Blinded By the Light

I don’t normally head to the airport at sunrise. Having an adult child home for the weekend makes you willing. Heading down the interstate toward the airport we rounded the curve at the junction headed straight into the sun bursting over the horizon.

Wham! Blinded!

As I maintained what I thought to be the correct trajectory, my daughter flipped down my visor to block the worst of the glare. Through the hazy, bug-splattered window I could make out enough of the traffic to follow along in an orderly fashion. Shortly we were in the shade of the office buildings of the city center and I could suddenly see clearly again. I’d not noticed how terribly dirty my windshield was until the bright light of the sun hit me head on from ground level.

Knowing me as she does, my daughter commented, “I’m sure there’s a spiritual lesson in this.”

To which I replied, “You betcha!”

But the master Teacher’s lesson on light was not over for me that day.

What had started as tenderness in my left eye the day before had multiplied and turn into swelling and genuine pain by the time of my morning airport run. Driving home after dropping her off I realized my eyes were sensitive to the light and there would be no way I could manage the lesson writing and computer work awaiting me for this day, so I detoured by the eye doctor and waited for them to open.

I was shown into a dimly lit examination room, and soon evaluated by my optometrist. She had me put my chin up on the equipment and promptly shown a bright light into my eyes to check me thoroughly. After determining it was a mild infection, she sent me on my way with a prescription and thorough instructions for care and follow up.

Here I sit, typing through a haze of eye ointment and squinting to keep out the extra light. The typing is slow and mistakes are rampant. But just as I’m thinking I need to give up for now, my husband arrives in my outdoor office with the umbrella. My aching eye is shielded from the glare and I am able to continue.

What lessons came through this? Well…

  1. We can look through our life on an ordinary day with normal light conditions and we appear to be a clear, clean windshield. We pat ourselves on the back and head out into our day thinking we are just fine. But when the Father shines the intense rays of His light onto our lives two things happen. One, we are blinded by the radiance of His holy glory. Two, the dark, dim, dirtiness of our lives and of the world become immediately obvious under the intense brightness of His light. We see that we need to clean our windshield (life) of all the little sins we had let slide by unnoticed in the faint light of the world.
  2. Just as our physical eyes can only see when there is a source of light and can see better with a better light source, so are our spiritual eyes. We cannot manage to effectively live out our daily lives without God’s illumination. Are we sensitive to His light? Do we work through our days with muddled vision or in the clear spiritual insight of the Father’s glow?
  3. God’s illumination examines our spiritual eyes and points us to His cure. Psalm 139 ends with a beautiful prayer in verses 23 and 24. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Do we go to the Great Physician when our sight is dimmed and we can’t see what to do next? Do we allow Him to shine His bright light into our souls and search us, diagnose us, and prescribe what needs to be done? Do we take His prescription to heart and let our lives be changed by His instruction?
  4. Blurry spiritual vision will cause us to struggle through our days. Ordinary things will be challenging. Difficult things will overwhelm us. But Father God provides the umbrella to shade us where the light is useful to our weary eyes. He is patient and tender, providing what we need to continue in the work He has called us to.
  5. The Father has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us and reveal the things of God to us. He is at work in our lives daily. He uses word pictures to get our attention and teach us volumes.

Psalm 119:105 speaks the familiar but oft forgotten message: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Allow God’s light to shine on your path today. Allow His examination and His pointing out of sin. Seek His direction and prescription.

The Holiday Rush

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Our little community has put the snowflakes up on the power poles, a sure sign the holiday season has begun. This year I want a slower pace and more precious time with family and friends, more kindness, and less stress. You too? I was taught this lesson several year ago, but still have to make a conscious choice each year and remind myself to be intentional about it…

I was a busy mom. Raising four little kids, homeschooling, teaching and singing at church. Our life seemed like an a carnival ride, round and round all day, here and there, up and down, and then stop at night to reload and go all over again! I loved it! Go, do, play, cook, read, learn, those are some of my favorite things. But I must admit, it often brought out the worst in me. Especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas when the busy-ness multiplied.

