before any of the more "feminist" readers cry foul, let me assure you of a couple of things. I work outside the home and have crazy days as well. But my husband finds his sense of personal significance in doing well in his career, whereas it's just a job to me! When I attack him for that effort, I'm basically telling him that he needed to "slay the dragon" in a way that was more convenient for me.

I wish I could say that this is a lesson I learned years ago and I never blow it. Sadly, it's one I'm still learning. But I have committed - again - to making sure that hubby comes to a loving "lady fair" when he has slain each day's dragon!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

You know a sermon is good when you keep mulling it over for more than a week!

Hubby's sermon a couple of Sunday's ago was focused on Gideon. Not the whole story of what he did, or how God used him; his sermon focused more on the intial contact - when God first called Gideon to act. Picture it - Gideon is hiding in a winepress to thresh his wheat. The winepress was either constructed with walls high enough to hide Gideon or was actually dug into the ground deeply enough for him not to be seen. How do I know this? Well, scripture says he was hiding. The Midianites were known for destroying or take the crops of the Jews. Gideon wanted to keep the grain he was threshing so he put himself in a place of hiding. Being so contained while threshing probably meant that Gideon was breathing in all the chaff and dealing with the irritation it almost certainly caused his eyes. Got the picture? Farmer scared so badly he's causing himself discomfort to keep the enemy from messing with him and his crops.

Enter, the Angel of the Lord who says, "Hail, Mighty Man of Valor" (in the King James anyway). Excuse me? Mr. Scaredy cat? A man of valour?! In the NIV, this is translated as "The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior." Again - are you kidding me?! None of us, if we had a chance to see Gideon in those circumstances, would have called him anything close to brave or warrior-like! But God didn't call Gideon that because of what Gideon was doing at that point in time. God knew Gideon COULD BE a Mighty Warrior. God chose to speak his plan for Gideon into Gideon's life.

So what about you? What identity have you been given that you'd rather get rid of? What "names" weigh you down? I know I've come up with a few that hurt me more than a little and, quite frankly, I'd like to be rid of them! So I'm choosing to seek God and his "name" for me. I'm spending time in his word and in prayer to see what he calls me so I can move forward in that new direction. Time to get the heck out of the winepress!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sometimes, my children do things I don't like. Shocked? You shouldn't be. Yes, I'm a Pastor's wife, yes they are Pastor's kids. But they do occasionally screw up. Unfortunately, this time, the thing I didn't like was something that was convicting for me. While texting with one of my daughters, she caught on that I was a little frustrated. She surmised, rightly so, that the frustration had to do with a communication glitch between hubby and I. She proceeded to tell me that I might get further with him in expressing my feelings and needs if I didn't sound like I was complaining. Truth be told, that seems to be my default tone of voice when I'm frustrated. I apologized for getting her caught, however accidentally, in my frustration and ended the conversation.

But the Holy Spirit wouldn't leave it alone. I kept mulling over the concept of "complaining" all last night, all morning and into the afternoon today. And I didn't like it where the Holy Spirit took me. Or what it felt like to face the truth about myself. It's rough to have one of your children lead you to the place where you have to confront things about yourself that need to be fixed! Here's the epiphany I had (simple as it is!) - there is nothing wrong with expressing my needs and feelings as long as I do it with a loving, peacemaking attitude!! Ouch!! Wish I could say I found a magic pill to fix the problem. Truth is, I'll be seeking some scripture to memorize and meditate on to deal with this.

In spite of the fact that this was a slightly uncomfortable situation, there is a part of me that is thrilled that my daughter was strong enough to speak to me when I needed a loving slap upside the head. She managed to do it without being harsh and I honestly did not feel personally attacked by her statement. A little hurt, yes. But mostly guilty! I thanked her for having the courage to speak up and let her know that the Holy Spirit took her words and dealt with me pretty intensely today. Her response was, as I expected, understated. But it does my heart good to know that she's learning the importance of attitude and tone of voice. Even if she did learn part of the lesson through my mistake!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do you ever find yourself struggling to know what to say to someone who is going through a dark time? I'm living that right now. A woman I have gotten to know through various performing arts groups has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. They caught the cancerous lump early - Praise God! - but there is a chance some lymph nodes are affected and the cells surrounding the cancerous tissue shows signs that lead doctors to believe that she may get cancer again when she beats this (and she's convinced she's going to beat it!). I'm currently doing a theater production with her (providing her health holds up!) and her son and daughter. So what do I say to a family that has been hit by this whirlwind?

I know one thing I will not say. I will not quote Romans 8:28 to any of them! Before you brand me a kook, hear me out. When I was 18, I found out my dad was a drug addict. Still. I thought he had taken care of that when I was younger. His "drugs of choice" were painkillers. The easiest way for him to get his fix was cough syrup with codeine. Long story short, there are limits as to how much of that stuff you can by in a 48 hour time period and pharmacies track those purchases. Dad went back to one pharmacy too soon and got busted. At 18, engaged, getting ready to start my second year of college, it felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under my feet. I went to college - a Christian Liberal Arts institution by the way - and my life continued to get shaken up. Some "friends" just stopped talking to me after telling me that my dad could have just stopped if his faith had been more sincere. Some people who I thought were mere acquaintances became deep, abiding friends as they hurt with me and for me. Others, with the very best of intentions, drove me crazy quoting Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.

Do I believe that verse is true? Absolutely!! Do I think it's appropriate to share it with those who are hurting? Depends. Truthfully, I would avoid it for quite some time.

First of all, I think we misapply this verse when we say that scripture is talking about one specific person's specific pain (I may COMPLETELY misguided in my opinion but hear me out!). The verse refers to "them that love God" not "the one who loves God." Is it possible that this verse is talking about the overall scheme of things? That everything that happens to the body will serve to draw people to faith and bring God glory?