That year my baby was 2 1/2, a grandparent had been hospitalized and gone to rehab due to a stroke, and I was part of a week long nightly Christmas pageant at the new church we had joined. The holiday rush began to set in a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving with us juggling all this plus planning for that meal and another big event, a family birthday the week before Turkey Day. Between teaching the kids, keeping the house running, tending to sick grandparents, and all these extra events, I was frazzled.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I get overly busy, frustrated and overwhelmed, I’m not so nice. I was short-tempered with my husband, always rushing the kids around, and generally grumpy from trying to plan all the events and balance all my spinning plates. I’ve always tried to speak as kindly to my kids as I can. I wanted a peaceful home. How could I expect them to speak gently and kindly to their siblings if I was screaming and griping all day? So much of my frustration boils and simmers in my mind until I can’t control it and angry words pop out.

One particular day I planned some Christmas shopping for after school. These were pre-Amazon days, so I had to actually go to the stores to shop. All day long I’d been telling the kids, “Get your work done. We’re going Christmas shopping after you finish school.” As Murphy’s law would have it, every child seemed to be needy that day. Slogging through schoolwork seemed slower than ever, and my grumpy-meter was ramping up.

As the last child finished their assignments, I bustled them off to get shoes on and head to the car. I got myself together and grabbed my keys heading to the garage. The three oldest had already gone to the car, but there stood the 2-year-old in the kitchen without his shoes tied. He was my slow-moving, happy, gentle child.

In a rush I piped up with something to the effect of “What are you doing? We gotta go!”

He looked up at me with gentle, toddler eyes and said, “Are you mean at me, Mommy?”

“No I’m not mad at you!” I retorted quickly.

“You sound mean at me,” he replied tenderly.

I immediately realized my problem, knelt down beside him, changed my tone, and said, “No sweetie, Mommy is not mad. Mommy is in a rush. We need to get in the car and get our Christmas shopping done.”

As I tied his shoes, he leaned over and hugged my neck. All was forgiven. Toddlers are good at that.

We got the shoes fixed, dashed to the car and got a few presents purchased that afternoon. It turned out to be a good day, and a life-changing one. I still remember the lesson learned. Kindness and a gentle tone are always in order.

There are many reminders in the book of Proverbs about our speech and kindness and gentleness.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.

Proverbs 10:19

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

As we get going with our busy November and December, would you join me in seeking to display kindness, compassion, tender words, and gentle tones. Let’s slow down and allow our hearts time to rest and meditate on things we are grateful for, especially the Son of God sent as a babe in a manger for our salvation. Avoid the overcommitment and rush, and allow margin each day: time to ponder, to enjoy, to revel in the love of Christ and those we love. This holiday season, let us guard our time, guard our hearts, and guard our tongues – not only for words but for the tone we use.

Humble

We Americans have a love-hate relationship with that word. We hate to apply “humble” to ourselves, but we respect humility from others? Is it that when another acts humbly toward us we often come out the winner in the situation, but when we have to humble ourselves we feel as if we’ve lost?

James 4:6 tells us that “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Yikes! That’s serious. Do we want to be in opposition with God? Don’t we want God’s favor, or “grace” as some versions translate it?

Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Completely humble? Really? Can’t I even put myself first occasionally? This is a hard teaching. It is a teaching that can only be obeyed when we allow the Spirit to conform us to the image of the Son of God.

Philippians 2 gives us some commands and our example to follow. It says:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8 NIV

The Message lays out thees first commands for us in language that hits home.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Philippians 2:3-5 The Message

We’re no-good at forgetting ourselves or putting ourselves aside. Aren’t we trained from grade school to want to be the first in line? Haven’t we bought into our society’s push to get the advantage even at the expense of others. Even in Christian circles. We go online at midnight to get the prime seats for a Christian concert before someone else beats us out! America and Pride go hand in hand. I love America and am not trying to slight her, but we Americans have our failings. Worse, we Christian Americans are as caught up in the selfish, “me first” pride of our society as the world is.

I encourage you as I challenge myself, let’s choose “humble” as our moniker. Let’s let the Spirit teach us to choose humility. It may be only once this week or each day to start with. But as we seek to live as our Savior did we will begin to lay down that “striving for equality” and “one-up-man-ship.”

We will quit manipulating every situation to our advantage.