Secondly, let's say you share that verse with a friend whose mother is gravely ill. Let's say the friend's mother succumbs to her illness and dies. Are you trying to tell your friend that he/she should see this as a good thing? Or is it possible that information was gleaned during her treatment that will allow for better treatment and maybe even a cure someday? Maybe someone watched this family struggle and has grown in their faith because of how this family handled their suffering. It doesn't make the loss of her mother "good" but it does allow the family to find some comfort in the good that came out of such a dark time.

I believe that too many Christians - very well-meaning, I'm sure - throw this verse out as a "spiritual" way of saying "Everything's going to be okay." There is no happily-ever-after in this life. If there was, why would we ever want anything more! Bad things will happen to those who follow Jesus. Godly women will miscarry. Loving, praying mothers will watch their sick children die. Men of God will watch their wives abandon the home in search of "fulfillment".

I believe that Romans 8:28 is meant to be a reminder of a statement made in the very first sentence of a book that has become well-known in Christian circles: It is not about you. We may never know why we suffer certain things in this life time and God does not owe us an answer for any of it. The truth of Romans 8:28 does not change even if we feel like what's happening to us is not good at all! God will do good things in and through the church and he will do it even when we suffer. We cannot see how our little piece of history fits in the scheme of eternity and it's arrogance to even attempt to do so.

I'm reminded of a poem my mother loves, entitled "The Weaver." I apologize to the author for not including his/her name as I was unable to find it:

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot chose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oftimes He weaves with sorrow,
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reasons why

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.

So what do you say when you don't know what to say? How about being truthful? Tell the person that you don't know what to say but that you are there for whatever they need - a shoulder to cry on, a hot meal, a time of prayer . . . whatever. A hurting friend doesn't need pat answers or well-worn cliches. They simply need a friend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I've had a fascinating experience in the last few weeks. Nothing profound, really. Just something that proves some things I've read to be very true. In an earlier post, I mentioned the CHAIRS acrostic. I've been living the reality of just how much men LOVE that relational thing -the shoulder-to-shoulder bonding time.

Just before we went on our vacation earlier this summer, I asked hubby if he would be willing to show me some exercises I could do using his weights. Mind you, I was looking for some simple tips that I could then put into practice on my own - since my track record for exercising alone is soo stellar (hope you caught that sarcasm)! He took my simple request and put together a three-day-a-week workout routine for the two of us to do together. Mind you, the weight bench he has is set up to be used if you don't have a spotter. It has all sorts of safety mechanisms in place that allow you to work out alone if you so choose. Hubby wouldn't have it! When we got back from vacation, we got to work.

To me the workout nights are a means to an end. Believe me, I don't enjoy the sweating and achy muscles that go along with it! If you want to know for sure if your husband loves you for who you are or for what you look like, work out with him. If he can still find you attractive after a work out, it's the real thing. My husband, on the other hand, is postively energized by the fact that we work out together. He's never let us miss a night - and believe me, there have been a couple of times that I would have blown off the exercise if it wasn't for him telling me it was time to work out! - and he confided to me the other day that he can't think of anyone he'd rather work out with than me.

Mind you, I'm not athletic. I was a performing arts geek in high school - band, choir, drama - and he was a year-round athlete. I bring no competitive or athletic skill to our workout time. The weights I lift are laughably small compared to what he's able to do. So why does he enjoy our time together so much? The answer, provided by him, is simple. He's doing it with me. We're sharing time together doing something that is much more his "thing" than mine and it thrills him. The workouts never take terribly long. And, as I said, I'm sticking in there because there I've seen some glimpses of an improved physique. But I do love the fact that something as simple as working out with the man makes my husband feel great!

He drove this point home in another way just this past weekend. He's playing on a softball team that is participating in two concurrent softball leagues. They had a double header this weekend with the co-ed league they are in. Hubby must have asked me five or six times if I was going to his games. I finally asked him why it was such a big deal if I was there or not. He'd be in the dugout, I'd be on the bleachers . . . I didn't get it. His answer was a little surprising - "I'll know you're there and it will mean a lot to me. Besides (insert boyish grin) - I kind of like showing off for my girl." (Did I mention he's a really GOOD softball player? Might have something to do with the fact that he played baseball in college!) Can you guess where I was Sunday afternoon and evening? That's right - sitting in the bleachers, cheering on my hubby! Were there things I could have done with that time that I might have enjoyed more? Probably. Would it have been a more efficient use of my time to stay home and do laundry or scrubbing my kitchen counters? Some might say so. But it was worth it to me to sit on those bleachers watching him play a game he really enjoys just because I knew it would let him know that he matters to me more than any other human being.

Loving others - truly meeting their needs - is never easy and rarely convenient. Will you look for opportunities to meet the needs of those around you in a way that means something to them rather than meeting their needs in a way that would mean something to you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

I've heard it said a number of times that when you see the word "therefore" in the scriptures, you need to look at the verses prior to that word to see what the "therefore" is there for. Hebrews chapter 12 follows what many call the "Hall of Faith" or "Faith Hall of Fame". Men and women like Abraham, Sarah, and Moses are mentioned along with the faith they displayed. Then they are called out witnesses. Powerful statement. In other words, with the Spiritual heritage and legacy they have provided, let's get moving!

In my college days, I fell in love with a song by Steve Green entitled "Find us Faithful", the lyrics of which beautifully captured the truth of this Hebrews passage:

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize.
But as those who've gone before us,
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through Godly lives.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.
To a student at a Christian college, constantly challenged to shake up the world for Jesus, this song was heady stuff! But there was one very important secret no one shared with me. I've learned it over the years as I've said my good-byes, far to many good-byes in my humble opinion, to those who have indeed left a legacy of faithfulness in my life.
The truth of this song hit me again this past week as I found out that one of the full-time staff members from Camp Barakel had slipped into the arms of her Savior after a 10 year battle with cancer. Barakel was a part of every summer for me. I attended there as a child, volunteered there one week in early high school, and went on to spend three summers there as a member of the part-time staff. Mama Liz Wideman was a cook. She had hugs to share with all who needed them (as many as you needed), the patience to work with a new batch of volunteers in her kitchen every week for 9 or 10 weeks, and a smile that was never far from her face. Plus she could make a pretty tasty sticky bun! She didn't speak to millions at a conference, she didn't publish best-sellers, she didn't meet with dignitaries. For nearly three months in the summer, she became surrogate mom to the college and high school students who volunteered their summer months to Camp Barakel. The impact she left on those lives is far reaching. And she did it in a kitchen.
As I've reflected on her passing this week, I've been moved to sort of "review" my own personal "hall of faith". I've thought about those who are no longer present on this earth who make up my own personal cloud of witnesses. It's one of the tough parts of growing up - the adults who mattered to you as a child and a teenager tend to leave this life before you're quite done enjoying them!
There's Ethel Schultz. She and I shared a birthday and she told me that meant that God intended for us to be special friends. Mind you, I was in third grade when she told me this and Ethel was of an age to be considered elderly at that point. She passed away when I still fairly young, bed-bound and able to do nothing but lie there and pray. But boy did she pray! And I know mine was one of the names that she carried before the Lord each day. Believe me, that impacts a young life!
Dick and Karen Fether. They were members of the first church my dad pastored. Dick was a farmer with a penchant for deer hunting and he was, for quite some time, our landlord. Karen could can just about anything and was pretty skilled in the kitchen. Whether it was venison dropped off at our house or an invitation to hang out in their pool, they were steady friends. Always ready with conversation, a helping hand, or a smile. They helped in the church with whatever they could and were dear friends to my family. We left that church when I was a sophomore and I eventually lost track of them. But their quiet, "everyday" faith left an impression on me.
My husband's mentor in ministry, Dr. Frederick Moore. He was the perfect person to come along side an eager young husband and father who was stepping into his first ministry leadership position. Pastor Fred suffered from rare genetic disorder that left him with hearing loss, severe vision issues, and chronic pain 24 hours a day for which there was no relief. Yet he constantly wanted to know how you were doing and I never heard him complain. His impact on my husband's life was such that my son bears the middle name of Frederick in his honor. To this day, I see glimpses of his influence in how my husband preaches and ministers.
Denelle Vischer and Jo Oechsle. These ladies were adopted grandmas to anyone in our small town church that needed one. And praying? These ladies did it with a steadiness that I wish I possessed! You could always count on a welcome smile from either one of them and I benefitted more than once from the stash of cookies in Jo's kitchen! They didn't cure diseases or travel to exotic locations as missionaries. They simply shared love in very practical ways and made the teens in our church feel like we mattered.
"Grandpa" Oechsle. He wouldn't give me a bulletin on Sunday mornings until he had gotten a hug. He used to call me "Little Alma" because he said I looked like my great-grandmother, a woman I had never had the chance to know. I'll never forget the day he met my oldest daughter who was just a few weeks old at the time. He put his arm around me, gave me a squeeze, and said, "Alma would be proud." I never doubted for one moment that Grandpa Oechsle was proud of me too.
My grandfather, Dale Redfield. A famer who never went to college, my grandfather occupied his time by driving a fuel oil truck, gardening, driving school bus, going to the sporting event and fine arts activities at the local high school, and even serving on the school board for a time. He befriended people of all ages and was well-loved for it.
There are also those who are, I believe, still with us who left a significant mark on my life during those critical teen years when I needed to know that I had a purpose, that I mattered. I was blessed to have a church full of adults who did just that - Hoz and Chris Vischer, Frank and Sandie Johnson, Larry and Thanna Oechsle, Mike and Debbie Vischer, Tim and Debi Gale, Mary Redfield (my grandmother), Bob and Sharon Lambes Harold Vischer . . . I could go on for pages! They aren't internationally well known. In the eyes of the world, they aren't wealthy. But when I look at what's become of my generation from that church, they made a difference. A number of those I grew up with are still faithfully attending church and growing spiritually. We are pastor's wives, music ministers, sunday school teachers . . . we are active in our local body and it's due in part to the people in our past who poured themselves into us spiritually and let us know that we had a purpose and they were excited to see us fulfill it.
The challenge is daunting. So many people have poured into my spiritual growth in a desire to see me do the same with the future generations. My earnest prayer is that I can pass on even just a small piece of what they have placed in me. It's the best way I can think of to honor the legacy they left behind.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Words are powerful but the way they are delivered is even more powerful. I've frequently prayed the quick prayer of "Lord, keep one arm around my shoulders and your other hand near my mouth!"

In James 3:9 it says, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness." I'm sure none of us would ever intentionally "curse" those we love. But when our words are laced with hatred, when we snap at those we love, are we not causing our words to have the same effect as a curse? All of the communications seminars in the world will not help us in our day to day lives until we strive to watch the way we use our tongues around those who mean the most to us.

This is an area that I feel constantly challeneged to work on - gaining control of the tongue!! If I can learn to speak lovingly to those whom I live with - which also makes them the ones most likely to catch me at my worst! - then I will have begun to, as James says, "able to keep the whole body in check (James 3:2)".