We’ll choose to make ourselves nothing.

We will willingly embrace the nature of being a servant to our fellow man.

We will choose to humble ourselves as Jesus did.

We will obey God – even to the point of self-denial and death to self-will.

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That ladies, is our calling.

Of Ships and Fires

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,  and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:2-12

One thing we all have in common is the misuse of our tongue. Either overuse, underuse or inappropriate use. Perhaps the tongue runs ahead of our mind and the spirit of God spewing words that wound, words we often wish we could put back inside us. On the other hand, there are times when we know we should speak up and speak truth, but nothing comes out. We quench the spirit. Then there are the words that just make us cringe, not from evil, but from insensitivity, error, or just not thinking. In our scripture James warns us about our words.

We would all be careful with a match in dry woods. We’d be cautious using our grill during a drought, we wouldn’t dump the used charcoal in dry leaves, and most likely we’d follow Smokey the Bear’s instructions and douse it with water as we would a campfire. James says we should be equally on guard using our tongue. Are we careful where and when we use our words? Do we sum up each conversation and determine if it is the season for that word? Do we douse the spark with water when we do say something that incites another or injures them? The water of a apology, explanation or whatever action it takes to resolve our misuse of this muscle in our mouths?

James also compares our tongue to the rudder of a ship. The rudder directs the course the ship will take. Depending on how the rudder is handled, the ship may sail safely into calm seas and arrive at its destination in a timely manner. Or it could flounder in shoals, run aground or plow into another ship doing irreparable damage. What about the ship of our lives, how’s the trip going? Perhaps you find yourself always at odds with a husband, mother-in-law, co-worker, or even a stranger. There seems to be tension, a war of words or constant misunderstandings. Our tongue often is the rudder that has steered us into the situation, and it will take some careful steering to get us out.

So how do we handle the tongue?

First, we handle the heart. Words that come out of our mouth flow from the peace or chaos going on in our hearts. James says words are simply the fruit of the tree – if we’re a fig tree we grow figs and if we’re an olive tree we grow olives. What kind of tree are you? An anger tree? A fearful tree? A frustrated tree? An insecure or lonely tree? Our solution for issues with our tongues is to allow Jesus to heal our wounded hearts and turn us into Blessing trees or Kindness trees or Joyful trees or something similar. To have a heart change it takes going to see the Great Physician, spending time in His Presence and allowing Him to work on us and make the necessary repairs. As we are recovering we begin bearing the fruit we see in the verses below, good fruit, from a good tree – a healed heart.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-24

Second, we obey. We exercise self-control even when we would feel more justified in making a smart remark or saying something hateful derogatory. Obeying the call of scripture to put others before ourselves, to walk humbly, to control our tongues is difficult. It takes a constant awareness of where our heart is leaning and a minute by minute decision to submit to God’s ways. But Girls, we can do it. God is at work in us, empowering us to live Holy lives, we simply follow through and do what we know to do.

So today we are challenged to be tongue-tamers! Which is even more challenging than being a lion tamer! We can do this. We want the ship of our lives to take a peaceful voyage that uplifts others as we travel on. We don’t want to be arsonists running around setting fires! Take it one day at a time. No wait, one minute at a time! We can do this!

Working Out

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

It’s week four of a renewed effort to work out here at our house. There have been several days of aches and pains, lots more water drinking and some planning and setting alarms to make it happen. We are finally hitting our stride and the initial torture is becoming a welcome routine. We are seeing results: toned muscles, increased stamina, and endorphin triggered feelings of well-being. Everyone knows the results do not come with only 1 day or even 1 week of beginning to work out. We realize it is a process. Muscles develop over time. The heart muscle is strengthened over time. Weight loss and overall fitness accrues over time.

Why is it then that we don’t apply some of those considerations we know about physical fitness to our spiritual fitness? Let’s paste the physical truths over into the spiritual realm.

The Preparation. You have to plan to do it or you won’t.

  1. Set the alarm for an earlier time to do physical or spiritual discipline!
  2. Have the gear ready. We lay the workout clothes out for physical fitness. Spiritually we need to have all our “gear” ready: Bible, notebook, and pen at a minimum.
  3. Expect resistance. Muscles ache and bodies are weary, tired, or we feel lazy that day, but we fight through it for physical exercise because we are working for a future long term goal. Spiritually we won’t want to get up and do it some days. We all have to fight against tiredness, weariness, laziness and the enemy! Fight through it for that long term goal – spiritual health. We are building faith muscles!
  4. Have your Go To place! For me it’s the track at the soccer field on sunny days and the treadmill or bedroom floor on really stormy/cold days. Spiritually, it’s my back deck, or my big cushy livingroom chair if it’s rainy or cold.

The Procedure.

  1. Begin gently. I didn’t run a marathon my first morning out. And we don’t decide to outline a whole book of the Bible our first morning into developing a habit of time with the Lord. Stretches and light exercise for the first day physically equals prayer time, reading a verse or paragraph, and journaling one (1) truth the Lord touched my heart with through those scriptures.
  2. Build up over time. After a month a faster pace, longer time and heavier weights are in order, as are more intense prayer, a longer time, deeper study of the Word, and finding a way each day to apply what you learned or share it with someone else.
  3. Vary the routine. Everyone who counseled me on starting back exercising said, “Find something you like to do and do it consistently. But when you feel bored and tired of it, throw in something new for variety.” Same with the spiritual. Keep that routine going, but throw in something new. Instead of just reading the Bible try these: *Listen to it! – on 1.5 speed – while you walk on the treadmill! *Study it with your Strong”s concordance beside you to look up the meanings of Greek or Hebrew words. *Hand copy a verse, paragraph, or chapter. *Memorize a verse. *Outline a chapter. *Paraphrase it in your own words. *Draw it out with symbols. *Or my favorite – Underline key words asking your self 3 questions 1) What do I see? 2)What does that mean? 3)How do I apply it / What should I do in response?
  4. Ride that wave. When you find your sweet spot and it has become a habit, ride that wave! Let the normalcy of it or the joy of it or the after-effects of it be a force to propel you to keep on – physically or spiritually!

The Payoff.

  1. Toned muscles. Our faith is often small because we do not work it out. As you grow and have faith in small things you will have the spiritual strength to have faith in the more challenging things we face.
  2. Increased stamina. We will find a desire to go further with the Lord, not get winded and overwhelmed by our time with Him, and we will be fit for the long haul in life spiritually.
  3. Weight loss. The weight of this world that we carry will begin to seem easier over time – but remember how slowly that happens physically – the weight seems to come off in tenths of an ounce some weeks! It happens very slowly spiritually too. But look back in one year’s time and you’ll be amazed.
  4. Feelings of well-being. As we spend time with the Lord and lay our worries in His hands to handle, and as we immerse ourselves in the truths of scripture, we gain a sense of well-being in knowing that God is for us and will go with us.
  5. Increased overall health and fitness. Just as a year of consistent physical exercise yields surprising results in overall fitness (BP down, diabetes under control, joints stronger, easier breathing, coming off medicines, etc.), spiritual exercise yields results we can’t imagine: peace, wisdom, contentment, relief from worry and fear, growth, etc.

So the challenge to you today – Get Spiritually Fit! Go after God like you go after your exercise program! Or for some of us, go after God first and He’ll help us with that desire to go after physical exercise. How do you do it? Plan ahead each night – set the alarm – be prepared. Expect resistance at first, but Do It Anyway! Find your place and make it a sacred place for you and Your Father to meet. Begin gently – build up over time – vary the routine – then ride the wave! You will gain more than you can imagine!

Being a Mother is…

As I sit in my “office” (outside on my deck) this chilly fall morning, I am overwhelmed with the joy of being a woman and a mother. We’ve been doing the “Jesus & Women” Bible study by Kristi McClelland, and it has brought lightness to my heart to see how Jesus spoke with women, honored women, and lifted them up from their sin, disease, or lowly status. As God would have it, I “just happened” to be drinking coffee out of one of my favorite mugs that states: Being a Mother is a Holy Privilege. Oh how true! But Oh how often I let the cares of the world blind me to this truth. Anybody with me?