As you may have guessed, this is seriously relevant to where life is right now. I need to learn to slow down, think twice (or three or four times) before speaking and focus first and foremost on making sure that my words are laced with love and grace.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sorry I've been so absent! Summer has brought with it a whole new set of challenges. My eldest is still in classes - her cosmetology school does not take a summer break - and I'm teaching some private voice and piano students which means more running around for mom. Add to that the fact that all three of my girls are working part time jobs this summer and we have only one vehicle to make it all happen, to call the situation a little crazy might be an understatement!

But I have been reminded of a very important thing in the last few days. We are preparing to head to Michigan for our family vacation (as I type this, it is just past midnight on the 24th - we leave at about 3:30 this afternoon!) where we will see both of my sisters and their families as well as my parents. Sadly, the oldest cannot come with us. Technically, she could, but it would add a month on to her schooling since she would have to retake the four week course she is currently in if she misses a week. She's more than a little sad that she can't go and my other three kids have been counting down the days for awhile.

Why does any of that matter? My kids - all of them teenagers - are looking forward to spending time with aunts, uncles, cousins (all of whom are younger) and grandparents. That's not typical for this day and age. When I ask them why they enjoy these get-togethers so much, most of the answers come out in the form of inside jokes. Over the years, we've played lots of games together, laughed alot, cried some, and even argued ocasionally. But somewhere in all of that my kids learned that laughing together helps build a bond. Somewhere in the ups and downs, the cross country moves that make trips like this rare treasures, the adults in my family have communicated to my kids that they matter.

It might be the baking weekend get-togethers around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday's. This is our very own "rite of passage" for the women of our family. You are not included until the holiday season of your 8th grade year which then makes you a "woman" as far as the family is concerned and earns you the right to be involved in all of the "women only" activities that we are able to put together. It might be the ease of internet communication that has allowed my kids to stay in touch with the older generation via facebook and e-mail. But I'm pretty convinced the answer is simpler than all of that.

My sisters and my parents have given my kids the one thing that matters most - time. They've talked with them, played games with them, read to them, taken walks with them . . . they've spent time getting to know them as individuals. I think kids need to know that they matter to at least one other person besides their parents. And my family has provided that for my kids in spades!

My kids keep confirming this belief in the importance of time with their frequent requests to play a game or watch a movie as a family. To the truly competitive, our game playing can be a little frustrating since our goal is ALWAYS to have fun which usually means the game slows down a bit to allow for the laughter. What inspires the laughter? Any number of things but I'm sure none of them would make any sense to anyone outside of the family. Just say Juan Valdez or the Kentucky Derby around my kids or my extended family and there will be giggles and maybe even a red face or two depending on who's in the room. You wouldn't get it but that's okay. Hopefully your family has those too - things that leave you all in stitches and leave outsiders clueless.

Kids ask for a lot of stuff - ipods, game systems, the latest internet capable cell phone - and the media does a fantastic job convincing them they need all of it. But when my kids talk about the memories they cherish, I don't really ever hear them refering to the time they got the newest/latest/greatest gadget, gizmo, or toy. The favorite memories or best laughs come from the people who have taken the time to show my kids that they matter; that there are those besides mom and dad who genuinely enjoy their company.

So if I'm absent for the next several days, please forgive me. I have three nephews and a niece ranging in age from 3 to 8 and I plan on spending the next week and a half letting them know that "Aunt Moj" is absolutely crazy about them! It's been way to long since I've hung out with them and I need me a fix! I'm off to go read books, tickle some little ones till they can't breath, and cuddle with those that will sit still long enough to humor and old lady. Once the munchkins are in bed, the grown-ups get some play time. Just hope we don't wake the little ones up with all the laughing!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Thought I would share a challenge I am taking part in over the summer! It's all about being the "helpmeet" that our husbands need. If you are like me, you may have the best of intentions but then life takes over and the stress of the urgent can sometimes wear us out to the point that we allow ourselves to neglect the man that means the most to us! How about you? Are you up for a challenge? Here's the link!


Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Feminine Friday again! (Hair is still in a towel, thus the headless picture!)Truthfully, it's getting to the point that outfits including more "feminine" attire are becoming the norm for me. I include things like skorts and split skirts since hubby would NEVER wear either! My biggest challenge is the fact that I've had to get rid of a few tops that have just gotten old and worn out over the years. Have plenty of t-shirts but those don't exactly work with most of my skirts! Working on building up the skirts and tops part of my wardrobe. I guess you could say I'm almost to the point where dressing like this is a lifestyle now. I'm committed to anything that helps enhance a behavior that is more appealing to hubby!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hubby's sermon this past Sunday was entitled "Going Beyond One Mile" and was taken from Matt 5:38-42: You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

This passage is tough to deal with no matter how you approach it. No one wants to suffer treatment that they feel is unjust. We are all quick to seek or at least desire revenge. Be that as it may, I had an "aha" moment as hubby was preaching.

He focused on the last portion of the text for much of his sermon (which is kind of obvious from the title I guess!). There was a law in the Roman Empire than any citizen of an occupied territory could be made to carry a Roman citizen's burden one mile. Jesus is telling his followers to go farther than the law demands. In one of his illustrations of what "second mile" behavior would look like, he made this statement - I need to be willing to sacrifice "my rights" for Jesus. In other words, stop focusing on me and what "my rights" are and seek to show a behavior that is NOT focused on revenge or even self-preservation.

The more I think about the concept of "my rights", the more I am struck by the fact that an attitude of "looking out for number one" is probably at the core of every relational conflict I have ever experienced. I don't like it when I have to do more work around the house than my family members, I certainly don't like it when hubby gets to go have fun with friends (usually on a golf course) while I stay at home cleaning/doing laundry/being responsible. After all, I have my rights! Wow. If I could just get my focus off of myself and what I feel my rights are, if I could start looking at each dish that is washed, each floor that is swept, as an act of love and service - as a "second mile" response - I might find myself being far less touchy and defensive. And I know my heavenly Father would be pleased with "second mile" behavior that ministers to those he has placed in my home!