How often when the kiddos were little did I long to be somewhere else, socializing, taking a romantic vacation, doing something more exciting than mundane laundry or changing diapers? When they were elementary age, how often did I shoo them out of the house to play with friends? And how often as they were teens did I take it for granted that they would always be there heading in and out of the house laughing, chatting, or griping about having to clean up?

Now as an empty-nester, I look back and realize how much I overlooked what a Holy Privilege this motherhood thing was. But we don’t get do-overs. So I pass along my encouragement to you moms who are still in the thick of it – relax and absorb the Holy place in which God has placed you. You are doing a holy work. Rest in the fact that He will allow you to accomplish all that really needs to be done. It is eternal souls you are guiding. Laugh and enjoy them. You don’t have to make them perfect. Pray with them and apologize when you need to. All that is necessary is to simply love them and guide their hearts toward the King the best way you can. No perfection or status purchases necessary.

The primary way we moms manage to affect our kids for God’s kingdom is by staying in an obedient, loving relationship with God. Reading His Word. Listening to His voice. Conversing with Him in prayer. Living out what He whispers to us each day. Keeping the faith when it would be so easy to turn our backs on it.

What keeps us from staying close to the Lover of Our Souls? For most, it’s not the big, huge sins, it’s the everyday mundane distractions that Satan uses to lure us off track without us even noticing.

I was reminded of the Parable of the Sower. You remember the story. Jesus tells us about the sower (Jesus Himself) sowing in different kinds of soil: the hard path, rocky soil, among the thorns, and on good soil. The seeds in the various places yielded varying results in growth and development. Some never sprouted. Some plants were scorched and died after they came up. Some were choked out and never bore fruit. But others grew and flourished into a fruit bearing, thriving plant. Listen to Jesus’ words as He explains those last two types of soil. See if an arrow pricks your heart.

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“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Matthew 13:22-23

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Isn’t that last one what we all want to be? Planted in good soil, bearing the fruit of a faithful life. But to be that we have to have the kind of soil in our heart which allows that to take place. Too often, I have a thorny heart where the weeds of the cares of the world choke out my fragile plant of faith and make me fruitless. I long for these times to disappear, but it all depends on whether I am tending the soil of my heart.

Mamas out there, being a mother is a holy privilege. Fertilize the soil of your heart. We hear so much today about “Me Time.” I’m all for it – let’s make sure the firstfruits of our Me Time is offered to God as we sit at His feet and allow Him to weed the garden of our heart. I challenge you as I challenge myself today. Stop what you’re doing for even 20 minutes sometime today and tend to your heart. Tend to your relationship with the Father. Soak in the truths of His Word and listen for His still small voice. Then go and obey!

Live out your Holy Privilege with all you’ve got for as long as you’ve got!

Dig out those weeds and thorns!

Making It Home: Coffee

We all have our ideas of what makes a house a home. My home would not be home without coffee. We all have our morning rituals. Mine is basically grab a cup of coffee and head out on the deck with my Bible. No talking please, at least until I’ve finished my first cup. Oh yeah, and there’s a “Poppy, go outside?” mumbled as I head out the door. And he does. I’m at home. I miss this ritual when I’m away from home.

Right now I’m sipping my fully loaded Green Mountain Breakfast Blend with Peppermint Mocha creamer as I type. So how about some observations?

  1. Coffee is a seed/bean from a plant. It is planted carefully and grown in the shade until it can be transplanted into moist soil where the roots can get established.
  2. When a coffee plant grows, matures, and bears fruit, it is ready to be put to use for the purpose it was made.
  3. Coffee is put through the fire to make it useful for our purposes. In a 550 degree oven, the beans are roasted until they reach an inner temp of 400 degrees. This browns them and allows the flavorful caffeol oil locked inside to emerge. (My source)
  4. Coffee is ground to make it useful for our purposes. The beans are put through grinder and ground to bits, and no longer even looks like a bean, a necessary process for the flavors to come out as we make it into the cup of coffee we drink.
  5. Coffee is put through hot water to make it useful for our purposes. It is soaked in boiling water to release its flavor.
  6. Coffee is hard to swallow black (just my opinion!).
  7. Coffee is bitter when percolated, so add a dash of salt.
  8. Coffee is best when filled with yummy creamer.
  9. Coffee energizes and gets the day started off right.

Lessons we can learn from coffee: The Christian life is like coffee.

  1. When we allow Christ to make His home in our heart, His seed is planted in us and that Christ-like character begins to grow us into a new person that will eventually take over and transform the old us. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Like coffee plants we need careful attention as we are developing. We need to be in the word and prayer and with other believers at this point to get our roots established.
  2. We will grow, mature and bear fruit, becoming the person God designed us to be and ready to be useful to the Father, waiting for Him to process us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:20)
  3. Our preparation for God’s purposes often involves being put through the fire, ground to bits, and feeling like we are drowning in boiling water. We will no longer even look like who we were before this. This change is not fun, but it is necessary. We are roasted (tested), ground (remade), and brewed in hot waters (humbled) where the sweet flavor of Christ is released and put to use.
  4. We often are hard to swallow at first. We may be bold and brassy and tend to storm the gates of hell with a water pistol in our zeal, but God isn’t through.
  5. He keeps working with His creation. The Holy Spirit seasons us with salt to get rid of the bitterness, then adds cream to make us appealing to the lost world He is seeking. He develops in us the fruit of the Spirit and we become tasty to those around us. They desire to drink in more of the Jesus in us.
  6. We become to each other that energizing, flavor-filled source of encouragement!

I realize my extended metaphor is rather a loose one, but you get the picture. As you welcome people into your home for a cup of coffee or meet another lady at Starbucks, I encourage you to remember that Christ is at work in you, even in your personal hard times, using you to encourage others in their Christian walk. You are helping others to develop a home in their hearts where Christ dwells and works and uses them to spread flavor to the world as well.

Children Are a Treasure From the Lord

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Nearly every baby born is viewed as a treasure at his birth. I’m sure some are not looked forward to, but the tenderness of a baby predisposes them to be cherished just for their helpless state. But that first time the child cries all night, I can tell you, it is really hard to keep the perspective that she is a treasure. Our sleep deprived brains sense the cause of our sleep deprivation as a minor enemy, and it is very challenging to find the balance, patience, and courage we parents need. We may feel guilty placing the screaming baby in the crib alone and walking out for ten minutes to get a grip on our frustration, but we also feel guilty and fearful holding that bundle of stress knowing our anger and frustrations are rising.

As an “old” mom let me just say, place the baby safely in the bed. Walk away. Wake your husband or call your mom. The baby’s safety is the priority at the moment, and sleep deprived, stressed moms need to take a step back. Don’t feel guilty. Know that you are doing what is safe and healthy for that little one you love so – most of the time – just not at 3:08 a.m.

But that is only the first threat to viewing our child as a treasure. Those threats keep coming, new ones arrive with each natural step in a child’s development.

In the high chair feeding stage, when they throw their sticky green food on your beautiful white blouse as you head out to the office, in that moment they may not feel like a treasure. What do you do? Laugh so you don’t cry and change the blouse. It is what it is.

At two years old when the answer to everything is “NO!” and you can’t win because nothing pleases them in those moments, they don’t feel very treasure-like. When that three or four-year-old has a lay down on the ground fit in an inconvenient place and you are terribly embarrassed, they don’t feel like that treasure they did the day they were born. When that pre-teen’s smart mouth kicks in and you want to exchange them for that sweet child you used to know… nothing to treasure there. When they are sixteen and rebelling against your authority, or twenty-three and they are so far off the path of righteousness that you wonder if they will live, the treasure meter reads zero.

All of those experiences make you lose perspective on this treasure God gave you, this baby, child, teen or adult treasure. It will likely cause you to feel a wave of negative feelings from irritation to fear to anger to disgust to desperation and hatred. But those feelings are only that – they are feelings conjured up by thoughts and chemicals in our brains. Don’t trust you feelings! The truth is found in God’s word – children are a heritage, a treasure, a reward. That is the truth. That is not a feeling. That is from God not man. That can be trusted.

If we keep this truth ever-present in our minds the Enemy of Our Souls will not be able to gain power over us. He will not be able to make us say or do something we may regret. But we must always know the truth, for the truth sets us free. (John 8:31-32) Free from the enemy’s grip and the fleshly temptation to view what God calls a treasure as an inconvenience, or to allow our minds to be wrapped up and controlled by those negative emotions that our child can trigger in us.