If only the lesson were as easy to apply as it is to think about! I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to another one of those things I have to commit to each and every day! A magic pill would be so much easier!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Welcome to Feminine Friday!

It's confession time - up until this week, Feminine Friday has been relatively easy for me in the couple of months I've been doing it. For the last few months, I taught music two afternoons a week at a Christian school and one of those afternoons just happened to be Friday! This made it much easier to decide to dress up since I needed to look nice for work anyway! But I officially wrapped up my year last night at our Spring program. I got up this morning and decided I've had fun doing the "girly" thing and was doing Feminine Friday again! So here's today's picture (I chopped off the head because I've been running errands on a slightly windy day with occasional sprinkles so the hair has not survived well AT ALL!) Truth be told, I've worn skirts or dresses more often than not in the past few weeks. As I've said in earlier posts, I just behave differently! I guess clothes really do make the woman!

Earlier today, I was thinking back to a conversation I had with a friend during a theater production we were doing together. This man does not attend church and frankly feels no desire to do so. I tell you that only to emphasize the fact that his statement was not coming from a religious/faith-based background. During a discussion about relationships and the troubles they face, he looked and me and said the following -

"Forgive me if this sounds sexist, but the feminist movement has not done you ladies any favors when it comes to relationships." He went on to assure me that he was all for things like equal pay for equal work, etc., and that he believed women were equal to men in intelligence, ability, and the like. When I asked him to explain what he meant, he had this to say: "Feminism encourages you to play down the very thing that we men find so appealing. You lose all of your power when you put aside your femininity. It doesn't make you weak when you are softer or more "girly" - it makes us want to move mountains for you! Why can't women understand that our need to protect you is not an indication of how weak and useless we think you are, but an indication of how valuable you are to us?"

Ironically, after a few decades of trying to beat men down and prove to everyone how worthless and flawed men are, there seems to be a movement back to more "old-fashioned" roles. The book entitled "The Surrendered Wife", which talks about a return to more "traditional" roles in the marital relationship, was NOT written from a faith-based or religious perspective but rather from the point of view that men and women have needs that are unique to their genders and we get along better when we celebrate those differences and work together lovingly rather than trying to deny the differences exist. I've met a number of women both in person and via the internet who are looking at what is happening to the state of marriage in our nation and saying "enough".

I'm going to share with you an acrostic that I found in a book entitled "Love and Respect". This acrostic helps me remember the needs that are most vital to my husband and focuses my attention on meeting those needs. (Warning: I do recommend the book I just mentioned but only if you are SERIOUS about being confronted!)

Here's the acrostic:

C - Conquest (in other words, he wants to "slay dragons" for you!)

H - Hierarchy (to be "first among peers")

A - Authority

I - Insight

R - Relationship (but not in the way we think, ladies!)

S - Sexuality

I won't attempt to go into these in-depth. I wouldn't do the book justice. But if I can focus on protecting these areas in my relationship with my husband and let him know that I see and appreciate his efforts, he feels respected and I have helped build him up.

As much as I may not like it, the purpose of marriage is not to make me happy. I am called to focus on meeting my husband's needs. It's taken far longer to get here than I would have liked. But I'm going to make sure he is taken care of and trust God to see that my needs are met.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just off of my kitchen is the master suite. This creates an "L" shape to the back of the house and the builders placed a deck right in the corner of that L. Just to the left of the door that leads onto the deck is a light which I can see from the window above my kitchen sink. Truth be told, that door and light are just around the corner from the kitchen sink so I have a pretty detailed view of the light.

So what's the big deal about a light? Earlier this Spring, a Robin began building a nest right on top of that light. I watched her build it and, since I teach two afternoons at a Christian school that is literally just out my back gate, I have been guilty more than a few times of spooking her from the nest when I would leave the house by the back door. Yesterday, she didn't leave when I went out. She got a little agitated and I think she thought about leaving, but she just ruffled her feathers and settled back into the nest as soon as I was off the deck. As I returned home a few hours later, I looked up at the nest and saw a little head, beak wide open, wobbling just above the edge of the nest! It was all pink, no sign of a feather anywhere, and I was more than a little excited. I jumped on the internet to do a little digging and my best guess is that the babies were born at some point yesterday. Over the course of the last 24 hours, I've had the chance to see them peek their little heads up a time or two and even seen a couple of feedings.

Why my sudden obssession with these birds? I'll be honest - I'm not what you would call a nature lover. I have tent camped and about a week without a bed and a real kitchen is all I can handle! I'm not a pet lover and do not miss having them in my house. But I've been drawn to watch over these dumb birds! When I don't see mama or daddy bird around, I worry that the babies are not going to stay warm enough (although the nest gets quite a bit of sun so they are probably fine!). I almost experience a sense of relief when I see that they are being fed. For some reason, it matters to me that these little guys (or girls) make it.

As I've watched the bird family on my back deck, the Lord has brought to mind Luke 12:24 - "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds!" I come from a long line of worriers and, though I know all that the Scriptures have to say about worrying, I still struggle to keep those whispers of anxiety at bay. But I'm coming to the realization that worrying really exhibits a lack of faith in the goodness of God. I am valuable to him - of course he's going to take care of me! Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't plan and prepare for events. I'm not saying that we should simply let life happen and deal with the fall out. Either of those would make us poor stewards of the resources God has blessed us with. But there is a difference between preparing and losing sleep over factors one cannot control.

As I sit here typing this, I am struck by the fact that something as simple as a bird's nest with new babies - something happening in numerous places all over the world - could strike me as "profound". It's just one more piece of evidence that God really does place lessons in front of us that will resonate most clearly with the way he designed us - yet one more example of how well he takes care of those he values!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Have you ever had a sermon that stuck with you for days? I mean, no matter how hard you might try, something from the sermon just kept coming back into your mind over and over again? That's been my week. Granted, it's only Tuesday so to say that I'm still mulling over the sermon from two days ago may not seem like a big thing. Bear with me.

Hubby's sermon this past Sunday was a continuation of his current trek through the Sermon on the Mount. In it, he shared the story of a Pastor who was new to town. The Pastor got on a city bus and paid his fare. Once he had taken his seat, he discovered that the bus driver had given him a quarter extra in change. There was the typical depate with self - it's only a quarter, who would ever know? - but the Pastor returned the extra quarter when he got to his stop. The bus driver said, "You're the new Pastor in town aren't you? I've been thinking about coming to church but I want to know that I can trust the Pastor I'm listening to. I want to know that he's an honest man. I'll see you Sunday, Pastor." The Pastor got off the bus, a little weak in the knees, and leaned against a nearby lamppost where he whispered a quick prayer - "Forgive me, Father. I almost sold out your Son for a quarter!"

I've heard it said that everyone has a price and for some people, it's pathetically low. So I've been wondering - what's my price? What would it take to convince me to "just coast"? To simply get through each day and not think about the example I'm setting?

It's no secret that I've been working through what the Bible has to say about marriage. As I think about what "my price" is, I can't help but look at the question from my position as a wife and mother. What would it take to get me to focus on my own needs and ignore what my husband and family need? What is my price for being a disrespectful, rebellious woman? Proverbs 14:1 tells us "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." So what is my price? What would it take to get me to tear my own house down?

There are those in the world that would actually encourage the kind of thinking that would tear my house down. After all, my husband and I are equals, right? I should have the right to make decisions and point out every time that he is wrong. Before any die-hard feminists put together a lynch mob, hear me out. Yes, scripture teaches that all people are equal in the eyes of God - Galatians 3:28 says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." But scripture also tells me that God intends for my husband to be the final authority in the home, not me: "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:23-24)"

So what's my price? Simple: the ability to indulge my own self-centeredness. I would sell out my God-given responsibilities to submit to my husband, to show him respect, and to set an example for the young ladies living in my household for the ability to be self-indulgent. Coddle my selfish nature and I will sell out. I would give up eternal blessings, peace in my home, and the ability to grow spiritually simply for the chance to be selfish. How pathetic! I have a price and it's not very high!

I wish I could find the secret to making this whole thing easy. I wish I could simply "flip a switch" or read the right book that would make submitting and surrendering easy. But nothing worth having or doing every comes easily. Each day, I must purpose in my heart that, with the help of my Heavenly Father, I will choose to submit, choose to show respect for the man that blesses my life in so many ways, and live a life that pleases my Abba. There is no way to do this except to take one day, or even just one step, at a time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obedience is hard. Before you rush down to the "add comment" button and type in "DUH!", let me explain why I make such an obvious statement. The Holy Spirit has really been hammering on this topic in one particular are of my life - my relationship with my husband. The scriptures are very clear on a few things when it comes to a marriage relationship -

Eph. 5:22 says: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (This command also shows up again in Eph. 5:24 and Col. 3:18)

And Eph. 5: 33 reads: However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (emphasis mine).

Argue with it, claim it's sexist, tell me that there are "hidden meanings" - whatever. All I know is, my Heavenly Father has commanded me to submit to my husband and to show him UNCONDITIONAL respect. I see no clauses, no exceptions and I've decided to stop looking for them. But why is it still so hard to obey these commands?

Simple. A lack of faith combined with a severe case of selfishness. I don't like admitting that. I'm a pastor's wife, after all. I'm not supposed to have a weak faith! But if I believe that God gives good things to his children, if I believe that my Heavenly Father has put commands in place that will bless my life and not curse it, shouldn't I want to obey? The fact is, I struggle most with these commands when I begin to worry about who is going to see that my needs get met. My husband needs my respect and he needs to know that I trust his position of authority in our home. When I focus on obeying my Father and meeting my husband's need, there is peace! I cannot say that my needs are always perfectly met but I know that my Father is pleased with my behavior.

I am renewing a commitment to be submissive and respectful. Not because my husband is perfect, not out of a desire to get him to meet my needs, not even so other wives will think I'm self-sacrificing. I want to be obedient. What about you?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Another Feminine Friday is upon us! This week, I went with a split skirt and top - hubby actually helped pick out this outfit! (Please forgive the remnants you can see of laundry yet to be put away!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's another Friday and, as you may have read in an earlier post, that means Feminine Friday around here! Going to try and actually get pictures of this weeks outfit so I can post them!

I keep coming back, on a personal level and in my quiet time/meditation time to the issue of how one dresses. I've kept a "mental log" so to speak of my own behavior on those days when I wear skirts vs. my behavior on days when I wear pants or shorts. Truthfully, I find that I'm just a slight bit more productive when I dress feminine. I know - my militant feminist acquantainces would rise up in anger at such a statement. Even my own daughters have commented that they wish the world would go back to the days when women wore dresses. I've spent some time trying to figure this out and I think I might have stumbled across something.

I work part time outside of my home and there is a certain expectation that I will follow certain parameters when dressing for work (I teach two afternoons a week at a small Christian school and dress accordingly!). When I wear skirts/dresses at home, I find myself approaching my day with a more "work-like" mentality. It's as though the way I clothe myself provides motivation for getting tasks done around the house.