That is why it is crucial to have God’s word stored in our memories. Feelings can only be changed by placing God’s truth in our minds to overcome the barrage of negative thoughts that trigger negative emotions. Scripture tells us how to do that, and it is really a very simple concept, but a difficult one to master.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

We are to replace every negative thought with thoughts that are true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy! If you can do that with every thought, your emotions will fall in line and you will be exercising the Spirit’s fruit of self-control. It can be done, but it takes a lot of practice, trust me! Why don’t you start today. Choose to trust the truths of God’s word and keep them ever before your eyes, don’t trust your feelings.

That child, no matter their age, really is a treasure – God says so!

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo!

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

1 Samuel 7:12

My husband and I were recently talking with one of our adult children about a major change coming in their life. We were encouraging her (and ourselves!) by reminding each other of all the ways God had brought her to where she currently is, and that He would surely continue to lead her down a good path – not a bump-free path, but a good one. Mid-conversation, the Rosetta Stone (aka Dr. Seuss) book, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo! came up. It was a childhood favorite of our kids that has been a useful tool in adult life.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, the gist of it is this. A little bug sneezes which causes a small seed to fall off of a plant nearby. The seed lands on the toe of a worm who then kicks something, and the story is off at a fast pace, full of catastrophes that get bigger and bigger until a whole town is affected. At the end of the story you are reminded that all these disasters happened…

“All because a little bug went ka-choo.”

That same cause and effect principal plays out in our lives. Little decisions and seemingly inconsequential choices often yield big, unanticipated results. We all understand that the big things like what we choose to do for a career or who we marry, are important. But we overlook the fact that small things bear big fruit later in our lives as well. Things like helping someone out in their need, writing a note to someone who is on our heart, or having a kind, joyful spirit to those around us.

“Can those little things have a big impact, really?” you may ask. Yes!

Recently, I sent three cards to some people God had put on my mind. I simply let them know I was thinking about them and I cared about their plight. Then I shared a verse I was specifically praying for each. Just this week all three came to me and said the exact same thing. “Your card came at just the right time.” It was a small discipline that took me five minutes (the Lord has been working on me in the area of card writing since January), but it paid off in impacting hurting hearts.

All because a little card was written…

Several years ago when I returned to teaching after many years off raising children, it was traumatic for me. The first 3 weeks I cried every day driving to and from school. But I determined that I would be joyful and positive around my students because I knew this was a ministry to which God had brought me. I determined to speak positively, look for the best in each child, and give them a smile and word of encouragement as they left my room every day. While many students responded to my kindness by being chatty and eager to get to know the new teacher, one ninth grader was particularly silent around me, only answering questions when called upon and never speaking to me otherwise. As I recall, it was a few weeks into the school year before she spoke to me personally.

Leaving class that day she looked at me and asked sarcastically, “Are you always that way?”

“What way?” I asked in return.

“Smiling and happy,” she replied with a bit of a sneer.

“No,” I answered honestly something like, “I have struggles, sadness, and tears, but I try to put those away when I’m here at school to help make it a brighter, happier day for you kids.” I may have even mentioned Jesus’ strength, I really don’t recall.

That was all that was said that day. But in the days that followed she started lingering after class to talk to me, smiling and talking casually with me, dropping by my room during breaks or after school, and even asking my advice on those all-important high school issues. That small beginning led to a friendship that developed and continued after she graduated. Now, nine years later, we talk on the phone almost daily. She values my advice (I believe) and I’d like to think I’ve helped her through some struggles. She’s married with a new baby and comes to me with questions and prayer needs, and I feel honored to call her friend.

All because a scared teacher smiled…

When our daughter was in 4th grade our new children’s pastor planned to take the elementary kids to camp at an our-of-state college. We decided she could go. She loved the camp, the songs, the stories, and she grew in her faith that week as we had hoped and expected. But one thing we didn’t expect was that she would come home declaring, “That is where I will go to college one day!” We thought Sure you will. You’re ten years old. But a few years later when her big sister was looking for a college, Little Sis said, “Check out my college. We can be there together in two years.” Big sister ended up visiting and realizing that school was God’s place for her. Two years later, after much prayer and 4 different college Preview Days, that’s exactly where Little Sis went just as she had declared she would. She not only earned her degree, she established herself and her future career in a new state and met a godly young man who is now her husband.