The challenge for me is the fact that I don't have a large selection of casual skirts/dresses to choose from for days when there is lots of cleaning or laundry to do. But I'm working on that!

At least for me, dressing feminine more often than not is becoming the norm. Granted, it's warm weather and there is no danger that I will get chilly wearing dresses and skirts right now! But with the way my thinking and attitude are affected by how I dress, this may become something I do more than just on Friday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Perspective is an amazing thing.

As I said in a previous post, I broke my toe on Friday (as I sit here typing, it is now Monday). On Saturday, I had two kids with hair appointments at two very different times. My oldest had to be picked for her lunch break and then dropped back off at school (side note - she's enrolled at the local cosmetology school and she was the one doing the haircuts for the two kids mentioned earlier!). Add to this some grocery items that needed picked up, a concert performance that my youngest daughter, Janessa, and I were doing Saturday night . . . it was a busy day and that, combined with the pain in my toe, was making me one very cranky mommy. And I wallowed in my crankiness! After all, I didn't deserve the broken toe. Hubby got to go golfing and have fun with friends while I ran kids from one thing to the next and did laundry and ran to pick up stuff for dinner . . . pity party in full swing folks!

At a little after 3:30 p.m. I was leaving the house - yet again - to go pick my eldest up when her day was over. As I pulled out of the driveway, my youngest daughter, who was spending time hanging out with a friend, called me on my cell phone. I actually didn't know it was her because I didn't recognize the number on my caller I.D. Normally, I wouldn't have answered a call from a number I didn't know. It's a good thing I made an exception.

Janessa told me, "Mom, I'm not sure what time Zach will be able to get me home."

"Why?" was my very exasperated response.

"'Cuz we were just in an accident and we've gotta wait for the cops and the tow truck and stuff."

Of course I went to the most important question: "Are you guys all right? Is anyone hurt?"

"We're fine. The car rolled but we're okay." She went on to tell me that she had fallen asleep due to the fact that she and this same young man had gotten up at 4 a.m. to go turkey hunting. According to what Zach told my daughter - she slept through the accident, believe it or not! - he got a little drowsy himself and when the car drifted toward a ditch, he over-corrected, jerking the wheel and causing the car to head toward the other ditch where it rolled over, coming to rest on the driver side door. Zach had to wake Janessa up after the accident to get her out of the car. She had a headache afterwards. She might have bumped her head or it could have been stress from the whole thing. Who knows! Both kids are fine.

After that phone call, I got in touch with my husband who was just finishing up his golf game. He got in touch with our daugther and found that the accident site was on his way home!

It was a long day with many demands on my time, my pain tolerance, and my stamina. But I suddenly didn't mind. A trip to the grocery store went from a nuisance to an opportunity to be thankful that I STILL have four healthy children with healthy appetites. The fact that I had run my darling youngest daughter in to get her hair trimmed just that morning became a privilege, not a bother. All the things I had been whining to myself about ceased to matter and my pity party came screaming to an end.

I still have four teenagers living in my house and they will still get lippy. They will leave their dirty clothes on the floor, cop an attitude, forget to give me important messages, and be a little thoughtless from time to time. They are teenagers after all! But the scare of that phone call on Saturday has left me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have been blessed with four healthy, normal kids. When I think of how much worse Saturday could have been . . . nope, not going there 'cuz those thoughts aren't pretty!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Confession time - I'm a clutz. Now, I'm not prone to huge disasters like car accidents that total a vehicle, putting myself or a loved one in the hospital . . . no, I'm much more prone to find a bruise and not know how I got it. Or I might do something truly graceful like break my toe! A few years ago, I slipped and fell and entire flight of stairs and broke a toe on my left foot. Not my pinky toe, mind you, but the one next to it. Still don't know how it happened.

Last night, I was trying to get into the passenger seat of my van wearing a pencil skirt - it was, after all Feminine Friday! - and the narrow cut of the skirt didn't allow me to get all the way in right away. I had to sit on the edge of the seat then sort of shift myself over the rest of the way. As I was shifting, my right foot slipped and my foot hit the door frame (the door wasn't shut yet). This wouldn't have been a big deal except I was wearing dressy flip-flops and there was absolutely no protection for my toes! The only upside is I keep my clutziness symmetrical. I broke the toe next to my pinky toe, this time on my right foot. This affects not only walking but also driving and I've had to be out running errands twice already today (insert groan here).

This experience got me to thinking of the passage in I Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about the fact that we are all members of the same body and we need each other. In verses 21 and 22 of that chapter, we read, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable." Wow, am I living a very painful reminder of this truth!

The toe I have broken is, quite honestly, a small fraction of my whole being. One would be tempted to say it really shouldn't have much of an effect on my overall existence. I'm here to tell you that's just not true! After having walked around for a bit on the injured toe, I'm tired, my back aches a little from the limping, and I would just as soon spend the rest of my day with my foot propped up, moving only if absolutely necessary! Most times, I don't even think about that little digit. But it has dominated my thoughts today.

Have you ever been that person who felt like they just weren't needed in the body of Christ? Ever felt like the work you were doing wasn't really needed? Ever felt completely unappreciated? Then let me say a huge thank you to all of you who have ever wondered if what you were doing made a difference! Brothers and sisters, each of us is absolutely necessary in the body of Christ, even if we do occasionally feel like the next-to-the-smallest toe. If you weren't doing what God had gifted you to do, could I fulfill my role? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

On the other side of this issue is the reminder that not all of us can be the "star of the show". Every one of us is going to have moments when we feel like we're just not making a difference. But are we called to "make a noticable difference" or are we called to obediently use our gifts regardless of whether or not we get noticed? In all honesty, I keep writing these blogs because I feel like I'm supposed to and I know there have been few who have read or commented. But I needed this physical reminder that I'm not called to be a star. I'm called to be obedient. What happens after that is not my concern.