All because a little 4th grader went to kids camp…

What about Big Sister? She also found her career. But she found her calling, too. One day as she was out for a jog she stopped to compliment an older couple working in their yard on their beautiful flowers. From that she developed a relationship with those retired missionaries that propelled her to foreign lands as well.

All because a little girl listened to her sister…

All because a young woman went for a jog…

All because a missionary retired to that home on that street…

What is the moral of my story? God is weaving your life together bit by bit. Not just in the huge decisions, but also through the mundane choices we make with little thought. Through our kindness, our fear, our smiles, and every other nuance of who we are. Jeremiah 29:11 TLV states, “For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom [peace] and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope.” God is weaving together the fabric of your life. Be upright, God-honoring, kind, and faithful in all you do. Even the tiny, insignificant things that would seem to have no impact past this very moment. It will seem small but may quite likely have a great impact on your life.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10

Thoughts on a Foggy Morning

What is it about fog? It’s only moisture in the air, yet it has something mysterious, beautiful and scary about it. As I sit on my deck this foggy morning, I see lessons all around me in the fog. It’s as if God’s voice is proclaiming through nature basic lessons I have known for years, but need to be reminded of…

Trust me when you can’t see where you are going.

I created all things and I provide the moisture and the needs of each one, even you.

This world is far more complex than you understand, Dear One, but I keep it all running smoothly.

The fog yields more complex, deep revelations to my soul, the inner workings of His Spirit in mine, things I’ll try to explain, but can’t.

The Beauty of Fog. Fog shrouds the world in a curtain of beauty much like a bridal veil. The harsh world looks softer. The plants lose their dryness, plump up, and look fuller, greener, richer. The birds hop on the ground to feed. Surfaces are damp and cool not even hinting at the blistering heat to come as day fully dawns. The owls and roosters and chickens echo more clearly to my ears on a foggy morning. Is it because my mind is stilled and I’m really observing, really listening? In this pre-dawn hour of beauty my soul is restored.

“He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV

The Scariness of Fog. Why is fog scary to us? Just a few thoughts: every creepy movie has fog, disasters can be caused by fog, ships are lost at sea in the fog, and search parties are thwarted by the foggy terrain. In the fog could lie doom or success. So why do we focus on the doom? Fear. In our hard times when a fog shrouds our every decision, we are very aware that the world is full of things beyond our control. Fear takes the controls. We doubt God. Yes, that’s it, that’s why the fog is scary. We doubt. We have read about Our God in scripture. We sing the songs and hear the sermons, but when the unexpected comes do we truly believe, or do we just hope? We become fearful because our faith is small and we aren’t convinced the Father is there, is for us, will do good to us, and can even make a difference. Foggy times in life are scary because they are times when faith is absent or small.

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4 NASB

The Mystery of Fog. Why is there a mysteriousness about fog? Is it the unknown lying behind the fog? Is it the ethereal quality of fog that makes it seem magical and unknowable? Maybe it’s societal conditioning that makes me see fog as mysterious. Every unicorn or dragon seems to emerge out of the fog. The fog holds the unexpected – it could be negative, but often it is positive. As we walk through foggy times in life let’s not forget that: the fog holds the unexpected. Faith holds the unexpected too. Fog and faith, how do those intertwine? It takes faith to walk through the fog. Faith is strengthened in the fog, the unknown. Faith is taking that next step toward whatever is concealed by the fog. The mystery of the hidden should not alarm us, for God knows the hidden things. We are to have faith to act when we cannot see.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible…. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

Let’s challenge ourselves to choose faith over fear. To view the mysteries of life confidently knowing that all things are in His hands and under His control. To loosen our grip of control. To see the beauty in the foggy times, looking for the gifts God has for us in the fog. May your faith muscle be strengthened this week as you exercise it each day in the fog and the unknown of life.