My parents had missionary friends that were on the field for years before they saw one soul come to Jesus. When I say years, I mean at least 10, probably more. I know they had times when they were discouraged, when they thought about giving up. But when people started turning their hearts over to Jesus, it was like the floodgates opened. They were seeing people place their trust in Jesus every day and the number of believers in that area multiplied in a relatively short period of time. What if they had demanded a more "fruitful" assignment? What if they had decided to do something that seemed more glamourous? Think of the blessings they would have missed out on!

I guess the challenge I'm issuing to myself and to anyone who reads this is simple - you are called to use the gifts, passions, talents, and interests you have been given to build the kingdom of God. It really doesn't matter if you ever receive recognition for what you do. What matters is if you are being obedient to what God has called you to do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shameless plug:

I took a challenge offered by a woman whose passion for her Savior I have gotten to know through connecting with her on one of my new favorite websites, cafemom.com, and through reading her blog. She laid down a challenge to try something she calls "Feminine Friday". As I read more about the concept I was intrigued. The one area in which God seems to be focusing all of my attention is the various roles I fill as a woman - wife, mother, sister, "older woman" (see Titus 2 if you don't know what I'm talking about), etc. The call to a more "feminine" mode of dress intrigued me and I have committed to not just a Feminine Friday but at least one week of skirts or dresses. It might get me some strange looks although for the three days I've been doing this I've been surprised by the number of people who tell me how nice I look. And it would likely tick off some of the more militant feminists I know. But it certainly can't hurt, right?

Truthfully, I felt called to this week-long change. Hubby noticed and we discussed my reasons: 1) I need to do whatever I can to help me remember what I have been called to as a wife. Not to try and correct my husband's flaws or to be his mother, but to demonstrate respect for him as the head of our household. 2) I need to be reminded of the responsibilities I have for setting an example worth following for the young ladies who live in my home and those I encounter in my community. 3) I need to remember that being made female does not "handicap" me. The fact that I am so drastically different from my husband is a part of God's design for the human race and I will never be truly content with myself until I learn to fully embrace what God means for a female to be.

Have I learned any heady life-changing lessons? Not really sure just yet. But I will tell you this - I seem to react a little differently when I'm dressed in a slightly more "girly" fashion.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Once again, from Max Lucado's devotional, "Trust More, Fear Less":

Picture the scene. Peter, John, James. They came back . . . daring to dream that the master had left them some word, some plan, some direction, they came back.

But little did they know their wildest dream wasn't wild enough. Just as someone mumbles, "It's no use," they hear a noise. They hear a voice.

"Peace be with you." Someone looked at the door. It was still locked. The one betrayed sought his betrayers. What did he say to them? Not "What a bunch of flops!" Not "I told you so." No "Where-were-you-when-I-needed-you?" speeches. But simply one phrase, "Peace be with you." The very thing they didn't have was the very thing he offered: peace.

I love the picture that these words create. But the phrase that jumps out at me is "their wildest dream wasn't wild enough." I don't know about anyone else, but I struggle with that all the time. I try to figure out how God is gonna handle a situation - like my limited, finite, human brain can figure out God! - and I'm never even close to the actual outcome. What I need most to learn is the ability to wait and let God act rather than advising him on how he should act.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hebrews 10:22 read - "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washe with pure water." (emphasis mine)

I grew up in the church and many very well-meaning Sunday School teachers assured me that my guilty conscience was really the Holy Spirit trying to convict me of sin. Sounds good in theory. But the Bible says that "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). And in Psalm 103:12 I am told "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us". So - if I've confessed my sin and God has essentially removed any record of it, why was I still feeling the poke of a guilty conscience? Was the Holy Spirit just being a bully or was there something more?

I've read Hebrews 10:22 numerous times before but the phrase in italics jumped out at me this morning as I re-read the verse for a Bible study my sisters and I are doing together. As I sat there, mentally chewing on that phrase, it hit me: if I have confessed a sin and continue to feel pangs of guilt afterward, that is NOT the work of the Holy Spirit. I have been cleansed from unnecessary feelings of guilt. I do not have to let anyone - the enemy or other well-meaning human beings - place a burden of guilt on me for something that God has declared settled. So the task that lies before me is this - learning to live in the cleansing that Hebrews says I already have!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Several members of our church have been reading through a devotional created by Max Lucado in preparation for the Easter season. The booklet is entitled "Trust More Fear Less" and I just had to share the reading from today, Day 17. It's an excerpt from Lucado's book, Six Hours One Friday.

Upper-room futility. Confused ambassadors behind locked doors. What will it take to unlock them? What will it take to ignite the fire? What will it take to restore the first-century passion? What will have to happen before the padlocks of futility tumble from our doors and are trampled under the feet of departing disciples? More training? That's part of it. A greater world vision? Undoubtedly. More money? That's imperative. A greater dependence on the Holy Spirit? Absolutely. There is one element so vital that its absence ensures our failure. What is needed to get us out is exactly what got the apostles out . . . they saw Jesus.

This reading hit me squarely between the eyes. In a world where even the church gets caught up in the craziness of programs, finances, and long-range planning, have we lost sight of what matters most? Programs are fine and fiscal responsibility is a must. But if our plans are focused on anything other than the Savior, it is all an exercise in futility. Oh, people may have a good time and there may be more people coming to our church. But if our goal is anything other than leading them to the foot of the cross, we have failed to have an eternal impact and missed the mark.